Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Le Rendez-Vous - San Bernardino

Le Rendez-Vous Restaurant
4775 N. Sierra Way
San Bernardino
(909) 883-1231
Tue-Thur 5:30pm-9pm
Fri-Sat 5pm-10pm
Sun Brunch 11am-3pm  Dinner 3pm-9pm

   I must start by saying this was one of the most gratifying dining experiences of my life. Not only did I feel important and well taken care of, but my palette was blessed with every bite. Located in a residential neighborhood at the base of the San Bernardino Mountains, Le Rendez-Vous is anything but expected. The restaurant is fine dining, decorated in 1950's style fixtures, chairs, wallpaper and stained glass windows - not in a cool retro way, but it's as if this place hasn't had any cosmetic updates in  years. Luckily for them it has no effect on the masterpieces that exit the kitchen. Their staff is incredibly helpful and friendly. It's obvious that they really want the customers to enjoy every part of their meal. The menu is fairly small, but that ensures that the dishes they're serving are made with in-season, fresh ingredients and the kitchen can focus on making everything to the best of their abilities.

French Onion and House Salad
   The have two separate dining rooms and one of the rooms has a full bar. On Sunday's they serve brunch which I have yet to try, however I haven't heard anything positive about it. They still need to work on perfecting it. Their dinner on the other hand is been carefully crafted to pure genius. We started with Escargot Roquefort, garlic bread and Flambeed Spinach Salad, we followed with the Lamb and Veal Marsala and we ended with the Chocolate Bomb and Upside Down Walnut Cake.

Escargot Roquefort
   The Escargot is served out of the shell in a delicious garlic butter and topped with melted blue cheese. Yum, yum, yum. They serve sliced homemade french bread with butter and an olive tapenade. I truly feel the bread's only purpose is to sop up every last drop of buttery blue cheese goodness left in the Escargot dish. It was so good. If drinking butter in public wasn't inappropriate I would've gladly clogged my arteries for that stuff. The Spinach salad is served table side on a rolling cart with a single burner and saute pan for the staff to prepare it. They make a flambeed salad dressing with sherry, brandy, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, red wine vinegar and bacon. The dressing is poured over spinach which wilts it slightly. The dressing was bold and salty, that combined with the bacon made one hell of a spinach salad. The entrees are served with either salad or soup. We chose french onion served with the the traditional gratin and a house salad with a mustard vinaigrette. The soup was well made and the broth tasted like it was home made. The salad was strangely impressive. It was literally the most delicious salad I have ever eaten. The dressing was divine and I couldn't help myself from getting every drop of it off of the plate. The entrees were brought out and I was very intrigued. On one large plate a tall rack of lamb with a balsamic reduction, a plump pile of mashed potatoes with a rosemary sprig and another pile of vegetables - zucchini, yellow squash and carrots. The other plate was ordained with the same potatoes and vegetables but with slices of veal topped with an appetizing mushroom Marsala sauce. The lamb was cooked at a perfect medium rare and the balsamic was the just the right amount of sweet to pair with the rustic lamb. The veal was tender and the sauce was pure perfection. The potatoes were good but only made great by mixing it with the Marsala sauce. However much I absolutely enjoyed the lamb and veal, I can't ignore the fact that the vegetables might have made the plate. How could squash and carrots really be that impressive? I have no idea how, but they were so perfectly crunchy yet tender and they had such a wonderful flavor. 
Lamb, Mashed Potatoes, Vegetables
Veal, Mashed Potatoes, Vegetables
   Now I don't necessarily order dessert because by that time I'm usually way too full, but after everything I had already tasted how could I pass up the opportunity to try more. The chocolate bomb was a chocolate ice cream-ish dome with a cherry center and covered in a chocolate shell. It was a beautiful combination of textures, depths of chocolate flavor and genuine cherry filling. The apple walnut cake was definitely the winner for me. The dessert of hot sweet apples that still retained their fresh crunch, with a crust that tasted like pecan pie and a scoop of vanilla ice cream to slowly melt was definitely deserving of a blue ribbon.
Chocolate Bomb and Apple Walnut Cake
   Once again San Bernardino has produced a surprising gem that I will find myself returning to, time after time. If you are looking for a meal that is impressive and memorable make this your first choice. Le Rendez-Vous is not just a restaurant but it is an experience. Wonderful customer service and an outstanding meal make Le Rendez-Vous one of my favorite dining experiences of all time and hopefully you can try them out and understand why.

Texifornia Tamale Co.- Blue Jay

Texifornia Tamale Co.
27226 State Highway 189
Blue Jay
Closed Mondays
Tues-Thurs 11am-8pm
Fri-Sat 11:30am-9pm
Sun 11:30am-8pm

     There is something that happens to your taste buds, when smoky spicy brisket in a blanket of cheese wrapped in a toasty tortilla hits your mouth. Bringing the flavor of Texas, the traditions of Mexico and the presentation of California is what Texifornia is all about. Blue Jay is located about 10-15 minutes from Crestline in the San Bernardino Mountains. Texifornia sits in the back of the Jensen's parking lot in the far left corner. They have a dining area encased in windows and an open seating/waiting area when you first walk in. Texifornia has a few different dining styles. During their lunch hours food is served to-go in biodegradable containers, however you are more than welcome to stay and eat your food. During dinner hours it is traditional table service.
Chips and Salsa
Tamales with beans and Mexican Tortilla Soup
     The menu was very intriguing. It took a little while to finally decide on our order, because I wanted to get way too many things. We finally came to an agreement. A tamale "box" that comes with soup or salad, chorizo refried beans, and two tamales. We chose Mexican tortilla soup, a jalapeno cheese tamale and a smoked pork tamale. Then we ordered a variety Taco Trio (one chicken, one angus brisket, and one smoked pork) which is accompanied by their poblano rice and chorizo refried beans. We also got the angus brisket quesadilla. You're served chips and salsa in an attractive serving dish that holds two kinds of salsa, one green and one red. Their salsas are both made with fire roasted veggies. The green was my favorite, spicy and tangy, even a slight smokiness. The red was also very flavorful. They serve a wide variety of bottled beers, bottled Coca Cola, and homemade lemonade. 
Angus Brisket Quesadilla  (with salsa and sour cream)
     When all of the food was brought to the table, my eyes instantly gravitated to the Angus brisket quesadilla. The tortilla was grilled and brisket was popping out of the sides. One bite was all it took. I've never really understood Texas BBQ, but within moments the brisket made perfect sense. Texifornia has the ability to hit so many cuisine styles in a single bite. The brisket is simply amazing. Any dish on the menu ordered with the brisket will be a success. Their beans and rice are very unique and equally delicious. The tamales are not made with a traditional masa, but with a flavor-packed roasted corn masa, which truly just compliments the fillings even more. The Mexican Tortilla Soup served with the tamales was very good. It was topped with cheese and the hot soup melted it and added an incredible creaminess to the soup. The tacos were fresh and all of the meats were good, but of course the brisket was the table favorite. 
Taco Trio with rice and beans
     Texifornia is a diamond in the rough for sure. In a town with very little appetizing options and in a building that isn't found unless your looking for it, this gem leaves a taste in your mouth that you never want to lose. The owners are friendly and give off a "chill" attitude, the place is tiny but well kept and the food is delicious. If you live in the mountains, this restaurant will easily replace all of the "usual" stops. If you're visiting the mountains, stop here first, last and in-between your trip. Either way Texifornia's cuisine will keep you coming back.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Baguette Express - San Bernardino

Baguette Express
1689 Kendall Dr. Suite D
San Bernardino
(909) 887-2562
Mon-Fri 10:30am - 8:30pm
Sat 11am-6pm

   The crisp french baguette crunches in my mouth, the jalapeno releases it's heat while the cucumber cools my tongue, then I taste the sweet and smoky BBQ pork. There's a sauce, wait... mayonnaise? Is that homemade mayonnaise? I've just met the most delicious sandwich and it's Vietnamese...bahn mi.
    Baguette Express is located in a strip mall (surprise, surprise) about four doors down from Thai Place and a block away from Cal State San Bernardino. You enter into a small dining area and walk to the left towards a counter to order. A large menu with pictures of their sandwiches and other menu items wrap around the counter. Behind the counter is an incredible rotating bread oven. I can see golden brown baguettes spinning circles in a giant metal container just calling out to me. I'm already excited about the bread and I can't wait for what they are gonna fill it with. 
Thai Tea
Spring Rolls
   We ordered three 12" bahn mis, BBQ beef, BBQ pork and Cajun shrimp. We also ordered combination spring rolls, which come with three, one BBQ pork, one BBQ beef and one shrimp. Of course I ordered a Thai tea to go with my meal and I opted to enjoy it with boba. The woman who owns the business is very friendly and helpful. She prides herself on making fresh bread everyday and sometimes even multiple batches throughout the day to ensure freshness. While the dining room is a little cramped the staff did a very good job accommodating us and we were set up with a fairly comfortable table.

BBQ Pork
Cajun Shrimp
   As I sat down, I enjoyed my Thai tea; and while it was delicious, I feel it was a tad overpriced, the 16oz was $2.99 and the 24oz was $3.49 plus an extra charge for boba. I'm a slave to this yummy drink, so I'll usually pay whatever it costs when its available. She brought us the spring rolls first. I'm used to springs rolls that are skinny and on the smaller side. What was in front of me, was basically a spring burrito. Clear spring roll paper wrapped around rice noodles, lettuce, cilantro, carrot, and the various meat fillings. They were served with a peanut dipping sauce that was sweet, sour and buttery all at once. My favorite spring roll was the BBQ beef because the beef was almost teriyaki flavored and the peanut sauce complimented the beef very well. The bahn mi arrive and upon first glance I see Vietnam in a basket. What's unique about bahn mi (which is the name for the actual bread) is that in Vietnam wheat is hard to grow, so the bread is actually made with rice flour, which results in a thinner bread with a crispier crust. We were lucky enough to receive sandwiches with bread that just came out of the oven and it couldn't have been any more obvious. Their bahn mi was downright perfect. All of the bahn mi is served with homemade mayonnaise, cucumber, carrot, raw jalapeno, cilantro and salt and pepper. We rotated sandwiches a few times and I couldn't pick a favorite. The Cajun shrimp was so tasty, not fishy or under seasoned. The shrimp was spicy but flavorful and it could have stood on its own, it was so perfectly prepared. The BBQ beef tasted slightly sweet, a grilled teriyaki flavor almost. It was very useful to have the sweet every time I bit into a jalapeno. The BBQ pork tasted like charbroiled Korean Short Rib...great flavor, very tender meat, with amazing grilled ends and pieces.
  Other than the Thai tea the menu items were fairly priced. Less than $5 for the bahn mi, $5 for the spring roll, and they also serve giant bowls of pho for around $6. These sandwiches have a very unique taste and flavor combination. The french style bread with fresh Asian condiments and drastically different styles of meat, marry together into a delicious lunch or dinner. If haven't experienced Vietnamese cuisine before, I highly suggest you put Baguette Express at the top of your list. If you've been lucky enough to try bahn mi definitely hit this place next. Always fresh veggies, daily made bread, and great service, Baguette Express deserves an opportunity to show you how bahn mi is done.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Padre's Pizza-Redlands

Pius Padre's Pizza
330 N. Sixth St. Suite 108
(909) 335-0087
Mon-Thu 11 am - 9 pm
Fri-Sat 11 am - 10 pm
Sun 12 pm - 8 pm

   Let me start by saying their pizza is so good, that I left half of a box in my car for 3 and half hours and still ate it and enjoyed every single bite. Sick? Maybe. But if only you were there; wood fired, crispy yet airy crust, engulfed in delicious fresh California melted mozzarella and topped with Applewood bacon, grilled chicken, mushrooms and alfredo sauce... it was pure pizza heaven. There is something really wonderful about a perfect slice of pizza and there is something really wonderful about Padre's Pizza. The combination of pizza having a crisp crust while still being light and airy isn't any easy feat, but Padre's has it down to a science. Not only that, but they have great tasting sauces, the freshest cheese and premium toppings. This establishment is for take out and delivery only. There is a small table and bench that maybe one or two people could eat inside, but I would suggest bringing the food home or if you live nearby, order delivery
   This place is very hard to find. It is stuffed in a small corner of a business plaza and isn't easily seen from the street. I really wish I could buy them a billboard with neon lights so everyone could visit Padre's. When you walk in you are greeted by an open kitchen, tall counter, giant menu on the wall and a friendly face. What's pretty amazing about Padre's is that it is family owned. A father and his two sons who were once in the construction industry decided about two years ago they were going to open a pizzeria. It is definitely unexpected, but what a beautiful surprise. These guys know exactly what they're doing.
   Their menu consists of traditional items as well as some great specialties and even vegan and vegetarian items. They have a very unique item called a roll-izza. Its pretty much a bread stick that's about a foot and half long stuffed with various toppings. They start at $2.99 but most of the premium ones are $4.99. What I also really loved about Padre's is that they offer all of their pizzas in small size so you get an opportunity to have whatever you want. So we ordered a small All American pizza, (which had tomato sauce, pepperoni, sausage, bacon, ham, and beef) and an Alfredo pizza (with alfredo sauce, chicken, bacon and mushrooms). We also ordered a small caesar salad and a chicken roll-izza.
   We ordered there and it took about 20 minutes, which is impressive because he made the dough from scratch. Since I don't live that close to Redlands we decided to take our food to a nearby park. That was a 5 minute drive of pure torture. The smell coming from the pizza boxes put me in a trance so deep, that it nearly caused a traffic accident.
When we finally sat down to eat I was so impressed. My first bite was a slice of the Alfredo pizza. The bacon is what first caught my attention - Applewood, mmm - no bacon bits or fake-on over here. Real bacon cooked just for this yummy pizza. The chicken was also genuine diced chicken breast not some strange precooked package of "chicken meat". The sauce was garlicky and cheesy but didn't overpower the rest of the pizza. The All American was just as delicious. The tomato sauce was sweet, zesty and definitely not from a jar or can. The toppings were also great, not an overload of any one flavor but you could really taste everything in each bite. The roll-izza had the same fresh chicken breast that the Alfredo pizza did and it tasted like a really glorified stuffed pizza crust. Which I enjoyed a lot. You also get a choice of ranch or marinara to dip it in. The salad was so fresh and the lettuce was freshly chopped romaine topped with parmesan and had croutons and caesar dressing on the side - a really simple but tasty caesar salad. I was so surprised how filling the food was. Two people could have easily shared a small pizza, roll-izza and side salad, and all for less than $20.
   I know that this place has been thriving on word of mouth and they are a little hard to find. However if you're in the area or live in Redlands this has to be the go to pizza place. They have gourmet toppings like cashews, artichoke hearts, chicken, and tons of vegan and vegetarian options. So it can appease even the snobbiest of pizza lovers. These guys have a great business and they really know how to make great food. Everything they make is by hand and made with love and dedication. You have to check this place out to really understand. Tell your friends, your family and anyone who eats food. This business really deserves to thrive and maybe with enough customers they can move to a bigger and better location. So whether you like perfect pizza, or fresh well crafted food, or a little of both, Padre's Pizza will have something to satisfy anyone's craving.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Asahi Sushi-Riverside

Asahi Sushi
2955 Van Buren Boulevard D2
Riverside (951) 637-1313
Mon-Sun: 11:30am-10pm

Now I realize Riverside may be a stretch for being in the Inland Empire, but it's my birthday week so I may be stretching my "jurisdiction" a little bit. I have also come to the conclusion that I am an addict. My eyes dilate, my mouth salivates and my body goes into mild shock whenever I get wind of a restaurant in a shopping center or a strip mall. It's sick; I know I should be at a four star establishment...somewhere to see and be seen. I can't force myself to do it. I want to be off the grid, in the grittiest of locations, eating with the people's people. To be even more honest, I find myself to be quite the glutton. So when you entice me with large amounts of delicious food and for a small price, hidden in strange secret places, I am all yours.
Welcome to All You Can Eat my friends. By now I really cannot imagine that there are still people out there who haven't punished themselves with AYCE Sushi. I will entertain the idea that someone reading this may be an AYCE virgin so let me enlighten you. Just like normal Sushi establishments you choose table or bar. You are then given a large spreadsheet of food, on food, on food. With the check boxes of doom, you're probably going to be given a golf pencil. There are choices of appetizers, miso soup, nigiri sushi, hand rolls and cut rolls. Typically the sushi genie will reward you with three rounds, in which you can order as much of what you wish. Let me be blunt by saying that AYCE is usually supermarket California rolls bathed in a mayonnaise-ish, cream cheese horror (although I do believe it is more appealing to others than it is to me). Not at all the case at Asahi; and this is where my journey begins.
    Off the Van Buren exit in an Albertson's parking lot, hiding in the corner is a smallish restaurant called Asahi Sushi. They have a very quaint patio that leads you to the double doors. You are customarily greeted by the staff as you enter. I choose the sushi bar because I want to really take advantage of the word "ALL". I'm here around 3 and luckily i don't have to struggle with a lunch or dinner crowd.The waitress who seated us was very quick at getting us drinks within the first 30 seconds of arriving and soon after that we had wasabi, ginger and plates. They have a very nice organized set-up. An L-shaped sushi bar wraps around the surprisingly spaced out dining room and there are two flat screen TVs on the accent wall and K-Pop music fills the room. Everything is clean, well taken care of and modern without being obnoxious. 
Chef Thi
   I'm lucky enough to meet my chef "Scott". I need to know who I am really talking to, because I know this Japanese guy didn't come here with the name Scott. So we introduce ourselves properly and Thi becomes my new found friend. He immediately recognizes my sincerity and gave me the best sushi experience of my life. He is a master at what he does: marksman accuracy, unparalleled speed and the greatest attention to detail this side of the Pacific. This is the first time I actually didn't have to fill out my paper. He just asked what we wanted and every time we finished something he was right there waiting for his next task.
Octopus, salmon, tuna, yellow tail
    I've heard about the rumor of their monster nigiri sushi with microscopic rice mounds and I couldn't wait any longer to learn the truth. Asahi is no joke. I had about a teaspoon of rice with a 5-inch long 1/4 inch thick "slab" of fish served to me. Tuna, salmon, octopus, yellow tail and ono. The freshness of this fish was shocking. I couldn't believe how beautiful the salmon markings were and how deep red the tuna was. The yellow tail was buttery and ono was light and delicate. Asahi's fish has never been frozen and for a moment I wasn't so sure it hadn't died minutes before I ate it. The octopus was clearly prepared by a true sushi chef because it was not chewy, gummy, rubbery or flawed in any way. It went down with ease. When Thi handed me that first specialty roll I was in complete awe, it surely wasn't for me. This plate was pure art. Cut so cleanly, with flared end pieces, beautifully sauced and an overall kick ass presentation. I was immediately enslaved in this experience. Roll after roll I was completely satisfied.
Riverside Roll
Scorching Crab
Green Mussel and Jen Jen Roll
Now I sometimes feel that people and their choice of sushi rolls are very different, so I will tell you that I loved everything that I got but I won't necessarily recommend any one roll in particular for that reason. I personally, do not enjoy baked rolls or obviously rolls with cream cheese or heavy mayonnaise. So my choice of rolls were all cold and basically raw. Starting with my little Picasso... the Riverside roll, with tuna and salmon inside wrapped in soy paper topped with avocado.Then the Scorching crab: a roll with delicious spicy crab inside. The classic Caterpillar... sweet eel and avocado came next. Then we enjoyed the very original Jen Jen roll with thick sliced salmon wrapped around a little mountain of spicy crab. Once again another original, Stuffed Tomato with thick sliced tuna wrapped around little scallop crab mountains. We also ordered an octopus hand roll and a salmon skin hand roll which were both very tasty. Towards the end we also sampled fried oysters and green mussels. The oysters were good but the green mussels were outstanding. The green mussels were super flavorful and had a perfect sauce without being heavy. I wish I hadn't been fish greedy at first because I would have eaten about 10 orders of green mussels easily.
Overall Asahi's food was pure magic. The highest quality fish I have ever encountered and by far the most impressive All You Can Eat sushi restaurant possibly in existence. Oh did I mention for dinner it is $21.95 and lunch is $17.95. Dinner starts at 3pm and also includes the option to order uni. You also can receive a $5 discount if you flash them your college ID. I also learned that if it's your birthday they will pop on some strobe lights, play techno and give you a pretty awesome cupcake in a take home box, (it was the funnest birthday "song" a restaurant has ever given me). I would suggest coming in on an off hour though because I've heard they get extremely busy and there's a pretty hefty wait time for larger parties. When you visit Asahi come with an empty stomach, don't eat for a couple weeks, empty stomach. You're definitely going to get your money worth either way, but why not eat until your physically ill, emotionally scarred and suffering mental angst. Asahi is definitely my new go to sushi place and I hope it will become yours too.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Thai Place-San Bernardino

Thai Place
1689 Kendall Dr.
San Bernardino (909) 887-7644
Open Mon-Sat: 11am-9pm

   So I find myself in a strip mall in San Bernardino again. The Thai Place is located a block away from Cal State San Bernardino in the El Pollo Loco lot across from CVS. Now this place is tiny, like 25 people inside maximum, tiny. I truly would not recommend eating inside, which is very disappointing because their food is pretty delicious. The "dining room" is literally in the shape of an isosceles triangle. They don't really attempt to lure you in with the decor. On the outside of the building neon lights are probably what would draw you in. One reads "open", one reads "fine Thai Chinese food" and the other reads "lunch combo". They have glass-topped tables while sugar packets and chili sauce hang out on the tables. You walk in and seat yourself and wait...and wait. You wait for the menus; you wait for the drinks, you wait for them to take to your order, luckily you don't have to wait for the food. In the larger part of the triangle there is a counter, register and to the left a door that leads to restrooms. What's very unique about this place is that they have a steam table at the counter, where they offer lunch specials. For around $7 you can get rice and two items. They change the items up everyday but they usually have a curry, a chicken dish, a veggie dish and they'll throw in some daily specials.
    So we finally look over the menu. Drinks were ordered and of course I'll be taking the Thai tea. I feel like when I'm going to be eating food hot enough that my nose might start bleeding, a creamy sweet drink will be my only release of the hot Thai death grip. They have a delicious Thai tea. The rest of the table ordered hot green tea. We decided on Kang Somm soup with fish ($8.95), Pad Kee Mau with beef ($7.95), and Green Curry with Chicken ($8.95). We ordered everything medium spicy, but to be clear on our request the waitress had us decide on a 1-5 scale, which I thought was a cool touch, our medium was a 3. Their menu has quite a few American Chinese dishes, but I don't go to Pizza Hut for a hamburger, so I am not interested in fried wontons at a Thai restaurant. They have plenty of Thai options though: Tom Ka soups, noodle dishes, curries, and chicken, seafood and beef dishes. On a Wednesday evening  this place was packed. We were lucky enough to snag an open table but after us the place filled up with sitting patrons and to go orders. There was one waitress for all of us and to be honest not the best. There was another girl that was more of the kitchen help and every once in awhile she would bring people food, but not as often as she should have. So once I again I must stress that eating there is not advisable, definitely call in an order to go. You can take it and eat outside on the tables or the area in front of the restaurants next door with a little courtyard area, or in your car for that matter because their food is tasty enough you can enjoy it on your lap.
Pad Kee Mau with beef
Green Curry with chicken
Kang Somm with fish
     Food has arrived. Sweet basil, lime, chili and some jungle funk start filling my nose. The soup had a very odd smell, one that I can not identify, at all. But I took a bite and the pungent scent disappeared. The soup had napa cabbage, carrot, chili, lime and large chunks of white fish. You can also choose to enjoy the soup with shrimp or they'll add extra veggies if you'd rather not have the seafood. The spice caught me off guard upon my first bite, I'm almost positive I blacked out for a millisecond. But soon enough the delicious lime and fresh napa calmed my taste buds. The fish was surprisingly fresh and cooked just right. The fish and veggies were obviously added to the broth when ordered. Next up the Pad Kee Mau with beef. This dish has fried/charred flat wide noodles, with lots of basil, chili, garlic, broccoli, bean sprouts, egg and beef. You have a choice of chicken, pork, beef or shrimp and for $1 more you can get the House Pad Kee Mau with all of the meats. I don't know what they do to the noodles but I'm hooked. The noodles are sweet and spicy. The noodles and the veggies have a caramelized crust, it's almost like they toss sugar in the hot pan right before serving. Ugh I just can't get enough of that stuff. Green curry with chicken was delicious. I love curry so very much - coconut milk, chili, chicken, bamboo shoots, zucchini, peas and carrots, with a perfect balance of sweet and spice. They made their curry with chicken thighs which ensures that the chicken will be tender and will soak up all of the curry goodness. You also get an order of steamed rice with the curry, which really is my favorite part, because I just throw the rice all over the curry broth and make some Thai coconut rice concoction. I found myself going back to the Pad Kee Mau though. Even as the waitress pulled the plate away I had to grab the last little noodles begging to be eaten.
    I actually feel really bad that they have such a terrible set-up. Their food is too good not to have better service and an actual area to eat in peace. When you decide to enjoy food from the Thai Place order ahead and take it to go. Eat it somewhere in private so when you start sweating and your nose starts running onto your food, you don't cause a scene and embarrass yourself. Also take a Thai tea to go or maybe two if you ordered your food extra spicy. If you must eat there I would suggest taking the table on the patio so at least you have space and a little more privacy. Thai Place is delicious and easy on the wallet, especially if you take advantage of the lunch special. Not the best service or seating but the food outshines that downfall. So bring your picnic basket, Kleenex, and a maybe a wet rag and take a trip to the San Bernardino Jungle for some dishes at the Thai Place.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Los Altos-San Bernardino

Los Altos
245 N. Waterman Ave. Suite B
San Bernardino
(909) 888-8487
Open everyday 8am-7:30pm

    I pull into the parking lot of a strip mall in a seedy area of downtown San Bernardino. A brightly colored suite glows against the plain white buildings nearby. I walk carefully looking behind after each step. As I enter Los Altos I breathe a sigh of relief as I am instantly greeted with what I love most about Mexico. Beautiful hand painted chairs and tabletops adorn this unique place. The tile is beautiful and clean, while vibrant orange walls showcase the wonderful things Los Altos has to offer. 
     To my left is a juice bar with a huge selection of agua frescas, freshly made juice, smoothies and some serious fruit cocktails. To my right is a glass display case with an array of delicious cooked meats including a smaller case with some larger chicharones. As I walk forward towards the counter to order I notice that behind the counter are bottled sodas and by bottled I mean glass, there's everything from classic Coke and Pepsi to delicious Mexican sodas like Senorial and traditional flavored Jarritos. They also have Arizona iced teas, Red Bull and Gatorade for the less adventurous. The menu is above the counter and is mostly in Spanish but I'm pretty sure burrito, taco and quesadilla are now considered English words.

       A very nice girl named Liliana was nothing short of helpful with a very sincere smile always on her face. We told her we wanted to order 10 tacos and started listing off some meats; carne asada, buches, cueritos. Now I'm sure most people don't know what cueritos are, myself included. However this place is so awesome that I asked her to explain it to me and she started by saying it was pig's skin then cut herself off and offered me a taste, to which i obviously accepted (maybe a little too excitedly), she walked around over to the meat counter and brought me back a little cup of the cueritos but I'll get back to those little morsels in a minute. 
     So we ordered tacos of asada, cueritos (pig skin), buches(pig esophagus/throat), fish, lengua (cow tongue), tripas (pork intestines), al pastor (pork in a red sauce with pineapple flavor), chorizo, chile verde and carnitas. We also ordered a taquitos plate that came with beans and rice and an asada sope. When buying drinks you can either choose the cold sodas behind the counter or order drinks from the juice bar. We ordered medium drinks from the juice bar. You pay at the counter then just bring your receipt over and choose your flavors. We decided on melon, tamarindo, jamaica and horchata. Now for those of you who don't speak Spanish or don't understand what the menu says don't hesitate to ask the staff for help. Every one of them speaks English and Spanish and were very patient while explaining things to me. I don't speak Spanish but I do speak food, which is apparently a universal language.
       Your receipt has a number which is then called out by cooks in the open kitchen behind the meat case. They call out the number in English and Spanish. Your food is served on Styrofoam plates and with plastic utensils, except for the Mexican shrimp cocktail which is served in a traditional cocktail glass. The tacos are served on two full sized corn tortillas not tiny taco stand tortillas and we ordered them with everything, which is red salsa, white onion and cilantro. The fish taco was served with a creamy coleslaw on top and the chile verde and lengua served with the green salsa. The sope was topped with refried beans, carne asada, lettuce, Mexican cream, and queso fresco. The taquitos were filled with shredded beef and topped with lettuce, sour cream and guacamole. They plated the tacos in order of the receipt and numbered the plates so that we knew exactly what was what.
Lengua, Al Pastor, Fish
 Asada, Cueritos, Buches and Asada sope
Chorizo, Chile Verde, Carnitas, Tripas
Shredded beef taquito plate
     Everything was amazing! Now that may seem vague, however, everything from the full size corn tortillas, the beans and rice, and the array of meats were delicious. All of the meat was cooked authentically and to perfection. The fish taco was a standout with a delicious light batter around fresh fish. The chile verde my personal favorite was fork tender and done without a single misstep. The carne asada tasted exactly how it should and was great. The chorizo bold and spicy had me wishing for more. Now I realize that tongues, throats and the like are not the most appealing at first, but the minute you taste it, you forget which animal part it came from and could really care less. The cueritos, what can I say,  I've only seen them pickled in a jar at the supermarket but the way they were prepared here was incredible. Soft and melt in your mouth, a flavor of fried pig skins mixed with salty bacon. I could have bought a pound of that stuff and eaten it on the drive home or maybe a snack for the movie theater. The taquitos were some of the best ever... crunchy shell that didn't lose all the meat with each bite. The beans were perfect and so was the rice, which is impressive because I hate almost all rice from any Mexican restaurant. I did wish that their al pastor was prepared on a spit and shaved off to order, which is how I prefer and I wish the carnitas were fried in smaller pieces so that I could fully enjoy their crunch. The red salsa was very, very, spicy but had a really great flavor and the green was less spicy but was just as tasty. The horchata was the best I have ever had. I order it whenever I see it on a menu. But this was beyond what I was hoping for, it had a velvety texture with cinnamon that was clearly grated fresh.
      I was so lucky to enjoy a meal fit for a king. Not only was this place clean, filled with friendly faces and downright delicious, it was also cheap. The tacos were $1.80, sopes $2.90 and drinks under $2. They also have a great selection of shrimp and fish dishes. An entire fried fish with rice and beans for only $6.90. Burritos the size of small children for less than $5. They have tacos, quesadillas, tortas, tostadas, burritos, sopes and combination plates. I would have paid 3 times what their prices are and still be a happy camper. This place is a hidden gem I almost want to keep to myself. It is comparable to some of the best taquerias and carnicerias in Tijuana but minus the fear of dirty water and inevitable kidnapping. Please visit this amazing place and remind people San Bernardino hides some pretty awesome things in its little neighborhoods.