Category Archives: Non-LA / US Restaurants

[Ketchikan, Alaska] George Inlet Lodge – Crab Feast

11728 South Tongass Highway

Ketchikan, AK



Trip Advisor page:  George Inlet Crab Feast

George Inlet official site:


I did a bit of research before the cruise to Alaska and this was the one excursion that all the travelers raved about.  Everyone claimed that this was the best crab that they had ever eaten, so I was curious to find out if it really was true.  We took Princess Cruises, and I think the crab feast is bundled with a few short excursions.  For the one that we took (the Rainforest walk with the crab feast), it was about $150 per person.  If you’re not visiting via cruise, reservations through George Inlet’s website are necessary.  Oh, and they do online orders for the crab, although it’s pretty pricey!


George Inlet is located right next to the water, very picturesque.  You will need to walk 70+ steps to get down to the restaurant.  Same goes for going back up.


The crab feast basically features ALL-You-CAN-EAT freshly caught and steamed Dungeness crab!    The meal also comes with salad and dessert (an awesome crust-less blueberry cheesecake).  All of the reviews were right — the crab is just so succulent and sweet, it is beyond compare!  The crab meat is full of crab flavor, and so tender.  The crab is served table-side, so just raise your hand for more and the waitresses will bring them right over.  The only downside to the crab feast as a cruise excursion is that you’re limited to about an hour of eating time.


I think there are also tours/excursions that take you out to the crab boats so that you see how they’re caught.  Will have to try that next time!  🙂

[San Diego, CA] Cafe 21

802 5th Ave
San Diego, CA 92101

between E St & F St in Gaslamp

(619) 795-0721


My friends and I were in San Diego recently, and wanted to find a relaxing but good place for dinner near downtown / Gaslamp district, as we needed to catch the Amtrak back to LA.  So we turned to Yelp for some guidance.  There are two Cafe 21 locations in San Diego, one in Gaslamp and one in University Heights.  Both are highly rated, so we decided to give the one in Gaslamp a try.  We cabbed there so not sure about the parking situation in Gaslamp.  As always, read all of the street signs!

There wasn’t much of a wait on a Sunday evening, but the restaurant was busy.  They also take reservations.  It’s a pretty chill place and there’s even a tapas happy hour — will have to try that next time.


It’s a fairly large restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating.


First time seeing fresh herbs grown by the bar.  Awesome!


There are 6 different sangrias made daily.  On the day that we went, 3 were white/light sangrias and 3 were the red/dark sangrias.  Some of the combinations sounded very interesting and creative, such as the kumquat mint, and the grapefruit/red pepper/ cilantro.


We decided to try the Flight so that we can sample all 6 of the daily sangrias, which came in a tower of shot glasses.  Since there was 3 of us, the server brought us 3 larger glasses with ice, so that we can add the sangrias to the iced glasses.  The best one was probably the tropical one as that was the sweetest of the 6, and it was meh.  The rest was just too dry/bitter for me.  I’m a little spoiled though – nothing beats the sangria in Spain for me!  $21 for a Flight.


Grilled Pear Salad – mixed Greens, butter grilled fresh pear, almond slivers, dehydrated cranberries, feta cheese, house Honey balsamic dressing.  This was light on the dressing but really good.  The pears were grilled perfectly to be caramelized on the outside, and naturally sweet.  $12


Cristo Crepe – free range house roasted chicken breast, handmade crepes, mozzarella cheese, house made white wine apricot puree, powdered sugar.  We thought the apricot puree would be an odd accompaniment for the crepes, but it actually was a good pairing.  The crepes are a little denser than what I’m used to, but it was an excellent side dish.  $8


Mixed Fries – gluten free rice flour breaded portobello mushroom slices, eggplant and avocado fries served with goat cheese aioli, chipotle aioli and avocado pesto.  Almost all of our dishes were served on the huge wooden boards… and portions are more than generous, as pictured here.  I didn’t really care for the sauces and thought that the fries stood well by themselves, as they are already lightly dusted with salt and pepper.  So good… could not stop eating them…  $12


Duck Wings – slow cooked braised duck wings slathered in spicy apple cider glaze.   We don’t usually see duck wings on a non-Asian or French menu so decided to give this one a try.  It was spicy indeed, but really tender.  Would be really good with some beer / Coke!  There were more wings than we expected, but we managed to finish them all  : )  $12


Azerbaijani Kabob Platter – Zhatar Seasoned Steak Kabob, Lamb Sausage Kufta, and House Marinated Chicken Skewers, served with Avocado Pesto Sauce, Beet Hummus, Black Eyed Pea Hummus and cous cous.  The meats were juicy and lightly seasoned.  The cous cous is the Mediterranean one, so it’s softer and has more of a rice consistency.  The beet hummus didn’t have much beet flavor, but overall the dish was solid. $27


This is definitely a place I’d come back again!  I’d avoid the sangrias next time and just stick with the food.

[Reno] Sushi Pier

1290 E Plumb Ln
Reno, NV 89502

(775) 825-6776


One of the things I look forward to most, whenever I’m in Reno, is eating at Sushi Pier.  For some reason, Reno has an abundance of all-you-can-eat sushi joints; they’re literally all over town!  I discovered this place a few years ago, from Yelp, and have visited a handful of times ever since.  Every time, food has been consistent and service has been really friendly.  It’s actually a very decent sushi joint.   I wish we had one in LA!!!

Sushi Pier is located about a stone’s throw away from the Reno/Tahoe Airport.  So it’s perfect for after a flight or before you get on one.  It’s located in the same plaza as Costco, which means there’s plenty of parking.  This year, Costco also started selling Sushi Pier gift certificates, $80 for $100 value I think, so it’s even a better value dining at Sushi Pier.  Not that it’s expensive to begin with:  lunch (with a limited menu but still AYCE) will set you back $17 and dinner is a very reasonable $23.  The prices that you see next to each menu item, is if you forgo the AYCE option and want to order a-la-carte or to-go.  I don’t think Sushi Pier takes reservations, so typical wait during weekend dinnertimes is 30 minutes to an hour.

My tip is to sit at the sushi bar – you are assigned to a sushi chef who will take care of your meal.  Service is faster, plus your orders will be made as you order.  So take your time, order a few nigiris or hand-rolls, decide on your next sushi orders, then eat some more!  I love it!  You can find the menu here, from the restaurant’s website.

Here are my sushi orders from a recent trip:

My sushi chef behind the counter of fresh fish.


The mussels appetizer – it was good but the sauce was a little too heavy for me.  The red drop is Sriracha sauce, so those of you who don’t do spicy, consider yourselves warned.


Salmon and maguro (tuna) nigiri


Squid, striped bass and seared tuna nigiri


Spider roll – yes, it’s included in the AYCE dinner menu


Customized salmon skin with octopus hand-roll.  Yummy!  If you’re nice to your sushi chef, they can basically make you whatever you’d like to order, as long as they have the ingredients.  Awesome!  Make sure to tip them well.


Topped it off with Happy Ending – tempura-fried banana with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  And yes, before you ask, dessert is also included as part of the AYCE menu.  The fried bananas were just ok, next time I’ll try a different dessert (if I still have room after all that sushi!)


[New Orleans] Cochon

930 Tchoupitoulas St
New Orleans, LA 70195
(504) 588-2123
I found Cochon on Yelp, due to its stellar reviews.  What really drew me in was the fried alligator.  I’ve never had alligator before, and thought this would be a good place as any to try it for the first time.  Cochon is just a few blocks down from Emerils but unlike Emerils, it’s not full of tourists.  But, do make a reservation, since the restaurant gets pretty packed.
The decor is all wood.  Very simple and clean.  I like!
The 1 page menu.  Lots of interesting dishes!
The restaurant has its own hot sauce
Started off with the wood fire oyster roast.  Somehow the oysters are just huge in New Orelans!  The sauce was tangy and spicy but was great with the oysters.  Delish!  $10
The crawfish étouffée.  Pretty mild flavor, definitely not what I was expecting, but good.  The ones I’ve had in LA are creamy versus this version from Cochon.  $12
The fried alligator with chili garlic aioli.  The presentation was really nice, but alligator tastes like tough pork and not much flavor.  Fail.  $10.
Braised pork cheeks with sauerkraut potato cakes, apple sauce and goat feta.  The pork cheeks were very tender and nicely flavored, and was balanced out by the potato cakes. Mmm…  $11.

[New Orleans] Mothers Restaurant

401 Poydras St
New Orleans, LA 70130

(504) 523-9656

One of my coworkers highly recommended this place, when he found out I was going to New Orleans.  He said that it was a really good place for cajun food like po-boys and gumbo.  Upon my arrival, the shuttle driver also claimed that Mother’s is a New Orleans institution, so I knew I had to stop by.
Mothers is on the corner of Poydras and Tchoupitoulas, just a few blocks from the French Quarter.  You can’t miss it – it’s a stand-alone brick building. They also serve breakfast!  Prepare to wait – normally there is a line out the door.
The statistics are pretty amazing!  The menu is enormous, ranging from lots of different po-boys, to Étouffée, to fried chicken, seafood platters, etc.

Diners style – daily specials and menu is up on the board.  Get in line to pay first, then take a seat.  After you take a seat, remember to hand your receipt to a waitress, so that they will bring you your order!  Otherwise, you’ll be waiting and waiting… and waiting…


Cup of the seafood gumbo comes with bread.  The seafood gumbo had oysters, shrimp, etc and really rich of shrimp head stock.  Yum!  $6.25


Fried chicken was also excellent – fresh fried to order! Juicy, crispy and not dry.  Just beware of the 30 minute wait for the chicken though!  Yes, it really does take 30 minutes… maybe they’re slaughtering the chicken as you order?  This is the 1/4 chicken, which comes with 2 sides (cabbage, turnip greens, fries, potato salad, grits with butter, or red beans & rice).  This is with the fries and greens and as you can see, the portions are pretty generous.  $11


[New Orleans] Restaurant August

301 Tchoupitoulas St
New Orleans, LA 70130

(504) 299-9777

I would say that this is the best meal I had in New Orleans… and probably the best lunch I’ve had in a while.  🙂
One rule of thumb for me, before I splurge on a fancy dinner, is to try out the restaurant’s lunch menu first.  Usually, a lot of high-end restaurants offer a prix fixe lunch specials, which you get to sample at a considerably lower price than the dinners.  When I started researching about New Orleans, Yelp highly recommended Restaurant August for its prix fixe lunch.  At only $20.12 (I think the price corresponds with the current year) which includes appetizer, entree and dessert, it really is a steal.  So that’s how I happened to stumble upon this gem.
Restaurant August has all of the components of a great restaurant – excellent service, great food, awesome food presentation and stately grandeur.  The waiter actually seats you (pulls your chair out and scoot it in), places the linen napkin on your lap and changes the silverware with each entree.  When you return to your seat from the restroom, they seat you again and place the napkin on your lap again. This is the first restaurant that I’ve been to, where the waiter is a different person from the food server.   And they’ll actually inquire about how you like the food.  So, without further ado, onto the food!
Compliments of the kitchen!  The restaurant started me off with a seafood custard, in eggshell, topped with caviar and truffle fry.  So delicious!
Fresh baked bread.  Soft and moist. Mmmm….
Iced tea, southern style – automatically comes with cream and sugar!  Nicely brewed with free refills  $2.95
I wasn’t sure about the portion on the prix fixe menu, so I ordered an additional appetizer, just in case.  Gnocchi with blue crab and black truffle.  The gnocchi is handmade, and pillowy-soft.  The flavors all blended well together. Great choice!  $18
Prix fixe appetizer:  strawberry salad tossed with aged balsamic and pistachio butter, with goat cheese croquette.  One of the more unusual salads I’ve had.  I must say, I never knew strawberries and pistachio butter could be such a wonderful combo.  Yum yum….
Prix fixe entrée:  crispy pork belly with pear and radish.  I was a bit worried when I saw this dish, since I thought it was going to taste very fatty.  Surprisingly, when I bit into the pork, I could only taste the crunchiness and the pork essence.  The middle layer was chewy and not squirting with fat.  I wonder how they cook it…
Prix fixe dessert:  “Affogato” – milk gelato with brownie bites and coffee cream. Mmmm….
Just when I thought the meal was over, the server brought me another compliments of the kitchen:  fresh-made peanut brittle and passion-fruit puree truffle.  So much thought goes into making the dining experience a great one!  🙂

[San Francisco] Hog Island Oyster Co

1 Ferry Bldg
Shop 11
San Francisco, CA 94111
Neighborhood: Embarcadero

Hog Island Oyster Co has locations in SF and Napa.  The oysters all come from its farm in Tomales Bay, about an hour north of SF.  For those of you willing to make the trek, the oyster farm is actually pretty fun, with its own picnic area right next to the bay. You can even buy oysters by the dozens and shuck your own oysters!  I think reservations are required for the picnic area.  When I went in July, there were so many families there – people bring huge ice chests filled with booze and marinated meats, and just sit around and barbeque the whole day!
The one in SF is less rustic than the farm, but easier to access.  It’s right inside the Ferry Building at the Embarcadero.  Go early since it’s a small place, lines queue up fast!  For faster service, sit at the bar and watch your oysters being shucked.
The place
The menu with fresh and baked oysters to choose from.  Order size for raw oysters is 1/2 dozen+.
Fresh bread is served!  Crusty and chewy, nom nom nom…
1/2 dozen kumamoto oysters – light & refreshing!  $18
1/2 dozen Hog Island Sweetwater oysters – plump & juicy with a smooth finish.  $15
My brother highly recommended the clam chowder, so we all got a bowl.  Each is made fresh when ordered.  The chowder is not thick like normal clam chowder, it’s more of a clam soup.  The clams are super fresh.  And all the juices is absorbed into soup, great to eat and to dip bread in.  YUM!  $14

[Hawaii] The original Roy’s Restaurant

6600 Kalanianaole Hwy
Honolulu, HI 96825
I’ve tried a few Roy’s but never visited the original, which was started in 1988 in Hawaii.  One of my Hawaiian friends told me that the original Roy’s offers exclusive Hawaii menu items.  And I wanted to see the birth place of the chain.  So on my way back from Hanauma Bay, I stopped by for dinner.  Reservations are recommended as the restaurant fills up fast.
As usual, the servers bring a dish of seasoned edamame once you’re seated
Appetizer:  escargot.  Baked in pesto sauce, the escargot was succulent and flavorful. Already de-shelled, so you don’t have to worry about plucking! $13
About 10 escargots per order.  Use the bread to soak up the garlicky pesto sauce.  Yum!
Appetizer #2:  sizzling ahi poke – cubed tuna mixed with onion and seaweed in a soy-based sauce.  Eat it before the tuna becomes fully cooked! $15

Appetizer #3: blackened ahi — not really what the name suggests, it’s more of a sashimi.  The ahi was really good, not so much with the sauce though.  $16
Confit mushroom salad — break open the egg in the middle and mix everything together!  $12
Selecting the dessert was a bit of a challenge since I love the famous souffle. However, since I was in Hawaii, I figured I’d try something native, Roy’s Milk and Cookies – milk shake with freshly baked white chocolate macadamia nut cookies.  The combination was great – I could’ve easily eaten half a dozen cookies just by themselves! $7.50

[Hawaii] Matsumoto’s Shaved Ice

66-087 Kamehameha Hwy
Haleiwa, HI 96712


I heard about Matsumoto’s from friends, before I even went to Hawaii.  They raved about the shaved ice, how it’s a must try.  So I made my friend stop by on our drive up to North Shore.  You can’t miss it – it’s the only store with a huge line out the front!  Supposedly there’s a Matsumoto’s truck at Diamond Head, but I didn’t see it when I went on my hike.


The line – don’t be daunted.  Even though it may seem long, it actually moves quite fast.  I guess shaved ice appeals to all ages!


The shaved ice menu – so many choices!  Try it with the ice cream.  The various flavored syrups blended with the vanilla ice cream is so good!  Get it with a holder for an extra $0.25 if you don’t want dripping syrupy water all over you. 🙂


Got the small tropical flavor with ice cream, which has lilikoi, guava and papaya flavored syrups.  So colorful and pretty!  Not to mention so refreshing and yummy on a hot day.


The store also sells various Hawaiian treats and souvenirs.  It’s a one-stop shop!


[Waikiki/Hawaii] Blue Water Shrimp & Fish Market

International Market Place Food Court
2330 Kalakaua Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815


I heard that the famous Giovanni garlic shrimp truck at North Shore is worth the long drive from Waikiki, but wasn’t sure if/when I was going to have time to go there.  Then, I met a few Chicago foodies who told me about Blue Water Shrimp & Fish Market in Waikiki, which is supposed to be even better than Giovanni.  Since it’s in Waikiki, off I went!  I will still have to try Giovannis the next time I’m in Hawaii, so that I can compare.


The signage – almost looks like a fish market!  Located inside the International Market Place Food Court.


The 1 page menu.  Prices are really reasonable for the amount of food you get.


The famous garlic shrimp – 6 pieces $7.95.  The presentation is so Hawaiian!  And yes, comes with rice, side salad and slice of pineapple.  The shrimp is really fresh!  I braved my shrimp allergies and tackled the plate but no allergies after the meal, so yay!  Should’ve ordered more pieces!  Nom nom nom…