Monday, June 30, 2014

What the Transformers Movies Need

I just saw the new Transformers: Age of Extinction.  While it has its problems (I won't go into it, plenty of other people on the internet will), it left me disappointed yet again.

There's pretty much only one thing I want to see in a Transformers movie ...  transforming.  You should see a car transform into a robot.  Then see the robot transform back into a car.

Don't show a car, then pan away, then pan back and it's a robot.  The magic of a Transformers movie is seeing the transforming in action.

Don't have robots running around for an hour shooting at each other, have them transforming while they fight.  Hey, that robot needs to get the top of the building.  Sure would be nice if it could transform into something that could fly up there.

Without transforming it's a robot movie.  Robots fighting.  Robots shooting guns.  It's not Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, it's Robots: Revenge of the Fallen.

Robots: Dark Side of the Moon.

Robots: Age of Extinction.

The majority of the end of the last three films has been a giant robot fight.  Very little to no transforming done, just a lot of robots shooting guns at each other.

Oh and I forgot, what's worse than the robots shooting at each other?  When a bunch of robot spaceships shoot at each other.  Not because the autobots or decepticons can't fly ... or transform into something that can fly.

Oh you want to know what also stinks.  When they transform without even transforming.  When they change into a billion tiny little particles and morph into whatever they want.  In other words, avoiding transforming.

Here's an example in the first Transformers film that's wonderful.

First Bumblebee is a car, then he converts into a robot.

Then he fights Barricade.

After the fight, he becomes a car again.

It's wonderful!  This is what Transformers is all about.  And this entire scene is 4 minutes long.

Here's some more

First Brawl is fighting as a tank.  The autobots start as cars, transform into robots to fight.  Brawl converts into robot to fight as well.  It's wonderful!

Here's some scenes with Starscream from the first movie.

This is great, he goes from plane to robot.  Then robot to plane.  He even does it a lot while fighting the other planes.  It's probably the best scene in the entire movie.

So in conclusion, please show transformations.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Best Xiao Long Bao in the San Francisco Bay Area

In the last few months I've gone on a lot of adventuring to the find the best Xiao Long Bao (also known as Shanghai Dumplings or Soup Dumplings) in the San Francisco Bay Area.

This began after reading a blog post that listed someone's top 6 choices.  To my surprise, he listed Shanghai Dumpling King (my previous #1 ranked place) #6 overall.  I was in shock.

So I hit up every place on this fellow's list, a few more I recall, and a few more from random places listed online, and here's my list.
  1. Shanghai Dumpling Shop, Millbrae
  2. Dumpling Kitchen, San Francisco
  3. Shanghai Dumpling King, San Francisco
  4. Shanghai Restaurant, Cupertino
  5. Bamboo Garden, Mountain View
  6. Xiao Long Bao Kitchen, South San Francisco
  7. Shanghai Garden, San Jose
  8. Koi Palace, Dublin
  9. Yank Sing, San Francisco
  10. Kingdom of Dumplings, San Francisco
  11. Su Hong, Palo Alto
  12. Cooking Papa, Foster City
  13. Hung's Kitchen, San Ramon
  14. House of Dumplings, Union City 
Admittedly, I could have easily swapped Dumpling Kitchen and Shanghai Dumpling King with #2 and #3, but I think they were both clearly in the top 3 and Shanghai Dumpling Shop was the clear #1.

I will say, Shanghai Restaurant at #4 could rank higher on this list depending on your personal taste.  The soup is a slightly different flavor compared to the rest.  It rated #2 on the fellow's blog up above and I can see why.  It's very good.

After that it's really a bunch of "good but not elite", so the ordering could be flipped around some.  I didn't take very careful notes like the original blog poster.

I couldn't hit up the Koi Palace in Daly City, don't know if it'd be the same quality as the one in Dublin.

Xiao Long Bao Kitchen has a fun extra large Xiao Long Bao to try if you're up for it.  It's about 3X the size of an average one.

Update December 2014:

As a side note, one of the best xiao long bao's I've ever had was in Benu in San Francisco (see this post).  I don't list it in the above b/c the xiao long bao was part of their tasting menu ... and you only get two :-(  If this was served a la carte ... I dunno, it could be #1.  It's hard to say b/c it's not like I can go back easily and try again to judge against the other places.

Update May 2016:

Din Tai Fung is now in Nothern California.  See review here.

Michelin vs Zagat vs Gayot vs Forbes Stars vs AAA Diamonds

I've been doing a lot of restaurant and foodie reading of late, and became curious at the different review guides and how they rate restaurants. They all have different criteria, likes, dislikes, and quite frankly every reviewer will have different tastes.  For example, Michelin is sometimes criticized for having too much of a preference towards French cuisine.

I was curious, so I looked up the ratings of each of the restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area given a 2014 Michelin star and compared them to the other guides.

It should be noted that each guide has different regions/restaurants that they cover, so lack of a star/review from one doesn't necessarily mean it didn't deserve a rating. Likewise, a lack of a rating could also be due to the restaurant being relatively new and the reviewers just haven't gotten to it yet.

For those who don't know, the ratings have a range of

Michelin - 1 star to 3 stars
Zagat - score out of 30
Gayot - score out of 20
Forbes - three categories of ratings, "5 star", "4 star", or "Recommended"
AAA - 1 to 5 diamonds

I should note that AAA only lists 4 & 5 diamond restaurants online, so lack of a rating may mean AAA reviewed it < 4 diamonds.

Restaurant Michelin Zagat Gayot Forbes AAA
The French Laundry *** 28 19 5 Star *****
The Restaurant at Meadowood *** 27 18 5 Star *****
Atelier Crenn ** 27 15
Baumé ** 26 16
Benu ** 27 16 *****
Coi ** 27 17 ****
Manresa ** 27 17 5 Star ****
Quince ** 26 16 4 Star ****
Saison ** 27 18 ****
Acquerello * 28 15 ****
All Spice * 26 14
Ame * 26 14 4 Star ****
Auberge du Soleil * 27 17 4 Star
Aziza * 26 15
Bouchon * 26 15
Boulevard * 27 16 ****
Campton Place * 26 15 4 Star ****
Chez TJ * 23
Commis * 27
Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant * 27 16 ****
Gary Danko * 29 17 *****
Keiko à Nob Hill * 27
La Folie * 27 16 4 Star ****
La Toque * 27 16 ****
Luce * 21 15
Madera * 23 15 4 Star
Madrona Manor * 27 15 ****
Michael Mina * 27 16 4 Star ****
Plumed Horse * 25 16 ****
Solbar * 26 15
Sons & Daughters * 14
SPQR * 25 14
Spruce * 26 16 4 Star ****
State Bird Provisions * 26 14
Terra * 27 16
Terrapin Creek * 27 14 4 Star
The Village Pub * 25 16 4 Star ****
Wakuriya * 28

Some interesting points pop up when you look at this table.

The very upper echelon of these ratings, 3 stars for Michelin, >= 28 for Zagat, >= 17 for Gayot, 5 Star for Forbes, and 5 diamonds for AAA are relatively consistent.  There are a few oddities.

For example, the highest rated restaurant in the San Francisco Bay Area by Zagat is Gary Danko with a score of 29, however it received only 1 Michelin star.  Their rating surpassed even The French Laundry and The Restaurant at Meadowood on Zagat's guide.  Several other restaurants such as Wakuriya, Acquerello, and several others got scores of 28, surpassing the Restaurant at Meadowood and all of the other 2 Star Michelin restaurants.  Zagat also gave relatively low scores to Chez TJ, Madera, and Luce.  For some reason, they didn't even review Sons & Daughters.

Gary Danko is the most interesting restaurant on this list.  In addition to it having the highest score from Zagat, it also received 5 diamonds from AAA.  However, it didn't even get a recommendation from Forbes.  Gary Danko's has been around long enough (according to their website, atleast since 1999) that it can't be the case that Forbes hasn't gotten to it yet.

Although it can't be seen from this table, Zagat appears to be far less picky than Michelin.  Zagat lists 6 additional restaurants with a grade of 28 that Michelin didn't give a star and a whopping 37 restaurants with a grade of 27 that Michelin didn't give a star.

So that's 38 restaurants that got a Michelin star vs 62 that Zagat gave a grade of 27 and up (they gave only 10 restaurants a 28 and up).

Gayot and AAA on the other hand appeared to be about as picky as Michelin.  At the 16 level and up, Gayot only lists 8 additional restaurants that Michelin did not give a star.  AAA lists only 13 that Michelin didn't give a star.  That gives Gayot a total of 27 restaurants graded at 16 and up and AAA gave 33 restaurants a 4 diamond and up.

The Forbes listing on the other hand is the most interesting as it appears to be the most picky.  It lists only TWO other restaurants that Michelin didn't give a star.  That's a total of only 15 restaurants to receive a grade from Forbes.  They amazingly didn't even recommend five of the 2 Star Michelin restaurants (four of which got 27 from Zagat and 2 got >= 17 from Gayot).

So I was naturally curious, for these non-Michelin starred restaurants that the other guides loved, were there any restaurants they all really seemed to like?  Here's an additional table with the non-Michelin starred restaurants with 16 and up from Gayot, 4 diamond and up from AAA, ranked by Forbes, and rated 28 and higher by Zagat.  There are so many restaurants at the grade 27 from Zagat I decided not to list them.

Restaurant Zagat Gayot Forbes AAA
Sara Sushi Bar 28
Kappou Gomi 28
Cafe Gibraltar 28 15
Kiss Seafood 28
Kokkari Estiatorio 28 15
Evvia 28 13
Chez Panisse 27 16
Commonwealth 26 16
Delfina 26 16
One Market 24 16
231 Ellsworth* 23 16
Le Papillon 27 16
Redd 27 16
Sante 25 16 ****
Meritage 23 4 Star
Parallel 37 24 15 4 Star ****
Alexander's Steakhouse 26 14 ****
Quattro Restaurant & Bar 22 14 ****
Navio 24 ****
Dry Creek Kitchen 24 14 ****
The Duck Club Restaurant* 22 14 ****
Etoile 26 15 ****
Murray Circle 23 ****
Big 4 Restaurant 24 ****
Fifth Floor* 24 15 ****
Fleur De Lys* 27 15 ****
Jardiniere 26 15 ****

[* - Closed as of this writing ]

From this table we're able to see a few interesting things.

Zagat appears to have much different grading criteria than the others as none of the other grade 28 restaurants got a Forbes or AAA rating and Gayot didn't even bother to review three of them.  Gayot didn't give any of them higher than a 15 grade and Gayot gave Evvia a relatively poor grade of 13.

Gayot's grades seem to be similar to that of Zagat, although 231 Ellsworth got a relatively poor grade of 23 from Zagat.

As picky as Forbes seems to be, the Meritage didn't do too well against the others.  It had a relatively poor 23 from Zagat and didn't even bother to get reviewed by Gayot.

AAA's grading criteria seems to be much different than the others, as only three of the thirteen got a grade of 26 and up from Zagat and only one got a grade of 16 and up from Gayot.  Four of the restaurants even got a grade of 14.

Only one restaurant was at least graded on all four lists, Parallel 37.  Based on this, it's probably worth checking out.

An interesting note is that a number of the restaurants listed here used to have Michelin stars (Alexander's Steakhouse, Chez Panisse, One Market, Redd, Murray Circle, etoile, Sante, Fleur De Lys, Parallel 37**).  So it could be that they just missed the cut for Michelin again.

** - Parallel 37 is the renamed restaurant at the Ritz Carlton, which did formerly have a Michelin star.

Editorial Note: Michelin and Zagat review restaurants in the "San Francisco Bay Area", which is a region they define of their own accord.  Gayot's regions are smaller, so I combined the San Francisco, San Jose, and Napa regions in this writeup.  Forbes lists restaurants by state and AAA lists by city, so I had to judge a bit what "San Francisco Bay Area" meant.  The most borderline locale were restaurants in the Half Moon Bay region, which I decided to include as part of the "San Francisco Bay Area".  I did not include restaurants that were part of the Monterey region, Carmel region, Sacramento region, or anything beyond Tracy/Modesto in the central valley.

Update: See new post of comparison of Michelin vs SF Chronicle vs Yelp
Update: See new post of comparison of Michelin Bib Gourmand vs SF Chronicle vs Yelp

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Science of Alinea's Dessert

Sometime ago I learned about the restaurant Alinea in Chicago.  It's a 3 star Michelin restaurant and regularly considered one of the best restaurants in the world.

On YouTube, their famed dessert gets some attention in foodie videos.  The restaurant puts a number of sauces, sweets, and berries on your table in a pretty design and then drops/smashes a confection in the middle for you to eat.

Here's an example of the craziness:

Sometimes a chocolate ball is smashed instead of the frozen chocolate mousse.

After watching these videos, I began to wonder ... how come all those sauces don't just run off the table or become some sloppy mess?

In addition, how to the sauces form different shapes, like circles and squares?

I figured some of the differences were due to the viscosity of the liquid, perhaps due to a gelatin or something similar being added.

But how did some of the liquids become squares?  If anything, they should always be circles.

I found the answer on this blog, "Behind the scenes of Alinea’s “table-plated” dessert course"

The genius is in the table cloth.  The table cloth is constructed with a number of miniature square indentations in a grid format.  Depending on the viscosity of the liquid, it forms different shapes against this table cloth.  The indentations also presumably limit the sauces from running away on the table.

I found this absolutely amazing and a brilliant way to use a bit of science to plate/deliver your food in a more unique way.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Dinner @ Alexander's Steakhouse in Cupertino, CA + What is Kobe/Wagyu Beef?

I recently went to Alexander's Steakhouse.  It's a formerly 1 star Michelin steakhouse in Cupertino, CA.  It was amongst the best meals I've ever had.  Here's an overview of the meal.

1) Amuse-Bouche

I couldn't recall what kind of fish it was, but this was quite tasty.

2) hamachi shot - truffled ponzu / fresno chili / avocado / ginger / wasabi greens

For appetizers we had their semi-famous hamachi shots and a salmon ceviche that was excellent (no pic of the salmon ceviche).

3) passion fruit sorbet

After the appetizers, we got a this palette cleanser.  It was delicious.

Then onto the main course.  We ordered several sides along with the main course.

4) uni fried rice - pork belly / ginger / shiitake mushrooms / quail egg / uni

This was delicious.

5) risotto w/ truffles

I'm not a big fan of truffles, so I didn't like the risotto that much.  So take my review of the risotto with a grain of salt.

6) Hyogo, Kobe Japan A5 wagyu steak with lobster risotto

For the entree, I had their Hyogo, Kobe Japan A5 wagyu steak. 

Holy crap!  I've never had steak that soft and buttery before.  It tasted incredible and unlike any steak I've ever had before.  As you can see in the picture, it was cooked perfectly medium-rare.  I assume it was sous-vided.

7) cotton candy

Alexander's Steakhouse always gives out complimentary cotton candy at the end of the meal, although I forget the flavor they had this particular day. 

The highlight of the meal was unquestionably the Kobe beef.  I had tasted Kobe beef before at Craftsteak in Las Vegas several years ago, but it didn't taste like this.  Obviously the steak could have been cooked differently or it could have been a different cut, but I didn't expect a difference this large.

So I began researching why it tasted so different when I came upon this article:

Food's Biggest Scam: The Great Kobe Beef Lie

The article goes into way more detail, but in a very general case the issue is the legal definitions of "Kobe beef" or "Wagyu beef".  Much like the "natural" did not mean much on products until the FDA defined it, "Kobe" or "Wagyu" does not have a legal definition.  So when you are buying "Kobe beef" are you buying beef from Kobe Japan?  What about when you buy "Wagyu"?

The answer is it depends. According to wikipedia's Wagyu page, some non-Japanese breeds of cattle (such as Angus) have been crossbreed with Japanese cattle to produce beef with "Kobe beef" or "Wagyu beef" qualities.  Is this what you're getting when you order "Kobe beef" or "Wagyu beef"?  Who knows.

Looking at Craftsteak's menu today, I see that they now list both Japanese Wagyu and Domestic Wagyu.  I would bet that the "Domestic Wagyu" is the crossbred beef described in the wikipedia page and likely what I had several years back, thus the large taste differential.  This isn't to suggest that Craftsteak lied about what they were serving me, the definitions and terms were far hazier back then.

So how do you know the kind of beef you're getting at the restaurant?  It's probably best to ask for details and evaluate based on the reputation of the restaurant.

That said, I'm hoping to try the Tajima F1 steak from Australia next time, to see how the crossbreed steak tastes as a comparison.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Tony Gwynn - The No Strikeout King

It was announced today that Tony Gwynn passed away.

I don't think I need to reiterate all the amazing things he did in his Hall of Fame career as most other articles online will already do that.  However, a short summary of his accomplishments include 8 NL batting titles, a career .338 batting average, 3141 career hits, and 15 All Star appearances.

What astonishes me more than anything else about his career is the number of times he struck out.  Compared to today's modern hitters Tony Gwynn just simply refused to strike out.

In 10,232 plate appearances over 20 seasons, Gwynn struck out a total of 434 times.

As a comparison, Mark Reynolds struck out 434 times in just two seasons from 2009-2010.  Adam Dunn struck out 411 times from 2012-2013.

Gwynn never struck out more than 40 times in a season.  He only struck out over 30 times only 5 times total.  He struck out fewer than 20 times on five separate full season occasions (not counting the strike shortened 1994 season).  In 1995, when Tony Gwynn won another NL batting title by hitting .368, he struck out an almost inconceivable 15 times total.

How does compare to today's better hitters?  Here are recent batting title champions that are likely on their way to the Hall of Fame and the their best strikeout seasons in which they qualified for a batting title.

Joe Mauer - 2005 - 50 strikeouts
Ichiro Suzuki - 2001 - 53 strikeouts
Miguel Cabrera - 2011 - 89 strikeouts
Albert Pujols - 2006, 50 strikeouts
Chipper Jones - 2008, 61 strikeouts

None of them can even crack the 50 strikeout barrier.

How rare is this low strikeout ability now?  Since 2000 only the following players have struck out less than 30 times in a season while qualifying for a batting title.

2005 - Placido Polanco, 25 strikeouts
2004 - A.J. Pierzynski, 27 strikeouts
2002 - Jason Kendall, 29 strikeouts
2001 - Juan Pierre, 29 strikeouts
2000 - Mark Grace, 28 strikeouts

And how many players have struck out less than 20 times?  Zero.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Moving from Spark 0.9.1 to Spark 1.0.0

I recently had to support Spark 1.0.0 in a project (Magpie).

The conversion from Spark 0.9.1 to Spark 1.0.0 was a bit annoying, as many changes had happened.

Here are a list of changes that I thought were worth mentioning.  Hope what I say here can help others.

1) Running examples differences

In Spark 0.9.1, you would run one of the Spark examples (such as SparkPi) like this:

> bin/run-example org.apache.spark.examples.SparkPi spark://SPARKMASTER:7077 
In Spark 1.0.0, running examples through run-example requires the Spark master to be specified through the MASTER environment variable and not on the command line.  So for Spark 1.0.0, you'll want to do something like this instead:

> export MASTER="spark://SPARKMASTER:7077"
> bin/run-example org.apache.spark.examples.SparkPi

otherwise you'll get a bad input error/exception.

If you don't set the MASTER environment variable, run-example will assume you want to run the example locally.

Note that setting the MASTER environment variable is specific to the run-example script.  It won't pick up the default value from the new spark-defaults.conf file.

2) spark-submit script

The spark-submit is a new wrapper script for submitting Spark jobs.  Although you can still use spark-class directly, this is the primary job submission script. It has the following usage:

> bin/spark-submit --class JOBCLASSTORUN [spark-submit options] APPLICATIONJAR [application args]
Note that the job jar is now passed in on the command line, unlike before with spark-class.

There's all sorts of new options in spark-submit.  Here are some options of note taken from the --help output:

  --master MASTER_URL         spark://host:port, mesos://host:port, yarn, or local.
  --class CLASS_NAME          Your application's main class (for Java / Scala apps).
  --jars JARS                 Comma-separated list of local jars to include on the driver
                              and executor classpaths.
  --properties-file FILE      Path to a file from which to load extra properties. If not
                              specified, this will look for conf/spark-defaults.conf.
  --driver-memory MEM         Memory for driver (e.g. 1000M, 2G) (Default: 512M).
  --driver-java-options       Extra Java options to pass to the driver.
  --driver-library-path       Extra library path entries to pass to the driver.
  --driver-class-path         Extra class path entries to pass to the driver. Note that
                              jars added with --jars are automatically included in the

But you probably won't end up using these, you'll more likely use ...

3) spark-defaults.conf

Previously, options were configured through SPARK_JAVA_OPTS, but that is now deprecated. Everything should now be done through the spark-defaults.conf file. It is read and loaded from spark-submit when you submit a job. By default it is read in conf/spark-defaults.conf but that can be altered using the --properties-file option. In addition, settings through SPARK_CLASSPATH or SPARK_LIBRARY_PATH should now be set through spark-defaults.conf as well.

Here are several options for spark-defaults.conf of particular note, with the full list in the Spark documentation.

spark.master                     set Spark master, e.g. spark://SPARKMASTER:7077
spark.executor.memory            set executor memory, e.g. 1024m, see more below
spark.executor.extraClassPath    what used to be set by SPARK_CLASSPATH
spark.executor.extraLibraryPath  what used to be set by SPARK_LIBRARY_PATH 

4) deprecated SPARK_MEM environment variable

The SPARK_MEM environment variable has been deprecated and replaced by two new configurations so users can configure the Spark executors and driver memory separately..

The SPARK_DRIVER_MEMORY environment will set memory for your Spark driver.  This could also be handled via the --driver-memory option in spark-submit.

The memory for Spark executors is now handled by the spark.executor.memory option in spark-defaults.conf.  Documentation indicates the environment variable SPARK_EXECUTOR_MEMORY will also work, but I didn't try that.

5) deprecated spark.local.dir

The configuration option spark.local.dir is now apparently deprecated in favor of the SPARK_LOCAL_DIRS environment variable.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Kitchit Review

Recently we hired a chef from for a friend's birthday party.  I thought I'd write about our experience.

If you're not familiar with Kitchit, in simple words it's a rent-a-chef service.  The chef comes to your house, cooks, and cleans up.  The website has a ton of chefs, ranging from local caterers looking for extra business, to sous chefs at nice restaurants (presumably trying to make extra scratch), to executive chefs providing high end experiences.  You can hire someone to cook for a dinner, a small party, or elaborate feasts.  Some chefs also provide cooking lessons, which I think would be fun for a lot of people.

What I was most impressed about was the resumes of many of the chefs on the website.  I found chefs who have worked in some of the most famous restaurants in America, including Per Se, The French Laundry, and Alinea.  I also found folks who had worked at internationally known places such as Noma and The Fat Duck.  I also found chefs working at some of the Michelin rated restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area that I know of (Michael Mina, Manresa, Quince, etc.).  Some chefs had worked with reasonably famous chefs such as Gordon Ramsey and Ron Siegel (the latter chef was the chef who beat Sakai on Iron Chef).

The menus chefs offer can range anywhere from $40 to over $200 a person.  Personally, I think the sweet spot is probably something in $125-$150 range per person.  If you're going to shell out more money than that, you might as well just go to the Michelin starred restaurants instead.

It's probably worth noting that while there is no minimum party size for many chefs, it appears many chefs have a minimum price they charge.  So it may get more expensive as your party size decreases more and more.  In addition, as your party size increases, some chefs will require additional servers/help and there can be small bumps in the price.  There can also be extra travelling costs depending on where you live.

There are many unique menus for vegetarian, vegan, or any diet.  Some serve the food restaurant style plating each course on a different plate.  Some serve the food family style.  Although I did not do this, most chefs can tweak and adjust the menu for your event if there are dietary restrictions or allergies.  Most can provide wine parings (presumably for extra, but we didn't ask).

Once you've found a chef you like, try and book em for a date with a few simple clicks.  A few days before the event they should call to coordinate final details.

While each chef is slightly different, the basic principle is the chef will bring all the ingredients and cooking apparatuses necessary to cook.  This includes pots, pans, and knives.  As the host, you are generally required to provide everything else for the meal including glassware, flatware, and utensils.  If you find yourself short on any requirements, a party rental store in your area should be more than able to supply your party with them at a very low price.  I live in the East Bay and used Pleasanton Rentals (  The chef will probably finalize these details with you before the event.

We hired a chef who does a "Michelin" style meal for $150 a person (before the extra server cost).  It was a 9 course tasting.  The food was excellent and it was a lot of fun trying all the dishes.  Several people at the party had never had a 7-10 course meal so it was a lot of fun for them to try all the different tastings and see what that kind of dining experience is like.

I was a little worried that the quality of the food wouldn't be that good.  After all, as good as a chef may be, there's only so much they can do in an average home kitchen.  They can only bring so many cooking devices and will not have ovens, stoves, etc. that are restaurant quality.  Anything related to smoking will probably be out of the question.  Baking can take hours so its unlikely to be done.  I suppose something could be sous vide cooked before hand, but I'm not sure what an average Kitchit chef will have available to them outside of a restaurant.

However, I wasn't disappointed.  What I had not taken into account is that the chefs will tune their dishes so that the dishes can be accomplished in an average kitchen.  I believe the chef we hired did happen to sous vide some food before arriving, only finishing it with pan frying at the house.  Other dishes can be prepped ahead of time, like terrines and cold-desserts. 

Here's a sample of some of the courses we had

Salmon, octopus, avocado

lobster terrine

pork belly, chile, salad

sirloin, croquet

While the food was really good, I think one of the funnest appeals of Kitchit is watching the chef do their magic.  A bunch of us are foodies, so watching the chef prepare the food is half the fun and something you often can't get at a restaurant.  The chef was also able to tell us some of his tales of working as a chef and other clients he's had too.  That was just as much fun as the food we ate.

Although I've only used Kitchit once, the experience was wonderful.  I can imagine hiring chefs from Kitchit for many other birthdays and events in the future.

Update 12/13/14:

We did another event and it was wonderful.  Couple of the dishes from this event (e.g. amongst my best pictures)

steak tartare

seared salmon w/ mussel sauce

Update 4/2/16:

For those wandering to this post, Kitchit has gone through a format change.  Instead of hiring a chef and their menu creation, you now get Kitchit pre-arranged menu.  So it's not really the same as what I posted above.