Yummy Sonoma

Helping you decide where and where not to eat!

Forestville – Backyard, Part 2: Frustration and Disappointment.

Hi, all.  Long time, no talk.  I’ve been really busy planning my wedding, which is going really well, despite being stressful. I feel bad about not updating my blog more often.  

Last night, I wrote out a review for Backyard on Yelp that I do not know if I should post or not.  It’s currently saved there, but not posted.  But I will post it here for the time being:

Ohhhhh Backyard.  I used to be so in love with you.  But after multiple negative experiences with the front-end manager, Marianna, including trying to get Backyard to cater my wedding, I feel I must update my review.

FIRST OF ALL, the Bib Gourmand they received is well-deserved, food-wise.  As you can tell from my previous review, the food is FANTASTIC.  That is why they get two stars for this review instead of one.

The service…. Pretty inconsistent.  My friends and I wait entirely too long for our food whenever we go.  That said all of the servers are pretty nice, except…

Marianna, the front-end manager that pretty much every negative review of Backyard complains about.  Look, I’m sure she has good intentions and I’m sure she is anxious to succeed and wants nothing but the best for her restaurant.  Putting all those ideals into practice though?  She fails really hard there.

I started emailing back and forth with Marianna about catering my wedding in January 2014.  Everything seemed great at first… We met at the restaurant to talk details.  She and her husband seemed very accommodating and enthusiastic about our business.  Great.  My fiancé and I were excited.

Come early March, my fiancé and I had to push back our wedding date twice.  We communicated about this via email.  Marianna was fine with the first change, but when I asked about the second change, she didn’t respond to me, so I had my fiancé call her.  When he got her on the phone, Marianna more or less put all the responsibility for her lack of communication on us, stating that we needed to “figure out” the actual date before going forward with her.  Sorry, but that’s not how you handle business.  You don’t blame your lack of response on your client.  What would have happened if we never had called?  She just wouldn’t have emailed me back?  Really?

She then told us we needed to send her the contact information of the wedding site’s host so she could see what equipment would be available to her.  Fair enough.  Despite being displeased with her attitude, I sent it to her, asking her to please confirm that she had gotten the information.  Once again, she didn’t email me back.

Well fortunately, during Restaurant Week, my friend and I went to Backyard for their fried chicken dinner.  I asked Marianna in person if she had gotten my email.  She said she had and that she would get in contact with the venue’s host after Restaurant Week was over.  Okay, that’s fine.  Side note: I’m not very well versed in gluten allergies, but I mentioned before to a coworker with Celiac’s that Backyard had gluten-free fried chicken.  My coworker asked me if they fried the gluten free chicken in the same oil as the regular fried chicken so I asked Marianna since I had the opportunity.  In a very sharp tone, she condescendingly responded, “we know what gluten-free means.”  Seriously???  Don’t treat the customer like she or he is stupid.  It’s a perfectly valid question.   In case you are reading this and are wondering why you see so many negative comments about yourself on your Yelp page, there’s an example right there.  There’s no excuse for that.

So because Marianna SAID she would contact the venue after Restaurant Week, I expected her to actually contact the venue after Restaurant Week.  Did she?  Nope.  One more chance…

Restaurant Week ended March 16.  On April 8, I wrote my second to last email to her:

“Hi again,

Getting our caterer booked is extremely important to us and we would really appreciate a word, any word, from you.  I might have fiancé call you today, but until then, please let me know if you get this and what is going on your end.  We are getting closer to the actual wedding date, and if things don’t work out with you guys, we need enough time to execute a backup plan.  Any response is better than no response at all (and thus being left in the dark).  I feel I have been very patient until now, but I am starting to feel ignored.  This is mine and fiancé’s big day, and we really would like things to go smoothly.  If email doesn’t work for you, let us know; we will be happy to call you instead.

We really, really love the food at Backyard, so we really want this to work out.

Thank you,
Susie”

She actually responded the same day, I think because I poked her to do so via Facebook.  She said “I have you down for the 19th. I will call and set up an appointment with you and the land owner later this week. “

That was April 8. It’s now June, and we still haven’t heard from her, and neither has the wedding venue.  Needless to say, we have moved on and have another caterer booked.

Marianna obviously has some serious work to do on her management skills and people skills.  Hell, on Backyard’s Yelp page, instead of taking criticism with grace, she has responded to two negative reviews by accusing the customers of lying.  Look for them yourself.  That is borderline Amy’s Baking Company behavior.  Lucky for her, Backyard’s food is great.

This is actually the first time I’ve ever written a review that met the maximum number of characters for a Yelp review. I wish I could have written more, too. Ha!

I face a dilemma about posting it because, well, my roommate’s farm supplies produce to them, and Marianna and Chef Daniel are friends with my friends, Sarah and Tyja. I don’t want to cause a bunch of drama for any of them, and I want to be able to go to the restaurant in the future. Knowing what I know of Marianna and how she responds to criticism, she’d be foolish enough to turn away my business just because of that review. Call me crazy for wanting to at least be able to go back, but their food is that good, and I have fun going out with my friends to dinner there.

What would you do?

Sebastopol – Tyja and Sarah’s House

Tyja is such an awesome chef.

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Caviar and an uni-based sauce on poached duck egg. Hell yes.

Unfortunately for y’all this isn’t a restaurant and a benefit of being friends with Ty and Sarah. But perhaps you could eat something similar at Applewood Inn. ;)

Taking a break

Hi all!

I’m still alive!  But I’m taking a break!  I am starting to plan my wedding… yay!  I will be way busy until we find a venue.

I also plan on moving Yummy Sonoma over to its own domain as well as redesigning the blog.  This will be a long, long process.  Until then, try out a restaurant I have recommended!

Catch you all later.

Rohnert Park – Hana Japanese Restaurant

Yep, I’m going there. I’m “reviewing” a restaurant twice. I already raved about Hana here in this blog entry, but I wanted to show you guys another meal!

I was in desperate need of sushi this past weekend, so I went by myself to Hana. Dana wasn’t there to stop me from ordering all the specials, so I did a little damage. And it was so worth it. I didn’t even get a spicy tuna hand roll this time! Just all amazing nigiri. This visit, Taka was nice enough to brush soy sauce on for me, except for the golden eye snapper. If you have the choice to have soy sauce brushed on for you when you go out for sushi, opt in! And DO NOT dip, if you have this done!

  • Golden Eye Snapper – This fish has a mild flavor and is very tender! The first time I had it was earlier this year at my favorite sushi restaurant in the town I grew up in in Southern California.
  • Ji Saba (Fresh Mackerel) – This is a lot like frozen saba but with a milder flavor! If you like the frozen saba, you will definitely like it fresh!
  • Katsuo (Skip Jack) – I’m not sure I’ve ever had this before Saturday, but I really enjoyed it! Another mildly oily fish, it also has a texture similar to albacore.
  • Buri (Wild Yellowtail) – I’ve had this many times before, and I was so excited to have it again as it is so delicious! It has a delicious, fatty flavor!
  • Sake (Salmon) – One of my usuals… couldn’t resist getting it again.
  • Hamachi (Yellowtail) – As I have said in the past, Hana is the only place I will order hamachi. Nom nom.
  • Akami (Bluefin) – Bluefin is a huge no-no, but I love it and I don’t have it that often… It’s so delicious and flavorful and better than maguro!
  • Uni (Sea Urchin) – I remembered that it is the winter season, which is the best time of year to eat uni! And it was so sweet and ocean-y and mmmmmmm!
  • Tamago (Sweet Egg) – What a better way to end the meal than with eggs and sugar? Hana’s tamago is the best I’ve ever had, and it will continue to be a favorite of mine in the future.

Well, that about wraps up my Saturday afternoon! I know I’ve said this before, but get your butt over to Hana!

Hana Japanese Restaurant Yelp Page
Hana Japanese Restaurant Website

 

Thanksgiving Etiquette by Ze Frank

Santa Rosa – Sazón

Hello, all. Hope you are cuddled up and warm with how cold it’s been!

Last Thursday night, Dana informed me that Tyja (Applewood Chef!) wanted to either have dinner at home or go out to eat with friends. I asked Tyja and Sarah about going out to a restaurant I hadn’t reviewed for the blog yet, and they agreed. I suggested Sazón, a Peruvian restaurant in Santa Rosa, and everyone was in favor of the idea! Dana, George, Sarah, Tyja, and I all went out for a fabulous dinner. I had never eaten at a Peruvian restaurant before, so I had no idea what to expect. I learned quite a bit at dinner there and I will share it all with you!

You can read all about Peruvian cuisine on Wikipedia.

First, to the gallery:

Does it all look so delicious or what?

  • Fried Corn – Complimentary. I couldn’t stop eating these! Imagine Corn Nuts without the salty-processed flavor and instead a freshly-fried flavor!
  • Plátano Frito Macho – We agreed that plantains were a must for a Peruvian dinner, so we ordered some crispy plantain chips to share. These are not the sweet plantains; they were more savory than anything. And they were crispy and tasty!
  • Camote Frito – In addition to plantains, we felt that sweet potato chips would be great to snack on until we received our meal. The chips came with huacatay. The chips were sweet and crispy, but what really helped everything together was the huacatay!
  • Plátanos Fritos Maduros – Fried sweet plantains? Yes please. This was something we had to try, especially dipped in sour cream and eaten with the salsa Criolla. I want to go back to Sazón to order this!
  • Anticucho de Corazón – Sarah had been to Sazón before and highly recommended the beef heart, which sounded good to me! This is the first time I’ve had beef heart, and it won’t be the last! The heart was cooked and seasoned perfectly, and was surprisingly tender. Order it if you get a chance to eat at Sazón.
  • Ceviche de Pescado Clásico – Sarah and Tyja decided on this ceviche, featuring tilapia in a fantastic citrus sauce. This was another item that I want to eat again soon. The sauce was so incredibly tasty that we had it put in a glass to eat plain!
  • Ahi Ceviche Nikei – Well, I couldn’t resist the raw ahi tuna, especially since it came with sesame oil and avocado, so I insisted on ordering it. Served with wonton chips, this is a dish I would recommend to anyone who enjoys raw tuna. It tasted so fresh and light! I thought the ingredients were a bit strange, and Sarah explained to me that Peruvian food has a lot of Asian influences!
  • Lomo Saltado – Tyja ordered a steak tenderloin dish that I didn’t get to taste, but it looked just beautiful and I probably would have loved it had I tried it!
  • Veggie Saltado – Dana ordered a vegetarian dish that also looked and tasted great. The balsamic soy sauce is something I never would have thought of! It was salty sour… mmm, mmm, mmm.
  • Pescado Frito – George ordered a fish dish, which I tasted, and it was seasoned perfectly! I definitely recommend this dish if you love fried fish.
  • Ensalada Bistec – Sarah ordered a salad that included a sautéed steak tenderloin with mixed greens and avocado and a creamy cilantro dressing. How refreshing! A perfect amount of steak with a bunch of veggies. And the steak was delicious!
  • Ensalada Nikei – Of course, I ordered the ahi salad, which followed the ahi ceviche perfectly! This salad tasted so fresh, and I wish I could have it every day for lunch. And I would if it were affordable and there were no such thing as mercury! This is why I need to live in a tropical place…
  • Alfajores – This is a Peruvian sugar cookie filled with dulce de leche. As soon as I saw “dulce de leche” on the menu, I knew that’s what I would have. Best decision ever. Holy cow, if you like dulce de leche, you need to try this cookie! So sweet and yummy! Tyja almost got another one!

Something else worth mentioning is the white sangria. It was infused with passion fruit and was so incredible. I love tropical fruit! And I love the food at Sazón!

I’m so excited to go back! Sazón has new customers. You should definitely try it out soon!

Food: 5 stars
Service: 5 stars
Decor: 4 stars

Sazón Yelp Page
Sazón Website

Santa Rosa – Bistro 29

Hello, all! I hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving! I did! (Get pumpkin pie from Petaluma Pie Company… just sayin’!)

Friday night, I decided that we hadn’t quite stuffed our faces enough on Thanksgiving. So my sister, a few friends, and I all tried out Bistro 29, a French restaurant, located in downtown Santa Rosa. Since I first heard about it, I’ve been wanting to try Bistro 29, especially after how disappointed I was with the frozen-food tasting experience I had at La Gare (what a joke!), so I was ecstatic about my night! We had done a bit of wine tasting during the day, and were very ready for our dinner!

Let’s jump into our meal!

  • Cheese Board – We all agreed on the cheese board as we were in Sonoma County at a French restaurant. I mean, you certainly can’t go wrong with a cheese board here, right? I didn’t catch the name of the third cheese, but one was a bleu cheese, and the second was the famous Humboldt Fog. Served with fruit and honey, this was an excellent starter for our meal.
  • Raclette – This was a potato covered in cheese. It’s kind of hard to say ‘no’ to that! And ordering it was not a mistake! It’s everything you’d want from a cheesy potato. The potato was cooked to perfection and the cheese was so savory!
  • Soupe De Johnnies – I love French onion soup! And at a French restaurant? Even better. This soup included a crêpe instead of bread, a twist to this classic dish. It was delicious! I wouldn’t have minded a little more cheese, though…
  • Sweet Potato Gnocchi à la Parisienne – My friend Angela ordered the sweet potato gnocchi for her dish and this was easily my favorite non-dessert item of the night. Sweet and savory, just like you’d probably imagine!
  • Olive Oil Poached Sardines – Cindy decided on an appetizer for her entree, and she let me have a taste. This is the first item that I could have gone without tasting… The seasoning was great, but the sardines were SO fishy! I know, you’re probably thinking sardines are always fishy, right? NO! Certainly not THAT fishy!
  • Steak Frites – Sarah and Brian both ordered this item. Served with blue cheese butter and cooked to the perfect temperature, this steak was a perfectly seasoned treat. I would recommend it! Except, for myself, I don’t really care for fries in general!
  • Cassoulet – My entree! This was delicious overall, and anyone who likes duck and white beans would surely enjoy it. Looking back, though, I would have gladly traded my meal for the gnocchi!
  • Saigon Cinnamon Creme Brulee – Sarah had the creme brulee for dessert, and it was so incredibly delicious. Of course, it’s kind of difficult to screw up egg yolks, cream, and sugar! The cinnamon was a great touch.
  • Ice Cream and Chocolate Chip Cookie – Brian ordered the assorted ice cream which came with a chocolate chip cookie! I was only able to try the salted caramel ice cream, which was delicious! I would go to Bistro 29 just for that ice cream!
  • Sweet Crêpe w/ Fig Compote – So yummy! I love crêpes, and I especially love them with fruit filling! I ordered a crêpe with fig compote, and it was fantastic! However, I loved my sister’s crêpe way more…
  • Sweet Crêpe w/ Orange-Grand Marnier Butter and Salted Caramel Ice Cream (not pictured) – My sister decided to be a chef and stick caramel ice cream on top of her Grand Marnier crêpe. And it paid off! Even without the ice cream, her crêpe was delicious. That Grand Marnier butter… fabulous! A couple of our party members even suggested that it should be part of the menu! I should have taken a picture.

Food: 4.5 stars – Good food, but I wasn’t quite blown away… except for the desserts!
Service: 5 stars – Impeccable.
Decor: wasn’t quite paying enough attention to give it a rating :)

Try it out. You can’t really go wrong. :)

Bistro 29 Website
Bistro 29 Yelp Page

Santa Rosa – Royal China

Welcome back, all.  I hope you enjoyed the wall of sushi from last week.  This week, we’re still in Asia, food-wise. Also, I’m going to try something a little different: post a gallery of photos and then list out and describe each item we ate.

The first time I tried Royal China, which was three or four years ago, I knew it was my favorite Chinese restaurant in Sonoma County.  Dynasty in Rohnert Park is pretty decent, and Gary Chu’s Chinese is way up there.  However, I prefer the food at Royal China.  I am no Chinese food expert by any stretch of the imagination.  I know about as much as the average American.  To me, Chinese food is still orange chicken, chow mein, hot and sour soup, and egg rolls.  All that said, I know I like good food made with love, and that is exactly what you can find at Royal China.

Last Thursday night, Dana, George, and I ventured on over to Santa Rosa to return to Royal China for the first time in three years. I was excited! And for the most part, I was not let down.

Unfortunately, the lighting inside Royal China was very dark, and all I use is my phone to take images. I did what I could quickly to edit them, but they are still a little grainy.

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  • Calamari Tempura – What? Tempura? Tempura isn’t Chinese! Well, one doesn’t always eat at an ethnic restaurant strictly for the authenticity. Sometimes, you’ve gotta try something that sounds good, no matter what that means. George and I looked at the menu item, looked at each other, and thought, yup, that’s the one… that’s our appetizer. (Dana didn’t really have a preference). And what a great choice it was to order it. This calamari was incredibly tender, which is unlike any other squid I’ve ever had anywhere. I think I really prefer the tempura batter to the traditional, heavy breading that is used on most fried calamari. Dipped in the sauce provided (I believe it to be plum sauce and mustard), it was perfect. This ended up being my second favorite item of the night.
  • Fried Rice – The three of us agreed to share a plate of fried rice. I know what you’re probably thinking. How is she going to sell me on fried rice? It’s yummy, but fried rice is the same almost anywhere! Well, that’s what I thought, too, and that night I was proven wrong. I almost always enjoy fried rice, but this was particularly good. Most fried rice is pretty greasy, and I think that is what make’s Royal China’s fried rice stand out. It was not greasy at all and incredibly flavorful. If you like fried rice, definitely try Royal China’s!
  • Glazed Walnut Prawns – George ordered the glazed walnut prawns, and I forced him to let me taste. I mean, he was nice enough to let me taste. Yes, that’s it. Anyway, this was easily the best dish I tasted all night. First of all, you can’t really go wrong with deep fried anything, but what made this such a delight to eat were all of the bold flavors. The glaze and the shrimp and the walnuts all mixed together were just the perfect blend. I wanted to eat more! Next time I visit Royal China, this will probably be what I order!
  • Curry Vegetables with Tofu – Dana ordered this item, which was supposed to be a lot like a Thai coconut curry. I wish he had ordered something else… and so did he! This was some of the blandest curry I’ve ever tasted, aside from the fact that it was too salty! My recommendation: eat Thai curry at a Thai restaurant.
  • Mu Shu Pork: This was my entree. While it was definitely tasty, I don’t know if I’m a diehard fan of mu shu. I’ve had it before and I don’t remember ever being in love. I would eat it again as it was delicious, but I would much rather have the walnut prawns!

No dessert this week! Well, except of course the staple fortune cookies!

If you like Chinese food, definitely try Royal China. It’s really good and reasonably-priced.

Decor: 5 stars
Food: 4.5 stars
Service: 2 stars (they were slow!)

Royal China Yelp Page
Royal China Website

Sushi – The Good, The Bad, and The Homemade (feat. Hana Japanese Restaurant & Sushi To Dai For)

For those of you following my blog week to week, this is probably the entry you have been waiting for. I am a self-proclaimed sushi aficionado, but in comparison to the many talented Japanese sushi chefs in the world, I would probably still be considered a newbie. For an American, though, I would say I know quite a bit.

A little on my background in sushi…

According to my parents, I started eating sushi at around three years old. Sushi was frequently a reward for good grades growing up. I honestly don’t remember when I realized how much I loved it, but I think it started with my love for raw fish. When I was young and my parents took me out for sushi, I would order nigiri (nigiri is fish/other ingredient over a ball of rice) and just remove the fish from the rice and eat the fish by itself until someone pointed out that I could order sashimi (Oh…). One of my parents’ favorite stories to tell people about me, an event that I do not remember at all, is that when I was just a kid (not sure what age), my mom was making some sort of salmon dish for dinner. I was ecstatic because I loved salmon… raw salmon. When I discovered that she had “ruined” the salmon, I exclaimed in a horrified tone, “You cooked it!” If you’ve been reading my blog entries, you know that even today I’m not a huge fan of cooked fish.

For awhile, I was only interested in sushi that had raw fish (No smoked salmon on a deep fried shrimp roll!). I would definitely eat the fancy non-authentic rolls, but only if they had raw fish. My college years were when I really started to appreciate traditional-style sushi, like nigiri and very simple maki (rolls). That is when I realized that most sushi restaurants do it all wrong. So many sushi restaurants create absurd combinations for rolls (most rolls served in the US are not authentic at all) and have no concern about quality of fish or rice. In the “sushi snob” community, we refer to these fancy rolls as “gloop”, since they are usually drenched in some sort of sauce, most often unagi sauce. Don’t get me wrong; I find “gloop” to be very delicious when done well because I love items bursting with flavor. That’s why I love curry. However, fancy maki is in a genre of its own, different from nigiri and simple maki (like a non-spicy tuna roll). And when something is deep fried and drenched in sauce, it’s really difficult to detect quality. This is why most sushi restaurants don’t do it for me: they focus on their fancy maki and not enough on quality of ingredients. Good sushi tastes great with just the basics: fish, rice, and a dab (not a pond) of soy sauce (do not dip the rice side into the soy sauce, dip the neta (topping) side!).

I want to believe I’m easy to please, because there are only a few things I require when eating sushi:

  • Perfectly-cooked-and-seasoned rice – Sushi rice is made with short-grain rice and rice vinegar, sugar, and salt for seasoning. But most sushi restaurants do it wrong. The rice is bland or too sweet or overcooked or undercooked. Sometimes it even has a weird sandy, grainy texture. Bleh! Rice should be a little sweet and a little sour, sticky enough to stay together, but not so wet that it’s mush. And it should be soft enough to bite into!
  • High-quality fish – With the exception of the fish that have a naturally oily/fishy flavor, like saba (mackerel) and iwashi (sardine), fish should not taste fishy. When I’m trying a new restaurant, the first item I order is typically the hamachi (yellowtail) nigiri. No, not the miso soup, no, not the edamame, and no, not the California roll. I have found that the hamachi is usually a good indicator of how much the restaurant really cares about quality because good hamachi is a rarity. Good sake (salmon) can be found at many sushi restaurants, but so many restaurants have fishy hamachi! It should taste like butter melting in your mouth, not like a canned sardine!
  • Good fish-to-rice ratio for nigiri – I cannot tell you how many restaurants get this wrong. I suppose it could be preference, but I consider anyone who disagrees with me to be a nutcase. Okay, maybe that’s a tad harsh. *blush* But I do not want a mouth just full of rice with a sliver of fish!

In this entry, I will discuss what sushi should look like, what it should not look like, and our home attempts at making it.

Let’s just get the bad out of the way.

I have been to most sushi restaurants in Sonoma County. Yes, I’ve been to Haku. Tozai? Yup. Sushi Hana? Yes, but long ago enough for me to try it again. Paradise Sushi and Grill? Ugh, yes, and ew. No offense, but ew. And there is only one Japanese restaurant in Sonoma County that I actively try to eat at, and that is Hana Japanese Restaurant in Rohnert Park. More on them later.

Recently, Dana’s dad and step mom took us to Sushi to Dai For in Santa Rosa for Dana’s birthday. We actually used to think Sushi to Dai For was really good, but we were proven wrong this time around.

On this trip to Sushi to Dai For, I had some escolar (I rarely eat this because it’s not great for one’s digestion), salmon, and yellowtail nigiri. The salmon was pretty average. The yellowtail was bland and fishy, which was so disappointing because I remember enjoying the yellowtail at Sushi to Dai For in the past. And the escolar was not fishy, but bland! I’m used to escolar with a bolder, buttery flavor.

In addition to the fish being sub-par, the rice was also bland. Dana’s father and stepmother both had sushi combos which included nigiri, and though mine at least looked nice, theirs was a mess! Way too much rice in the nigiri! How can a restaurant be that inconsistent?

The spicy tuna roll was also so bland… Not to sound too American, but put a little mayo in there, would ya, To Dai For? Flying spaghetti monster knows the sub-par fish needs the cover up.

Let’s move on to the homemade, shall we? Dana and I frequently make sushi at home. Ken Tominaga of Hana posted a sushi rice recipe online, and I use it every time I make sushi. It is very important to be precise about sushi rice. If you want to make sushi rice and you do not have a rice cooker, you should get one ASAP! Another very useful tool is the hangiri. Unlike a glass bowl, because of its flat shape, the hangiri allows you to easily and evenly distribute the vinegar seasoning in the rice. In addition, the hangiri absorbs moisture.

I usually make the sushi rice, and Dana usually puts everything together. Occasionally we will make vegetable maki, but usually we make just nigiri and some sort of spicy maki (using Sriracha and Kewpie mayo for the spicy sauce).

Please enjoy the hideous but delicious display of our homemade sushi:

Now, I would like to rave about Hana Japanese Restaurant. This is my favorite sushi restaurant in Sonoma County, as I made clear above. I am their biggest fan. Usually, I eat there about once a month or so; sometimes more often. However, I can’t really afford to go out to eat every week for my blog and go to Hana as frequently as I usually do.

The reason I love Hana is simple: their fish and rice is substantially better than anywhere else in the county. It’s a little pricier, but a couple extra dollars here and there for very high quality ingredients is money well spent, at least in my opinion.

My favorites to get at Hana? The nigiri… almost any nigiri. I guess I have preferences for certain kinds of fish, but every piece of nigiri is worth eating, even the ikura (salmon roe).

I’ll list out a few of my favorites for you:

  • Hamachi (yellowtail) – Unlike most restaurants in the area, Hana’s hamachi isn’t fishy! The difference between fantastic hamachi and even mediocre hamachi is night and day. Hana’s hamachi is like butter!
  • Shima Aji (striped jack)
  • Kanpachi (amber jack)
  • Aji (jack mackerel)
  • Uni (sea urchin roe)
  • Akami (bluefin tuna)
  • Toro (bluefin tuna belly)
  • Sake (salmon)
  • Hotate (scallop)
  • Iwashi (sardine)
  • Saba (mackerel) – Saba almost always has a naturally oily/fishy flavor, but some saba is way fishier than others. Hana’s saba is oily, but not very fishy! I will not order saba anywhere else.
  • Shiro Maguro (albacore)
  • Tamago (sweet egg)
  • Ankimo (monkfish liver) – Another item that is not served on most everyday menus, ankimo is a must try for any liver lover.

In addition to their large regular selection, Hana almost always has specials, such as copper river salmon, gizzard shad, and more!

The following are photos I’ve taken of my food at Hana over the last few years:

See how the fish to rice ratio is perfect? And the maki still looks simple unlike the messy “sushi” you see at most restaurants.

Even though I prefer nigiri, I also enjoy some non-traditional maki from time to time. Something I like about Hana’s rolls is that they are not “overdone”. The rolls, though they contain more ingredients than the nigiri, are still simple and the flavors actually work well together; none of this smoked salmon and mango nonsense.

Some maki that I do enjoy at Hana are:

  • Ken’s Roll – Spicy Tuna, on Prawn Tempura, Avocado
  • Kamizake – Spicy Tuna Handroll. I like mine with oshinko (pickled daikon) and shiso leaf
  • Negitoro – Tuna Belly, Green Onion

There are many other rolls I do enjoy at Hana, but those are my favorites. And if the rolls listed above didn’t get your mouth watering, don’t worry; they have something for everyone!

If you’re looking for a good sake to pair with your sushi, just ask Stuart, Hana’s very own sake sommelier. He always chooses the perfect sake for your dinner and will tell you all about what you are drinking!

I cannot say enough good things about this restaurant. They have treated me very well throughout the years, and I have yet to find a place in Sonoma County that serves better sushi. Their fish and rice just blow their “competition” out of the water. Because this blog entry is about sushi, I am not going to talk much about their kitchen items, but those are great too! Definitely order some maitake mushroom tempura!

I don’t know if I have to say much more about Hana to convince you to go. I think the photos speak pretty well for the restaurant, and once you go, the food will speak for itself. If you haven’t been, go. If you have been and prefer somewhere else in the area, you’re crazy! …. No offense.

Hana is #1.

Sushi To Dai For Yelp Page
Sushi To Dai For “Website”


Hana Japanese Restaurant Yelp Page

Hana Japanese Restaurant Website

Guerneville – Applewood Inn

Hello everyone, and Happy Halloween! Are you ready for a mind-blowingly delicious (looking) but also mind-blowingly expensive meal (it’s worth it)? I’m sure as hell ready for another one!

Last Friday, Cindy (my sister, for those of you just joining us) visited me to go to Alton Brown Live in Santa Rosa (which was fabulous. The guy is amazingly talented in several different fields). I thought that this may be an excellent opportunity to both knock out another restaurant for my blog and bring her to one of my favorite restaurants in Sonoma County. So I booked a reservation for a party of six for Saturday evening: George (from Abyssinia entry, fake name), Dana, Sarah (from Backyard entry), Mustafa (roommate, fake name), Cindy, and myself.

The first time I went to Applewood Inn was with Mustafa and his then-girlfriend about two years ago, and I was more than impressed. I remember being in such a food coma afterward. Since then, I have been more times than I remember, and I do remember that I have never tasted a dish I didn’t like. Anecdote time: Dana and I and two friends went to Applewood Inn for Thanksgiving last year, which had a fixed menu for the holiday. The starter choices were either a mushroom dish or a persimmon salad. Everyone at the table wondered, who the hell would get the salad? Well, despite everyone at my table ordering the mushrooms, we were still able to taste the salad, and my mind was still blown…

Some pretty relevant information for you all: Mustafa and one of the head chefs, Tyja Taube, run the CSA together at the farm I live on. So I guess you could say I’m biased, but I would love the food regardless because Tyja is a damn good chef.

Let’s get to some food, shall we?

Watermelon with Anchovy, Miyagi Oyster with Caviar, Melon & Armenian Cucumber Gazpacho

Watermelon with Anchovy, Miyagi Oyster with Caviar, Melon & Armenian Cucumber Gazpacho

The first dish we (each) received featured three items which looked beautiful, and the flavor did not disappoint.

  • Watermelon with anchovy and citrus: This was one of my favorite items of the night, which is very strange because I am not crazy about anchovy, but the oily, fishy flavor of the anchovy balanced perfectly with the sweetness of the melon and the citrus essence. Would eat again. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the added bonus of knowing that the watermelon was most likely from Mustafa’s CSA garden.
  • Miyagi Oyster with Caviar: The oyster was perfect; not too strong, not too salty, and a little creamy. And the caviar was great too, which is a nice change since I usually find it to be too salty.
  • Melon & Armenian Cucumber Gazpacho: I have never been keen on the idea of gazpacho. The idea of iced tomato soup disgusts me, but I’ve never had it so I really can’t say I don’t like it. Because this was made with cucumber and melon, it was actually really sweet and refreshing, which I imagine is probably much better than tomato gazpacho.
Butter Lettuce with Chèvre and Pistachios

Butter Lettuce with Chèvre and Pistachios

I love butter lettuce! I also love chèvre and pistachios! So what a perfect little mini salad and it arrived just at the right time! It’s everything you’d want from chèvre on a salad with nuts. While it’s definitely delicious, I’m not big on salad. So it was good, but let’s eat some animals and cooked veggies, please.

Salmon Belly with Curry Sauce and Peanuts

Salmon Belly with Curry Sauce and Peanuts

YES, curry sauce! And on salmon belly to boot. Oh man, that skin on the salmon was perfectly crispy, too. I am usually not fond of cooked fish, but this was delicious (as is everything that comes from that kitchen). And of course, when there’s curry sauce on it, it’s hard for me to say no!

Eggplant and Pork Belly

Eggplant and Pork Belly

Oh good, my favorite meat showed up, and not only that, but the best part of the pig! I love eggplant, and I love pork belly, so I wasn’t going to argue. They came with pureed parsnip and a sorrel sauce. I do not remember what the brown sauce was, unfortunately (can confirm later). But all of the sauces just mixed so well with the pork belly and eggplant.

Sunflower Heart on Liver and Chanterelle Mushrooms, Baked Pear, Egg Yolk on Rabbit Sausage over Mashed Potatoes

Sunflower Heart on Liver and Chanterelle Mushrooms, Baked Pear, Egg Yolk on Rabbit Sausage over Mashed Potatoes

  • Sunflower Heart on Liver and Chanterelle Mushrooms: What the hell is a sunflower heart?, you might be thinking. Well, sunflowers belong to the family Asteraceae, the same family that artichokes belong to. So imagine an artichoke heart, only flatter and sweeter. This was my first time eating a sunflower heart, and I found that is one of my new favorite treats! And I absolutely love liver, and then on chanterelle mushrooms? I was simply in heaven.
  • Baked Pear: It was a pear, it had cinnamon on it, and it was delicious. More meat, please.
  • Egg Yolk on Rabbit Sausage over Mashed Potatoes: I’m pretty sure this rabbit came from Sarah’s! And who could say no to a rich egg yolk on perfectly-seasoned sausage and creamy, mashed potatoes? Yes, please, and bring me seconds. If you go to Applewood Inn and have the opportunity to order rabbit sausage, just do it!
Beef Tenderloin

Beef Tenderloin

We have reached the entree portion of our meal. Cindy, Sarah, and Mustafa all ordered the beef tenderloin, which came with seared Sungold cherry tomatoes, chanterelle mushrooms, and bone marrow bordelaise. This is actually the only dish that I didn’t wind up tasting. Cindy said it was delicious, and I think that’s all you really need to know. :)

Alaskan Halibut

Alaskan Halibut

Dana and George both ordered the halibut, which was served with a Brandade croquette, sauteed sweet corn, piperade, cilantro, and lime. I was able to taste the halibut in the sauce which was delicious, and if a dish can convince me to eat cooked fish, it must be damn good. Would taste again.

Cacao Crusted Lamb... Woops

Cacao Crusted Lamb… Woops

Sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo……………………….

For the first time ever, I forgot to take a picture before I ate my own entree, which is why you see a practically empty plate in the image above. Can you tell that I enjoyed it? My lamb also came with chorizo peppers and “garden” peppers, served in a mint chimichurri sauce. The cacao just works so well on the lamb, and mixed with sauce, the whole entree came together. I order lamb pretty much every time I come here because it is always so tasty, and cooked to order!

Yuzu Popsicle Lollipops

Frozen Yuzu Lollipops

On to some desserts! The first dessert we all shared was a dish of frozen yuzu lollipops. If you are unfamiliar with yuzu, it is a kind of citrus fruit. This is actually the second place I’ve tried a yuzu frozen dessert, and as always, I was happy.

It's-It with Chocolate Sauce, Puff Pastry Coffee Ice Cream Sandwich

It’s-It with Chocolate Sauce, Puff Pastry Coffee Ice Cream Sandwich

Oh Tyja, sending out an It’s-It with his gourmet dessert. If you visit Applewood, this won’t happen; it wasn’t even on the menu. Anyway, packaged or not, It’s-Its are very tasty, so I was happy with it. But the highlight, of course was the coffee ice cream with puff pastry. Nom, nom, nom.

Welp, that was quite a meal. And I would eat it again. AND AGAIN. And you should eat it, too. Give Applewood Inn a shot. It’s pricey, but it’s so, so, so worth it. You can save a little money by ordering from the tasting menu! TRY IT!

Overall:
Food: 5 stars
Service: 5 stars
Decor: 5 stars

Applewood Inn Website


Applewood Inn Yelp Page

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