Orthogonal Thought | Random musings from the creator of Cooking For Engineers and Lead Architect of Fanpop





New 3rd Edition Fearless Critic Austin Restaurant Guide Released!

Posted 4 May, 2010 at 10:35am by Michael Chu
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Hey, everyone out there who lives in Austin or plans on visiting or has friends and family out here - the latest edition of The Fearless Critic Austin Restaurant Guide has just been released and is available at bookstores as well as online at Amazon.com. I spent the last year with the 2nd edition in my car and used it extensively while Tina and I tried out new restaurants. Our experience with the 2nd edition is that the Fearless Critic doesn't pull any punches. If the place is a local favorite but the food is mediocre, the review says so. Everything is rated on an absolute scale unaltered by nostalgia or "just wanting to be nice" (unfortunately, a problem that exists with the restaurant reviews I find in the newspapers here in Austin - how can Get Sum Dim Sum be great dimsum???). Occasionally, our opinions will differ from those of the Fearless Critic, but those slight deviations come down to personal taste. We're always in the same ballpark, so I thought 2nd edition was a great reference to have.
The Fearless Critic Austin Restaurant Guide, 3rd Edition
This new edition covers 75 additional restaurants and updates the reviews of pretty much all the restaurants previously included (unfortunately, some restaurants got worse over time) for a total of over 500 restaurants. I'm proud to say that Tina and I contributed somewhat to this edition by being one of the "local critics" that provided reviews and input into which restaurants were good (personal favorites this last year were Ryu of Japan and Zoot) and which were bad (worst experience was Romeo's - a very popular and supposedly "romantic" restaurant that was just the worst food we've had in Austin and more cheesy than romantic. If you read my review and then the 3rd edition Fearless Critic review, you'll see where my input went).

If you want to have a great restaurant guide that tells you the plain truth about Austin restaurants, then $11 (on Amazon; $16 at the bookstore unless it's on sale) is a small price to pay to make your restaurant dining choices a little better. Click here for the 3rd Edition Fearless Critic Austin Restaurant Guide on Amazon.com.

What I Ate: December 15, 2009

Posted 15 December, 2009 at 10:17pm by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Dining, What I Ate) 3 comments

Dinner: Tina and I prepared Chinese hot pot with an assortment of fish balls, beef balls, fried fish cakes, enoki mushrooms, napa cabbage, shrimp, and tofu.
Hot Pot
Adding shrimp to hot pot

Lunch: We finished off the clam chowder in another couple of bread bowls.
Clam Chowder in a Bread Bowl

What I Ate: November 20, 2009 (McDonald's, Which Wich)

Posted 21 November, 2009 at 2:03am by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Dining, What I Ate) No comments

Moved my computers from the old hoouse to the new, so I don't have internet access. Will post pictures when internet is up.

Lunch at McDonald's. Big Mac, Filet-o-Fish and five Chicken McNuggets.
McDonald’s - Big Mac, Filet-o-Fish, Chicken McNuggets

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What I Ate: November 20, 2009 (McDonald's, Which Wich)

What I Ate: September 14, 2009 (Driskill Grill)

Posted 14 September, 2009 at 11:44pm by Michael Chu

Dinner: Tina and I headed over to The Driskill Grill (604 Brazos St, Austin, TX‎ - (512) 391-7162) for their Austin Restaurant Week dinner. The dinner was fantastic and at a price of $35 per person, this was a great way to get a sample of what The Driskill Grill does well. Tina and I shared a demi bottle of Vietti Cascinetta Moscato d'Asti 2008 with our meal. Amuse bouches arrived (three of them!): Seared rabbit loin with strawberry-blackberry relish, lemon-basil sorbet, and caramelized onion puff pastry.
The Driskill Grill - Amuse Bouches

Seared rabbit loin with strawberry-blackberry relish - Remarkably tender, but a little disconcertingly so. The rabbit loin almost tasted like ham in both texture and taste. I wonder if it was brined a bit too long resulting in the texture change. Still, it was very good paired with the bright flavors of the strawberry relish.
The Driskill Grill - Seared rabbit loin with strawberry-blackberry relish

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What I Ate: September 14, 2009 (Driskill Grill)

Revival Celebration at MacArthur Park, Palo Alto

Posted 17 September, 2008 at 11:54pm by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Dining, Food) No comments

Tonight Tina and I dined at a celebration dinner at MacArthur Park Restaurant in Palo Alto, California. This restaurant, opened in 1982, is actually the second MacArthur Park (the first was in San Francisco, opened nine years earlier, slowly declined over the years and closed last year under the faltering Spectrum Restaurant Group). When Spectrum opened the restaurant in Palo Alto, they selected a historic building right across the street from Stanford University (in fact they lease the land from Stanford) designed by Julia Morgan and built in 1918. During the last few years, Spectrum has been in Chapter 11 twice and has been selling off many of their properties. Four months ago, two of the men who helped originally open MacArthur Park Palo Alto (Chuck Frank, an early Spectrum executive, and Faz Poursohi, the first chef at MacArthur Park) bought the restaurant back for a reported $500,000. The started renovating and changing the restaurant back into what their vision was without closing for a single day (pretty impressive).

The party was held in their pleasant patio area in the back of the restaurant. We tasted a variety of food available at the restaurant: smoked salmon, sturgeon, a smoked whitefish, potato skins, onion strings, breaded and fried tomato slices, grilled hanger steak, baby back ribs, bacon, blue cheese and iceberg salad, grilled prawns (huge), corn on the cob, and roasted peppers stuffed with cheeses. All of the food was good and tasty, but not exceptional. But then, this isn't the type of restaurant that you go to in order to open up to new tastes and flavors. From the sampling I had, the food is just fine for the price point of the restaurant (entrees from $15 to $25 with steaks up to $38 [for a pound of T-bone]) and the building and ambiance is quite pleasant. I'm especially interested in returning to the restaurant because the dining room is well lit, which means potential for nice photographs.

MacArthur Park Restaurant, Palo Alto

MacArthur Park (Google Maps)
27 University Avenue
Palo Alto, CA 94301
(650) 321-9990
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Revival Celebration at MacArthur Park, Palo Alto

Dining: Manora's Thai Cuisine

Posted 10 August, 2008 at 1:09am by Michael Chu

A couple weeks ago I had to head back up to San Francisco to do some work in our data center. After I was done, I took my wife to a Thai restaurant that Dave Lu introduced me to: Manora's Thai Cuisine. The food there is excellent AND reasonably priced (around $10 a dish).

Manora's Thai Cuisine (Google Maps)
1600 Folsom St
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 861-6224

Por-Pia-Sod (rice paper rolls stuffed with crab, shrimp, pork sausage, pork, cucumber and mushroom, topped with sweet and sour tamarind sauce). Highly Recommended.
Manora's Thai Cuisine - Por Pia Sod
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Dining: Manora's Thai Cuisine

Just Ate

Posted 18 July, 2008 at 9:35pm by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Dining) No comments

So, Tina and I are in San Francisco celebrating our anniversary. I took her to Jai Yun and we had one of the best meals (if not the best - right now we think it's the best but I'll wait a few days before deciding). One thing it lacked was dessert and both of us had a craving for rice pudding. So on the walk back from Chinatown to Union Square (where our hotel is) we stopped at an E&O Trading Company.

They had a rice pudding with lemongrass, coconut milk, and a strawberry basil sauce. We decided to stay and ordered it. Unfortunately, the rice pudding was subpar - very mild, bland, and barely sweet. We couldn't even taste a hint of lemongrass. Oh well. With this experience and our previous dinner (six years ago) that was entirely unmemorable (except for the corn fritters), what resulted was a new rule - never eat at E&O Trading Company.

B44 (San Francisco)

Posted 29 June, 2008 at 7:20pm by Michael Chu

It's funny how sometimes the best things to eat are the simple things. I haven't been to this restaurant in a couple years, so I thought I'd stop in. B44 is a restaurant specializing in Spanish (Catalan) cuisine and is situated on Belden Place among several other western European places to eat. After my last visit, I'd recommend the Catalan toast and ox tails appetizer. From memory their paellas are quite good, but for us last night it was the basic appetizers that hit the spot. Unfortunately, I didn't have a camera on me, so no pictures - just descriptions.

B44 (Google Maps)
44 Belden Place
San Francisco, CA 94104
(415) 986-6287

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B44 (San Francisco)

The Free McDonald's Southern Style Chicken Sandwich (& Sweet Tea)

Posted 15 May, 2008 at 4:06pm by Michael Chu

On Sunday, Tina and I saw that McDonald's had a new sandwich - the Southern Style Chicken. The photograph made it look like a spicy (we mistook the pickle to be a jalapeno) version of the McChicken, so we passed on it and picked up some Chicken McNuggets. Yesterday, while watching television I thought I saw (or rather heard, since I was working on the computer) a commercial for the new sandwich announcing that on May 15th you could try the sandwich for free. So, I went to McDonald's for lunch today.
McDonald's - Southern Style Chicken Sandwich and Sweet Tea

After confirming that the sandwich was free, I ordered one as well as a 32 oz. Sweet Tea for $1 that I saw a big sign for outside. I haven't had their sweet tea yet, so I thought it would be fitting to try it with the Southern Style Sandwich. This was fortunate since you only get the sandwich for free if you buy a large beverage. So, $1.08 (8 cents of tax) netted me a sandwich and beverage.

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The Free McDonald's Southern Style Chicken Sandwich (& Sweet Tea)

Uchi in Austin, Texas

Posted 17 April, 2008 at 8:57pm by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Dining, What I Ate) 2 comments

I just had the most amazing meal in my life. No kidding. And it wasn't in San Francisco or New York, it was in Austin, Texas. The restaurant: Uchi; The executive chef: Tyson Cole; The food: mind blowing. I'll be writing up a piece on Cooking For Engineers (but I'm in Austin right now and only have a laptop for use as an image dump and internet access - so I'll work on it when I get back to California) but for now here's a couple pictures as teasers.

Uchi - Hirame Usuzukuri

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Uchi in Austin, Texas