Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Pupuseria Salvadorena

It was a dark and stormy night.... no really, it was awful out. Sheets of rain, dark, and windy. Luckily for CocoCarina and I, it was the perfect night to try Santa Rosa's Pupuseria Salvadorena. Located in a tiny strip mall next to a 7-11, it's not necessarily the first place you would go for delicious food, but that's just what we found.

We decided to try Pupuseria Salvadorena because 1) it's the holiday season (post-xmas) and we are both super poor, and 2) it has had lots of recommendations on Yelp and in local news papers. I forgot that we were going to go there to review it, and ended up visiting the restaurant a few days prior to our visit. Both times I showed up in my full body rain suit, because our NorCal weather has been pretty damp for scooter riding, and neither time did it really bother anyone at the restaurant. YAY!

CocoCarina: Yes the weather that day was HORRIBLE... a torrential DOWN POUR! I don't know how Sonoma Bento braved the weather on her scoot scoot. Either way... we had something delicious to look forward to and the rain wasn't going to get in our way! I had been to the Pupuseria once before and was happy with my meal so I was pretty excited to go back. Especially because as Sonoma Bento said, it was the holiday season and we were both low on cash.

Sonoma Bento:
There are tons of different items to choose from on the menu, the most expensive is 12 dollars and the least is 50 cents. We ordered from the Antojitos Salvadorenos menu, which has items ranging from $1.75 to $7.00, most items at $2 each. A pupusa is like a stuffed tortilla. They hand make each pupusa to order here, so it is definitely not a fast food place. We waited about 15 minutes after our orders were placed for our food to arrive. It wasn't a bad wait since we were chatting, but keep that in mind if you are super hungry or show up on a busy weekend. Our server said that we can call in orders ahead next time, even if we plan on eating in the restaurant, to shorten the wait time. Good idea!

CocoCarina: As we glanced over the menu I was SHOCKED by the prices. I couldn't believe how affordable everything was, I was giddy! I like to order a few different items when I eat out because I like to try a bit of everything... Pupuseria Salvadorena was perfect for this... everything was so affordable I could get as many things as I wanted! Well just about!

Sonoma Bento:
I ordered the Horchata ($1.75), a sweetly spiced drink that was quite flavorful here at Pupuseria Salvadorena. The cinnamon flavor was very pronounced and it had a bit of a chalky texture, but was really quite good. It was sweeter than other Horchata I've tried, but the sweetness was great with the spicy food. They do not serve alcohol here.

Sonoma Bento:
CocoCarina and I both wanted to order the Tamal de Elote con Crema ($1.75), so to make sure we tried more things, she ordered it and I got something else. Good choice, Coco!

CocoCarina: Thanks Sonoma Bento! I was QUITE happy with my Tamal de Elote con Crema! It was sooo delicious I wanted to order it as an appetizer AND for dessert! Sooo yummy!

Sonoma Bento:
The Tamal de Elote con Crema ($1.75) was delicious! Moist, very fresh, great corn flavor, and sweet. You could totally order this for dessert.

Sonoma Bento:
I ordered the Empanada de Plantano con Frijol ($1.75) on the suggestion of the waitress. She said she liked the combination of the sweet plantain mash with the savory beans inside. I agree, this was really a winner. The Empanada was fried crisp on the outside, turning the plantain mash into almost a donut kind of crust, then the soft and fragrant plantain mash gave way to a smooth bean paste interior. Comfort food for sure!

CocoCarina: Sonoma Bento gave me a taste of her Empanada de Plantano con Frijol which was yummy but I'm still working on my liking for beans so this wouldn't be my first choice. But, having said that it was still pretty good... though not as good as my Tamal de Elote con Crema!

Sonoma Bento:
We ordered Pasteles de Pollo con Papa ($5) to share. These were like little chicken pot pies, but surrounded by corn meal dough instead of pastry dough. Inside was a mixture of chicken, green peppers, mashed potato, and a bit of tomato. These were great and they are also really good as leftovers!

CocoCarina: I actually really enjoyed these. They were a perfect compliment to my Pupusa de Queso. They tasted like chicken soup without the whole soupy part... pretty good and hearty!

Sonoma Bento:
We had to order Pupusas, of course! I had already tried the Pupusa de Chicharron, Queso y Frijol (tortilla stuffed with pork, cheese and beans, $2.50) on my previous visit, so this time I ordered the Pupusa de Queso con Loroco ($2.25). Loroco is a flower bud that is used in Salvadoran cooking. I thought it might be similar to a caper, as they are both immature flower buds, but its flavor was very mild, similar to cooked zucchini. I loved the melted cheese inside and ate it with generous splashes of green tomatillo salsa, which was provided in big jugs on our table. They also had a red salsa available.

This is CocoCarina's Pupusa de Queso ($2.00).

Sonoma Bento:
This is Curtido ($1.00), a slightly fermented spicy cabage slaw. You are supposed to eat the Curtido along with the Pupusas, so that the bright flavors of the slaw balance out the fatty flavors of the stuffed tortilla. It's a great combo!

CocoCarina: I really enjoyed adding the Curtido to pretty much everything I was eating... it went so well with everything! I agree with Sonoma Bento... a great combo indeed!

Sonoma Bento:
Check out the bits of cheese and loroco flower that oozed out of my pupusa! They got all crispy on the grill, yum! I really enjoyed both visits to Pupuseria Salvadorena.

Overall: The food quality is great, the prices are unbelievable, service was really friendly without being overbearing, they don't mind if I show up in a rain suit, and you get full after about 4 dollars worth of food. I'll definitely go back, even if my bank account is not hurting.

Ambiance: Yeah, they don't spend a lot on decor, but who cares? Our meals were delicious and dirt cheap. And the music is pretty bad. At one point CocoCarina said "This sounds like a male Cher." LOL

Parking: I parked my scooter up against the wall so it didn't get rained on, but the parking lot is not big, and it's pretty busy, what with being right next to a 7-11.

Price for two meals, plus one drink (CocoCarina had water): about $16.90. And we had leftovers. AMAZING!

Pupuseria Salvadorena
1403 Maple Avenue
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
(707) 544-3141
Open Daily from 9am to 9pm

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sushi To Dai For

119 4th Street Santa Rosa, CA

First impression / Atmosphere:
CocoCarina: I have walked by Sushi To Dai For many many times but had yet to actually go there to eat. But today I finally got to try it! When you walk in you can either sit at the sushi bar and watch the sushi chefs at work in the kitchen or you can sit at one of their tables which are situated alongside the wall so one person gets a bench seat and another sits in a seat. We opted to sit at the sushi bar to watch the sushi chefs do what they do best! Plus I think Sonoma Bento was eying their techniques so she an tackle sushi making next!

Sonoma Bento: I've never been to Sushi To Dai For, but I've walked past the location many times. I liked the blue walls in the interior, and I loved the fact that they had lots of Japanese dishes besides just sushi. We decided to sit at the sushi bar and it was fun to see the action in the open kitchen.

CocoCarina: This was probably the 5th time I've ever tried sushi in my life but after venturing into this world of delectable raw fish I'm getting more adventurous and am enjoying every bite... well most bites! Many people had told me about Sushi To Dai For and one lady told me that I must try the Candy Apple appetizer (imitation crab, with bits of tempura wrapped in tuna with teriyaki sauce dribbled on top). My mouth had been watering for weeks to try this so it was the first thing we ordered.

Sonoma Bento: I loved the Candy Apple appetizer! It was a fun mix of textures and flavors. We also tried a veggie gyoza that was made in a green wrapper. They were crispy fried and then steamed, really quite tasty. And their ponzu dipping sauce for the gyoza was amazing, super citrusy.

CocoCarina: We were really hungry after a long day at work so we decided to order the Veggie Gyoza as well.

CocoCarina: Both appetizers were quite delicious. I particularly enjoyed the Candy Apple appetizer... the crunchy tempura mixed with the crab and tuna with the salty sweetness of the teriyaki sauce was an excellent mixture of textures. The Veggie Gyoza were pretty good as well. These were the first Veggie Gyoza I've ever tried and I must say that I liked them much better than your typical Gyoza which usually have pork in them. They seemed lighter and not as filling making it the perfect appetizer!

CocoCarina: Before dinner we ordered our drinks first. I wasn't in the mood for sake so I ordered the 2007 Rodney Strong Sauvignon Blanc. It was a nice refreshing wine to pair with the variety of sushi dishes we ordered.

Sonoma Bento: I decided on Onigoroshi sake, which is kind of my go to sake choice. I like it's smooth flavor and it's floral accents. My sake was $13, which is kind of steep for one glass, but oh so tasty.

CocoCarina: For dinner we decided to share two rolls: the Mojojojo (2 pieces of shrimp tempura, cream cheese, shiso topped with albacore tuna, tempura bit, tobiko, green onion, and teriyaki sauce) and the Mahalo (tuna, avocado, pine nuts, tempura whitefish, and cilantro with a japaleno sauce).

CocoCarina: I really enjoyed the Mojojojo. The display was aesthetically appealing and was super fun to dive into. I was a little hesitant to try the tobiko (fish eggs) but I went ahead and tried them with a roll and they were okay. They honestly didn't have much flavor, a bit of saltiness, but the pop in your mouth was kind of fun... kind of weird... but kind of fun. The Mahalo roll was pretty good too. I really liked the spicy mayo that came with the roll. It was just the right amount of spice to go with the rest of the sushi mixture. When I come back to Sushi To Dai For, because I will be coming back, I'll definitely order the Candy Apple and I'll probably order the Mojojojo - though this particular roll could do with out all of the tempura bits surrounding the rolls. It was a bit much and it was a little hard to find the roll underneath all of it. But it looked nice and tasted delish!

Sonoma Bento: The Mojojojo was more fun to say than to actually eat. The mound of tempura bits was really overkill, and it was hard to tell if there were any more sections of sushi roll under all the debris. They could have done about half or less of the tempura bits and it still would have been fun and tasty. The roll itself under all that tempura fluff was somewhat bland, and it was not easy to get the tobiko eggs onto each piece of roll. I prefered the Mahalo roll. The tempura whitefish was really good and I love the addition of the pine nuts.

CocoCarina: The service was pretty good at Sushi To Dai For, we were seated promptly and given the choice of where we would like to sit, the bar or a table. Once seated at the bar our waiter, was very friendly and attentive to us. Giving us more time when we needed it but not waiting too long to check on us either. The sushi chef behind the bar even tended to our needs and took our order when our server was too busy.

Sonoma Bento: We had a very attentive waiter and he made sure to check in with us often even though he appeared to be the only server for the whole restaurant. I thought perhaps that he had forgotten that I had also ordered unagi nigiri, but that showed up as well after we finished our rolls. And I am proud of CocoCarina for trying the unagi! She also tried tobiko for the first time! Way to go, Coco! :)

Atmosphere: **** I liked the blueish decor when you walked in. The lighting was dim but not too dim where it made it difficult to read the menu. It was someone's birthday tonight and the turned the lights almost all the way down before presenting the birthday boy with his candlelit dessert. I thought that was pretty cool... way to make an entrance!

Food: **** All of the food I tried was really delightful. I was happy with the freshness and overall taste and textures of the rolls. I would definitely go back again.

Service: **** Friendly & prompt. The server even took a picture for us!

Price: *** I thought the price was pretty comparable the other two sushi restaurants I had been to before. The only thing I thought was a bit pricey was the sake... but then again I don't really order sake so I can't really compare. I did, however, like how you could order a small or regular sized sushi roll.

Parking: **** There are a lot of options for parking by Sushi To Dai For. There's metered parking on both sides of the street, and metered parking lots around the corder. Luckily we got there after 6pm so we didn't have to pay for the meter!

Overall cost of dinner for two with two appetizers and one glass of white wine and one sake was $73.

You know you want to try the unagi, CocoCarina! :)