Category Archives: Chefs

Dining Outside at JiuBa

Pork and shrimp dumplings in chili oil at JiuBa.
Pork and shrimp dumplings in chili oil at JiuBa.

Last summer, the incredibly splashy iChina opened its doors in the Westfield Valley Fair, bringing an air of Vegas to this Santa Clara-San Jose shopping center.

Standing two stories tall, sporting a virtual-reality private dining room with projection screens all around, and dripping with sparkly, shiny jade-hued glass and gold accents everywhere, this restaurant is a true sight to behold.

If you’re like me, though, and limiting yourself to dining outside at the moment, the bad news is that iChina, which means “love China” in Mandarin, offers only indoor dining.

However, its first-floor bar and lounge, JiuBa, does have outdoor seating.

JiuBa, which means “bar” in Mandarin, serves a much smaller menu. However, it is definitely possible to compose a full and satisfying dinner from it, as I found when I was invited in as a guest last week.

The bar inside shares the same opulent look as the rest of the restaurant, as if an enormous jade-emerald-diamond ring was the inspiration.

The glamorous bar inside JiuBa.
The glamorous bar inside JiuBa.
Would you believe this is the bathroom?
Would you believe this is the bathroom?

Even the all-gender bathroom looks as if it belongs in a modern-day Chinese palace.

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Time For Strawberry Sumac Cake — And A Very Special Cookbook

Sumac and strawberries make for a fabulous marriage in this moist, tender cake.
Sumac and strawberries make for a fabulous marriage in this moist, tender cake.

It still boggles my mind that more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on June 19, 1865, the state of Texas finally “learned” that all slaves were now free, becoming the last state in the Confederacy to recognize that action. Even then, some plantation owners refused to acknowledge the edict, and kept their slaves to work one more harvest.

A year later, though, Black Texans were finally able to rejoice in their freedom with food, music, and dance at the first Juneteenth celebrations.

Now comes the first cookbook to showcase Juneteenth. “Watermelon & Red Birds” (Simon & Schuster), of which I received a review copy, is by Nicole A. Taylor, a food writer who splits her time between New York City and Georgia, and produced the short documentary, “If We So Choose,” about the desegregation of an iconic southern fast-food joint.

The cookbook title refers not only to the native-born African fruit, but to the African American and Native American belief that red birds flying through the skies represent ancestors returning to spread luck.

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Dining Outside at Broma

Spanish octopus in chili glaze at Broma.
Spanish octopus in chili glaze at Broma.

To the mix of amphitheater, movieplex and Google headquarters on this stretch of North Shoreline Boulevard in Mountain View came a swank new hotel last year.

In June, that property, the 200-room Shashi Hotel, positioned itself as even more of a destination when it opened its restaurant, Broma, with Chief Culinary Director Jarad Gallagher, formerly of Michelin-starred Chez TJ in Mountain View, and Executive Chef Aubree Arndt, formerly of Loma Brewing Company in Los Gatos.

This is the first restaurant by the Shashi Group, which also owns the Aloft hotels in the South Bay and The Nest boutique hotel in Palo Alto.

Last year, the Shashi Hotel opened its Emerald Hour bar and cocktail lounge. Still to come are a coffee shop called Carte Blanche, and a fine-dining restaurant, Belle Terra.

Executive Chef Aubrey Arndt.
Executive Chef Aubrey Arndt.

Last week, I had a chance to check out Broma, its Spanish-Portuguese restaurant, when I was invited in as a guest.

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Dining Outside at Saffron in Burlingame, Né Rasa

India meets China in General Tso's cauliflower at Saffron in Burlingame.
India meets China in General Tso’s cauliflower at Saffron in Burlingame.

At this Burlingame spot, you will find a refashioned brighter interior, an added parklet, a new menu and name change, and owner Ajay Walia no longer greeting you in a sharp suit, but casual shirt and slacks.

In June, Walia closed his former Michelin-starred, fine-dining Rasa on this property, and morphed it into the second outpost of his Saffron (the original is in San Carlos). It was a difficult decision, he says, but one necessitated by the challenges of the pandemic.

Yet despite the transformation, Walia doesn’t believe anything is radically different.

“We’re still buying the same ingredients, and cooking with the same standards,” he says. “The only thing that has changed is people’s expectations.”

A feast al fresco.
A feast al fresco.

Indeed, when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant last week to dine outside, I found the food as delightful as ever.

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Gazpacho — Mexican-Style

Gaspacho -- done as a sweet, tangy, subtly spicy fruit salad instead.
Gaspacho — done as a sweet, tangy, subtly spicy fruit salad instead.

Rick Martinez says his mouth starts to water just thinking about this refreshing dish.

It’s easy to understand why, because his “Gaspacho Moreliano” is the antidote to the torrid heat of summer.

It’s quenching and cooling like Spanish gazpacho, but this Mexican version is far more substantial because it’s not a soup, but a sweet-tangy-spicy-savory fruit salad.

The recipe is from Martinez’s first cookbook, “Mi Cocina” (Penguin Random House), of which I received a review copy.

The host of the YouTube series, “Pruebalo,” and a contributor to Bon Appetit magazine and the New York Times, Martinez, he grew up in a small town outside of Austin, TX, where he was the first child of Mexican heritage to attend that then all-white elementary school.

It was his late mother who inspired his passion for cooking. Even though her own mother and aunties had passed away already, his mom decided to start anew the tradition of making tamales for the holidays, figuring out the exact recipe along the way through trial and error on her own. She hoped the practice would be passed down to her sons. For Martinez, it ignited a deep, unwavering love for his heritage, culture, and family.

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