Saturday, May 16, 2009

Homey Japanese in my backyard


When my friend Daniel came by the other evening, I thought I'd introduce him to a local Japanese restaurant with a very homey style, right in my back yard. Samurai in Mill Valley has been a place I keep returning to ever since I moved to Mill Valley in 1997.

Miso & Cucumber Salad

The miso soup had depth and the brilliant flavor of the dashi shone through. The always favorite crisp cucumber salad was served up too. The big missing for me was the flavored potato appetizer which was signature dish of theirs, and always was served as part of the first round of food with the miso and salad. I was told not many people liked it, and it could be ordered from the 'sides' menu now ($2.50).

Teriyaki Chicken

Daniel ruminated awhile over what the difference between 'grilled' and 'broiled' teriyaki chicken would be before settling on the grilled chicken teriyaki. He reported his chicken to be tasty, but vegetables were ice cold.

Seafood Teppan

I glanced over the combination dinner choice which were always a good value at $13.50, and found, in keeping with many other places, prices had risen in the last year to $15. If you add back the simmered potato appetizer that was there last year the price for the same meal would be $17.50, or a $4 increase in one year. I decided I was in the mood for a simple Seafood Teppan. My vegetables were very uneven in temperature, some exceptionally hot, and others cold like Daniel's. The seafood however was a stand out in its variety and deliciousness. There was a piece of salmon, two scallops, four oysters and a couple prawns. These were head seared on the pan and had a lovely brown caramelized exterior. I loved this dish and vowed to come back for it again. We also had a very polite and helpful young man as a waiter who managed our table and service superbly.

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 0
Noncritical: 4
Last inspected: 3/3/2009

Previously reviewed:
April 29, 2008
December 13, 2006

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Friday, May 15, 2009

On the fringe

China Village

China Village is in a shopping mall with Harvest Market, quite a way down San Marin Road in Novato. The food isn't an upscale Chinese style, but it is fresh and delicious and worth driving a bit extra to enjoy.

Broccoli & Black Mushrooms

I tried the Broccoli with Black Mushrooms. The black mushrooms tasted a lot like shitake, which is one of my favorite mushrooms. The broccoli was perfectly cooked, thoroughly but with a little bite left. The color was good too.

Shrimp Fried Rice

I also had Shrimp Fried Rice which impressed me with its moist, flavorful and good sized shrimp. It was laced with vegetables and well seasoned. I enjoyed the dinner very much, and have plenty left over for dinner tomorrow.

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 1
Noncritical: 1
Last inspected: 4/13/2009

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wow Pizza

Brooklyn Pizza

Dad and I were in a less frequented part of San Rafael when we noticed Brooklyn Pizza. It was lunch time, and so we decided to give it a whirl.

Split Pea Soup

We tried a generously sized 'cup' of split pea soup, the soup of the day. It had a nice flavor, and it was not too heavy. Vegetarians be warned, there were bits of ham in it.

Neopolitan Vegetarian Pizza

We followed up with a Neopolitan style vegetarian pizza. It was the best pizza I've tasted in quite a while. A wow! level in fact. The crust was thin, yet had a nice springy bite, and the vegetables were fresh. It was also explained that the other choice, Sicilian style, is a square thick pizza like foccacia. Others must like this place too as it's been around for 25 years.

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 0
Noncritical: 1
Last inspected: 1/21/2009

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Healthy Food

Cafe del Soul

I stopped in to Cafe del Soul in Mill Valley the other day for lunch. I was wondering how it was faring as I hadn't been there for awhile. It appeared to be doing very well, and looked like a local yoga class had just gotten out and everyone was hungry!

Chipotle Sun Goddess

I decided to try the "Chipotle Sun Goddess" rice dish. The last time I visited the rice dishes were in shallow bowls, and now were looking good in a flat dish. I went for the 'add' spinach and almonds for $1 more. It was worth it, adding depth and interest to the dish. The basis for this delicious dish is organic brown rice, onions, avocado, tomato, cheddar all tossed in chipotle dressing. And you have a choice of chicken or tofu. I chose the tofu. This was delicious, interesting and filling! It was great to see continued success here!

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 0
Noncritical: 2
Last inspected: 4/10/2009

Previously reviewed:
December 8, 2006

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Those in the know, go

The Club Restaurant

I had time for a movie and lunch, but no time to spare. Since I was aiming for "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past", I thought a place near Smith Ranch Road would be appropos. I recalled that there was a restaurant at the McInnis Park Golf Center, appropriately named "The Club".

Special Salad

I ordered their "Special Salad" which consisted of smoked salmon, grilled shrimp, mixed greens, red onions, tomatoes, and feta cheese. It was a full plate and fabulous. The room was full of diners, and I can see why. There was a great selection of food at reasonable prices and the interior was very pleasant, the service good.

Patio Cafe

Outside there is another eating place on the premises, Patio Cafe. Although I didn't sample this visit, I was here once for a young boy's miniature golf birthday party. I understand that the staff there is very accommodating for children's parties, and the pizza we had met the enthusiastic appreciation of all the kids.

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 1
Noncritical: 3
Last inspected: 2/13/2009

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Monday, May 11, 2009

The day after

Garlic Roasted Crab with Sauteed Spinach

I hope all mothers had a Happy Mother's Day, and everyone else enjoyed yesterday too. Thinking that the restaurants would be overflowing, we decided to have a nice meal in. Safeway had a special on Alaskan King Crab for $9.99 lb. and some crab took our fancy. Since my father has difficulty eating shelled things, just can't see too well, I decided to make a roasted garlic crab preparation where I cut the shell partially away. My chicken sheers finally have a new purpose! We toasted my late mother and enjoyed the crab with a side of fresh spinach sauteed with garlic and a little E.V.O.O.

Garlic Roasted Alaskan King Crab

~ 2 lbs. cooked Alaskan King Crab
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 stick butter

Defrost (if frozen) the King Crab legs and cut in pieces at the bends of the legs as you like (I cut mine in smaller pieces than I normally would to help out my elderly father). Cut away 1/4 - 1/2 of one side of the shell. Put the minced garlic and butter together in a microwave safe dish and melt the butter in the microwave, or in a small saucepan. Arrange the legs open side up on a baking pan. Brush the garlic butter over the open parts leaving bits of minced garlic in the leg meat. Bake until warm, and broil for a couple minutes to finish. Serves 2 as main dish, more people as an appetizer.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mystery Solved!


I've been watching a property in Sausalito for months, finding it bore the name Tsukiji Sushi, anticipating a new place within walking distance from my office. Then the Marin IJ broke the story last week in Tidbits, that in fact the restaurant is opening, not in Sausalito, but in Mill Valley! Well that's in my backyard so I'm certainly looking forward to trying it out when it opens later this month!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Sun breaks out for lunch


It was one of those recent weather mixed days when I found myself in San Rafael's Montecito shopping center around lunchtime. It had been some time since visiting Kamikaze, so I decided to make it my lunch destination.

Miso Soup

I was very impressed with the Miso soup that came with my lunch special. It had complexity and had a flavorful dashi (fish stock) base. In the US miso is typically served at the beginning of the meal, however, in Japan it is one of the finishing courses. One of the advantages of our cultural switch about is you can get a preview of good things to come when you see the care taken in the soup.

Tempura & Teriyaki Salmon Bento Box

So I was surprised when the presentation of the bento box I ordered was less than attentive to the details. Rice is revered in Japan as it's staple, lifegiving food. I can't imagine ever being served a bowl that has the rice carelessly flattened and rice sticking to the side in Japan. Nold Egenter has written an informative piece on Japanese Rice Culture if you are so inclined to learn a little more about Japan's relationship with rice. The rice did taste fine despite the presentation. The salad was fresh and dressed with a light dressing. The salmon was marvelous, a generous meaty piece. It is one of those where the teriyaki sauce is poured over, rather than being a marinade if this difference is important to you. The tempura was a bit oily and hard for my taste as well, but the overall box was a good lunch value.

San Rafael canal

I had lunch while waiting for my car's regular maintenance, so found that walking to Montecito from the Toyota dealership yielded some interesting views that I had driven past many times, not noting my surroundings. I was clueless that there was water between the dealerships and Montecito Plaza!

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 0
Noncritical: 0
Last inspected: 3/17/2009

Previously reviewed:
October 12, 2006

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Friday, May 08, 2009


Today, I attended the Memorial service for a friend and long time colleague Donn Reisen of Ridge Vineyards. He was a truly genuine and caring person who brightened the world where ever he went. He is missed by many.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Thai Restaurants in Marin

photo credit: istockphoto

Well I managed to do it again, that is visit all the Thai restaurants in Marin at least once. Marin is fortunate to have a large number of very good Thai restaurants. I last summarized a list of reviews on November 26, 2008. Links to reviews on this blog, or other information about the restaurants appears organized by city below.

Thai Restaurants I've discovered

Corte Madera
Tub Tim Thai

Siam Lotus

Thepmonggon Thai On The Bay

R'Noh Thai
Tha Siam

Mill Valley

Thep Lela

Chao Praya
Thai Bistro

San Anselmo
Lanna Thai Restaurant
Orchid Thai

San Rafael
Bankok Thai Express
Bay Thai Cuisine
Citrus & Spice
My Thai
Royal Thai Restaurant
Signature Thai
Thai Smile

Arawan Thai Cuisine
Kitti's Place
Thai Terrace

Other Greater Bay Area Thai places I've reviewed

San Francisco
Be My Guest

East Bay
Da Nang

Rins Thai

Thailand Thai Cuisine

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Found a Sonoma favorite in Marin

Mary's Pizza Shack

I noticed that there was a listing for Mary's Pizza Shack in Novato a few months ago, and put it on my list to visit sooner than later as I'd had great experiences in the Sonoma locations over the years. So being that I was as far as San Rafael yesterday afternoon for an annual physical (looking good so far!), I decided to make Mary's a destination. I drove deep into Novato to a place I've never been, an adventure in itself, and found Mary's near Harvest Market.

Add-on Salad

I chose to add $2.50 to the tab to include an add-on salad. I have to admit, the menu just read 'house salad' so I was a little surprised by the salami slice. However, it is just one thin slice easily set aside if it's not to your taste. Later reading the website menu, it looks like the house salad is a smaller version of Mary's salad with crisp greens and a nice variety of toppings. It was a lovely salad, and I enjoyed it.

Jumbo Seafood and Lobster Ravioli

I tried one of their dinner specials, a Jumbo Seafood and Lobster Ravioli dish that had both sauteed mushrooms and a heavy cream sauce atop the ravioli which were sitting on a base of tomato basil sauce, and the whole thing was sprinkled with fresh basil and tomatoes. I have to say that it was a bit 'hot' with garlic. Other than experiencing a bit of a garlic reaction, it was quite good. The pillows of seafood and lobster tasted quite fresh. In fact this dish was a clever 'two pastas in one' kind of dish with the two sauces included. The service was prompt and friendly and it seemed to be a good family kind of place, just as the others I've visited have been. Recommendable for a casual and kid-friendly (and reasonable) night out with the family.

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 0
Noncritical: 0
Last inspected: 12/10/2008

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Elegant Tea Room


Dad and I stopped by Teapod in San Anselmo yesterday morning for some tea and breakfast. The man behind the counter was so pleasant that it brightened the already pleasant morning considerably. Teapod doesn't have a large selection of breakfast items, but enough.

Golden Monkey

We ordered a small pot of "Golden Monkey", a black tea with the fragrance of cocoa and a sweet savory finish. It was luscious, and we could detect the cocoa finish. We enjoyed sipping it in the clean and lean surroundings with jazz playing in the background.

Mushroom Quiche

I enjoyed a mushroom quiche, warmed for 25 seconds in the microwave. The hot items are self-service with a microwave opposite the counter.

Spinach & Feta Quiche

Dad chose the spinach and feta quiche. We both thoroughly enjoyed our quiche and the pleasant experience. It was a relaxing way to start the day.

Restaurant Inspection Results
Not yet rated.

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Monday, May 04, 2009

Thai find in Boyes Hot Springs

Thailand Thai Cuisine Restaurant

I was in Sonoma the other day at lunch time and decided to try out Thailand Thai Cuisine in nearby Boyes Hot Springs. I was greeted very nicely and shown a lovely table.

Thailand Thai Cuisine side

I had noticed how well kept it was outside, and thought it boded well for good food inside.

Thailand Thai Cuisine Interior

The inside had lovely touches too, such as these orchids in the window near me.

Thai Samosas

I was tempted by these Thai Samosas, which I was assured had a Thai touch inside. They did, taro root replacing the usual potatoes for example. These were delightful and filling so I stopped after a couple and enjoyed the rest at home the following day.

Shitake Noodles

The Shitake Noodles, described as steamed small rice noodles in green curry sauce with shitake mushroom, eggplants, carrots, bamboo shoot, bell peppers, zucchini, calamari, prawns, scallops, basil were totally delicious! Besides tasting good the service was prompt and friendly. I'll be by here again when visiting Sonoma!

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 1
Noncritical: 2
Last inspected: 4/16/2009

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Always refining

Umi Sushi at night

One of the signs of a good restaurant is that it is listening and observing its customers, and refining its menu offerings, including taking some risks. Dad & I stopped in at Umi Sushi a few nights ago, and found that it had been doing just that.


Atsuko stopped by to greet and leave a dish of lightly pickled vegetables, which were great to crunch on as we were examining the menu.

Yakitori ju

Dad was quite taken with an old standard, the Yakitori Ju, which was grilled organic chicken (skewer removed) over rice in a pretty lacquer box. He enjoyed the miso soup (not pictured) as well.

Grilled Salmon Roll

We then shared a special, a Grilled Salmon roll which had the salmon grilled on the top of the sushi topped with a mustard sauce, and included eel and avocado filling the inside. It was very rich, and definitely not something you'd typically find in Japan. It would likely go very well with beer.

Oshinko handroll

I found I needed a palate cleanser after the Grilled Salmon roll so ordered an Oshinko hand roll. The freshness of the pickles and shiso leaf were great, and I felt ready for the next course.

Ten Zaru Soba

My main dish was Ten Zaru Soba. The tempura was perfectly cooked, the batter was light and it was not greasy at all. And of course the buckwheat noodles gave a great protein boost to the meal.

Green Tea Ice Cream

Dad was most definitely in a dessert mood, so he ordered a Green Tea Ice Cream. He enjoyed it quite a lot and said we could come back for it anytime.

Shiratama Zenzai

I tried a new dessert choice on the menu, Shiratama Zenzai. This simple hand made dessert was spectacular. Basically it consisted of soft mochi pillows floating in sweetened red beans. Freshly made mochi has a softness that is hard to get by purchasing at the grocery store, so it was a particular treat to have some that was made on site. And so we ended another delicious evening at Umi Sushi.

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 0
Noncritical: 0
Last inspected: 1/7/2009

Previously reviewed:
August 13, 2008
December 6, 2007

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Saturday, May 02, 2009

Olivia's First Communion

First Communion Cake

I was fortunate to be invited to Olivia's First Communion today, my first time at such an event as well. It was held at St. Leo's Catholic Church in Sonoma. Afterward, there was a lovely party of family and friends with this beautiful cake and a lovely lunch catered by Cafe Citti, a favorite local Italian restaurant.

Olivia's First Communion

Olivia was beautiful, the service lovely, and we all enjoyed the day.

Friday, May 01, 2009

I loved my dinner!

Tiburon Grill

And it was a bargain too. At loose ends, I decided to do a spin around Tiburon last night, enjoy the view and find something for dinner. I'd heard that the Three Degrees has been replaced by the Tiburon Grill, so it seemed a logical choice. Lucky me walked in during the "Happy Hour" which lasts from 4-7 every day, and all day on Sundays. How lucky, well all the *'d items on the menu are half-price, and there is quite a variety of those items to choose from!


I had heard that the restaurant had become more comfort food/value item oriented, and the menu reflected that. In line with that theme, soon after I ordered a Mason jar with breadsticks arrived, accompanied by a delicious dip of ricotta and Parmesan cheese layered with pesto and balsamic vinegar. It was a great start!

Garden Burger

And the Garden Burger with Sweet Potato Fries that came next had me exclaiming how beautiful it was to the waitress as soon as it arrived. It was SO colorful and had thoughtful touches such as red onion that had a special slightly pickled taste. I couldn't stuff the avocado in and still be able to get my mouth around it, so it was a side. The sweet potato fries were actually made with sweet potatoes (lighter yellow color) rather than yams (orange) which was a nice surprise as well. The contrast of the hot patty with the cool lettuce and tomato was perfect too. It was simply delicious! And for the Happy Hour $6, quite a bargain. This is also a kid friendly place with enough menu choices to please a family with divergent tastes.

Tiburon Grill Menu

Restaurant Inspection Results
Not yet rated.

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