The Bay Fish & Chips

meter-ok-goodThe Bay Fish & Chips is one of those places I really want to like. It may actually be good, but my one experience with it was a bit lacking. I can’t even really say that it was one particular thing that put me off about this place; the whole experience was like a never-ending chain of small disappointments that ultimately resulted in an overall opinion of “meh”.

” Weird, blue cups of water “

For starters, the spousal unit and I (for simplicity I’ll just say “we” from here on out) were finally recovering from a relatively terrible meal and we decided that we had earned something fried and tasty for our sacrifice. Fish and chips sounded dandy, and so we consulted Google for a local place we hadn’t tried yet. We drove a short couple miles down the street, following our GPS, and arrived at a strange and mildly unpleasant shopping center growing cyst-like on the side of El Camino Real. Tiny disappointment #1. Ok, well… Sometimes the best places are in grungy little shopping centers. I hope.

Sorry carlwuzhere for stealing this picture from your blog. Either you can sue me or I can give you like five bucks if you want.

Sorry carlwuzhere for stealing this picture from your blog. Either you can sue me or I can give you like five bucks if you want.

Actually, you know what… The signage mounted in the corner of that shopping center archway looks fairly professional. Wait a second. That big archway thing isn’t actually the front of an entire restaurant, it’s just an empty shell covering a weird, sad little space hidden in the corner. Tiny disappointment #2.

Welcome to 1982. Do you like our wood paneling?

Welcome to 1982. Do you like our wood paneling?

Now you can’t really photograph odor, so instead I opted for a picture of the menu board. As we walked in the door we realized that this place is not what we expected. It smelled like a noodle shop or similar Asian-style fast food joint, which is not a bad thing at all, of course, but it’s jarring when you are expecting to encounter the smell of… oh, I don’t know… perhaps fish and chips? It’s like going to take a big swig of your 7up only to discover that it’s tonic water. Euugh. Neither are bad things, but when you want one you usually don’t want the other. The place was also completely empty during lunch hour on a weekend, which was off-putting. Tiny disappointments #3 and #4.

Seriously, what's with those cups?

Seriously, what’s with those cups?

We skipped over the wonton soup and shrimp cake options on the menu and ordered what we came for: fried sea animal parts. The person at the register – I presume one of the owners – was courteous, fast, friendly, and happy to see customers. She invited us to choose whatever table we liked and brought us tartar sauce, vinegar, and cups of water. Weird, blue cups of water. Tupperware cups like what you’d find in the bargain aisle of a 1970s Walmart. Tiny disappointment #5. Around then I noticed the decor, a painfully stereotypical arrangement of wood paneling and gilded “paintings” of sailing ships braving untamed seas. If you looked closely at the paintings, you could see that each had a thin veneer of once-airborne fish fryer oil that had condensed into sticky little vertical driplets. Tiny disappointment #6. We tried not to touch the paintings (or the walls) and waited.

Well, it's fish and chips alright.

Well, it’s fish and chips alright.

I’ve spent a lot of time so far talking about all the things I didn’t like leading up to the one thing that matters: The food. A restaurant can get pretty much everything else wrong, but if they manage to produce an amazing plate of grub then quite a lot can be forgiven. Unfortunately, the fish and chips were not amazing. They were hot and crispy and overall just fine, but they weren’t exceptional. The fish was fair and very slightly too oily, and the fries were the standard crinkle-cut variety. Tiny disappointment #7. The surprising star of the show was the tartar sauce. I couldn’t tell if it was scratch made or not, but it was excellent. Certainly not a disappointment.

We left The Bay Fish & Chips unsure of whether or not we liked it. Both of us felt a little greasy from the experience, and neither of us seemed to be genuinely satisfied. The other online reviews for this restaurant are generally very positive, so I’m willing to give it another try to see if my opinion improves. From my limited experience here, however, I have to rate this place a slightly disappointing 5 out of 8 oily nautical paintings. Oh, oil paintings. I made an accidental funny.

The Bay Fish & Chips
826 W El Camino Real
Sunnyvale, CA 94087
(408) 732-5665
Google it

Bay Fish & Chips on Urbanspoon


Standard Restaurant Review Disclaimer
The ambiguous and illogical rating system used in this review is not intended to be pinpoint accurate. It’s only there to give you a general idea of how much I like or dislike an establishment, and it also gives me an excuse to write silly things. If my rating system angers and distracts you, there’s a good chance you have control issues. I would also like to point out that I am not a highly qualified restaurant reviewer person, nor do I particularly care what that job is called. If you were under the impression that perhaps I was one of those people, consider your hopes dashed. Lastly, wow! You read the entire disclaimer. You get a gold star on your chart today.


Danville Station Firehouse Bar & Grill

meter-bleh-okMy experience at Danville Station Firehouse Bar & Grill (henceforth abbreviated as DSFB&G) was ultimately not a very good one. It started out pleasantly and with much promise, but over the course of the meal it became clear that this place unfortunately sucks. It’s too bad too, because the location is prime and the wait people (wait persons?) are great, but I just couldn’t get past the terrible food.

“ Holy flavorless meatsticks, Batman! ”

On a typically lovely Saturday morning in July, my wife Shawn and I took our dogs to well-to-do Danville for a day of strolling about and shopping for random things. After a couple hours’ worth of browsing through old chandeliers and decorative concrete whatnots, we decided it was time for an early lunch. There are a lot of really great places to eat in Danville, so it was with much excitement that we took inventory of our food options along Danville’s main drag. We read through some good looking menus and peeked in a bunch of windows, but ultimately we decided on DSFB&G.

Downtown Danville is as cute as a button.

Downtown Danville is as cute as a button.

DSFB&G has a lovely shaded patio with cozy tables – mostly all filled with happy looking people – and so we figured it had to be pretty good. We were welcomed inside the patio, dogs and all, and were seated immediately. Our waitress quickly brought over a couple menus and a bowl of water for our dogs. Major bonus points there. The menu, as it turns out, was a bit on the short side and included only breakfast items. Strange for 11:30am, but that’s fine. We’ll go with breakfast. We asked our waitress about a couple items on the menu and as it turns out she hadn’t tried either of them, but she did make sure to mention the name of another restaurant where said menu items were really good. Curious. I shrugged it off as nothing and ordered the chicken and waffle with an iced tea, while Shawn opted for a banana buttermilk pancake short stack, side of chicken apple sausage, and a Diet Coke.

This is just like any other chicken and waffle dish you've had, except that it isn't good.

This is just like any other chicken and waffle dish you’ve ever had, except that it isn’t good.

Our food arrived shortly afterwards and it was very… ordinary. It didn’t look unappetizing per se, just ho hum. Upon closer inspection it turned out that the underside of my chicken was very dark, almost burned, and the waffle was dry and sad. At least the eggs were prepared correctly. Shawn’s banana buttermilk pancakes were literally only that – two ordinary buttermilk pancakes with sliced bananas on top. The pancakes, waffle, and chicken were all sub-average and tasted identical to one another. To add insult to injury, we then realized there was no butter anywhere to be found. What the heck, no butter?? If I was governor, I’d make that a class 2 misdemeanor.

Bananas on top of pancakes do not banana pancakes make.

Bananas on top of pancakes do not banana pancakes make.

Just as I was trying to figure out how to choke down my waffle without butter, Shawn said, “This is the worst chicken apple sausage I have ever had.” Being morbidly curious, I tried a piece. Holy flavorless meatsticks, Batman! She wasn’t kidding. Those sausages were the most offensively bland food I have accidentally touched with my tongue in the last 10 years, and I promise you that I’m not exaggerating. They seemed to be nothing more than week-old boiled rooster meat sprayed with apple-scented air freshener. Oh, and they were cold in the middle too. Quadruple yuck.

And what is one supposed to do with disgusting food when they don’t want to make a scene? That’s where the dogs come in. Our fluffy little mutts were thrilled to help and eagerly ate pieces of sausage, which they seemed to enjoy just fine. They also like bully sticks, though, so I guess there’s no accounting for taste.

If there is a Hell, this is what they serve for breakfast.

If there is a Hell, this is what they serve for breakfast.

When we had finished, our waitress brought our bill, commenting how she hadn’t tried the chicken and waffle but there’s this really good waffle joint down the street that is supposed to be killer. Now she tells us. We paid, tipping decently, and left DSFB&G forever with no intention of ever returning. As we walked away, Shawn produced another quotable: “The best part of that meal was the Diet Coke.” Ain’t that the truth.

And just when we thought our disappointing meal experience was wrapped up for the day, one of our dogs barfed up the chicken apple sausage on the drive home. Sigh. It’s a fitting end I suppose. DSFB&G has good ambience and friendly employees, but whoever is running the kitchen has pretty much ruined everything. I’m sad to say that I rate this place a dismal 1 out of 12 bottles of floor mat shampoo, Randomly Edible’s lowest score ever. If you’re considering visiting this restaurant, don’t.

Danville Station Firehouse Bar & Grill
340-348 Hartz Avenue
Danville, CA 94526
(925) 838-8800
www.firehousebarandgrille.com
Danville Station Firehouse Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon


Standard Restaurant Review Disclaimer
The ambiguous and illogical rating system used in this review is not intended to be pinpoint accurate. It’s only there to give you a general idea of how much I like or dislike an establishment, and it also gives me an excuse to write silly things. If my rating system angers and distracts you, there’s a good chance you have control issues. I would also like to point out that I am not a highly qualified restaurant reviewer person, nor do I particularly care what that job is called. If you were under the impression that perhaps I was one of those people, consider your hopes dashed. Lastly, wow! You read the entire disclaimer. You get a gold star on your chart toy.


By-Th’-Bucket

meter-ok-goodBy-Th’-Bucket is truly my kind of place, curious punctuation aside. It’s too bad really, because my last visit was about as uninspiring as Paris Hilton’s intellect. My love of anything and everything pasta usually means that I’m pretty forgiving when it comes to classic Italian eateries, but the permeating sense of ordinary just couldn’t be ignored.

It was a typical Saturday evening. Just like any other totally normal family, Shawn and I had spent the day walking the dogs, running errands, and using a power drill to fling natural rope fibers across the dining room. We decided that an awesome dinner was in order, and so we drove down the street to By-Th’-Bucket.

It's Saturday night. Where is everybody?

It’s Saturday night. Where is everybody?

” It was approximately as satisfying as not peeling the plastic film off of a new remote control “

I’ve been to this restaurant a number of times, and I’ve always liked it. It’s a blue-blooded seafood and pasta joint that’s been around for over 50 years – what’s not to like? Over the course of my last few visits, however, I’d started to wonder if they were slipping a little. No, that’s nonsense. I love all Italian food, and I love this restaurant. There can’t be anything wrong with it.

The menu at By-Th’-Bucket is extensive; there’s seafood, rotisserie meats, specialty pastas, pizza, steaks… The list goes on. I picked out gnocchi with meat sauce, and Shawn went for a Macho Man pizza. I wasn’t sure if I should feel amused or threatened that her meal would be manlier than mine. I decided instead to start humming the Village People hit of the same name, which resulted in a satisfyingly annoyed eye roll from across the table.

It's gnocchi I guess.

It’s gnocchi I guess.

Our food arrived after a slightly longer than average wait, and we dug in. My gnocchi was… Well, it was just extremely meh. It was about the same temperature as bathwater, and the sauce tasted like it came out of a jar. I didn’t hate it, but I could quite literally go to the grocery store and make the same identical dish with two basic off-the-shelf ingredients and a microwave. No, wait, it had a dried parsley garnish as well. Ok, so three ingredients. Ho hum.

This sure seems to be a pizza.

This sure seems to be a pizza.

Meanwhile, Shawn was enjoying – no, eating – her pizza. “Do you like it?” I asked. She shrugged, rather unimpressed. I tried a piece and shrugged in exactly the same way. Just like the gnocchi, it wasn’t bad so much as it was just sort of… there. The ham, pepperoni, and salami toppings were all exactly what you’d expect to find for sale in a gas station. The crust was bready but acceptable, and I couldn’t tell for sure if it was handmade or not. The sauce was red and probably made out of tomatoes. It was approximately as satisfying as not peeling the plastic film off of a new remote control.

I was at a loss for what I thought of the meal, because there wasn’t really anything at all to think of. Shawn, reading the expression on my face, said, “There are just too many other really good restaurants around here to bother with this place.” Yep, that was it. She’d nailed it.

In conclusion, By-Th’-Bucket isn’t a bad restaurant. I give it a middle-of-the-road 20 out of 40 armpit temperature gnocchi, making it more or less worth a visit if you find yourself stuck in the immediate area without a car. Sadly, By-Th’-Bucket’s biggest downfall is that it just isn’t up to snuff with its peers. I’ll be giving them another chance at some point I’m sure, but who knows when that will be. If you’re looking for awesome Italian food in San Jose, head a mile down the road to Tony & Alba’s instead.

By-Th’-Bucket
4565 Stevens Creek Boulevard
Santa Clara, CA 95051
(408) 248-6244
www.btbbarandgrill.com
By-Th'-Bucket Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon


I made it the whole post without a Bucket List joke.

I made it the whole post without a Bucket List joke.


Kotetsu Ramen

meter-okKotetsu Ramen is a bit of a contradiction. The food is high quality, it’s authentic, and everyone seems to love it. On the other hand, this place is questionably located and largely incomprehensible. I’m sure I’ll figure out what I think of it by the end of my review, but as of right now I’m on the fence.

“Reminder: Lunch” my smartphone declared at me. Well that’s odd. I hardly need help remembering to eat, so the notification must be for… Ah yes, I was supposed to meet my friend Kevin for lunch. “Are we still on for today?” I texted to Kevin, pretending to remember our lunch meeting. “I think it’s your turn to pick.”

“Let’s go to that ramen place we talked about last time, Kotetsu” came the reply.

” It seemed more like fried chicken fat that accidentally included some meat “

I looked up the address, jumped in the car, and started off down the street… and three minutes later I arrived. Well that was quite a bit closer than I thought it was – Kotetsu Ramen gets a thumbs up for convenience at least, assuming you live exactly where I do. Unfortunately, the convenient location just so happens to be a 1970’s strip mall that adorns the side of El Camino Real the same way an old piece of spinach adorns one’s teeth. The mall is not bad or scary really, it’s just ugly. If you’re ever in the market for an abandoned 1988 LeBaron station wagon with wood-look paneling, you’ll often find one or two specimens here.

I met Kevin in front of Kotetsu at 11:25am, right on schedule. “We need to wait out here, they don’t open for another five minutes” Kevin said, the “closed” sign on the door backing up his statement.  Actually, no – scratch that. The sign didn’t say “closed”, it said “close”, without the “d”.

I am confuse.

I am confuse.

Close. Hmm.

Did this mean “close by my house” or “please close this door”? Or was it a misspelling of “clothes”? My eye began to twitch slightly as my brain attempted to process this information and came up with nothing. To my relief, a nice man opened the door from the inside, removed the grammatically dubious sign, and invited us in.

Don't mind me. I'm just some guy taking pictures of you while you eat. Pretend like I'm not here.

Don’t mind me. I’m just some guy taking pictures of you while you eat. Pretend like I’m not here.

The inside of Kotetsu isn’t huge, but it’s well laid out, nicely lit, and absolutely immaculately clean. It really is a nice place to be. A lot of restaurants could learn a thing or two from Kotetsu and keep their dining areas a bit tidier. There’s a distinction between “not dirty” and “obsessively clean”. Customers (e.g., me) can tell the difference, and that’s one thing that really sets this restaurant apart.

The service at Kotetsu was as crisp and flawless as its cleanliness; within 2.8 seconds of being seated we had glasses of ice water and a competent waitperson at our beck and call. I opened the menu and started to browse through it… and immediately I knew I had a problem. Quite a lot of it was written in Romanized Japanese, which is Japanese words written using the English alphabet. This was a bit of an issue because, as you may have guessed, I don’t know Japanese. I gave Kevin a helpless “Please tell me you can read this” look, but he returned it with a shrug that conveyed “What, and you think I’m supposed to be able to?” Super.

I began carefully scrutinizing the menu, scanning for words I recognized and attempting to identify food items from the pictures. Let’s see… ramen…. ramen…  ramen…. Yes, those are all words I know but they are not helpful. Ah, here’s pork… and this one here says chicken. I decided on the least alarming thing I could identify, a chicken plate something-whatever, and Kevin ordered a ramen thing that seemed likely to include pork.

This is the plate of items I must have ordered.

This is the plate of items I must have ordered.

Our meals arrived quickly, and they looked fairly delicious. Well mine did anyway, but Kevin’s frightened me. To be perfectly honest, this kind of food really isn’t my cup of tea. Despite this, it was clear that the preparation was high quality and executed with the utmost care by expert hands. I wasn’t overly thrilled, but I’ll try anything once. My dish did indeed turn out to be not unlike chicken – fried chicken to be exact – and it included mayonnaise, some kind of potato salad, and assorted vegetable bits. The chicken was crispy, light, and had very good flavor, but it was extremely fatty. It seemed more like fried chicken fat that accidentally included some meat instead of the other way around. Kevin seemed to think that fatty chicken was just the style of the particular dish I ordered, which is possible, but I didn’t love it. I made my way through most of it and it grew on me as I ate. It’s still not my thing, but I can see how some people might appreciate it. The potato salad (if it actually was potato salad) was excellent.

"Yes, I'll have the partially submerged meat flower with kelp please."

“Yes, I’ll have the partially submerged meat flower with kelp please.”

Across the table, Kevin was enjoying the heck out of his ramen. It certainly did seem to have plenty of pork – large, flat pieces of it adorned the inner edges of the bowl in an epic fan of meatiness. The cuts of pork contained a fair amount questionable gristly bits throughout, and each was rimmed in a ring of fat. This dish was certainly not anything I would ever order for myself. It was becoming quite apparent, however, that I was the odd one out in the restaurant as far as my opinions went, as everyone else within eyesight really seemed to be chowing away with glee. Indeed, Kotetsu’s ratings on Yelp are consistently high, which tells me that this is a very good restaurant that simply doesn’t serve anything I like.

Coming up with a rating for Kotetsu Ramen is tricky. Objectively I give them decent marks for overall quality of preparation, cleanliness, flavor, and what appears to be a high degree of authenticity – let’s say 8.5 out of 10 pounds of fried chicken fat. On the flip side of the coin, I dislike the location, the menus need a lot of work to make them useable by a wider audience, and I just don’t personally care for the style of food (the latter of course is not the fault of Kotetsu). I’d be willing to go back to this place with the help of a translator, and if I can find a dish I like I have no doubt it will be made very well indeed …whatever it is.

Kotetsu Ramen
2089 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95050
(408) 557-0822
www.kotetsuramen.com
Kotetsu Ramen on Urbanspoon

That's a bowl of stuff alright. Enjoy?

That’s a bowl of stuff alright. Enjoy?


Experimental pizza roll

I nearly named this recipe “pizza doh” because it really didn’t look like it was going to turn out, but in spite of itself it ended up being something humans can eat. My better half described this recipe as “a fun way to eat pizza”, and I think that description is spot-on. The entire process of preparing this was equal parts recipe and experiment, and the results were favorable enough that I’ll be making this again.

Skip to the short version

” The tube detonated with a doughy ‘wump’ “

As usual, I did not come up with this idea myself. I was not influenced by any one recipe – simply browsing through dozens of “pizza roll” and “rolled up pizza” recipes available on the interwebs was enough to get an idea of what to do.


Ingredients:

  • 1 tube Pillsbury pizza dough
  • 1 metric ton shredded mozzerella
  • 1 gaggle pepperoni (I’m pretty sure they come in gaggles. If not, they should)
  • green olives to taste (Read: The whole jar.)
  • olive oil
  • Italian seasoning
  • 1 jar premade pizza sauce


Directions:

Set your oven to 375 degrees F.  Lay out a sheet of aluminum foil on a cookie sheet and mentally prepare yourself to open the tube of pizza dough. I know that opening the tube sounds simple, but it didn’t go so smoothly when I tried it. Perhaps it would have helped if I had read the directions, or perhaps I am exceedingly sub-par when compared to whatever Pillsbury considers to be the lowest common denominator. Regardless, when I pulled the little triangular tab, the tube detonated with a doughy “wump”, shredding the pristine sheet of rolled up pizza dough that was once inside. Super. If this same exact thing happens to you, welcome to the slow class – there’s an available seat right here next to mine. Do your best to patch together the tattered dough remnants into something vaguely rectangular and place it on the sheet of foil.  Try not to dwell on this humiliating moment.

Add a layer of pepperoni directly onto the Frankendough, covering as much area as you can.  Next sprinkle some shredded cheese…. No, not sprinkle. Sprinkle is too small of a word to describe how cheese is applied. Heap some shredded cheese on top of the pepperoni in an even layer. Wait, you’re saying. WAIT. Where’s the sauce?? Aha! That’s all part of the plan. The sauce comes later. Much later. For now just keep your socks on and do what I say.

Add any other toppings you like at this point, namely green olives. Lots of ’em.  I’m not sure if any other pizza toppings actually exist, but if they do feel free to use them I guess. You can also dash a bit of Italian seasoning over the top of everything as well, and maybe add some garlic powder and Parmesan if you’re feeling extra sassy.

It ain't pretty, but even an ugly pizza can be a good pizza.

It ain’t pretty, but even an ugly pizza can be a good pizza.

Starting at one of the shorter sides, carefully begin rolling up the whole mess into kind of a large mutated burrito.  Lightly rub the top with some olive oil and a dust bit more Italian seasoning on top to help hide the horrific scars.  Stick it in the oven for about 25 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

I don't remember putting a hand grenade in this before baking it.

I don’t remember putting a hand grenade in this before baking it.

Ah. Well this is awkward. Quickly, cut the roll into slices before anyone notices that the whole operation has gone pear-shaped.  At this point, just pretend like everything that has happened so far has been according to plan.  The more confident you seem, the less likely guests will be to question your methods.

Serve the roll slices with some warmed up pizza sauce (for dipping) and try not to burn off all the flesh from the roof of your mouth.

Well hey, that didn't turn out so bad afterall.

Well hey, that didn’t turn out so bad afterall.



tl;dr

Experimental pizza roll

Ingredients:

  • 1 tube Pillsbury pizza dough
  • 1 metric ton shredded mozzerella
  • 1 gaggle pepperoni
  • green olives to taste
  • olive oil
  • Italian seasoning
  • 1 jar premade pizza sauce


Directions:

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Open tube of dough and lay on a flat surface. Layer on pepperoni, cheese, olives, and any other toppings you like. Roll up dough and pinch trailing edge against roll to seal. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle Italian seasoning on top. Bake for 25 minutes or until top is golden brown. Slice roll and serve with heated pizza sauce.