1) Tea Leaf Salad from Burma Superstar, San Francisco, CA
|Tea Leaf Salad|
Anyways, this salad is pretty famous. It's apparently a well known must have when going to Burma Superstar and was featured on Food Network at some point (according to their menu). Fermented tea leaves, shrimp paste, all mixed into a salad with romaine, sesame, peanuts, and other stuff I can't remember.
2) red octopus from Nishiki Market in Kyoto, Japan
Now I've had these mini octopuses many times, typically as an appetizer at Chinese banquet meals and I think I've munched on them at Korean restaurants too. This was particularly tasty, but what made it so awesome is they stuffed (what I assume was) a hard boiled quail egg into this octopus's head before skewering it. Together they were delicious.
3) red and black curry from Kara Kusa in Kyoto, Japan
One thing I've read about a number of times is how great food can come out of very tiny kitchens in Japan. A restaurant concentrating on just 1-2 tiny things is something you may don't see much (if at all) in America.
My girlfriend had a curry craving, so we wandered into this place in Kyoto. They serve three items. Red curry with chicken, black curry with beef, or a mix of both. That's it. It's a one man shop with no other staff.
I got the mix above and it was delicious. Everything was super soft and tender. Curry was really flavorful but not too spicy. Personally I preferred the red curry, but the black was delicious as well.
4) Bun Bo Hue from Bun Bo Hue An Nam, San Jose
I wasn't familiar with bun bo hue soup until wandering into this restaurant in 2015. It wasn't until trying the dish at other restaurants that I realized how good this place was. It was even name dropped by Vietnamese friends once I mentioned I liked bun bo hue. The dish can come with pizzle (Ox penis) if you want.
5) Nam Khao from Green Champa Garden, Fremont
I've never had "Nam Khao" before but tried it at this small Thai/Laotian restaurant in Fremont. It's basically a whole bunch of fried umami in one dish. I can't remember all of the ingredients, but wikipedia says it's typically fried rice balls, pork, scallions, with some chilis, lime, mint, and fish sauce mixed in for good measure. I'll be on the lookout for this dish in other places now.
6) Berry Combination from Railroad Cafe, Livermore
This is more of an ode to a restaurant now closed. I've gotten this "berry combination" plate from Railroad Cafe for over 10 years. I'm not sure why it's called the "berry combination" as berries are only in the fruit cup on the side, but it along with a cheese blintz, swedish pancakes, and lox on a bagel made for a delicious brunch dish. Sorry to see Railroad Cafe now gone.