Spring break just happened for me recently, along with my 25th birthday! (Gosh, I’m feeling old now). I took a trip up with the boyfriend to San Jose to visit Nicole and do touristy things in San Francisco. It’s funny to be posting about NorCal stuff when Justin’s been recapping a trip of his from the previous year up north.
Gochi Japanese Fusion Tapas
19980 E Homestead Rd
Cupertino, CA 95014
I’ve come here before, it’s not a cheap place, but the quality of food is well worth the price. You can check out their menu and make reservations beforehand, because they do get quite crowded on weeknights and weekends. We made a reservation to come at 6pm on a Sunday and they called us a day before to confirm the time. We were promptly seated upon arrival and was very well taken care of throughout the night. The waiters and waitresses are all extremely friendly and cheerful, and will help you when you have no idea what you’re looking at on the menu. Most of their food is fusion Japanese, and I definitely recommend checking out the special items menu, since those change from season to season.
The Grill on the Alley
172 S Market St
San Jose, CA 95113
The Grill on the Alley in San Jose has special Valentine’s Day dinner meals, so we made a reservation here. It comes with 3 courses for each person from a fixed menu and is priced starting at $155. Ambiance is romantic due to the dim lighting and small tables. Service is excellent. Below is what we chose for our meal…
Tuna Tartare – VERY fishy, I did not enjoy this. I had to squeeze some lemon on it to remove the fishy smell.
Oysters – Fresh and delicious, they give you marinara sauce and almost like Italian dressing to put on your oyster. Wish it came with hot sauce. So yummy.
Filet mignon with lobster sauce and asparagus – To die for! The steak is among the best I’ve ever had,very moist and juicy, cooked medium rare just the way I like it. The sauce was creamy and had big chunks of lobster in it.
Salmon with crab meat and asparagus – Equally as amazing. Salmon was cooked to perfect, but the best part was the crab meat with caramelized onions, it was so tender and fresh crab. Nothing fishy here.
Strawberry panna cotta – I’ve never had strawberry panna cotta, it’s kind of like Yoplait whipped yogurt, but much more flavorful, with real strawberry chunks in it. The red vinegar glaze compliments it very well. Pistachio crumbs sprinkled on top, dessert was my favorite 🙂
Key Lime Pie – This is the best key lime pie hands down. The graham crust is so crunchy and compliments the tartness of the pie. The raspberry sauce helps to cut the tartness of the pie as well.
Highly recommended for Valentine’s day dinner, the menu selections are excellent. Boyfriend wanted to go somewhere more expensive, but I am so impressed with this place, I am more than satisfied with the food they provided here. Make reservations early, they fill out quickly.
Lucy’s Tamale Factory
3739 Madeline Dr.
San Jose, CA 95127
This tamale factory is famous in San Jose, so I thought I’d give it a try. It isn’t the best tamales I’ve ever had, but they are good. $2 each is a little pricey, considering they don’t taste too good the next day. It’s in a ghetto area, I didn’t want to drive my new car there so I took my old one haha. The shop is in a hidden plaza, so you need to know your way around San Jose to get to this place.
Jalapeno & Cheese: SPICY (for me at least), freshly eaten, the cheese is melted and it is heavenly. Wait until the next day, you’re going to find yourself eating a tamale with a cheesestick inside…
Chicken con chile – The best! Chicken is super juicy and the green chile sauce is yummy, corn maza is textured but not hard, just the way I love it.
Beef – This special one was $3, but it was worth it. The beef is tender, juicy, and extremely delicious. Not spicy.
Sweet tamale – This unique dessert tamale is like a corn bread, Mexican style. So soft and warm, the taste of corn is the best, and there are chunks of pineapple in it.
We also tried pork and regular chicken, not impressed. The pork was juicy, but it didn’t have too much flavor. The chicken was a little dry and also was bland.
I will definitely be coming back for the chicken con green chile and the sweet tamales, those are my favorite!
Olarn Thai Cuisine
19672 Stevens Creek Blvd
Cupertino, CA 95014
I was craving tom kha soup so boyfriend took me to this place in Cupertino. We ordered tom kha soup for 2, roti panang, pad see ew with beef and pineapple fried rice. The tom kha soup was really good, although I wished they had an option to add seafood. Roti panang was good too! The pad see ew was sweet like I how I like it. I was unimpressed by the pineapple fried rice, it just tasted like regular fried rice with pineapple chunks in it, and it didn’t have raisins. Thai iced tea was pretty good, it came separated, like it should, and I mixed it myself.
I’d like to come back to try some other dishes, but if anything, I’ll just default to going to Krung Thai in San Jose.
Happy new year, everyone!
2331 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95051
This is not an all you can eat Korean bbq place, nor it is cheap. But what it does have is quality meat, that is not found in any AYCE bbq restaurant. I was craving brisket so much that I had to get some. This place has a $39.99 deal that comes with a plate of beef brisket and pork belly, steamed egg, and soybean soup. It also comes with the standard sides, salad, rice paper, and rice. The special thing about this place is that instead of a gas grill, it uses coal, so the meat is supposed to taste a little different, but I couldn’t really tell since I was so hungry.
The sides that is came with were pretty good, the kimchi wasn’t fermented enough and the mashed potatoes tasted old, but the other side dishes were delicious, especially the seaweed salad and pickled radishes. Salad had a good amount of dressing and was freshly made, so it was very refreshing to eat with the meat, especially the fatty pork belly. Steamed egg and soybean soup were standard, nothing too special about them.
The brisket had amazing marbling, and melted in your mouth when it was cooked. It was just so much fresher than what they serve at ayce bbq. Pork belly was very fatty, but that’s how I like it! It took a while to cook it to be crispy like I wanted it, but it was worth it.
The service here is great, they are very friendly and never rude to us, making sure we were taken care of. One thing I did not like though, was the fact that they insisted on cooking the meat for us. I like cooking my own meat and deciding when it’s done, but they didn’t really let me do that here, because they assumed I had no idea what I was doing. Little do they know what kind of a kbbq master I am! Just kidding. But really, they turned off the grill before the pork belly was crispy enough for my taste, so I was a little irritated about that.
I wouldn’t come here on a regular basis just because there is just no where near the amount of food I could get for the same price in lovely Ktown, but once in a while when you’re craving ayce so much that it hurts, this would be a good place to splurge at.
3540 Homestead Rd
Santa Clara, CA 95051
There is not much to say about this famous ramen place. It’s one of the best ones I’ve ever had! The broth of the Orenchi Ramen was SO delicious and flavorful, it really just speaks for itself. Noodles were just the right texture, chewy but not tough, and not at all soggy. They give you a jar of crushed garlic at your table, so you can add as much as you want…I added a lot, and it really enhanced the flavor of the soup for me. We also ordered Karaage, which was very crispy and juicy inside, and their special french fries, which had a special sauce on it and bonito flakes. Everything was delicious…please just enjoy the photos and try it for yourself. I hear sometimes the wait is over an hour, but luckily we went on a Sunday evening and it wasn’t too bad, my friend got there first and put our names down, total wait time was approximately 30 minutes.
302 N Bascom Ave
San Jose, CA 95128
Smoke Salmon Benedict, with smoked salmon, caramelized red onions, poached egg, and hollandaise sauce with capers on a toasted bagel. Side of crispy hashed browns… So yummy. We had to wait 25 minutes for a table on Saturday at 11am, but it was worth it. The fish was so good…and you wouldn’t think salmon and creamy eggs to well together, but it sure did! Yummy brunch!
To try: bottomless mimosas here 😉
Bon Chon Chicken
572 E El Camino Real
Sunnyvale, CA 94087
Bon Chon Chicken is a popular Korean fried chicken joint in Sunnyvale, and finally I was able to try it. We ordered the large 20 piece combo, 10 pieces with the soy garlic sauce and 10 with the spicy hot garlic sauce, regular coleslaw, curly fries and 2 extra orders of rice, it came with radish too. We also ordered a large pitcher of yogurt soju. I loved both sauces, and I was dying while eating the spicy one, but it burned so good! The chicken wings had a lot of meat (compared to Wingstop…), and it was crispy on the inside and seasoned well inside. Nothing special about the curly fries, it was just filler food for me. The coleslaw was good though, I like how they kept the pieces of lettuce big, so it was crunchy with just a little cream from the sauce; I hate coleslaw that’s swimming in sauce. The radish was very tang, it kind of tasted like I was just eating vinegar, which wasn’t too pleasant. But if you eat it with the chicken and rice, it was balanced out well. The yogurt soju was really refreshing to chase down the hot wings with! Service was quick and friendly, and they were very nice and suggested us on what to order. Korean fried chicken is Korean fried chicken to me, so I can’t really say this is better than BBQ in Westwood…they’re all yummy!!
ToBang Korean Cuisine
1052 Kiely Blvd
Santa Clara, CA 95051
Restaurant.com coupon: link
$25 off $50 coupon for $10, why not! This place has the best customer service out of all the Korean restaurants I have ever been to. Usually you need to go with a Korean-speaking friend in order to get good service, but this is not the case at this place. They treated us so well, brought us refills on banchan and rice paper without asking (to the point where we actually had to tell them to stop), asked us constantly if everything was okay for us. My friend and I were so shocked with the service, we were just expecting to be ignored and given our food!
Anywho, the restaurant is small, and there isn’t much seating, it’s very spaced out, and there is a huge draft so it’s cold inside, but the good thing is that you won’t smell too much afterwards. We were seated and we gave them our coupon, so they explained to us the restrictions very kindly and asked us what we wanted to drink. The yogurt soju is not part of the deal, but we ordered it extra since this was a celebratory dinner. I believe it was $12.99 for a big pitcher, and they only have yogurt flavor, but it was so good and definitely a creeper.
Originally, we wanted to order the seafood pajeon as our appetizer, bulgogi and kalbi as our meats, and combination tofu soup. When we ordered though, the waitress told us the pajeon was on the house! So we ordered panfried dumplings for an appetizer instead. We knew it was way too much food for just 2 people, but we decided to get it and take leftovers home.
The banchan were just like any other place, except they had string potato strips that I’ve never had, and also they had sliced pickled Korean daikon that were huge and instead of using regular vinegar I think they used red vinegar since it had a pink hue to it. That was really good with the meat. When the pajeon came out, I died a little inside. It was so good!! Crispy, warm, with a perfect amount of octopus in it…it had been so long since I had it. I still can’t believe it was free.
The bulgogi and galbi were spectacular, and much more than what BCD gives per portion. They had asked us before ordering the galbi if it was okay, since usually they marinate it for 2 days before, but since they ran out, they had marinated this batch that day only. We were fine with that, and when we got the meat, the chef came out to make sure it was okay with us. It tasted like it had been marinated for days! So juicy, tender, and well seasoned. They were good pieces of meat too, with little fat on them. Yum!
The combination tofu soup was a little bland for me, since we had ordered medium and it was not spicy at all, but there was a lot of tofu and huge chunks of meat and seafood, so that made up for it. Panfried dumplings were so crispy! Fried to perfection and even though I have no idea what the filling was, it was good.
The waitress brought us fishcake and rice paper refills, and gave us a whole pitcher of water when we asked for it. She was kind and funny, something seriously lacking in the waiters and waitresses at other Korean places. Our bill came out to be $54 after the $25 discount, plus the soju, tax, and tip (tip is calculated based on the whole order, which was roughly $80), and we were so happy with their service that we gave them another $5 tip on top of everything and wrote them a note on the back of the receipt. We also got 2 complimentary yakult drinks to finish off the night!
I am definitely coming back to this place, the customer service alone is good enough to pull me in, but the free pajeon, yakult, and the tasty high quality food is the real main catch!
Mizu Sushi Bar & Grill
1035 S Winchester Blvd
San Jose, CA 95128
One of the most fresh sushi and sashimi I have ever had. I was craving sashimi and this definitely hit the spot. I can now understand why it has almost 30,000 check-ins.
We ordered the spicy tuna salad to start off with, because for some reason we didn’t think a sushi boat would be filling…it came with mixed greens and fresh tuna sashimi pieces with a spicy sriracha dressing. We all know I can’t eat spicy but I kept shoving this in my mouth because it was so good!
The sushi boat is $29.95 a person and you need to have a minimum of two people to order it, but boy…it is so worth it. It came with everything! Tuna, Albacore, Yellowtail, Salmon, Halibut, White Tuna, Eel, Shrimp…you name it. I was in heaven. I don’t remember the name of the rolls on the boat but they were really good as well. They also had fried shrimp heads which I thought was random, but they were mouthwatering too!
It’s not every day you get to eat this, so I’m grateful to my cousins for treating me out. Being the princess in the family has its perks haha.
I am definitely coming back here to try their other rolls and dinner items, this place is so good!
248 Jackson St., San Jose, CA 95112
Craving crepes, yelped this place in Japantown and remembered I had gotten shaved ice from here before (decent, but not as good as the place across the street), but never had the crepes. I went with a friend and we ordered the Cookies n Cream Dream ($4.75) and a Banana Crepe ($4.25) with Nutella (+$.25). They’re HUGE, bigger than the size of my face. The crepe was so good, crispy and warm, while the ice cream was creamy, whipped cream was yum too! The bananas inside the crepes were plentiful, I’m not a big fan of bananas but wow they gave a lot. Obviously we did not finish but it was definitely worth what we paid for. I would like to come back and try the savory crepes one day. Must try! Plus you can walk around little Japantown, it’s really cute 🙂
On our last night in Norcal, we walked to a Korean plaza (Lawrence Plaza) next door to the Econolodge we were staying at. I thought it’d be interesting to get overhead shots of the food, cafeteria-style, in trays and all.
^ Pajeon – seafood pancake
^ Haemul kalguksu – seafood handcut noodles
There is also a sweet potato stall in front of the plaza. Unfortunately, by the time we spotted it, it was closed.
3561 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95051
Fantasia is a purely Norcal phenomenon, which is why I wanted to try their tapioca milk tea. The drinks had a surprising Western taste to them and everything was meh to me.
I’ve come to the conclusion that SOCAL > NORCAL, at least when it comes to boba milk tea.
Address: 378 Santana Row #1115, San Jose, CA 95128 | map
On one of our final meals in Norcal, we went to Sushi Factory, an AYCE sushi buffet.
I don’t recall much of it, now. I do remember how puny the inari were (each order came with 2 measly inari). And I thought their hand rolls were pretty decent.
All in all, I don’t think it can compare to Midori (review here), another AYCE chain down in Socal.
Address: 4632 Meridian Ave San Jose, CA 95124 | map