March 2011 Archives

Review: Alexander's Steakhouse (Cupertino)

Alexander's Steakhouse in Cupertino is a recent addition to the list of Michelin-starred restaurants in the Bay Area, earning the first star in 2011. From my experience there, it would not surprise me if Alexander's manages to earn a second star for their cuisine and service. For this evening, I ordered the seven-course Omakase menu ($130) with the wine pairing ($50). Alexander's Steakhouse also has an extensive menu of ala carte items as well; a full meal could easily be composed with the variety of dishes Alexander's Steakhouse offers.

The evening began with an amuse bouche of ramen soup and snow crab; the ramen broth was from their lunchtime service of ramen; the saltiness of the soup combined well with the sweetness of the snow crab.

A basket was brought out with a selection of breads from acme; sourdough, and honey wheat, along with some housemade parmesan crisps. Butter, sprinkled with sea salt in the center for spreading, as well as small dish of sea salt for flavoring accompanied the bread.


To date, Alexander's Steakhouse has actually sold more Hamachi Shooters than steaks; an ala carte order of Hamachi Shooters comes with six shot glasses; for the omakase, the first course consisted of two Hamachi shooters, which were shot glasses with Truffled Ponzu sauce, jalapeno pepper, and avocado mixed with cubed pieces of hamachi sashimi.

Next, Asparagus soup, served chilled with a 5:10 egg, which is essentially a panko-encrusted softboiled egg on a bed of mixed greens; the asparagus chilled soup is poured at the table, ensuring that the crispy 5:10 egg doesn't get soggy. When the yolk of the egg mixes in with the soup, the dish develops a second layer of richness and complexity.


Tuna tartare is served with nametake mushrooms, paddlefish roe and trout roe; the roe is used to salt the dish, and aioli sauce and bonito flakes are sprinkled on the side to add a bit of creaminess and texture to the dish; the paddlefish roe and trout roe were new twist to a familiar classic, both types of roe were very flavorful with a nice pop.

The Chef's Black Cod dish is based off of a dish his mother used to prepare for him; a fancy dish, the black cod is first grilled, then finished in the oven. The black cod is then layered over a bed of spinach in a light dashi broth; red miso accompanies the dish, and can be mixed with the broth to create a spicy miso broth. Maitake mushrooms, green apple and unagi help complete the presentation of this dish.


Tempura braised Angus beef short ribs were an interesting combination, but sadly the least impressive of the dishes. There are multiple textures to this dish; the tenderness of the beef short ribs, deboned and braised with the crunchy exterior of tempura breading did not seem like a great pairing of tastes and flavors; the different sauces included pumpkin, and a red miso sauce; this dish was garnished with crispy yam chips, maitake mushrooms, and some daikon radish.

Blood orange sorbet, with powdered sugar and tapioca served as the intermezzo to cleanse the palate.

IMG_5217IMG_5219 The Tajima Black Wagyu was prepared very simply; grilled to medium rare, accompanied with some roasted finger potatoes and garnished with matsutake mushrooms.

For dessert, azuki panna cotta, served untraditionally as a log with blood orange sorbet, in a rhubarb consomme with starfruit and dragonfruit. The meal is finished off with strawberry cotton candy.


Dining at Alexander's Steakhouse was an awesome experience; while the cost is on the high side, the combination of service, quality and creativity in the dishes makes it one of the most deserving of the Michelin restaurants I've eaten at.

Flickr: Alexander's Steakhouse

Review: Hachi Ju Hachi

Hachi Ju Hachi has a Bib Gourmand from Michelin; this means that for $40 or less, you can get two courses and a glass of wine (or desert). Chef Suzuki formerly worked at /owned Kampai House and Hamon Washoku. Hamon Washoku was on my list of places that I wanted to eat at, but alas, it closed before I had the opportunity to try it; thus I took a detour to Saratoga to try his cuisine at Hachi Ju Hachi, a restaurant that he opened after the closing of Hamon Washoku.

I made one trip out to Saratoga in 2004 to see Hakone Gardens, a Japanese style garden. On that occasion, I also ended up with a traffic ticket and a dining experience at Masu, a local sushi restaurant. I also saw the Plumed Horse, which would later turn out to become a Michelin starred restaurant.

This trip out to Saratoga was somewhat spontaneous; Hachi Ju Hachi has been on my list of restaurants to try for quite some time, so rather than attempt walking into the Plumed Horse without a reservation, I decided to try Hachi Ju Hachi. As I arrived, the only other patrons of Hachi Ju Hachi were leaving, so I was given a rare opportunity to be the only customer of Hachi Ju Hachi. Chef Suzuki and his staff treated me well, starting me off with a complimentary eggplant appetizer, while I perused the menu.

The menu is separated into sections: Appetizers, Grilled, Stewed, Steamed, Vegetarian, Claypot and Rice Dishes (which include Donburis and Rolls). There is a separate sake menu, and I recommend ordering either of the samplers, which yields 3 shots of sake beautifully presented for just $10. The variety sampler includes a daiginjo, a ginjo and a junmai which were distinctively good.

On this particular day, Hachi Ju Hachi also had some daily specials: homemade gyoza, yellowtail, salmon, and pig knuckles. While they all sounded good, I'm a sucker for good gyoza (or mandoo, or potstickers, or ravioli or whatever anyone calls dumplings), which is what I ended up ordering. Additionally, I also ordered a steamed duck dish and chawan mushi.

The steamed duck dish arrived first, followed shortly by the gyoza, and the chawan mushi; midway while I was deciding which pieces of duck and vegetable to eat, the gyoza arrived, along with the chawan mushi. My favoritism for the gyoza obligated me to try a piece of the gyoza first even before the duck, which I had been preparing on my plate.

I was not disappointed; the gyoza was crispy, and pre-sauced with vinegar and soy sauce.

The duck was very flavorful; the sake sauce which it had been steamed with brought out its flavors; the mushrooms and vegetables which went with seemed to complement the duck well; the mushrooms with the savory notes, and the green with the bitter notes.

Chawan Mushi (essentially egg custard with vegetables and seafood) is one of those dishes that is very hard to find in California; while it's a personal childhood staple for me, few restaurants offer it as an entree or an appetizer. While I wouldn't say that any restaurant that offers this automatically gets my seal of approval; three of restaurants which I have been ecstatic about recently have had this dish: Manresa, Gokaku, and Hachi Ju Hachi.

Chef Suzuki finished my meal with a complimentary red bean jelly dessert; as I was finishing up, the manager for Hakone Gardens appeared with several landscape architects from Japan and his staff from Hakone Gardens; he wanted to treat them to drinks at Hachi Ju Hachi.

I don't think I've ever seen a restaurant owner be so cool and collected; the servers began serving them soju, sake, tea and juice, while Chef Suzuki went to work on making the appetizers for the dozen or so people who just appeared in his restaurant.

Chef Suzuki's cuisine is definitely worth a detour, and it is my hope that his cuisine and his staffers' attentiveness to service will soon be worthy of a Michelin star.

Flickr: Hachi Ju Hachi

2011: The Year of the iPad 2

Today, Apple announced the iPad 2.

These are the improvements:

  • 33% thinner than iPad
  • 0.2 lbs lighter than iPad
  • includes 2 video cameras for Facetime
  • accelerometer
  • newer, faster dual core processor.
  • Now comes in two color choices: Black or White.
  • They've kept the same WiFi/WiFi+3G pricing model as before.
  • WiFi+3G models are for AT&T or Verizon.
  • Same battery life as previous model, ~10 hours.
  • WiFi+3G model includes GPS.
  • mirrors up to 1080p HDMI video out capability with Apple Digital AV Adapter (sold separately).
Since the announcement, I've have numerous people ask me if I am going to upgrade from my iPad; the answer is pretty much no, unless I need to purchase one for development purposes due to the accelerometer or GPS; I don't see the iPad2 as anything but a "speed bump" in terms of features; while the 1080p output is definitely exciting, I don't have a 1080p device to output on, and my current iPad applications aren't processor bottlenecked.

My currently philosophy is that for Apple's consumer iOS devices, the first revision is usually sufficient; the second generation is usually bug fixes, but it's not until the 3rd or fourth generation that an upgrade becomes necessary if you have a first-gen device. Case in point: the iPhone. I had a first generation iPhone; with the unlimited data plan and EDGE, (and being crippled by AT&T), I didn't see much reason to upgrade to the 2nd generation iPhone 3G; were it not for the misfortune of cracking my iPhone screen just a few weeks before the 3GS announcement, I likely would have not upgraded to a 3GS. The iPhone 4, with the high resolution screen was definitely worth upgrading for, although there are definitely times where I do wonder if a good Android phone on T-Mobile would be better for my lifestyle.

The iPad 2 will be available next week in the U.S. on March 11 at 5pm at the Apple Store; it does not appear as if they will be taking pre-orders until then.

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