Review: Pakwan

Atmosphere: 4/5   ♦   Service: 3/5   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value: 4/5
Times Visited:  Once   ♦   Will I Return?:  Yes Indeed
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Pakwan has been sitting at the bottom of the hill for some time now.  By the “bottom of the hill” I refer to the Hayward hills, housing Cal State East Bay (formerly, and better known as Cal State Hayward), and, incidentally, my house.  We refer to pretty much everything in Hayward as being “down the hill”, mostly because just about everything is.  The Hayward location of Pakwan is just near the base of Carlos Bee on Mission Boulevard (other locations in SF and Fremont), and that facility used to house a variety of mediocre Chinese restaurants over the years…. 

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Review: Top Thai

Atmosphere: 4/5   ♦   Service: 5/5   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value: 4/5
Times Visited:  Once   ♦   Will I Return?:  Yep
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I honestly don’t know of too many Thai places in the Hayward/Castro Valley area, so when my dad took us to Top Thai on Castro Valley Boulevard, I was intrigued.  There may indeed be many Thai places around, I just don’t know about them.  I’ve been to one place on Foothill in Hayward years ago, but I can’t really even think up the location of any others.  But no matter, Top Thai certainly fills the void.

TT is in a tiny, unassuming, single story building across from the ridiculously huge and sort-of-awful Rite Aid at the eastern end of CVB in Castro Valley.  I probably would have never noticed it, and even if I did, it doesn’t look terribly enticing from the outside.  One step inside the doors, however, and the scenery is transformed.  … 

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Review: Otaez

Atmosphere: 4/5   ♦   Service: 3/5   ♦   Food Quality: 3/5   ♦   Value: 4/5
Times Visited:  Once   ♦   Will I Return?:  Not for the brunch
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Otaez is a Mexican restaurant (with full bar, as noted on their site) with two locations: Oakland and Alameda.  My family had Sunday brunch at the Alameda location a couple weeks ago and had a decent experience.  Because we only had brunch, however, I’m not qualified to comment on the diversity of their menu or the speediness of their standard service, since we only received minimal buffet-style waitress visits.  Therefore, I write only of the Otaez brunch buffet.

Mexican brunch buffet is all the rage in my little life at the moment.  Never have I had so many Mexican Sunday brunches as I have in the last couple months (note: I’ve only had about four).  See my El Torito review for further notes on this fact.  Because El Torito is actually the only other restaurant where I have experienced the Mex brunch buffet, it’s hard not to compare one to the other.  And if I had to choose, I’d choose El Torito…. 

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Review: Ghion Ethiopian Restaurant

Update: This restaurant is now closed.

Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 3/5   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value: 5/5
Times Visited:  Once   ♦   Will I Return?:  Yes, please
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Yes, Ethiopian food.  I think I made the same jokes before I tried it too.  Many people haven’t had Ethiopian food, and to them I often describe it as plops of mushy stuff with spices, sort of like Indian food, served on a giant flat pancake shaped piece of sourdough spongy bread.  Oh and by the way, you tear off pieces of the bread and scoop up the food with it to eat.  No forks.  So fun.

If you’ve never tried Ethiopian and you’re not a food prude, I’d highly recommend it.  It’s one of my favorites and was a weekly endeavor when we lived in Australia.  The food is delicious, the way you eat it is fun, and the whole thing is a different experience for us westerners.

The exterior of Ghion may be a bit forbidding, but don’t let it stop you from going in!

I’ve been eating Ethiopian food only for about the last two years, and have in that time tried probably a dozen different places (mostly in Melbourne, Australia).  In my experience, most Ethiopian restaurants are the same in a very odd way.  And because Ghion fit the bill, I was both amused and impressed.  The very best Ethiopian places are dead empty when you arrive.  There is often no music playing, and no one in the facility, possibly not even a waiter. There may be a group of Ethiopian gentlemen speaking (assumingly) Ethiopian and not paying you a bit of mind.  The dining area may be scantily decorated with an appropriately African theme.

The seating area in Ghion restaurant.

When you receive the menus, it is likely that pages are missing from most of them.  I could hardly believe that we found yet another Ethiopian place where this is the case, but we did.  It’s ok though, you can assemble the information between the few of you who have arrived together to assist in understanding the full menu selection.  The waiter/owner/cook is friendly but has a heavy accent. Sometimes there are language communication difficulties, but he is polite and courteous so it’s not uncomfortable.

It doesn’t really matter anyway, because whatever comes out of the kitchen will be good; no matter if you ordered it or not.  Your only concern is to make sure you receive vegetarian food if you ordered that, and that part of the order never seems to get lost.

Our food plate at Ghion.

Up until this point, I have been describing Ghion and many other places I’ve been.  I should now discuss the food at Ghion, which was excellent.  The vegetarian combo we ordered (x2 to feed four people) was a standard combo that we’ve seen elsewhere also.  The brown lintel mush, the yellow cabbage and potato pile, the green lintel stuff, the stuff that appeared to be spinach but may have been another green, and the yellow goo that I’m not sure what it was.  De-lic-ious, even though I’m clearly not aware of the technical names or ingredients.  We also ordered an appetizer of some sort of cheese, which was also placed on the big plate (white, crumbly), and boyfriend’s favorite dish of tomato-soup-consistency goo that was really, really good.

Food plate close-up. Yum!!

All of this with a generous side of wheat injera to scoop it with, and we were stuffed in no time.  One of the other great things about Ethiopian food is that it’s typically pretty cheap.  $42 covered all four of us including two beers, and we were certainly full to the brim.  If you like Ethiopian, head down to Ghion to get your next fix, or, if you’ve never tried it, I’d say Ghion wouldn’t be a bad place to start.

Note:  Wait a minute, Angie, aren’t you in Japan right now?  How are you patronizing restaurants in the Bay when you’re far far away?  Touche, fair reader, good catch.  I did not come to Japan fully unprepared – I have a few drafts waiting in the wings of this blog so as not to drop the ball while I’m away!  Haha!  Would I starve you of food posts while I travel the globe?  Surely not.  Keep your eyes peeled, I will be posting again!