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Saturday, January 29, 2011

House of Flour (Shanghai) - Tech Park Foods

The House of Flour eating entry is part of the Food Court by the Technology Park series of entries.  Bob and I have discovered we very much enjoy this place because they have the best croque madame and monsieur sandwiches.  That's right, a restaurant/cafe in Shanghai has the best French sandwich I've ever had.  It's likely because the sandwiches are smothered in cheese.  As our friend Jay would say, "They taste like childhood obesity."  And damn if it isn't delicious!


The restaurant cafe has a selection of sandwiches, pastas, salads and soups.  There's always a (fill in the blank) of the day.  This last time we went they had a broccoli and spinach soup, which I thought sounded pretty good so I started my meal with that.  It was good, and would have been even better with a little garlic and some pepper.  It just needed a little kick, but it was fine.


Bob ordered the croque madame sandwich, and I had the croque monsieur sandwich.  What's the difference you ask?  Well they both have ham and cheese, but the croque madame has a fried egg on top.  Now you're probably saying to yourself, "but that's just a grilled ham and cheese sandwich."  And you would be right except that there's little fried/melted cheese over the top of the sandwich as well which finishes the whole thing off and makes you want to eat the whole thing even though it's gigantic!  Every sandwich also comes with a small side salad with a tart vinaigrette dressing.  I eat the tomatoes out of the salad but my main focus is always the sandwich.

The place is more pricey than a regular lunch because of the "western" food.  It was about $15 USD for each of us to eat lunch, but let me tell you, when you want the best grilled ham and cheese, you go to The House of Flour.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Coco Curry, it'll rock your world....if you like curry, if you don't then there's something wrong with you.

Once upon a time in a mystical land there was a chain of restaurants that originated in Japan called.....Coco Ichibanya aka Coco Curry.  Japanese curry is not like Indian curry in the sense that the curry is really more about what you have in it, and on it, rather than Indian curry which has a variety of reds, yellows, greens and so on.  Japanese Curry, particularly Katsu Curry is delish.  And I'm lucky enough to have one in the basement of our local mall.


Jay, Staci and I visited Coco Curry just this last week and enjoyed a wonderful lunch and then a good shop at the Fabric Market.  When we arrive it was near the end of the crazy lunch rush, so we had to wait for a table, luckily the wait wasn't too long, maybe 5 minutes, and we got a nice big booth.   So the way it works is like this:

1- pick the amount of rice you would like with your curry.

2- pick the spiciness of your curry.

3- pick the toppings/extras for your curry.

I like the smallest portion of rice with the medium spice level (I've tried the hotter spice level but I think it detracts from the actual flavor of the curry.) with a breaded pork cutlet and mushrooms and cheese in the curry.  It's sooooo good, and very filling.  I never seem to finish my plate.  I can eat about 3/4ths of the dish and then I'm stuffed.  Sometimes the mushrooms are better than other times, but hey it's a fast food place, that's to be expected.

Jay likes the same combo I like except he gets a variety of vegetables instead of just the mushrooms.  And Staci went completely different and got a smaller portion of breaded pork cutlet with a potato croquette, and mixed veggies with out cheese.   The cheese is what really finishes the dish for me, but the potato croquette is pretty good.




From left to right: Jay's curry, my curry, Staci's curry.  And yes, I'm aware that my curry looks terrible.  I'd mixed it up before I remembered to take a picture.  Don't just it by how it looks, because it tastes delicious.




The service is fast and great, although a little "on you" in the sense that the waitstaff hovers about.  There is a huge selection of different things you can have in your curry ranging from all sorts of meat and vegetables to weird sea urchins.  They also have some fruity drinks, but I usually just get water.

For our three meals the total cost was about 120RMB, so around $20USD which is great for the amount of food you get and for three people.  Coco Curry isn't an everyday kind of place for lunch, but it's definitely a once a week stop, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has a chance to check it out.


Lunch at Kommune

I really love an area of Shanghai called Taikang Lu (Chinese: 泰康路) because it's like a little labyrinth full of tiny shops and cafes where you can just wander around and around for hours....not unlike what Staci and I did just the other day.  But this blog post is not about shopping, it's about eating.  We had lunch at Kommune, at place I've been to a number of times and I love no matter what I've ordered.  It's tucked back amongst jewelry shops, a silk scarf shop and another small cafe that I'm sorry to say I still haven't tried because when I think I'm going to try it I end up at Kommune again.

There's a wonderful outside seating area, that we weren't able to enjoy because of the snow, but none-the-less is still nice.  Inside it was full, but not packed.  We originally took at seat at the really high bar that's located right at the front of the restaurant but luckily were shortly moved to a small table.  Sitting at the bar isn't too bad, but the stools are really high, and not very comfortable.  The tables look like what I would imagine really old television dinner stands would have looked like had televisions been around during the Ming Dynasty. The walls are covered with old propaganda posters, and there's usually an old war movie being shown on the two televisions that are mounted in corners.


The food choice is what you'd expect from a small cafe, with a few small surprises.  They have daily specials that vary from fetticine alfredo to weird fish things.  We stuck with normal choices and were quite pleased.  I can't remember the name of my sandwich right now but it was good.  Not great, but good.  It was ham and gruyere cheese melted on rye bread with a spicy chili sauce.  It was a little tart, and I was expecting it to be sweeter, which is why I didn't think it was great.  But like I said, good.  All sandwiches come with a small side salad covered in a pesto dressing which is really delicious.  I wouldn't order the salad on it's own but it's a great compliment to the sandwiches.  I also ordered the pumpkin soup, not that I thought I'd be hungry (The sandwiches are an excellent size, so there's no need to worry you'll be hungry.) but I do love good pumpkin soup.  The soup is served in a coffee thermos with a little cup for you to pour your soup into as you eat it.  The soup was great!  It was like someone had pureed a pumpkin and delivered it directly to me.  I would have added a little chili pepper or just pepper in general, but it was really good as is.  Plus, how could I not like something served to me in a thermos?













Staci tried the veggie sandwich and didn't seem to have any complaints.  She too enjoyed the pesto dressing on the salad, it really is a nice touch.  And we both had Jasmine Tea to go with our meals.   Then of course being us, we need to have dessert so we split a slice of Apple Pie with real whipped cream and each had an iced Mocha.  The Mochas were served in mason jars which is really cute, and the apple pie slice was huge!  Definitely split a slice of pie, unless you haven't already eaten it's massive and will fill your entire stomach.  We devoured it.













Kommune isn't the cheapest of places to eat, but it's not too bad.  We had all that food for just under $40USD which isn't something I'd do all the time for lunch but is fun.  As we were getting our selves ready for our shopping time the cafe started handing out samples of other kinds of of course we had a couple bites.  The caprese was really good, I think it's the pesto that sells me on it, and I tried some of their fish from the fish and chips and it melted in my mouth.  I'll have to go back and actually try the fish and chips.

This is a fun place just to stop for a coffee as well because you can get a bowl, I'm not kidding an actual bowl, of coffee or mocha.  Like a cereal bowl big.  Craziness, but amazing.  Go there now.


Eat Fast/ Drink Cheap (Aka my write up for BigMacs and Merlot)

So Staci (aka @girljournalist) has started a blog called BigMacs and Merlot, in which she pairs fast food with cheap wine. Cheap being the price, not that it's bad wine, just very affordable wine.  While Staci was visiting Shanghai she thought it would be a good idea for all of us (Jay, Bob, Staci and me) to try out one of the fast food places and pick up some wine to go with it...and so we did.


The wine was purchased at a little store called "La Vie En Rose," in the little strip mall/food court area of our office in Shanghai.  They had a nice selection of wines ranging from 40RMB (about $8USD) in a small bottle to 650RMB (about $98USD).  Because it was lunch time and we didn't want to get wasted on wine and then go back to work we purchased two small bottles of a Chilean Pinot Noir, made in 2008 in Bio Bio Valley, by Porta.

The bottles were really cute and each bottle was 40RMB.   There's nothing classier than four Americans in a Chinese fast food restaurant in China, at lunch time, enjoying tiny bottles of wine with their lunch.  Classy.


Our fast food choice is a place that both Bob and Jay love.  I ate there once and thought I'd never go back because I thought it was less than satisfactory.  Anyway.....

We ate at Dong Fang Ji Bai, (in Chinese: 东方既白)(translated to English: East Dawning), which is a Chinese fast food chain owned by KFC.  They have a small variety of things ranging from breaded pork cutlets, to ramen, to curry dishes, and various other things.  Bob had the breaded pork cutlet with curry and I went with a noodle dish with shredded carrots, cucumber and other veggies in a tofu sauce of some sort.  We also had turnip cakes and pork dumplings.


I followed Staci's lead and opened the screw top bottle of tiny wine and took a whiff.  Smelled like wine, looked like wine, was likely wine.  The first sip was decent.  I'm not a wine expert by any means but I do know what I like and what I don't like. This wine was okay, I personally like things a little more fruity but this one was close enough to make me happy.  Unfortunately it did not pair well with my noodles dish.  The sauce for my dish had a lot of vinegar in it, and after I'd eaten some of the noodles the wine was really sour.  The turnip cakes were a better combo, although I think they actually dulled the flavor of the wine because they're so salty.  It seemed like I was drinking juice rather than wine because of the salt.  The pork dumplings were just bad, so there's no reason to even try to discuss their taste with the wine.  Don't order the pork dumplings, they're tasteless, bland and just blah.

Bob's review was: "I think that the curry overpowered the wine… it didn't really add anything but it didn't taste bad either."








Left to right: noodle dish, pork cutlet, turnip cup, and nasty pork dumplings don't get a photo because they were so bad.

I actually think the wine was pretty decent.  I would be willing to purchase it again and drink with even classier food, like Arby's.