Geste Shrimp food truck

meter-ha-A friend recommended this Maui hotspot to me more than two years ago, and it’s taken me all this time to finally try it for myself. Frequent readers of my blog (my thanks and condolences to you all) know that I have a thing for sketchy food served on the side of the highway, so I’m sure you can imagine my excitement to visit this truck. In spite of nearly 800 days of anticipation, I was not disappointed in the slightest to experience Geste Shrimp for myself.

Food court, Maui style

Food court, Maui style

” Our rental car was never going to smell the same again”

Within 45 minutes of touching down on the tarmac at Kahului Airport, my wife and I were on the backroads of Maui, headed straight towards Geste Shrimp. After a couple of wrong turns in the industrial part of town, we finally spotted a cluster of cars stopped on the side of the highway. We parked amidst half a dozen food trucks and trailers and looked for the one with all the people hanging around it. Yep, there was Geste. It sure wasn’t much to look at – nothing more than a drab white box with a window cut in the side of it – but that didn’t have much effect on our appetites. We headed over to that side of the dirt lot and got in line.

The menu at Geste Shrimp is short and mostly devoid of useful information. We decided on spicy pineapple shrimp and placed our order. The soft-spoken and patient cashier explained that we would need to wait for about twenty minutes, and we were ok with that. Everybody else seemed fine hanging around waiting and besides, we were on island time. Nobody gives a crap how long anything takes when they’re in Hawaii.

This is my kind of tourist attraction.

This is my kind of tourist attraction.

The wait was slightly annoying but bearable, and before long our order was called. The cashier handed me a Styrofoam container, two forks, and a HUGE stack of napkins through the dingy, cramped window. Shawn and I went back to the car, bemused at the enormous pile of dead trees we’d been given, and opened up the container.

Three things were immediately apparent: 1) This was no typical food truck meal, 2) our rental car was never going to smell the same again, and 3) we were going to need a lot more napkins.

The generous helping of shrimp and pineapple chunks were absolutely swimming in an even more generous lake of wickedly seasoned butter. We plastered the car and our clothes with napkins, precariously perched the brimming food container on the center console, and started peeling shrimp.

There is no way mere words can explain how good this tastes.

There is no way mere words can explain how good this tastes.

Oh. My. Goodness. That flavor.

Those were the most incredible peel-and-eat shrimp I have ever experienced in my life. I didn’t even bother complaining about my burnt fingers, I just kept peeling shrimp and stuffing them in my face. I looked up at Shawn and she was in the same boat as me – loving the amazing flavor of those shrimp but making a total mess of everything. The conversation over the next ten minutes went something like this:

“I got some butter on my clothes. Crap! Twice.”
“Here take another napk… Damn it, I dropped some in my lap.”
“We should have brought a Tide pen.”
“Yeah, we.. Ack! Don’t move. There goes a shrimp tail.”
“I’ll get it before it falls between the seats.”
“Too late.”
“I’m glad this isn’t our car.”
“No kidding.”
“I dropped some shell down there too.”

Fortunately for us, week-old garlicky seafood odor is not explicitly called out in Hertz rental contracts, otherwise we’d be purchasing a brand new interior for a Kia Optima. And that, boys and girls, is reason number 783 for not ever buying a used rental car. Randomly Edible, bringing you restaurant reviews, recipes, and automobile buying advice.

Just like that, Geste Shrimp made the number one spot on our tastiest-meals-of-the-trip list. It might be the very best shrimp dish of any kind I’ve ever had, and it was certainly the messiest. Everything was amazing about the meal, even the crab macaroni salad and the sticky rice. Twenty minutes was no time at all to wait – we would have been fine with twice that. Geste Shrimp earns a nearly perfect rating of 89 out of 90 lost shrimp tails, darn near worth the price of a plane ticket to Maui just to try their food. You will never experience shrimp like this anywhere else, and neither will the upholstery of your car.

+ Best shrimp you may ever eat
+ You’re in Hawaii!
All other shrimp will seem terrible after this
Nowhere to sit and eat

Geste Shrimp
Kahului Beach Road
Kahului, HI
(808) 298-7109

Click to add a blog post for Geste Shrimp on Zomato

Best meal I've had in Hawaii by a long shot

Best meal I’ve had in Hawaii by a long shot

Small Bite: Which Wich

Which Wich is a worldwide sandwich shop chain that I had never heard of before a few days ago. You can’t really do a restaurant review on an entire chain, so I’m posting this as a Small Bite instead.

Hey, a new sandwich shop! New for me anyway.

Hey, a new sandwich shop! New for me anyway.

” This is a restaurant, not Wild Kingdom “

I found myself in Belmont at lunchtime following a dentist appointment, so I decided to go looking around for somewhere I hadn’t eaten at before. Which Wich immediately caught my eye, mostly because it is located right next to the Starbucks I was visiting. Alright, let’s give this a try.

Never before have I seen a bag caddy of this magnitude.

Never before have I seen a bag caddy of this magnitude.

The ordering system at Which Wich is… different. I honestly do not know whether I love it or hate it. I think love. Basically there is a wall of many types of little baggies. You select a baggy based on the type of sandwich you want to order (I opted for a Cuban in the ‘ham and pork’ category) and fill in some options with a felt pen. It’s not immediately apparent what you’re supposed to do when you walk in, but Which Wich seems aware of this. The cashier also has the job of asking every single person who walks in if they have been there before, and if not they are given a brief rundown of what to do.

They have one of those awesome a-billion-soft-drinks-in-one-machine things here.

They have one of those awesome a-billion-soft-drinks-in-one-machine things here.

The one thing that stood out about this place was the swarm of flies buzzing around inside the front door. I’m not kidding about this. They were the annoying fly-around-in-a-square-pattern type flies that never land, and they exclusively hung out in a beam of sunlight through the open doorway. I guess it wasn’t really unsanitary since the flies weren’t landing on anything, but it was still weird. I know it was a nice sunny day and all, but close the freaking doors, people. This is a restaurant, not Wild Kingdom.

The slightly pouty teenager making my sandwich called out “Cuban for Tom! Cuban sandwich for Tom!” Oh nice, that’s me. So I walked up to the counter. “Just a minute,” she said sulkily, as though I had asked her to get off the phone and go do her chores. And so I waited another few minutes, standing there awkwardly. “Cuban for Tom!” she called out again. Apparently she meant it this time because I was awarded a sandwich. Alrighty then.

Which wich would a witch witch if a witch could witch a wich?

Which wich would a witch witch if a witch could witch a wich?

The sandwich itself was pretty tasty. It was messy as hell, although that’s not always a bad sign. It was a real challenge to keep drippy toppings off of my clothes, but somehow I managed. I rather appreciated the copious amount of mayonnaise that was used, but my waistline didn’t feel too great about it.

Overall Which Wich is not a bad place for lunch. I’d probably prefer it over Subway, but it’s more or less on par with Togo’s.

Nonstandard Disclaimer of Randomness
No sandwiches were harmed in the writing of this post. Actually, that’s a lie. I totally destroyed that sandwich, and I’d do it again given the opportunity. I’m not entirely sure why a disclaimer is needed to advocate sandwich safety, but I guess there’s a first for everything. Why am I still writing this? Why are you still reading this? These are questions the answers to which may never be known.

Alexander’s Patisserie

meter-good+Alexander’s Patisserie is a relatively new addition to the city of Mountain View. This high end bakery features all sorts of fancy things I can’t pronounce, and people are going nuts for it. Although plagued with a number of “inventory problems” early in its lifecycle, this bakery has made a splash and, now that it has stabilized, seems to be here to stay. It may not be for everybody though.

” It’s nice, but it doesn’t tug at my heartstrings “

The Alexander’s brand started with a not-so-humble steakhouse in Cupertino, and their reputation for absolute culinary excellence has grown from there. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Alexander’s was opening a bakery, but I remained skeptical. You see, I’m not a super duper fan of Alexander’s in general, mostly because overly-gourmet’d anything just kind of turns me off. I know, I know, blasphemy. Alexander’s makes plenty of tasty stuff that I love to eat, and I am always quite happy to enjoy a $180 steak at one of their outstanding restaurants, but they always seem to chef things up one step too far.

The problem with Alexander’s in general is that I don’t really trust them. I feel like if I don’t keep a close eye on what they are doing in the kitchen, they are going to get crazy and put horrible things in my food. No, thank you, I would not like gold-leafed pygmy kangaroo spleen on top of my steak. Please just give me the steak and stop screwing around.

I'm not sure if these are food or not... but they sure are pretty.

I’m not sure if these are food or not… but they sure are pretty.

Alexander’s Patisserie follows the same basic formula as the rest of the brand, and for the most part that is a good thing. This place is spotless. I’m talking surgical cleanliness here; I challenge even the most paranoid of germophobes to find fault in this place. I would have no problem eating off of the floor, and that’s the truth. The immaculate display cases are no exception to the hyper-neatness rule at Alexander’s, and the care put into arranging the displays is clear to see.

Speaking of the display cases, this bakery is truly a feast for the eyes. Never before have I seen such gorgeous baked goods in all my life; if nothing else, it’s worth coming here just to snap a few pictures. It’s impressive.

Colorful little disks of macaron excellence. And yeah, 'whisky' is really a flavor.

Colorful little disks of macaron excellence. And yeah, ‘whisky’ is really a flavor.

Over the course of several visits here, I’ve had an opportunity to sample a decent array of the bakery offerings, and for the most part they are all good. Not necessarily delicious or amazing or omg gimme that right now but just… good. As is their way, they seem to be in the business of taking extra steps in the kitchen to make things more fancy, but not necessarily to make things more delicious. Some people would argue that this is the very thing that makes Alexander’s special, but I’m just not that into it. It’s a still a great bakery though, no doubt. The quality is there, the presentation is there, the cleanliness is there, but one thing is missing: appeal.

You see, the trouble with Alexander’s Patisserie is that it’s so high end it lacks charm. Polish and perfection have come at the price of personality. Nothing feels like it was ever fresh-out-of-the-oven; it all seems like it was assembled in a cleanroom by robots. There is no bakery smell, no wafts of warm air from a nearby oven, no hustle and bustle of busy bakers half covered in flour. Everything is neat and cool and highly processed. It’s nice, but it doesn’t tug at my heartstrings.

The bread offerings are actually a bit disappointing. I hear the croissants are decent though.

The bread offerings are actually a bit disappointing. I hear the croissants are decent though.

So far I haven’t done much besides bash on this innocent bakery, but there’s a good reason for that. I wanted to get all the unpleasantness out of the way before I focus on the highlight of this review. Truth be told, I really enjoy visiting Alexander’s Patisserie. More specifically, I absolutely love two things they make: lattes and kouign amanns. Oh yes, the lattes at this place are absolutely superb – the baristas truly know what they are doing. They’d better for the prices they charge, but I don’t mind the cost. In my book there is no such thing as too high of a price for a truly excellent coffee beverage, and Alexander’s does not disappoint. Major yum factor going on here.

I'm a sucker for foam art. It automatically makes any latte 18.4% more delicious.

I’m a sucker for foam art. It automatically makes any latte 18.4% more delicious.

What else was it that I mentioned? A keegoine-o-what? It’s called a kouign amann, and it is heaven on a tiny little pastry plate. I have no idea how to pronounce it of course, but that should not surprise you. If you’ve never heard of a kouign amann before (I hadn’t), it’s basically a rustic, lightly sweet, layered croissant-like thing. Apparently all the charm in the entire bakery has been focused into this one item, and it shows. The buttery, crispy layers of the kouign amann have just the right texture and softness as you pull them apart, and they go perfectly with one of those fancy lattes I was just raving about.

'Kouign amann' is French for 'Finally, something with character'.

‘Kouign amann’ is French for ‘Finally, something with character’.

At the end of the day, Alexander’s Patisserie is a great way to spend 45 minutes on a Saturday afternoon. There are fancy expensive things you can take pictures of to impress your friends, and if you look closely you’ll find a few delicious morsels to eat too. If you’re a fan of macarons, there is a good variety of flavors (and colors) to choose from, and of course there’s something here for coffee lovers as well. I rate this place 43 out of 50 robotically crafted shiny food spheres – above average but not spectacular. Alexander’s is good enough for an entertaining visit, but I don’t think I could ever truly fall in love with it. I’ll visit anytime for a latte and a kouign amann though.

 + Super duper ultra fancy
 – …but no personality
 + Unbelievably clean and neat
 + Prettiest display cases you’ll ever see
++ Kouign amanns and lattes to die for
It doesn’t “feel” like a bakery
The bread is just kind of meh
Nothing is cheap here
Nothing is served warm either

Alexander’s Patisserie
209 Castro Street
Mountain View, CA 94041
(650) 864-9999

Alexander's Patisserie on Urbanspoon

Like I said, it's all fancy and stuff.

Like I said, it’s all fancy and stuff.

Back A Yard

meter-greatIf you look up “hole in the wall” in the dictionary, you will see a picture of Back A Yard. This tiny little Caribbean eatery is exactly my kind of place – it’s quirky, unique, and adored by locals. From the moment I first heard about this place I knew I’d have to pay it a visit.

” Oh, how I’ve dreamt about those sides “

I don’t tend to trust Yelp very much, thanks to their questionable policies and gangster-like business practices, but it’s worth noting that Back A Yard is perched comfortably on top of Yelp’s highest rated list for the area. That is no easy feat, even if you’ve paid your monthly protection money. But enough about Yelp. This is about a great little restaurant and its relationship to my stomach.

This is the whole place. No really, this is it.

This is the whole place. No really, this is it.

Parking at Back A Yard’s Menlo Park location is tricky at best, so if you have the opportunity to talk someone else into driving you there, you should. Once you manage to make your way inside, you will be greeted by an array of hand-written menu boards detailing the eight million different things you can order. There are a number of delightfully authentic choices available (Oxtails and sweet potato pudding anyone?), as well as a selection of more typically American lunch options.

The BBQ chicken was no-nonsense and delicious. Pretty good coleslaw too.

The BBQ chicken was no-nonsense and delicious. Pretty good coleslaw too.

On my first visit I opted for a barbecue chicken lunch. In retrospect this was a stupid choice, because why would I go out of my way to visit a Caribbean joint and then not order Caribbean food? Yeah, sometimes I don’t understand me either. In any case, the barbecue chicken was wonderful. It was cooked to perfection and absolutely drenched in sauce. It came with a healthy serving of crinkle fries, cole slaw, and a dinner roll. A metric ton of napkins were also provided, which was a good thing – it was MESSY.

The jerk chicken was the lunch of my dreams.

The jerk chicken was the lunch of my dreams.

Realizing that I had been an idiot, I returned a few days later and got myself some jerk chicken. Where, oh where has this place been all of my life?? The chicken was nothing short of amazing; it had an entire spice cupboard’s worth of flavor packed into every bite, and it was neither too spicy nor too mild. And the sides! Oh, how I’ve dreamt about those sides since I visited. The jerk chicken lunch comes with rice and beans – a personal favorite – as well as fried plantains – an even favoriter.. personal… uh, thing. I kind of wrote myself into a corner there.

Listen. It’s difficult to write sentences that make sense when you have fried plantains on the brain. They are one of the very best things in the entire world, and Back A Yard knows how to cook up a mean batch of them. Go get some. Now.

There is exactly as much seating available outside as there is inside: Not much.

There is exactly as much seating available outside as there is inside: Not much.

Back A Yard is exactly the kind of place I love discovering: A homey little joint with fantastic food tucked away in a forgotten corner of town. If you’re a fan of Caribbean cuisine, this is the place you’ve been looking for. If you’ve never tried Caribbean, then get your butt down to Menlo Park sometime and give it a whirl. This eatery earns a respectable 16 out of 18 deliciously fried plantain slices, making it well worth a lunchtime visit. Just remember to get there a bit early if you expect to both park and find a place to sit.

+ 1) Authentic
+ 2) Caribbean
+ 3) Food
+ See pros 1-3
It’s tiny inside
I mean like really tiny
+ But nobody cares about that

Back A Yard
Two locations in the Bay Area

Back a Yard Caribbean American Grill on Urbanspoon

Umami Burger

meter-great-Umami Burger has a lot going for it, namely truffles. This restaurant also happens to make a mean burger and some of the best onion rings I’ve encountered west of Salt Lake City, but it’s the truffles that are the first, last, and pretty much only thing you’re going to remember. The thought of this will have you either drooling or gagging, depending of course on whether or not you like truffles.

Thanks to for letting me, ahem, 'borrow' this picture.

Thanks to for letting me, ahem, ‘borrow’ this picture.

” Oh how I longed for a humble bottle of Heinz 57 “

Umami Burger is a medium-sized restaurant chain primarily based in California, but there are a handful of locations scattered across the U.S. as well. The very first thing I noticed when I walked in to the Umami Burger in Palo Alto was – you guessed it – the smell of truffles. It seems that the majority of humans on the planet love the hell out of those musty underground tumors, but I am not one of those people. To me, truffles have a very chemical-y, unpleasant reek. There’s a funk to the things that just isn’t right, and they taste like other people’s bad breath smells. Most of the other patrons in the restaurant seemed to be on the opposite end of the truffle spectrum from me; they were all rather enjoying the odor, inhaling blissfully as though they were eating $100 bills with their nostrils.

To each their own, I suppose. I can’t hold the truffle thing against Umami Burger just because I don’t personally like them, but because so much of the experience at this place relies on those stinky little mushrooms, the subject can’t be avoided.

The artisan pickle plate (shown here half-eaten) was excellent.

The artisan pickle plate (shown here half-eaten) was excellent.

The capable and courteous restaurant staff quickly showed me and the rest of my lunch party (the usual suspects) us to a table. I counted eighteen items on the menu, consisting of burgers, salads, and sides. Of these, more than half featured truffles in some form. I opted for a Manly burger (yes, that’s actually what it’s called) and a side of truffle-less fries. For the table we got a house pickle plate and an order of tempura onion rings. The pickle plate showed up almost immediately, and it featured six different kinds of pickled vegetables. The green beans were by far my favorite, but the beets were pretty darned excellent as well. We were halfway through the plate before I remembered to take a picture of it… Oops.

The next time I develop a craving for onion rings, I'm coming back here.

The next time I develop a craving for onion rings, I’m coming back here.

A few minutes later, our order of onion rings showed up. Wow! Why oh why doesn’t everyone prepare their onion rings tempura style? These rings were absolutely superb with just the right balance between crunch and perfectly cooked onion. Most importantly, when taking a bite of a ring, molten hot onion did not slide out of the batter and slap me in the chin. The onion severed cleanly and easily; every bite was perfection.

Hey, my hamburger bun still has the label on it.

Hey, my hamburger bun still has the label on it.

My Manly burger and fries arrived shortly afterwards, and everything looked great – this place certainly does a good job on presentation. I am happy to report that both the burger and the fries were extremely delicious. The quality of the beef patty was outstanding, and it had a nice crispy grilled crust on it. Yum. I could still faintly taste truffles somewhere in my burger though, likely cross-contamination from all of the other truffle-heavy foods prepared in the kitchen.

Also available in truffle version. This should not surprise you.

Also available in truffle version. This should not surprise you.

The shoestring-style fries were also quite excellent. Partway through the meal, however, pungent truffle flavor suddenly appeared on the fries and forcibly drove all other tastes out of my mouth. What the… Where did that come from? I tried another fry and there was no truffle taste at all. Eh? It was then that I realized there were truffles in the ketchup. IN THE EFFING KETCHUP. Is nothing sacred in this place?? I had no choice but to endure my otherwise excellent burger and fries without any ketchup at all, which was something of a disappointment. Oh how I longed for a humble bottle of Heinz 57.

In spite of my mushroom-based grumblings, I truly enjoyed my experience at Umami Burger. I know that I am among the genetic minority of people who find that truffles smell like pig urine. Yes, yes, I’m sure I am missing out on something wonderful, but that’s beside the point. Getting back on track, I rate Umami Burger a very respectable 90 out of 100 grams of tuber melanosporum. If you’re looking for a good burger and some great onion rings a notch above standard burger joint fare, this is the place for you.

+ Well-executed burgers with a gourmet kick
+ Masterful tempura onion rings
 – Black truffles are in everything
– – Like seriously EVERYTHING
+ If you enjoy truffles that’s good though
 – But I don’t

P.S. I used the word “truffle” in this post 18 times. Make that 19.

Umami Burger
Multiple locations throughout the U.S.

Umami Burger on Urbanspoon