Monday, January 21, 2019

Ocean's Palace

It's been a long while since I've been to Ocean's Palace. 
Not any particular reasons besides parking can get aggressive there.
Random pics of food: here's the crab ball... It's best to ask the server or the cart person to cut it in half, easy to share.
Custard cream bun, I should've gotten the red bean (azuki) bun.
Turnip cake, lots of people look down on it, but it was pretty good.  You can put in Chinese sausage, or just soy sauce.  This one is plain, but fried it very nicely.
Egg tart - not the best one I've tasted.  The shell was good, but the custard wasn't much.
This is something unique, Truffle Xiao Long Bao (port soup dumpling).  You can actually see the slices of truffles inside.  It's full of flavor and it's funny that they put the baos in the individual tins, so the soup will stay in.  This is a special order.
BBQ Pork Cheung Fun, this is something I grew up with, so I'd like to think I'm somewhat of an expert.  However, the noodles is not sold enough, as soon as you put the chopsticks in it, it all fell apart.  Taste was so -so as well.
Then we have tea leaf wrapped rice.
I love that it's stickie inside and has Chinese sausage.  Some has chicken bits in there.  Overall, a yummy dish.  One order came with 2, so it's easy to share.  One of the better dish here.

Overall, it's been many years since I've been here.  As a matter of fact, the last time I was here at Ocean's, I had to go upstairs to the grand hall for dim sum.  Now that they renovated, it does look more posh.  Gone are the days of the counter.  They have push carts, but they are not very good at making the rounds to all tables.  There was a larger party than ours, they had 3 full tables, and they ended up having their server bring a lot of the dishes.  On top of that the dishes wasn't as flavorful as I'd remember them being from 'way-back'.  The service, however, was great.  Our server was very thoughtful, though towards the end of our meal, she got more tables and was harder to track her down.  Otherwise, she was pretty diligent about making sure we have enough water and our ordered dishes get there.

For dim sum, small party coming here is fine.  When you have a large party, they won't seat you unless more than half of your party arrives.  And no, they don't take reservation, so if you have a large party, go early.  I think 10:30a or 11a for dim sum (aka Chinese brunch) is reasonable.

Ocean's Palace
11215 Bellaire Blvd
Houston, TX 77072
281-888-8888

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Cafe at the Play Space

For some down time, we drove out to Clearlake to let the little guy take out some energy.
There's a new place called the Play Space.  Naturally, by NASA, they played up the space theme.
Indoor playgrounds doesn't have to be all about the kids.  they can cater to the grown-ups too.

Here comes their cafe.  They have chips and quest, pretzel, hummus, tator tots.  Pizza by the slice or whole, house salad, cheeseburger, chicken tenders, chicken sandwich, and BLT.  Not all choices are bad here.

For kids, they have cheeseburger, chicken tenders, mini corn dogs, quesadilla, grilled cheese for $5 entree.  Sides for $2 they have tator tots, apple sauce, fruit cup, chips and salsa and yogurt pouch.  Dessert, they have ice cream sandwich, ice cream, candies.  For drinks they have the spiffy coke machine that are new and high tech with lots of variety.
Piece la resistance: they sell beer and wine.  Of course, do not get in the car with the littles after you have a drink.  Always get a DD especially if you have any kids with you.  But, in case you really can't stand the running around, screaming and bright lights, you can get an adult beverage and make the day more tolerable.  
We got slices of pizza, which is $3 each.  They immediate cook it there, since they have the rolling ovens on site.  And a drink.  Of course, they have candy galore for the kids, and also a popcorn machine in case you just need something to tie you over.

All that aside, they have lots of seating for grown-ups, some benches, some leather seats.  By the Cafe, there's also big screen TVs, not on kids channels, so you can catch up on your game, while your kid run around.  Beside the cafe, they have arcade games and you can get tickets for prizes.  They are really cheap so $10 goes a long way.  

Besides the kids area, they have a toddler area, and a baby area, in case their sibling is off playing and they're stuck.  Those areas are in the space amid all the space tunnels, so you can still keep an eye on the older kid if need be.

My favorite part of the place: right outside of the restroom area, they have sinks for hand washing and Lord knows, these places, you need to wash your hands constantly. They also have decent size party room, some can be partition off into smaller room, but you still get enough quiet to sing birthday songs and visit with your guests.

My tip, everyone should wear socks here.  They have ample shoe cubbies, so no worries there.  If not, for adults, they do have shoe covers.  Also, sign the waiver online before arrival.  It'll get your pay/check-in process, faster.

The Play Space
1020 W. NASA Pkwy
Ste 224
Webster, TX 77598

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Sweet Cup

Searching for an ice cream spot in the Montrose area...
Vaguely remembered a gelato place next to Woodbar and Canopy.

They also have sorbet, in case you're wondering.

Decent pricing on the expresso, coffee and tea.

They can also do float and frappe too.
Lots of gelato for your choosing.
Look at the cute touch they have, an added waffle to cut the sweets or cold.
I got an Affogato with Bacio gelato.  So, adffogato, I did not know, means to suffocate.  So I guess that makes sense to suffocate your ice cream.  To me, that's just a neat idea that your coffee is melting your ice cream.  And it just added cream portion of the drink into the mix.  It just makes it delightful.  

That said, their espresso is pretty powerful, true bitter to boot, so pick a flavor that offsets the espresso would be a good mix.

Sweet Cup
3939 Montrose Blvd
Suite L
Houston, TX 77006
713-942-2226
https://www.sweetcupgelato.com/welcome

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Niu Jiao Jian

Since it turns chilly, hot pot is exactly what is needed.
Heard some hub bub about the Bear Hot Pot, so of course, I MUST go check it out!
What to put in the hot pot: (L) fish balls (2 types of fish), squid ball, meat ball which makes a meatball combo.  Then, we added vermicelli. 
Got some sliced tofu which are good for soaking up the soup.  I love Enoki mushroom, it's like noodles to itself too.
Here's the piece la resistance: the Spicy Bear.  As you can see, it has chili paste, chili pepper, and more hot stuff.  If you've been following me, you'd know I don't do spicy and nor do I handle it well, but... here we go!
First, bear has to go to the onsen and take a bath... Ahhh.... the soup base itself is not spicy as they pour it in.
Sadly, bear face planted.... and now floating... It is really a frozen chili soup in a bear shape, it can take it!
While that's doing its thing, I went to explore.  They have a bar full of mixin's...
You have your sauces and spices...
Pickled veggies and more sauces...
Some appetizer, such as egg roll and sesame balls and...
shrimp chips.  By the way, one of our friend dipped it in the soup, it does not bout well when it is dipped in the soup to cook.  Just FYI.
We've added flank steak.
Woodear mushroom, which is way more watery than I'd like them to be.
We also added on: lotus (which should be treated like a potato when trying to cook it, meaning it takes longer time to cook), catfish, and beef tripe.  The fish was thinly sliced, so you can really cook it quickly.  The tripe however does take a long time to cook it well.  Just a heads up.

We went on a Sunday afternoon, so it wasn't as busy as a lot of people have experienced.  That said, as usual, when it's cold out, people tend to crave hot pot, so time your visit accordingly.

In case you're wondering, they are not in the same shopping center as Cafe 101 or Jungle's cafe.  Nor do they have a pass thru, they are their own shopping center.  They were formerly Arirang Korean restaurant, and they have ample parking in front.  That said, I see that new shops are on their way, so that may change as they're open, but for now, parking is good.

Niu Jiao Jian
9715 Bellaire Blvd

Monday, January 14, 2019

Caracol

Went back to Caracol for happy hour/dinner with coworkers.
Last time I was here was during HRW, so it's nice to come for dinner too.
Of course, the wood-roasted oysters are a MUST!  The cheese, the chipotle butter = YUM!
Got a little chips and salsa to start.  Also added a ceviche.
This is Ceviche de Coco, which has snapper with a hint of lime, coconut shred, bits of pineapple, tangerine, onion, cilantro all mix together.  Super fresh, not too sweet as you'd think from the fruit involved.  Surprisingly refreshing. 
In keeping of the seafood theme, my coworker was talking bout the bass in banana leaf.  I was intrigued.  As it arrives, really banana leaf style, which is very similar to Malay style food.  However, it's sauce very much resemble the Thai curry sauce on top of the bass.  Turns out to be mole amarillo (yellow mole' sauce), which to me, taste a hint of spice and a hint of curry with the mole base.  It has bits of cauliflower and mushroom. Overall, the bass is light and the sauce matches it perfectly, not too heavy but in sync.

After eating all of that, can't even fit in dessert.  Though, they all looked great.  We sat outside because it was nice, and if you're cold they can bring the heater out.  For weekday dinner, they weren't as busy as I'd thought they'd be.  Happy Hour was going in full force, but the dinner wasn't very hectic, which translates to excellent service.  That said, you should still make a reservation when you go, because you'd never know.

For parking, you can either valet or self park.  The garage entrance is literally right at the split for you to choose between valet or self park.  You pull a ticket and when you're done dining, give your ticket to the host/hostess and they will swap a validated one for you.  I believe they are good for 2 hours.  

Caracol
2200 Post Oak Blvd
Ste 160
Houston, TX 77056
713-622-9996
http://www.caracol.net  

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Blkdog Coffee

Next door to Ishi UdonOhn Korean Eatery is Blkdog Coffee.
Also created by restauranteur, Mike Tran, the creator of the other eatery in this shopping center.
They really made this place cozy and comfortable.  It is great for group gathering as well as get a cup of drink and read a book.  It's no wonder that there are so many Instagram posts of the space. 
Got a cup of tea on a rainy day.
They have an extensive list of coffee, tea, frappe.  I got the Golden Honey Dew tea, it smells wonderful.  It is so nice that it really put you in a good mood in a dampen day.

They do offer minimal of food, such as flatbread, whole range of fries (shoestring, curly, cringe, waffle, or tots), Karaage (crispy chicken nuggets), takoyaki.  They also have sweet stuff like affogato, beignet and ice cream.  Since I just had lunch next door at Ishin, decided to just enjoy a cup of tea.  But will definitely coming back for food next round.

Blkdog Coffee
9630 Corporate Dr
A13-B
Houston, TX 77036
713-239-0412
http://www.blkdogcoffee.com

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Ishin Udon

I had read about the newest venture by restauranteur, Mike Tran.
Naturally, they are all congregated on Clarewood Drive in Chinatown.  Like Mein, Ohn Korean Eatery, Thai Night Market, Boba & Cream, Blkdog Coffee, and now Ishin Udon. 
Ishin, in Japanese means one heart.  This is all focused on Udon and some small side Japanese dishes.
I love their taste in art and details.  This space is definitely smaller than Ohn or Mein, but still just as good.
Dishes came quickly too, all looked great!
Agedashi Tofu - we were just saying that these are warm on the outside and not scolding hot on the inside, like a lot of the places.
Then, we ordered the Takoyaki.  I would say compared to Ramen Bar Ichi, theirs has more flavors but proportionately, they also have more batter than meat in comparison.
I got the Sukiyaki Udon.  It comes with beef, pouched egg, mushroom, onion and of course udon.  The soup is sukiyaki based, so it has a bit of sweetness to it.  The whole dish taste pretty great.  Service is superb even though they get busy quick.  They were accommodating about our seating and get our food to us fast.  Not much more you can ask for.

Ishi Udon
9630 Clarewood Dr
Ste A15-B
Houston, TX 77036