On a recent trip to San Francisco, Napa, Lake Tahoe and Vegas, I found myself eating more burgers than I normally would. It started with Shake Shack, that NYC-based burger joint where we had our first meal in Las Vegas one late night. And the rest just followed.
It was easy to find Shake Shack in Vegas. Right along Las Vegas Boulevard. Can’t miss it if you’re standing right in front of MGM’s New York New York Hotel. Hard to resist if you come upon it and find no queue! Typically there is a line, but not this one late night on the Strip. Swell! I like this burger joint if only because their burgers are juicy, right-sized, sans frills. I don’t enjoy it when I couldn’t open my mouth wide enough to take in all that burger goodness. The Shake Shack burgers fit just right 🍔
The day I first tried it was in its original roadside site in St. Helena in Napa Valley. Not burger, but I tried its special that day — beef brisket sandwich. So when we found its new branch right at the San Francisco International Airport’s Gate A10, we didn’t give it a miss! Quite honestly, I was way happier with the brisket than with my burger.
Back on the Strip, we tried the Burger Lounge inside Aria Resort and Casino. I enjoyed the avocado-smeared burger bun from this grass fed-beef burger joint except that my attention was diffused because it was located right inside the casino next to the poker room. If you’re tired of burgers or dining with vegetarians, this is a good place for everyone to enjoy because of their many healthy options.
Off the Strip but still in Vegas is an interesting cluster of restaurants and mall called Tivoli Village. We tried the burgers and steak in this steakhouse called Echo and Rig. There are also vegetarian and gluten-free options. This steakhouse got mixed reviews but we were happy with what we ordered. Service was very good but we’re talking about burgers here, right? So, I’d say it’s good but kinda pricey.
Thinking burgers, you’d likely wish to try one from that celebrity chef’s chain. Planet Hollywood on the Strip can take care of your Ramsay burger fix. By this time though, we were growing tired of burgers — grass-fed beef, angus or not — so we tried Gordon Ramsay’s fish and chips. Did we like it? Seriously, this chain is overrated. Not for me. Their lemonade is even too sweet! And their fries, average. My tip is to skip it. Burger King is even way better. And In-and-Out too! Both are all over Vegas. And I found a new favorite: Habit Burger Grill, not for its charburgers but for its tempura beans. A great sub for potato fries! Another random find is this unpretentious place called The Grid Bar and Grill’s burgers. Sinfully delicious with salted fries or onion rings, bacon, egg if you like, smeared with mayo or catsup, plus a minimum adornment of greens between the buns. Not bad finding this burger joint in Northshore on our drive down from Lake Tahoe towards San Francisco. Yum!
Napa has a number of interesting dining options with a very wide price range. There’s also a good curious crowd, and wine bars rule. Especially wine bars offering good, reasonably-priced food. In Bounty Hunter, one need not agonize what to order. Their signature dishes will save the day without burning a hole in your pocket.
Beers on tap, 40 wines and a 30-page beverage list. How can you go wrong? After all, it was voted best wine bar in Napa Valley 5 times. And oh, that beer can-standing chicken looking so proud, arrogant and snobbish shouldn’t be missed. Pair that with a smokin’ platter of apple wood-smoked brisket, pulled pork and bbq’d ribs and you’ve got a meal to feed a family. You may order sandwiches and sides like cole slaw, chips, corn bread and salads to complete your meal.
I was so averse to eating more meat the day we dined here, and ordered a vegetarian sandwich. The grilled portobello, squash, pimiento and eggplant was a hit too. Of course I tried some of that chicken but none of the ribs and brisket. My friends seemed to have enjoyed the platter though. Oh yes, I also had the artisanal craft beer.
Next time you’re in the area, check out Bounty Hunter. It’s right in the heart of Downtown Napa. Happy hours or not, you’d enjoy the “western vibe” here. And don’t forget to snoop at the bbq pit just right outside the bar to see them chickens “standing in line”.
I'm really loving this trend where Chino Roces Avenue Extension (formerly Pasong Tamo Ext.) is fast growing into a row of boutique restaurants run by young, creative chefs as well as good, ol' traditional restaurateurs. From city warehouses and car dealers with fancy showrooms, this long strip is now dotted with promising dining and date places spanning from Karrivin Plaza all the way to that popular Little Tokyo near Makati Cinema Square.
If you're a big fan of chawan mushi, you shouldn't miss it here. I always order this for starter and somehow went by a rough rule that if the chawan mushi is good, the rest listed on the menu should be equally so. I wasn't disappointed. The ikura atop the savory egg custard popped in my mouth, in harmony with the spoonfuls of "taho" goodness that closely followed, as if on cue.
We failed to do justice to the chicken salad with creamy tofu. It was good though we found the tastes too overpowering after a solid chawan mushi with its subtle umami-ness. The other thing is the veggie kakiage looking like a bird's nest was such a scene stealer! We marveled about its presentation and mildly panicked that the freshly-fried bird's nest creation should be devoured asap so as not to miss its crunchiness. You can imagine what happened, of course. Some dishes just can't wait!
By the time we were done with the vegetable and prawn kakiage, our order of pork BBQ waited for our attention. Once more, we nearly ignored the skewered meat because the spicy Karai soba and another soba (shoyu-based) dish were simply right up there in terms of soba quality and the Karai so deliciously spicy. We just kept "going back" to this soba for second and third helpings. If I were to head back here -- and there's no IF but rather WHEN here -- I'd definitely order again the chawan mushi, spicy karai soba and veggie kakiage. Oh, it must be mentioned that the soba set comes with a chawan mushi but we still ordered the premium chawan mushi. The complimentary egg custard that went with the soba set went nearly undisturbed 🙄
Next time, when I'm NOT so hungry or when I'm thinking "snacks", I'd likely order the pork skewers to enjoy with a bowl of rice. Yeah, what's wrong with snacking on rice? 😂 And maybe next time, I'd try their gyoza and sushi. Not to forget --- finish off with green tea ice cream. Sorry, no photos. Devoured soon after the dessert cup landed on the table. Happy eating!
Kazunori is housed right inside the MAZDA Showroom. An interior area can seat as many as 50 pax, a modern looking sushi bar is separated from the rest of the area by wooden posts, and the front area is separated only by glass from the Mazda showroom with a street view.
It's a pension or guesthouse right above the bars in Parte Vieja or Old Town in Donostia-San Sebastián. If you want to do a serious pintxos bar crawl, locate yourselves in this area. You can eat and drink to death and never mind that the crowd can be noisy especially on weekends.
The rooms are clean, though spartan. But the real attraction here is Amparo. She is a widow, lives alone, tidies up the place squeaky clean, and if she likes you, may even cook white asparagus and artichokes for you. As she did for mi sobrina y nieto. Our friends and family have stayed with Amparo a total of 3 times. And Amparo remembers. 💕
This is Amparo. True Basque, through and through. She hardly speaks English but her hand gestures and facial expressions will suffice to make her understood. If you read the reviews, those who've stayed here were obviously charmed by Amparo. She welcomes you, and easily makes you a friend. Not a guest, but a dear friend. She has a good memory and remembers her guests very well. Tells you how interested she is in people. If you're not looking for luxury but just a modest, tidy, safe and excellently located guesthouse, this is it.
Read about it. Good reviews. So that when we passed it, we went in to check out the place. Oh, there were many choices. And everything looked good!
We settled on a lamb stew pie and some kind of frittata with kale. Both served with green salad. Plus a flat white and a latté. Very filling. Tempting to enjoy some desserts but no space in our jolly bellies!
Honestly? I wouldn't mind eating here again. There's so much to try, each looking so delectable. Each piece served with fresh salad. And I just can't complain about the coffee and the service too. Yeah, check it out. From the Waterfront, just walk up Murray Street. It should be on your right walking up. Buen Provecho!
They change the menu twice a year. Picnic lunch is available but a romantic dinner maybe a better deal if you like the idea of an illuminated Eiffel Tower to enjoy the city lights as dusk falls.
A flute of champagne to welcome the entree of either smoked salmon or Foie Gras. There are other choices too. Linger over the menu at your own risk. Agonize. Suffer. But it's hard to go wrong with any from this well-curated menu. It maybe the touristy thing to do but hey, who'd pass up the chance to dine here around a table by the window overlooking the city?
For your mains, how about a lamb stew? Or to curb the guilt, a fillet of cod? Once more, the menu options can confuse you but suck in the ambience and order what comes top of mind. The portions are very French, but that's alright. It leaves room for desserts! Profiteroles ? Almond fingers?
In the end, your "Eiffel Night" is satisfied, you've had your French food fix, you're still swooning over your desserts and it's one off your bucket list. Touristy or not, you've enjoyed the meal and the view. Not bad!
The last time I was out here with friends, we booked an apartment via Airbnb. One txikiteo night, we also got a room in a Pension in Parte Vieja. Perfect after a pub crawl, but quite noisy too as the Pension is right above the Pintxo bars where a crowd drink txakoli to death till the wee hours of the morning.
I like A Room In The City. The young men behind the Reception Desk may not be the friendliest but they're cool and efficient. I borrowed some photos from the Net here just so I can show you how strategic the location is in a more quiet part of the city. (Calle Easo, 20) It is located right next to a chapel too. In fact, you can spot some of the church pews in the Sun Deck while viewing the pleasant neighborhood which includes the Buen Pastor Cathedral just around the bend.
Apart from the Sun Deck, the dining hall and sitting lounge are pleasant additions. Much better than sitting in hotel lobbies. In the dining hall, one can partake of free coffee, tea, biscuits, nuts. There is also a vending machine where you can buy chips, chocolate bars and drinks. Then there's the kettle and microwave to heat up water and food. All in a very spacious hall where everyone washes the dishes they use and wipe the tables clean. Neat!
Next time I get here with family and friends, I'd likely book a dormitory good for 4 or 6 pax on bunk beds. Sounds like fun especially with young ones. Then we'd spend more time in the lounge or the Sun Deck and laugh at each other's jokes. Some croissants bought from the nearby boulangerie cum patisserie, warmed briefly in the microwave, along with my favorite morning brew. Swell. And before we hit the Pintxo bars at night, we'd have some cerveza on the deck with some aceituna and chistorra bought from the nearby deli. Oh, life is good. 💕
Imagine how my heart broke, going to La Viña in San Sebastián and finding it closed for 4 consecutive days. 😭😭😭Imagine how I grew desperate checking on other bars and restos in San Sebastián, hoping their version of tarta de quezo comes close to La Viña's. Imagine how I felt upon learning La Viña has reopened as soon as I've left San Seb and arrived back in Madrid! 😡
Thank God for friends who visited San Sebastián soon after we've left and brought back --- drumroll, please --- an entire cake for us to devour in Madrid. 🤗😋😀 All that creamy, yummy, burned on top 🍰🍽🎂goodness packed in a red box! You don't know happiness until that first bite.
When in San Sebastián, you'd do your txikiteo to complete your Basque experience. In Parte Vieja along Calle 31 Agosto, just a stroll away from Yglesia de Santa Maria, Atari Gastroteka, La Cepa and La Cuchara de San Telmo, is this culinary gem. Your Basque guide won't be lying if he says it's the world's best cheesecake! Seriously.
The first time I was here, I was too full from a La Cepa dinner to do a serious Pintxo bar crawl. I knew better this time. I started with Bar Zeruko. And almost got stuck here. The '2 pintxos and a drink' rule can't, won't apply. Not content with what's on display at the bar, we ordered from the kitchen. Must be the txakoli. So white and clear and young and Basque!
The fruits from the sea were great starters. La Hoguera literally translates to "bonfire" and La Hoguera de Bacalao is a special Pintxo here where your smoked cod is served "smoking" until it's ready to rest on a toast smothered with some herbal cream and a vial of warm, liquid salad dressing. Such effort in presentation! And how about this bowl of baby eels and creamed uni with a dash of perejil sauce? Yum.
I chose another bacalao dish -- this cod being one of my personal favorites. It looked interesting on display at the bar, bottled with a green pepper and some cheese at the top. Plated, it looked kinda ordinary, methinks. But it was full of flavor and I had to stop myself from having seconds.
The chistorra came wrapped and was served with a mildly spicy tomato sauce. The mushroom pintxos were good but not what I'd order next time. I was likewise intrigued with the soft boiled egg encased in a gelatinous meat stock and served on a bed of Migas or bread crumbs flavored with chorizo. Every dish is so creatively done. How delightful!
My niece and I shared these pintxos and decided we should start moving. Txakoli on hand, we cheered we had a good start. Bar Zeruko rocks!
There are many dining options in Pamplona's Plaza Del Castillo and the streets and alleys around it. We found this one.
The pig's cheeks and white asparagus salad were superb. I'm a sucker for white asparagus and will have them whenever they're in season. The pig's cheeks dish was cooked a la estofado but not quite. Served with steaming rice!
If you're here, you have the choice of a sit-down meal or a bar set-up where you can enjoy your Rioja and some pintxos. Both are very good. I was intrigued by many tapa or Pintxo varieties but only tried one. No room for more. 😭
But what I had, I liked! The Iberico con quezo with honeyed walnuts was sooo good. Somehow, I regretted not sitting at the bar. I could have tried some others I haven't had the chance to figure out.