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Thursday, November 8, 2012

El Jarrito: Mexican, oh no!

Lunch date #25, October 5, 2012

The second of the two restaurants we visited before Mom's cruise was El Jarrito at the historic Cheese Factory (828 Main Street). In our continued quest to find local, good Mexican food-and to sample every restaurant downtown, this one seemed reasonable to try. My friends say—"Why are you eating at such and such…" and I have to remind them that this is a project—to try every restaurant in Pleasanton! Sometimes, I have to remind Mom of that as well!

Location 5 points. Downtown on the North end. Parking is a bit of a hassle there, but the historic building is cool. This really used to be a cheese processing building and it was connected to the Pleasanton Hotel by one of the famous Pleasanton tunnels.

Ambiance 3 points: We sat outside and enjoyed the linen covered table, but that is pretty much the end of the ambiance. Very plain décor in and out. Not much to describe; fairly tacqueria type place. Still, it seemed clean.

Menu 3 points: There were some lunch specials and a general lunch menu also. Most of the usual things you'd expect in a Mexican-food place. Mom felt the selection was a bit limited. We both went with the lunch special, although I was surprised Mom ordered the tacos-she is usually more of an enchilada or tostada type. The server said the fish tacos were good, and as that is something I typically enjoy-I went with it. Mom order the beef tacos.

Food 1.5 points: Mom said this was the worse restaurant she had ever tried and the worse lunch she ever had! Wow, pretty dramatic I thought. But she couldn't eat the beef tacos at all. The meat was so tough, she couldn't chew it. We actually returned them…a definite first for us. The corn tortillas were soggy, and as tacos go—didn't have much on them except the meat (for me grilled fish) and served with a side of chopped cilantro and onion. The fish tacos were fair—but nothing special, and with the crumbling tortillas, hard to eat. Mom's beef tacos were replaced by shredded chicken tacos. She still didn't like them, even with the side of shredded lettuce in place of the cilantro—but she did pack them up to take home with the goal to fix them up the way she liked a taco and eat them at home!

Service 3 points: Our server was great. When I told her Mom couldn't eat the beef tacos, she immediately whisked them away and the replacement came pretty quickly She was quick to refill my tea, but never did get Mom more coffee. She tried, but came up a little short.

Value 2 points: When you really don't care for the food, it is hard to give the place any value at all. The prices were reasonable, but since the food so marginal, the value was low. We would not go back.

Overall score for El Jarrito: 2.9 points. Low points for the food and value offset by the good service and downtown location. Mom was not happy: "If this was my first Mexican dish, I never would have liked Mexican food!" I could see her point…but I do think she should have ordered the enchiladas—oh well, she is trying new things, have to give her credit!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Blessings Chinese Restaurant: No blessings to be found!

Lunch date #24, September 28, 2012

"Where have you been eating lately," our fans want to know! "Are you still having lunch with your mom?" The answer is yes, we've had a few more lunch dates, well actually only two since our last posting, so I will now bring you all up to date. I do have to report that Mom was out of town for 2 weeks on a Caribbean cruise with my brother and sister-in-law…even with the onset of hurricane "Sandy" in the region-but all was well with them, for the most part, and they had a great time! They are true cruise-experts and I'm sure had much better food than the next two places we will be reviewing—the first of which is Blessings Chinese Restaurant(1989-D Santa Rita Road). I would have to say that I was looking forward to this. We like Chinese food in general, and we used to frequent the old Blessings in Mission Plaza back in the day. I had not tried the new place since they re-opened in a new location, still within Mission Plaza, so figured it would be a good spot to try.

Location 3.5 points. Easy to find and park, but otherwise no big thrill. Certainly no external ambiance. Mission Plaza is fine, but as mom relayed crinkling her nose: "it is not downtown!"

Ambiance 3 points. After all it is a Chinese Restaurant—what did we expect. It was clean and simple. The stone-table tops were nice and the framed carved ivory fit the Asian theme. Still, nothing special, so a moderate score.

Menu selection 4 points. Lots to choose from with all of the usual Chinese-Americanized type dishes we expect to see. The lunch menu has good variety: soup, Chinese salad (lettuce, few shredded veggies) and rice included with several entrée choices. They offer steamed or fried rice at no additional fee.

Service 2 points. We were very disappointed with the service. We were not offered tea, and by the time we finally got a pot it was only tepid-warm and never did brew to be drinkable. Our server (only server) brought out the soup and then the main dishes very quickly-too quickly as we barely had a minute to eat the soup and the rest was served. I do feel this is typical of a Chinese restaurant lunch, so not too surprised. She was just rather abrupt and not too helpful. We had to get her attention to get the tea and then chopsticks and never did get the soy sauce. She spent a lot of time on her cell phone. When I was glancing around the restaurant to take in the ambiance, she yelled at me "What you want!"

Food 2 points. Printed in their menu is the following: "After several years of study and planning, Blessings has developed a new and uniquely delicious and healthful menu…" I am sorry—they should go back to the planning again! The food was uniformly too greasy. The soup was OK, but the meal went downhill after that. We did order "pan fried medallions of beef"—so I suppose you could say we got what we asked for—but it was sooo greasy, it was shiny! We also shared the "butterfly prawn combo with teriyaki chicken" (which I suppose is a bit of a rip off of a Japanese-style item), but it too was greasy and the prawn was breaded, fried, very tough and quite non-edible. The "fried" rice was OK, also a bit greasy but not quite as oil drenched as the other items. Needless to say, we didn't finish this food….of course Mom did take home the left overs purely out of habit, but I forgot to ask her if she ever did eat them!

Value 3 points. Menu prices of $6.50-8.25 for the lunch combos were relatively inexpensive, considering the soup and salad added, but since it was not good food, the value score has to go down.

Overall score for Blessings Chinese Restaurant: 2.9 points. A bit better than the First Hunan Chef Wong, but I doubt I'll ever go back. Sorry Blessings—not as good as before you closed. Somewhat on par with Panda Express in terms of low-end greasy Chinese food. Definitely not good for you and unlike Panda, the food at Blessings is not tasty enough to make the excess fat calories all that tempting.