Sunday, December 09, 2007

Chinabloggin' - Shanghai - 6-26-07

Arrival in Shanghai Pudong Airport at around 5:30 PM, local time. On the bus and out by 8PM local. Extremely tired. We have our first introduction to our tour guide, Emma, and a nighttime guided tour of Shanghai's freeways by night.

Shanghai, it seems, is organized in to 3 concentric rings. The poorest areas, populated by factory workers and other blue collar types are in outer shanghai. The innermost downtown section is also the richest and most exclusive. A river bisects Shanghai as well, further dividing it into the east side and West side.

Our first meal here is at the Yuan Guang Hotel, and as it is a late night refueling, we are served a smattering of local dim sum. I am struck by the calibre of the restaurants here, and that there is a waiter at our beck and call, waiting silently in a corner for whatever we may need. I forget to take pictures of the food, as I'm way too tired.

After a brief emergency turnaround (Mom left her bag in the restaurant), we arrive at our hotel and I get my first taste of China's 5-star accomodations. Small, yet comfortable modern beds, and sitdown toilets -- not what I was expecting, given everyone's hype and hoopla about going places and having to squat their way to excretory victory. I'm so tired, I'm asleep in minutes and sleep through Dad's snoring. I do shower, however, and shave. The air conditioning is exquisite after being in the muggy summer heat.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Chinablogging, Part 1

Currently writing this from my hotel room in Beijing, where they've graciously provided free internet access. It's 10:15 Beijing time, wrapping up day three of my 12-day tour of Shanghai, Beijing, Guilin, and Xian. Lots of stuff to write about. And the food! :)

Friday, June 08, 2007


One of the sad realities of living in San Francisco is that the cost of your average lunch is almost always in double digit territory. You can find places that will deliver a solid meal for under $10, but they're usually burrito joints, pizza places, or cheap/ghetto Chinese restaurants. The restaurant that serves a high quality non-burrito, non-pizza, non-Chinese lunch for under ten dollars is something of a rarity these days. A place that does this well without cutting corners is a rare gem.

This is my story about a neighborhood market-slash-deli with a French name, stocked with British and Austrian chocolates, and specializing in Middle Eastern wraps. I went to Le Petit Marchet for lunch yesterday, and this is definitely going on my shortlist of must-eat places in the city.

LPM occupies a stretch of Polk Street that is dominated by shops, bars, and other eateries. Across the street is the scandal-ridden Quickly pearl milk teahouse, the East Coast West Delicatessen, and a sit-down Moroccan place/hookah bar. Hahn's Hibachi is right next door, but the real gem, hidden in plain sight, is the shawerma advertised on their bright yellow awning in flowing cursive script, tucked away in a glorious mess of primary colors.


Had the Lamb shawerma (spicy). Slices of lamb served on crisp, thin lavash roll, wrapped with fresh hummus, baba ganoush, tabouli and salata. The spicy version includes a dash of red sauce as well. Flavours were well balanced, and the lamb was not very gamey - balanced flavours, not too spicy, but just enough to perk up the meat a little bit. What really got me was the way they toasted the shawerma -- the lavash roll skin came out perfectly crisp and light.

Team it up with either a fountain drink or a Mango Lassi from the refrigerated section, and you've got a great meal for less than $10.

There are two small 2-seaters tables outside in the covered sidewalk area, as well as four 2-seaters inside the store itself. Push together for small groups, or take it to go.

FACILITIES/CLEANLINESS: This market is absolutely pristine. I'd have no qualms taking anyone here, germaphobes included.

(Review Crossposted on

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Real Life Conversations #2

My friend J (not J from RLC #1) was in a serious car accident several years back. For years, he has been visiting dentists, orthodontists, and oral surgeons to rebuild his mouth and smile. Earlier this year, he got his braces off and got some implants to replace some of his missing anterior teeth. This is me and him, talking about it earlier today:

Me: one last question
J: sure
Me: how did the implants go?
J: they went well
Me: look good"?
J: i am certifiably sexy fine
Me: awesome
J: if the sexy if gone from some place let me know
J: cuz i bring the sexy back
J: wherever i go
J: hahah
J: i smile a lot more
J: much more confortably
J: self confidence is definitely up there
J: amazing what a nice smile will do
J: i love taking pictures
J: haha -- it's like i just got a boob job
J: except i'm a guy

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Real-Life Conversations #1

Further proof that dental school has taken over our lives:

I think
J: over-dating is overrated
J: for me
J: like practicing for a practical too much
J: bc after awhile
J: you just remember all the mistakes you made on the previous teeth
J: and keep expecting to make them again
J: when all one really needs to do
J: is approach each new tooth as just htat...a new tooth
J: how's that for an analogy?
Me: oh my god.
Me: I must publish it to my blog. NOW.

Things I've Learned in Dental School #1

  1. CityCarShare is convenient, but I don’t drive enough to make it worth my while.

  2. Owning a Moleskine notebook doesn’t mean that you’ll actually use it.

  3. The urinals in the men’s room on the clinic floor are disturbingly tall.  I haven’t had to pee tiptoed since I was 6 years old.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

How to Find a Good Sushi Restaurant

I can't take credit for this post. My older brother found this on Sushi Otaku's blog, which is pretty self explanatory: How to Find a Good Sushi Restaurant.

One thing I didn't know from before:

The tamago (egg) nigiri is a bellwether of things to come.
I asked my brother about this, and he agreed. "When Charlie Trotter first started out in Chicago," he explained, "he was interviewing for some position with another chef. The guy said to him, 'Let's see if you can cook. Make me an omelette.' So apparently the egg is really hard to get right." The humble egg, it seems, is a prime indicator of a sushi chef's skill in both Japanese and French cuisine, just like stir-fried beef is for Cantonese cooking, and Kung Pao Chicken for any Chinese restaurant claiming a Szechuan/Hunan heritage.

Ume-maki ... what's the point? Nearly every sushi aficionado always talked about the fish, the fish, and the fish. If you're going to pay $4 for two pieces of nigiri, you'd better believe I'm going for the hamachi tuna. According to one of the comments of this blog, the Japanese plum is taken as a sort of traditional dessert, or wrap-up to a meal. I'll have to try it one of these days, after polishing off a whole fish.

There are some follow-up comments posted by some dude called 'Brian' (no relation to me) in the aforementioned blog that I simply don't agree with, one in particular:

A Japanese itamae is indicative of a good sushi restaurant. I think i'll have to call upon all my first order logic skills to dispatch this one. **ahem** The presence of a Japanese itamae is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for a good sushi restaurant. I've had terrible sushi served to me by itamaes of all races, shapes, and sizes. And I've had great sushi made by non-japanese chefs. Perhaps this is less of an issue with other cuisines, I don't know. To paraphrase Anthony Bourdain, chances are, that awesome 3-star risotto you're eating has been prepared by some anonymous Salvadorean laborer hunkering over a hot stove in a 98-degree kitchen.

At any rate, I'll have more on sushi in the next few days. I'm down in LA again, and that means I'll try to make a stop at my favorite place in Orange County: Sushi Wasabe.

Although, I might have to stop at Uoko sometime, based on this review.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Wherein FBS attempts to avoid Southwest Airlines bum-rush, fails

Finals ended a week ago. I'm flying home to LA at 9AM on June 17th.

I usually fly Southwest Airlines whenever I fly home. If it weren't for a lingering stash of in-flight drink coupons and my feeble attempt to get one last free flight with my Southwest Airlines Credit Card, I'd be flying Jetblue all the time, every time. Southwest Airlines treats you like cattle, gives you peanuts for the inflight meal, and provides no real in-flight entertainment. I can only read so much Skymall and Spirit Magazine before I want to gouge my eyes out and vomit all over my shoes. The biggest issue I have with Southwest, though, is that the first-come-first-serve seating system ends up being a total zoo.

Anyone who has ever flown with Southwest knows that passengers are separated into three boarding groups (A, B, and C), and that there is no assigned seating. The A-group has traditionally been populated by go-getters, people with their shit together, and very lucky bastards. They get first dibs on seats, get to stash their luggage anywhere they want, and pretty much don't have to worry about anything.

The B group is the moderate-stress group. You want to be first in line in the B-group so the net effect is that you still get first dibs on seats. If you're in the middle of the pack or towards the end of B-group, you're searching for a dwindling supply of acceptable open seats. You get a bit more choice too: do you sit next to the hottie on aisle 9A, or next to Mrs. Trunchbull in 14B?

C-group boarders are pretty much hosed. Choices are limited: do you sit next to the hottie on aisle 9A, or next to Mrs. Trunchbull in 14B? Well, sorry buddy, you get neither. You get to enjoy the presence of screaming baby #29 near the front of the plane. Oh, and I'm sorry sir, but there's no more overhead space and we'll have to check in your luggage below. But that's full of martini glasses and fine china. Tough luck, big shot. Beggars can't be choosers.

Here's my little secret though: I usually log in at the stroke of midnight to print out my boarding pass the night before (technically the day of). I've been doing this for years now, and I've always been in boarding group A. Let me tell you, it makes the whole day so much better. You don't need to worry about rushing to the airport early to get to the front of the B-line because you're guaranted to be one of the first 40 or so people to choose seats. You can stash your luggage wherever you like. However, it has recently come to my attention that I'll have to switch my choice of carrier soon.

Get this:

It's 12:01 A.M. I log into my Southwest Airlines online reservation system, fill out a few web forms, and click on "show and print my boarding pass." Half a second later, it shows up on my screen.

I'm in boarding group B.

What the hell just happened here? Do you know what this means?

That means in the space of one minute, forty people -- possibly more -- managed to log into Southwest Airlines' website, check in, and print out their boarding passes before I did. How many people know about this trick? And how long before I log in the same time, do everything right, and still get slotted into boarding group C?

So, it seems that if I want to keep ahead of the curve, I should start flying Jetblue from now on. I will be landing at a closer airport (Long Beach), get a bag of actual snack food (chips and pretzels), watch TV, enjoy fresh airplane scent (aka newer planes), AND have guaranteed assigned seating. I can even change my seating choices at the airport.

But tell me this: what the hell am I going to do with $24 worth of Southwest drink coupons?