Impression: Le Petit Cheval: Recommended

corner of Bancroft and Bowditch
Berkeley, CA

Not far from Boalt is a Vietnamese place that I’m told is an outpost of a famed Oakland
eatery to which I have never been. I eat there often when I don’t want to walk far and don’t want a sandwich. They have a steam table three-item combo ($5.08 plus tax, which comes out to $5.50), which is my subject today.

Today I opted for the curry chicken, the beef with asparagus, and the sauteed vegetables; the combo also comes with a scoop of steamed rice. I often get the curry chicken; they make a good yellow curry (if mild), with big chunks of potato and carrot and chicken thigh. The beef with asparagus is new. I got it because I read in the paper today that asparagus season is upon us. It was good, with surprisingly tasty beef for a steam table, but the lady behind the counter stiffed me a bit on the portion. She may have been concerned about running out; it seemed like everyone was ordering it. The sauteed vegetables were fine, but unexciting. They came with tofu chunks, and were good with some leftover rice and curry sauce.

Originally published on Tournedos

Impression: Bristol Farms Breakfast Bar: Recommended

Westfield Food Concourse
off Powell St. BART Station, San Francisco

So I found myself in the Powell St. BART at 10.30 am, with no particular place to be, melancholy in my heart, and an inexplicable hunger in my gut. There is a traditional prescription for moments like these, and it is called brunch. However, I didn’t know any good places in the area other than the perplexingly classy Denny’s on Mission, and I didn’t really want to take the time for a proper brunch, so I decided to just hit the food court in the Westfield, grab some upscale snacks, and head on my way.

However, the food court — excuse me, concourse — in the Westfield is not really that great a place for a snack, unless you want a pretzel, which is fine but not really what I was in the mood for. So I thought I would try the Bristol Farms, which I find sort of charming because it’s sort of like Whole Foods without any pretensions of being anything other than a place whether rich people get groceries.

Well, it turns out that they have a breakfast bar, which they label “American Comfort Food”. I loaded up my salad bar takeout tray with scrambled eggs, ham, hash browns, oatmeal, and a biscuit, and I went to find a table. (Incidentally, the Westfield is very clever by using tiny little tables that have room for your food but nothing else. It probably discourages cafe-style squatters.)

I didn’t have particularly high hopes, because, well, steam table food. I was, however, pleasantly surprised. The ham was a touch on the dry side, but not to the point of leatheriness; more of a “picking leftovers off the Christmas ham” kind of dryness. It was really good, too. I’d guess honey-cured. The hash browns were well-seasoned, and neither crunchy nor mushy. The biscuit was fresh and tasty, if a touch salty. And the eggs shocked me; they looked like they’d be dry and rubbery like steam table eggs tend to be, but they were surprisingly…like scrambled eggs ought to be. Moist but not runny, eggy but not overpowering. They could have used a touch of salt, maybe. The oatmeal was the main disappointment; it was bland and soupy. I didn’t finish.

My biggest problem with the breakfast bar is the price tag – $8.95 per pound. The food is good, but it’s not a bargain. If I were go again, I’d probably go easier on the hash browns and eggs, skip the oatmeal entirely, and snag some fruit from the salad bar.

Originally published on Tournedos