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Doggy Style Hot Dogs, Alameda CA

doggy style

doggy style

July 23 is National Hot Dog Day.  It’s also Woody Harrelson, Slash, and Daniel Radcliffe’s birthday, so of course we celebrated with the most unique hot dogs we could find in the Bay Area (apart from making our own).  Doggy Style Hot Dogs in Alameda serves Asian fusion hot dogs, drawing from the cuisines of many cultures.  They say on their website that they “are second to none in [their] innovative style” and after trying six styles of doctored kosher beef frankfurter hot dogs, we agree.

all american

all american

All dogs come on the same seeded French roll, soft and grilled.  There are many links to choose from, like linguica, calabrese, and veggie, but being National Hot Dog Day, we had to stick strictly to classic frankfurters.  Doggy Style uses links made by a local company with decades of experience, and we tasted a finely tuned recipe for quality meat.  Large, smoky, slightly spiced, and flavor packed, the dogs were delicious and the different assortments of toppings just made them enchanting.  We started with the All American, with toppings of cole slaw, cheese, bacon, and barbecue sauce.  The crunchy cole slaw with a vinegar base was super crispy and fresh, offering an excellent texture contrast.  The shredded cheddar cheese and bacon were both abundant, piled almost to the tipping point!  The bacon was crispy in its own way and even lean, and its smokiness was highlighted by the sweet and tangy barbecue sauce.

umai

umai

The next dog took us to Japan, and it was very umai – August looked it up, it means “delicious,” a very fitting name.  The umai dog has seaweed, pickled radish, teriyaki sauce, and Japanese mayonnaise.  It tasted like hot dog sushi, and as weird as that sounds, it tasted fresh and flavorful.  The teriyaki added a bit of tang to the sea and earth essences of the seaweed and radish, respectively.  It’s the standard teriyaki sauce you’d have with sushi, and you’d never think it works with a hot dog, but it does.

banh mi

bánh mì

Continuing on our globally inspired hot dog tour, our palates visited Vietnam for an interesting twist on the traditional sandwich.  Pickled carrots and daikon, jalapeño, cilantro, and mayonnaise adorned this dog, with a dash of sriracha on the side.  This is kind of like everything you’d want in a bánh mì sandwich – soft but crunchy French roll, exceptionally fresh vegetables, and a bit of kick.  We’ve seen some bánh mì with interesting meats (liverwurst, anyone?), so in all honesty, hot dogs aren’t so big of a stretch.

ka-re dog

ka-re dog

There were a few specials today in honor of National Hot Dog Day, so we couldn’t pass them up.  Probably our favorite savory dog of the evening was the ka-re dog (sounds like curry).  With homemade Japanese curry and pickled radishes, this was a beautiful combination of Japanese, Indian, and American flavors.  The curry is slow-cooked with potatoes, carrots, and onions, resulting in a sauce that is mildly sweet with all the spices of curry but zero heat.  The pickled radishes, also Japanese (Takuwan and Fujin Zuke, as per the menu description), were an amazing pairing with the curry, not just for flavor but also for contrasting crunchy mouthfeel.  It was a flavor symphony of sweet, tangy, and spices.

nut-n-jelly "crunch"

nut-n-jelly “crunch”

The other special threw us for a loop – a dessert dog!  The Nut-n-Jelly “Crunch” has Chex cereal, peanut butter sauce, strawberry jelly, and a granola mix with almonds.  The peanut butter sauce was special with the addition of just a touch of honey, making it very rich and decadent.  The house-made strawberry jelly was naturally sweet and tangy.  All the crunchiness of the cereal, granola, and nuts made this quite a mouthful, like eating a crazy version of Chex Mix.

waffle dog

waffle dog

Even after trying five dogs, we had to do one more because, well, it’s a waffle dog!  Doggy Style’s take on the corn dog is dipped in waffle batter and griddled in a waffle iron shaped specially for a hot dog.  If you like fun food and/or waffles, you’ve got to try this.  It’s highly recommended that you use the maple syrup; think of this as bacon or sausage in maple syrup, something that more Americans do with their breakfast than would admit.

We had the luck of meeting Mike, one of the owners, who made all of our special hot dogs this evening.  He’s a very talented guy with a creative mind, and we cannot wait to go back to try more dogs (once we recover from this binge for National Hot Dog Day).  Eight varieties are standard on the menu but with various specials, we’re sure there will always be something to surprise and delight us.

Swagat Indian Cuisine, Concord CA

Swagat Indian Cuisine has several locations in California and Oregon, and we have one practically in our back yard.  Zach’s older brother eats there fairly often but we had yet to try it (and Zach had never had Indian food before, anyway).  We felt inspired to go spicy tonight, as well as try something new.

assorted vegetable pakoras

assorted vegetable pakoras

We started with a plate of assorted pakoras, including potato, onion, eggplant, hot and mild chilis.  These vegetables are deep fried with a mildly spiced batter, and none were overcooked nor greasy.  We couldn’t tell you the names of the trio of sauces, except we should warn you, the green was particularly tasty but unexpectedly spicy!

lamb biriyani with curry sauce and raita

lamb biriyani with sides of curry sauce and raita

August has to try lamb whenever it’s on the menu.  The biriyani was recommended, with reason.  Basmati rice cooked with shrimp, spices, and herbs is the foundation for this dish, heavily loaded with big, succulent chunks of good lamb.  When she took a bite, the flavor combination brought her back to an apartment in Spain during her college years when a British Bengali friend cooked dinner one night with his family’s recipes, and this was just like one of them.  That was a huge clue for August that everything here must be made from scratch.

chicken vindaloo

chicken vindaloo

Zach wanted to try a small tureen of chicken vindaloo, with potatoes and a spicy onion sauce.  The spices were hot so you have to be able to appreciate spiciness to get this dish, but the flavor beneath the spiciness is rich.  He liked that there was both light and dark meat chicken, and the potatoes were “super flavorful.”  As an a la carte item it came with basmati rice and tandoori naan, which were perfect for soaking up the sauce.

palak paneer

palak paneer

Years ago August had found palak paneer as a microwave meal at a Trader Joe’s or something similar.  It wasn’t bad, but fresh is always better.  The curry base is spinach, featuring chunks of paneer cheese.  They acted as morsels of coolness amidst the deliciously fiery curry.  We ordered this not a la carte, but as a “complete thali dinner” with dal curry, sambar (thick lentil vegetable soup), “vegetable curry of the day,” and raita (homemade yogurt with cucumber and onion).  On top of all that, even, was more basmati rice, tandoori naan, some unknown and not-on-the-menu crispy fried flat bread thing, and dessert from the buffet.

(sauces L to R): sambar, dal curry, "vegetable curry of the day," and raita

(sauces L to R): sambar, dal curry, “vegetable curry of the day,” and raita

Yes, they also have a buffet here, but we wanted to order off the menu so that we could have pretty plates to take pictures of.  August really liked the system of round metal containers for the complete thali dinner with the palak paneer.

a very affordable feast!

a very affordable feast!

We were given way bigger portions than we had imagined.  Because everything is scratch made, also, we felt very full, very quickly – we ended up bringing home four leftover containers!  The service here is friendly and helpful, and they do a great job of keeping your water glass filled since you’ll be drinking so much.  And, they even deliver!  We will keep that in mind for some future rainy day.

3 Thai Restaurant, Pleasant Hill CA

We used to live near 3 Thai Restaurant and drove by it all the time, wondering what it was like.  Now we know, but had we known back then, it would have been one of our favorite places a long time ago.

combo plate appetizer

combo plate appetizer

The Combo Plate offered four different items for a very reasonable price.  The chicken satay is marinated and skewered, cooked with Thai herbs, spices, and coconut milk, served with peanut sauce and cucumber salad.  It was juicy, succulent, and flavor packed, plus the grill marks added a good visual appeal and enhanced the flavor.  The peanut sauce is one of the best August has tried (as Zach had never had Thai food before tonight).  The other chicken item, “3 Thai wings,” is deep fried chicken wings marinated with homemade sauce and served with crispy basil.  The wings were cooked really well, so they had crispy skin but the meat was still juicy and not at all overcooked towards the middle.  The sauce was mildly sweet and tangy.  The item opposite the chicken satay is deep fried sweet potatoes served with plum sauce and ground peanuts.  They were crispy, tender, and soft, yet still had substance so the sweet potatoes weren’t mushy.  Its sauce had a good texture contrast from the crunch of the roasted peanuts, and also a delicately sweet flavor from the plums.  The fourth item is “goong sarong” – deep fried marinated prawns, rapped in wonton skin and served with plum sauce.  Not only were these tender, juicy, and large, but also very pretty to look at with a rice noodle wrapped around the wonton.

roasted duck curry

roasted duck curry

You can select your spiciness level from 1 to 5 for the roasted duck curry, with 1 being not spicy at all.  We ordered a 2, and that was enough to open August’s sinuses, so we’re curious about what 3, 4, and 5 are like!  This dish is boneless roasted duck in coconut milk and red curry paste, with a mixture of tomatoes, pineapple, bell pepper, lychee, and basil, served in a clay pot.  The broth was nice and spicy with great coconut flavor.  It was perfect for ladling over the jasmine rice.  The duck was tender, and the fruit and vegetable mix was pleasant.  If you like duck, they give you a good amount in this.

pad thai

pad thai

The one dish that pretty much everyone is familiar with from Thai cuisine is pad thai.  Pan fried thin rice noodles cooked with chicken, prawns, egg, beansprouts, and Chinese chives, with shredded carrots, red cabbage, green cabbage, half of a lime, and ground peanuts on the side, is how 3 Thai does theirs.  There were two elements that particularly impressed us about this plate.  For one, all the vegetables were still crispy, so there was lots of texture up against the proteins and the noodles.  Secondly, Zach cannot eat unprocessed nuts or seeds, so we really appreciated that the peanuts were on the side automatically and we didn’t have to ask for a special order.  The flavor was a great balance of salty and sweet, with a mild but refreshing sourness if you choose to squeeze the lime over it.

barbeque pork shoulder

barbeque pork shoulder

Also known as kho moo yang, barbeque pork shoulder is a “Thai favorite” according to the menu.  This marinated pork is served with a four-flavor dipping sauce that is strongly spicy and mildly sweet and salty, with cilantro, Chinese chives, shallots, and some sort of pepper.  August didn’t touch the sauce because Zach knew it would be too hot for her, but the pork was deliciously sweet.  There was a good char and it was cooked really well so that it was still juicy and not dried out.

thai iced tea and thai iced coffee

thai iced tea and thai iced coffee

We drank these with our dinner, but they could have easily been a dessert beverage.  Zach surprised himself at liking the Thai iced coffee, since coffee isn’t really his thing.  Although they are pretty to look at with the cream floating on top, make sure you thoroughly mix before drinking.

Our server was also a classically trained chef and owner of 3 Thai, so we had a great time talking with him and learning about Thai food.  We are certain to be coming back to try some other items, as surely they will be as tasty as what we had tonight.