Feb 07

Gen Korean BBQ – San Jose, CA

1628 Hostetter Rd

San Jose, CA 95131

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Located in an extremely busy Asian plaza in San Jose, Gen Korean BBQ serves up all you can eat Korean BBQ that you cook on the grill at your table. Parking is a nightmare in this plaza, which is shared with 99 Ranch Supermarket and various other Asian businesses. When we arrived on Sunday afternoon, we spent over 20 minutes looking for a parking spot. Dozens of other vehicles prey upon shoppers returning to their horribly parked cars. When we finally parked on the other side of the plaza, we made it to Gen and got on their waiting list with a 1 hour to 1 hour 20 minute wait time. While waiting, we decided to take a quick walk into a crowded 99 Ranch, but left quickly because we were so hungry. When we waited inside Gen, there was plenty of loud music playing in the lounge-like ambiance. A hostess finally called my name after 45 minutes of waiting. The hostess brought us to an available table in the rear of the restaurant and explained the price and selection of items on the menu.

When we sat down, the table already had a bowl of salad, rice paper, and thinly sliced daikon. A server came by to take our drink and meat order. We could order up to four items at a time, so we ordered the bulgogi, premium steak, brisket, and smoked garlic pork belly. There are a total of 37 items that could be ordered from the dinner menu. Other runners eventually brought over various sauces, side dishes, rice, and tongs. The grill was a standard round stainless steel plate over gas set up with overhead ventilation. There was quite a lot of bulgogi provided and came with green onion and onion garnishes. We opted to just cook the meat, which came in large chunks that you need to separate on the grill. The bulgogi was very juicy and fresh, but could use more marinade. I liked how the bulgogi was not too shredded to the point of mush like at Oz. The steak looked like a good 6-8 ounces and had a good amount of marbling. It was not marinated at all, but can be dipped in sauces. After cooking both sides, we used the scissors to cut it into pieces for final cooking. The steak was actually quite tender and fresh. The brisket cooked extremely fast because it came sliced extremely thin. Each piece was tender and juicy. The smoked garlic pork belly came in two large strips, which took up an entire side of the grill. The pork belly looked quite plain, but the flavors of the smoked garlic are actually infused into the meat. After cooking the pork belly for a while, we used the scissors to slice the meat into delicious pieces. Each piece of pork was juicy and crispy. The flavors of the meat were elevated when dipped in the provided dark savory sauce.

Our second set of orders included galbi, pork bulgogi, Cajun shrimp, and spicy pork belly. The two strips of marinated galbi cooked quickly, as did the rest of the beef we ordered today. Each piece tasted juicy with not too much fat around the ribs. The pork bulgogi was sliced very thin and was covered in spicy sauce. I really liked how the pork was sliced so thin because it helped it cook faster. The sauce was not too spicy, but had enough spicy flavor. There was quite a large portion of pork served, more than its beef counterpart. The pork itself was juicy and flavorful. The Cajun shrimp cooked quickly and included the head and shell. The Cajun flavors were prominent and tasted good as I removed the shell. The shrimp tasted fresh and delicious. The spicy pork belly came in two large strips like our first order, but the spicy sauce did burn a lot easier than the pork bulgogi sauce. After cooking the meat until practically burnt, we did slice the meat into pieces before final cooking. The pork belly did taste flavorful, but these pieces were more fatty than the first order.

Our final order of food included another order of brisket and an order of japchae. The brisket from this round came in larger thin slices, but included a lot more meat than fat, which caused it to be more chewy than the first order. The meat still went well dipped in the dark sauce. We decided to order a half order of the japcahe instead of a full order because we were getting full. The japchae had some vegetables mixed in, but was overly salty and savory. I seriously drank a ton of water while eating the japchae.

Overall, Gen Korean BBQ serves up delicious food for you to cook at reasonable prices. Service was slow at first to provide essentials such as tongs and rice as well as the first meat order, but eventually the servers became quite attentive at checking on us and taking refill orders. Staff noticed that we needed a grill change without us asking and were able to quickly get us a clean grill. The lunch price is a very reasonable $15.99 per person, but only dinner is available on weekends at $24.99 per person. There are nine additional items on the dinner menu compared to the lunch menu, but I think that the lunch menu looks just fine. Even with a two-hour time limit, we were unable to try any additional items with all the meat we ordered. When we left, there were a whole lot more people waiting for a table than when we arrived. Although the food was of high quality and was delicious, the long wait and horrible parking make eating at Gen a challenge that you need to prepare for. If you have never tried Gen, you should definitely give them a try, especially if you are a fan of Korean BBQ. Since this San Jose location is the closest you can get to their So-Cal locations, you can take a short drive for delicious food. Compared to Oz back in Sacramento, Gen wins hands down for both selection and price.

Feb 03

85°C Bakery Cafe – Milpitas, CA

672 Barber Ln

Milpitas, CA 95035

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Located in an extremely busy Asian plaza in Milpitas, 85°C Bakery Cafe serves up various baked goods, cakes, coffee, and drinks. The facility had a few tables for seating and plenty of people buying up the goodies. Plenty of cabinets allow customers to grab whatever baked breads they want with the provided tongs and trays. There were many cases with duplicate items. Cakes were displayed behind the counter and are available for purchase at the register along with the drinks.

Today, we decided to try the chocolate cookie bread, chocolate sponge cake roll, egg tart, mini apple pie, milk tea, and lemon ice tea. The chocolate cookie bread had a hard chocolate shell topping with powdered sugar atop soft delicious bread. The bread was not too sweet and went perfectly with the hard top. The chocolate sponge cake was extremely fresh and soft while only being lightly sweetened. The egg tart was very light with a very flaky crust. The mini apple pie had thin slices of apple on top, which went perfectly with the apple filling and thick crust. The milk tea was light and refreshing. The lemon iced tea had a whole lemon inside and tasted delicious.

Overall, 85°C Bakery Cafe serves up delicious pastries and a vibrant environment at reasonable prices. With various dessert options available, I’m sure you will find something you like. Even with so many cases, I wish there was more selection and less duplicates. If you have a chance, you should definitely give 85°C Bakery Cafe a try.

Jan 31

Shanghai Garden – San Jose, CA

1701 Lundy Ave Ste 10

San Jose, CA 95131

Rating: ★½☆☆☆ 

Located in a fairly Asian-saturated neighborhood of San Jose, Shanghai Garden serves up various Shanghainese dishes in the South Bay. The narrow restaurant had quite a few open tables around when we arrived. We were quickly seated by staff and were provided with menus and tea. After ordering, we were also provided with table boiled peanuts and soy-ginger vinegar.

Today, we decided to order the small wonton clay pot, Shanghai chow mein, Shanghai style steaming dumpling (xiaolongbao), and Shanghai Style fried pork buns (shen jian bao). I was not a fan of the plain table peanuts because they tasted soggy. The wonton clay pot came first in a nice presentation. The wontons were very small, but tasted fresh. The soup also included seaweed and tiny shrimp. The soup had hints of seaweed flavor, but was fairly plain. The wonton filling did not have much flavor at all, causing the entire dish to be quite bland. The Shanghai chow mein had a savory and sweet sauce coating. The noodles were very large and came mixed with spinach, cabbage, onion, and pork. There was not much pork in the dish at all, which made the dish very noodle-heavy. As a whole, the chow mein was flavorful, but lacked meat. The xiaolongbao came in a simple steamer after the first two dishes. The wrapper for the dumplings was unusually thick, which made the dumpling quite chewy. The soup that came out of the dumpling tasted extremely fatty and oily. There was a decent amount of meat inside, but the meat was not that flavorful, even when dipped in the soy-ginger vinegar. The shen jian bao was very greasy and had thick outsides. The dumpling was quite heavy to eat and did not have a lot of flavor. In the end, a complimentary egg-drop rice-cake soup was served, but I was not a fan of the sweet rice wine flavor.

Overall, Shanghai Garden serves up various authentic Shanghai dishes, but the flavor and quality was not there. Service was quick and ample with free peanuts and dessert provided. Prices are higher than expected for the lack of quality and quantity of food. I would strongly recommend eating elsewhere if possible. The xiaolongbao at Din Tai Fun blow these away and are actually cheaper and higher quality. If you are craving for Asian food, there are tons of other options in the area.

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