Summer Vacation 2007: Going Home … and West Lake Vietnamese Cuisine

Updated: 7th October 2010, this restaurant is closed according to Urbanspoon.

That’s it … our summer vacation. Hope you all enjoyed following this series as much as I had blogging about it. I think when I look back over the years, we will remember this particular vacation like no other vacations we ever had — this time we had documented it.

Looking back over the past month blogging about this vacation, it is amazing we managed to do everything we did. Some of them counts for one vacation alone to most but being able to do all these within two weeks were unbelievable to us.

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In case, just in case, you want to re-read our entire vacation, I have categorized them under the following links:

  • We started off in Las Vegas where we had some of the best buffet. We managed to visit the Hoover Dam and the Fremont Street Experience made a lasting impression on us.
  • We then drove past Death Valley on our way to the Yosemite National Park. One word describe the entire trip … jaw-dropping!
  • Next came our visit to the Bay Area during which the high-point was the day spent at the Great America theme park. Our boys enjoyed this the most.
  • San Francisco was absolutely marvelous. We all love SF and did all the sights we wanted — Alcatraz, Fishermans Wharf. Chinatown and rode the Cable Car. Oh … the sourdough bread too!
  • We then moved on to Reno and Lake Tahoe for the final leg of the trip.

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We landed in Bellingham, WA in late afternoon. As much as we enjoyed the trip, it was really good to be back home again. Before we headed home, we knew already what we wanted to have — Vietnamese noodles. Despite all the great food we had during the vacation, we simply miss good old Asian food.

This restaurant is located in the Empire Square strip mall on No 3 Road in Richmond. It’s on the same strip mall as Hon’s.

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It’s strange why we had never blogged about the Westlake Vietnamese Cuisine restaurant before. We had been coming here for lunch at least once a month and is our boys’ favourite place.

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What we particularly like about this restaurant is the low prices and that they have a free drink with any set ordered. Their menu is really like the many HK-Style cafes around Richmond except that it is with a Vietnamese twist.

We tried the Salted Lemon Soda — it is really good. You can sweeten it with the included sugar syrup if you like.

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Reno/Lake Tahoe Vacation: Carvings Buffet in Harrah’s Reno

Believe it or now, this is the TENTH buffet we had in this vacation. One of the things that I was fixated with is to try Kobe beef which we did not come across in the buffets we had in Vegas. So, for this final buffet, we simply wanted to go to a place which had Kobe beef. We found one at the Harrah’s Cravings Buffet.

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What more … they have BOTH Kobe beef AND King Crab … and for only $13.99.

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The Cravings Buffet is organized by cuisine. Lots and lots of variety to choose from.

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We love the service … very friendly and prompt. Even the napkin says “We will earn your A today”. I am impressed with that and the fact that they try so hard to be the best. We were glad to be here.

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Hmmmm … we were pretty disappointed with the Kobe beef. This is supposed to be the rolls royce of beef. I heard that the cattle are fed with beer!! (Is that true?). The meat was tough and not as flavorful as I had expected.

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Reno/Lake Tahoe Vacation: Breakfast Buffet at Lord Fitzgerald

I guess we’re eating like there is no tomorrow. We had a good buffet the previous day at the Flavors Buffet and then the next morning, we decided to go for another one. Just to be able to cope with the guilt of eating so much, we decided we try to look for the cheapest breakfast buffet. The cheapest we found was the Lord Fitzgeralds Feast and Merriment Buffet which is just a short walking distance from our hotel.

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Well, the place is cheap alright. In order to get to the buffet, we had to walk the gauntlet of slot machines and smokey interior. All that stale cigarette smoke does not help with building an appetite.

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The breakfast spread was quite respectable. We did not expect much since this place is cheap. They even have a “cook to order” station — nice.

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What we like particularly about this place is that they have espresso and cappucino, albeit it was from a machine. Now, now … why did the other buffet places we been to not have this? Just for this alone, I am giving Lord Fitzgerald a few notch up in my rating.

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There are the standard stuff you’ll find in breakfasts. Because of the way it was arranged and presented, they don’t particularly look appetizing.

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Reno/Lake Tahoe Vacation: Flavors! The Buffet in Silver Legacy

Nothing much we could do in Reno except to eat. Anyway, we had planned to max out every opportunity to pig out before we leave for home. It had been a couple of weeks since we left Vancouver and frankly, we are all beginning to feel homesick.

The dinner we had the first night in Reno was at the Flavors! Buffet at the Silver Legacy casino. Here there are hardly any queue at all. In Vegas, the wait times for tables could be up to 1-2 hours. This suits us perfectly fine … the selection is wide, the price is right and the place is very clean.

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This is the kind of setting we like … lots of choices and hardly anyone there. Well, I guess it’s because it’s not the weekend. I understand that Reno is very quiet during weekdays.

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Arkensen and I went first for the prime roast beef. They are simply some of the best we had ever tasted. Very juicy and succulent … and because there were hardly anyone around, the people at the carving station gave us the cut we wanted and as thick as we wanted. We went for this twice.

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The pork loin was equally geat too. The medallion cut is some of the largest I ever had. Man, that must have been one heck of a pig there.

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San Francisco Vacation: Melaka Restaurant in San Bruno

Updated: 9th Jan 2015; This restaurant is closed according to Urbanspoon.com.

This buffet is unplanned … honest … cross my heart and hope to die!

We were staying in San Bruno, thereabouts. Each day driving between our hotel and the Caltrain station we can’t help but notice a restaurant called Melaka Restaurant. That word could only mean one thing in the world … it’s the name of one of the oldest city in Malaysia … and that means that it’s a Malaysian restaurant. We simply gotta check it out.

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We found out that it’s a buffet place. And what really made us stay for dinner is the irresistable price … it’s only about $8 or so per person. I can spot a Malaysian anywhere … from the way they dress, their hair style and especially the way they speak.

You know … Malaysians have their own unique English … pretty much a mix of English, Malay and Chinese … we call it Manglish. I have loaded such a song on youtube here — it is not exactly a Manglish song but more Singlish but it’s close.

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I so miss the humble noodles. The mussels were just so-so.

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San Francisco Vacation: Ghirardelli

The Ghirardelli Square is another tourist attraction located at the far eastern side of the Fishermans Wharf. We were only interested in visiting the Gihrardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop. Suanne and I had fond memories of eating Ghirardelli’s icre-cream sundaes here in freezing temperatures. Back then, we had icre-cream only when the weather is hot — not so these days.

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We got free chocolates by just walking into Ghirardelli … and it is not just any cheap types but the real stuff from the popular inventory.

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The place was busy when we got there. The was a queue that goes right out of the door. We had no idea of what we wanted to order and the menu were not much of a help because everything looked so good.

We placed our order at the counter, paid for them and then given a number.

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We had to find a table ourselves. It’s a bit chaotic actually. The tables were arranged so tightly to each other that moving around is difficult. And because there are so many people, we had to quickly grab a table once one comes free … even before they clean the sticky chocolates and ice-cream from the tables.

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We ordered two ice-cream sundaes. And boy, they looked every bit decadent as it looked on their menu.

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San Francisco Vacation: Boudin Sourdough

So, while in Fishermans Wharf, we also made it a point to visit the Boudin Sourdough bakery. Suanne and I had visited this bakery … oh … perhaps 15 years ago. We simply have to come back here and try their bread again.

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When we were in Boudin, we also made a side trip to their Museum and Bakery Tour. Frankly, it was not worth the money we had to pay to get into the tour. I would have wished that we get really close to the bakery but we just watched from an upstairs gallery. So, save your money.

One thing that we learned though in that tour … that there are so many food that were invented in San Francisco. Here it is … Martini, Cioppino, Popsicles, Chop Suey, Irish Coffee, Fortune Cookie, Mai Tai, and Crab Louis.

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The Boudin Sourdough Bakery is popular and busy … and perhaps a bit too chaotic for me. You order and pay from one end of the counter. You have to give them your name and when your order is ready, they’ll yell your name and you go pick it up. There were so many people milling around the area waiting to pick up their order and the place is so noisy.

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Sourdough bread was the main bread consumed in California during the Gold Rush days. So, it is pretty much part of the culture of the SF.

What is unique about sourdough is that its sourness and tanginess combines very well with seafood and soup such as chilli and chowders. We first ordered one to try but ended up getting another two more because they taste so good.

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San Francisco Vacation: Mel’s Drive-In

There was this one morning we took the Caltrain to San Francisco. It was pretty early and we were deciding what we wanted for breakfast. So we decided to walk from the Caltrain station near the Giants Stadium up to the Market and Powell. There were quite a few places available for breakfast. We actually had a hard time choosing because it’s either someone who wanted something else. But when we came across Mel’s Drive-In, it was unanimous. I am not sure exactly what it is but perhaps it’s the cheeriness and warmth of this place.

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This is not a drive-in, despite its name. But it has a very nice 1950s nostalgic theme. This appears to be a very popular restaurant.

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We love checking out the Juke Box on our table. Well, the boys does not recognize any songs at all. Not sure about you all, I love busy-looking table for breakfasts … you know … lots of condiments, straw dispenser, menus with pictures, coffee cups and all.

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We ordered three things to share between the four of us. First, it was the diced ham and eggs. All of us loves eggs except Suanne. So, she stayed away from touching this.

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San Francisco Vacation: Chinatown and Fortune Cookies

The mother of all Chinatowns in North America is undoubtedly the one in San Francisco. The Chinatown in San Francisco were first built by the Chinese immigrants who joined the gold rush in the mid 1800s. The gate at the entrance to Chinatown here is perhaps the most famous of all gates I know of.

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There is nothing much to this Chinatown. I guess once you have been to one Chinatown, all Chinatowns look the same. They practically have the same shops and restaurants.

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Believe it or not, fortune cookies is not a Chinese food … it is first invented in, of all places in the world, San Francisco. Many Americans actually thinks that fortune cookies are really Chinese.

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Our guide book showed the direction to a small place in an alley where they make fortune cookies. We went to look for it.

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Bay Area Vacation: Mexican Breakfast

We were not hungry at all but then since we’re in the San Jose Flea Market and there are plenty of Mexican food around, we decided to drop by one of the authentic Mexican places to try out their breakfast.

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Ordering this was easy since the sign board is in English. If this had been in Spanish, we would have not even dared to attempt going in.

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Seeing so many people who had soup, we ordered the same thing. This is called Menudo and is basically soup with beef tripes. It’s $3.19 and came with …

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