Yummy Sonoma

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Archive for the category “Ethnic Food”

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



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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  • 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

Hana Japanese Restaurant Slideshow

So this is just a precursor to my eventual review of Hana. But anyway, anyone who knows me knows very well that I’m overly pretentious (isn’t all kind of pretentiousness overly pretentious?) when it comes to sushi. If a restaurant serves me horrible traditional sushi (nigiri and very simple maki), I will rip them a new one. On Yelp.

More on that later.

This is a slideshow of many of the photos I have taken at Hana Japanese Restaurant in Rohnert Park. And you will probably see them again at a later date. Enjoy. 🙂

Santa Rosa – Abyssinia (Featuring a Guest Appearance from Sebastopol’s Screamin Mimi’s)

It was a very exciting Friday as I had just gotten paid. YAY! What a better way to celebrate than have a few beers and go out to Abyssinia?

Located in Santa Rosa, Abyssinia features some great Ethiopian food–something one would only expect to find in larger cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles. I was quite excited when I discovered Abyssinia as the first time I had Ethiopian food was in Reno, and I loved it!

So two of my friends (we’ll call them George and Charles because I don’t know if they care if I use their real names and I’m too lazy to find out) joined Dana and me for a yummy dinner. This was my fourth time at Abyssinia, and I was very excited for my return!

honey wine

Honey Wine

As my beverage choice, I ordered the honey wine.  Honey wine tastes pretty much as you would expect: like fermented honey with a similar finish as grape wine or rice wine (sake). I actually really love it, which is rather surprising because it is sweet, and I much prefer dry wines and sakes. I suspect what I enjoy about it most is that it tastes like honey!

Something you should know about Ethiopian food before we get to the actual food part of this entry is that it is usually served on a communal (large sharing) plate with a type of bread called injera, which is made from a grain called teff. This is my limited understanding of Ethiopian food, as people in general have a tendency to modify any ethnic food they are unfamiliar with. Anyway, back to how Ethiopian food is eaten (at least in the USA). A group of hipster foodies gather round to talk about their hipster trophies and how they were the first of their friends to eat Ethiopian food. They take turns dipping the injera into individual dishes.



I insisted that we order an appetizer as this is a restaurant review blog, and I am trying to eat off of as much of the menu as I can afford and fit into my growing tummy. So, I decided on beef sambusas (because who cares what anyone else wants). It tasted a bit like a hamburger in a pastry, if you can imagine that. There were lots of spices and it tasted great, though it’s nothing that I would absolutely have to order next time.

vegetarian combo

Vegetarian Combo

abyssinia combo

Abyssinia Combo

As always, we ordered a Vegetarian Combo and an Abyssinia Combo because it lets us taste a bit of everything. The Abyssinia Combo includes samples of chicken and lamb dishes while the Vegetarian Combo is made up of mostly samples of lentil and garbanzo bean-based dishes.

Vegetarian Combo:

  • Shiro We’t – Roasted garbanzo beans simmered with berbere, olive oil, and Ethiopian spices
  • Miser We’t – Lentils stewed in a red-pepper sauce and Ethiopian spices
  • Yater Kik Alecha – Mild split peas flavored with garlic, ginger, turmeric, & green pepper
  • Yabesha Gomen – Collard greens cooked lightly with tomato, garlic, and rosemary
  • Miser Alecha – Lentil stew flavored with garlic, ginger, and a touch of turmeric
  • Tikel Gomen – Cabbage, carrots, and potatoes lightly cooked with ginger.
  • House Salad

Abyssinia Combo:

  • Doro We’t – Spicy chicken stew simmered with berbere, garlic, onion, and nitre kibe; served with hardboiled egg
  • Yebeg Key We’t – Lamb cubes stewed with awaze and onion (by the way, am I the only one who thinks “cubes” should never be used to describe meat?)
  • Yebeg Alecha – Lamb strips seasoned with garlic, onion, turmeric, and ginger
  • Tikel Gomen – See above
  • Miser We’t – See above
  • House Salad

I love food with lots of spices (like curries, as I’ve mentioned before), so I enjoyed everything.  My favorite item of all time there is tikel gomen (cabbage, carrot, and potato), which is a bit odd for my meat-lovin’ self. I also particularly enjoy the yabesha gomen (collard greens), and the yebeg alecha (lamb strips). Overall, I love both combos and would order them again and again. However, I think next time, I will actually order individual items instead since I am finally starting to figure out what I like most.

Dana, George, and Charles (I’m cracking up at these names…) all enjoyed their food, but not as much as I did! I think Dana prefers the restaurant in Reno, but I don’t remember that meal as well as he does.

After we finished the combos, we didn’t feel like sticking around at Abyssinia for dessert, so we decided to go to Screamin’ Mimi’s in Sebastopol instead.

hazelnut & pumpkin ice cream

Hazelnut & Pumpkin Ice Cream

I was so excited that Mimi’s had pumpkin ice cream because I love pumpkin-flavored desserts! This ice cream tasted just like pumpkin pie, mmm mmm mmm. The hazelnut ice cream was also great, and it tasted like–you guessed it–hazelnut! It was an odd night for me since I did not have chocolate! My favorite ice cream flavor from Mimi’s is probably the Midnight Menthe (chocolate ice cream with mint), which is not there every night (for those who don’t know, Mimi’s rotates their flavors). Another big plus about Mimi’s is that all of the ice cream is homemade, and they use real sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup (I’m looking at you, Honeymoon).

Please go give both Abyssinia and Screamin’ Mimi’s a shot!

Abyssinia Yelp Page

Abyssinia Website

Screamin’ Mimi’s Yelp Page

Screamin’ Mimi’s Website

Cotati – Mai Vietnamese Cuisine

Hello, hello!  I finally got to eat some pho again last night!

I wanted to get my blog entry done a little earlier this week, so last night Dana and I were debating on where we should go.  There were a few options up for consideration, such as Old Chicago, where I have never been, Shige Sushi Japanese Kitchen, or a Vietnamese restaurant of our choice in Santa Rosa.  After some discussion, we decided to eat at Mai Vietnamese Cuisine.

Let’s just get the bad out of the way now: the service at this restaurant is absolutely abysmal.  Dana has an issue with a previous experience we had, so convincing him to go here last night was a bit difficult.  About two years ago, one of the managers refused to honor a gift certificate.  I do not remember why, but it was a problem.  That left a bad taste in our mouths, which is a shame because we really enjoy the food.

I also had a somewhat negative experience when my sister and I went recently.  The same woman who would not honor our gift certificate was taking our order, and when we ordered a bowl of pho that we had decided to share, she asked, “Is that it?”  “Yes.”  And in a response, we got a very disappointed, “Oh…” from her.  She was not intentionally rude, but she got a little too emotional about us ordering one item, at least for my taste.

And of course last night… while we overall enjoyed our meal, we had some problems with our service.  First, when we arrived, we were not given menus for a good five minutes until I said something.  Secondly, I had to remind them to bring me my beer.  It did not show up until after our appetizer.  So, in general, the service is pretty bad.  I do not think anyone working there is trying to be rude, but they could probably use Gordon Ramsay for a day to set things straight.  Fortunately, Mai makes up for their bad service with great food.

Now that we have gotten that out of the way…

Bi Cuon - Shredded Pork Rolls

Bi Cuon – Shredded Pork Rolls

The appetizer we ate last night was a plate of shredded pork rolls.  I found them delicious, but Dana was not impressed.  One aspect we both agree on is that the pork was very, very dry and flavorless.  I would have much preferred a vegetarian spring roll.  The herbs, veggies, and sauce saved this dish from being a complete disaster.

33 - vietnamese beer

33 – Vietnamese beer

I finally got my beer when we were halfway done with the pork rolls! Hooray! This was my first time having 33. It tastes like any typical wheat beer, except it has a very different finish that tasted of some kind of spice, and I just could not put my finger on what it was. The beer was not so bad, if you enjoy beer with little flavor.

Bun Cha Gio Tom Thit Nuong - Vermicelli Egg Roll, Prawn with BBQ Pork

Bun Cha Gio Tom Thit Nuong – Vermicelli Egg Roll, Prawn with BBQ Pork

Dana decided to order the Bun Cha Gio Tom Thit Nuong. I have no idea what that directly translates to. I do know that we both love pork, shrimp, egg rolls, and vermicelli noodles. I got to taste the pork, which much more flavorful, although fattier (which is not really a bad thing), than the pork in the shredded pork rolls. I also was able to taste the noodles and veggies mixed together and they were really tasty. I would order this myself next time I come back if I am not feeling pho (which is a rarity).

Pho Tai - (Pho with eye of round steak)

Pho Tai – (Pho with eye of round steak)

pho veggies

Pho Veggies

Yes! My pho arrived a little bit after Dana’s entree (another issue with this restaurant). And just like last time at this restaurant, it was so incredibly delicious. I am a bit new to loving pho, but last time I had it was at Noodle Mania in Sebastopol, whose pho just tastes like store-bought beef broth! Here, you can taste all of the spices, and it actually tastes homemade, and that is probably because it is!  It was so refreshing, and I cannot wait to enjoy it again!

Fruit-stuffed Fried Wontons with Whipped Cream

Fruit-stuffed Fried Wontons with Whipped Cream

Holy $#!^! This was so yummy. I think it is really difficult to screw up deep fried sugar with cream, however.  I am not entirely sure what the fruit was, but it tasted like berry jam.  The fact that it only says “fruit-stuffed” on the menu is a bit suspicious.  But like I said, it was tasty, so I cannot complain much.

That about wraps up our meal.  If you really love pho or Vietnamese food in general and you can tolerate lousy service, give Mai Vietnamese a try!

Mai Vietnamese Cuisine Website

Mai Vietnamese Cuisine Yelp Page

Sebastopol – Himalayan Tandoori & Curry House

I am so excited about this entry.  I inserted the images before I began writing, and all I want to do right now is call up this restaurant and order some masala… which brings me to my next point.  Masala is one of my favorite foods.  Curry, in general, is my favorite food besides authentic sushi.  That said, I am no expert.  The origins of masala are not even clear; some say it was created in the United Kingdom while others claim it was created in India.  Either way, I have heard several times that it is not considered traditional Indian (or any Asian culture’s) food!  It tastes damn good, though, and that’s enough for me.

I have ordered takeout from Himalayan Tandoori & Curry House many, many, many, many, many, many times.  However, Saturday night was the first time I have eaten at the restaurant.  Dana had to work that day, and I was ready to relax after a long day of housework and homework, so we met for dinner.  We took full advantage of this blog project and ordered more than we usually do.

Let’s start with the most important part of every meal: the alcohol (underagers reading this: stay in school and don’t drink)!

real gold - authentic nepalese beer

Real Gold – Authentic Nepalese Beer

The first time I had Real Gold was when Dana picked up some food at this restaurant for us and one of the managers sent a free beer home with him.  I love sweet beers and Real Gold is a bit on the sweeter side, so I loved it right off the bat!  Last time, we shared it straight from the bottle, so I had not seen its color before.  When it was poured into a glass, I was surprised by its very light color!  If you enjoy wheat beers or lagers or any beer that does not have an overly-bitter, hoppy flavor, definitely give Real Gold a try.  (Disclaimer: I am no beer expert… but I stay away from beers like Bud, Miller, and Coors.  Just a PBR every now and then.  No big deal…).

lentil soup

Lentil Soup

Ah, yes, the complimentary lentil soup!  This was a pleasant surprise as the only complimentary item we had ever gotten from takeout was a beer!  Ha!  I thought it was delicious, and I was so grateful for it when it arrived in front of me, as I was starving.  What a great way to begin our meal!

vegetable momos

Vegetable Momos

Now, I am still a Himalayan food newbie, so I had no idea what to expect when I ordered momos! They came with a delicious, sweet tomato-based sauce. The dumplings were so savory with the perfect, soft texture. I could eat ten more!

chicken biryani

Chicken Biryani

Dana and I had only ever had curries before so he decided to try something new and ordered the Chicken Biryani. I was fortunate enough to taste it and I would definitely order it again!  So many delicious spices were incorporated, such as cinnamon, coriander, and nutmeg.  I am so happy that I finally got to try something different at HTCH!

pumpkin lamb masala

Pumpkin Lamb Masala

Mmmmm, yes, on to my entree!  As stated earlier, I love masala! I usually order the lamb masala from takeout but I wanted to try something different.  So, I went ahead and ordered what I usually order… Plus pumpkin.  The pumpkin brought a slight sweetness to the dish, and I loved it!  I have had Thai curry with pumpkin in it before, but never Himalayan.  Another bonus of this dish is that the pumpkins are locally grown.  I definitely would recommend this dish if you ever make it to this restaurant.

garlic naan

Garlic Naan

This meal would just not be complete without some yummy, fluffy naan!  I love my garlic, so we ordered the garlic naan.  It was not terribly garlicy, but it was good nonetheless.  It was fluffy and soft, which is perfect for my tastes.

gulab jamun

Gulab Jamun

We were craving something sweet after a meal like that, so we ordered some dessert.  Dana decided on the gulab jamun, which are deep fried milk balls served in syrup.  They were very sweet and tasted much like a deep fried pancake would.  I enjoyed them, but I do not think I would order them again as I preferred my dessert.  I could definitely see how others might favor this dessert, though!

rice pudding (kheer)

Rice Pudding (Kheer)

Speaking of my dessert, I ordered the rice pudding (called kheer), which was so sweet and spiced!  I used to think that I did not like rice pudding, but I am always willing to try something again, and I figured this was the perfect time to try it.  I think I made a great choice, and I am now a fan.

That’s all folks!  If you love curry and lots of spices, give HTCH a shot.  It is a great treat, and many of the ingredients are local and organic (if you are into that, which I am).

Himalayan Tandoori & Curry House Yelp Page

Himalayan Tandoori & Curry House Website

Make masala at home!  Try Alton Brown’s recipe!

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