Minato Japanese Restaurant

Minato-Japanese-CuisineI’ve never been to a Japanese Restaurant, so I thought it was worth a try, given the fact San Jose’s Japantown is 1 of 3 remaining historical Japantown’s in the USA. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I had a peek at the menu beforehand so I knew a little bit about what to order.

Minato-hoursAs someone who hasn’t tried sushi (I’m so not ready for it yet, even after trying Ahi Tuna Poke in December), of course I’d be the person to order the few chicken dishes on a Japanese menu. Aren’t Eastern Canadians supposed to love fish? Probably. But, I’m not an adventurous eater like some.

minato-miso-soupI ended up staying in my comfort zone and getting a tasting of chicken teriyaki and salad. First came out our miso soup, where I dug out the yummy tofu with chopsticks. Because, yolo. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to drink the miso soup, but I took it up with my hands and drank most of it before our lunch arrived.

Minato is on the smaller side of restaurants, and the menu is nice and short. I admire that, because whenever I go to larger chains I feel like I have to flick through so many pages to decide on what I want to eat.

Minato-lunchThe Guy and I ordered the same thing :) I wasn’t a huge fan of the salad, not much on it to be honest! The dressing was awesome, though I have no idea what they used.

Minato-mainThis is what you see when you walk in the first set of doors before you enter the restaurant. 

MinatoTowards the middle of the restaurant when you walk in, there is an area for kids prizes after they’ve finished their meal. I’m not too sure how the kids get tickets, perhaps after so many visits they can save up and pick out a prize for themselves. This sort of thing reminds me of my childhood, where we used to pick out prizes at a fair, or at a school event. Super fun, and I’m glad Minato is doing it too. After our bellies were filled with lunch, we ended up checking into our hotel at The Fairmont San Jose. Now that is one beautiful hotel, I’ll have a review of our ginantor suite we stayed in (bigger than our old apartment), later on!

If you’re craving a bit of Japanese food when you visit San Jose, come check out Minato, it’s only a 1.5 mile walk from the downtown core in San Jose. Plus, it has a ton of rave reviews on Yelp, so many people have been enjoying it!

Have you ever been to a Japanese Restaurant? What would you normally order?

Are you a fan of sushi?

Minato Japanese Restaurant
617 North 6th Street
San Jose, CA 95112
(408) 998-9711

Roasted red pepper and grilled chicken panini

Panini-headerI don’t do too many cooking recipes on the blog, primarily because I am so fixed in my ways with the handful I have in rotation and we’re pretty happy with it. As much as I like to be adventurous in the kitchen, it’s not me. I’m still making that lemon pepper chicken stir fry often, along with the good ol’ staples.

Two chefs in the family and one of them isn’t me. I leave it up to my Mom and Brother, who can take out everything in your pantry and fridge, whip something up in no time and have it taste like something from a restaurant. My Dad and I like to cook some boiled eggs and call it a day. My trick is when I taste my family’s home-cooking, I adopt their recipes to bring back to my kitchen and call it a day. Then friends come over thinking I’m the awesome cook. I do let them in on who actually came up with it though.

When Lori was here visiting, she noticed the abundance of sandwiches I consumed. Each time we went to a restaurant, I picked out the sandwich on the menu. I never noticed that I did it, but it all makes sense now — because they are SO good. And I can be really picky about my them too, you know they’re not all made equally.

Paninis are particularly my favourite. So that’s what I’m showing you guys today on my new Cuisinart Griddler that I got off O.co. I mean, you technically don’t need me to tell you how to make a panini since it’s pretty straight forward. That’s the great thing about sandwiches, you can add whatever you want!

CuisinArt-GriddlerAfter heating up the grill side of the plate, I waited until the grill reached its temperature before putting the chicken on. Always want those grill marks on chicken, perfection. They ended up taking about 13 minutes to cook since they were pretty thick to start with.

roasted-tomatoesLet the chicken cool and turn our attention to the cherry tomatoes (with salt and pepper on top) which I baked at 350º for 15 minutes to really give them some more flavour.

Trader-Joes-ciabattaI picked up some freshly baked ciabatta buns from Trader Joes since I spotted them there earlier last week and had it in mind to make this meal for the weekend, because when I went there last time to do my regular grocery shop I noticed they were sold out. So yesterday morning I headed into the store around 9am and they were stocked with plenty. I picked up two not really knowing how big they’d be once I removed them from the bags. Nothing to complain about, I love a nice hearty piece of bread.

mayo-spreadSlicing the cibatta buns in half, and add on some chipotle mayo. Oh, and be generous. I can’t stand a dry sandwich. We could get fancy over here and add some pepper jack cheese to give it a nice punch, but I had some colby jack in the fridge. Now don’t skimp on the cheese either, we want it to ooze goodness. Unless of course you’re dairy free. Then I feel really bad for you. I’ll have an extra piece for you.

making-paninisGo to town with whatever toppings you like on your sandwich. Spose we have to add some greenery to it too, we had spinach. I picked up some dill pickles and roasted red peppers also from Trader Joe’s — I hadn’t tried them before, they sounded like they’d pair well with everything else to go on the panini.

Panini-in-cuisinartFold’er up and add a drizzle of olive oil on top and pop it into the medium heated grill. Our old faithful grill/panini press kicked the bucket a while ago, it was a high end brand and I was sad to see it go. But they all get old and need to be replaced eventually. It was my Moms and she handed it down to me, plus the plates weren’t removable and not super easy to clean. The Cuisinart Griddler is a little lower end and the top handle feels a bit flimsier than what I’m used to. However it has many more options since it’s so much newer. You can use it as a grill, panini press, full grill, full griddle or half grill/half griddler. And the best part about the whole thing is that the plates can be removed and put in the dish washer!

CuisinArt-PaniniMy panini skills may need a bit more work. I pressed on it a little too firmly and a bunch of my overstuffed ingredients tried sneaking out. It may not be pretty, but it sure tasted amazing.

holding-paniniI give myself a pat on the back for this creation. If you’re really hungry you can add a side but we thought this was enough for us. I’d either have a sliced up honey crisp apple, a side salad or maybe some sweet potato fries. All the carbs. Don’t judge me. That’s what exercise is for.

Angle-of-CuisinArtThe only thing that bothers me about the panini aspect of the cuisinart griddler, is that the top has a fixed angle as you can see from the side view. Where as my other grill/panini had allowed for a flexible top plate and squished it flat rather than angled, making a more even flat panini. I rotated the sandwiches half way through so they wouldn’t be flat on one side and puffy on the other.

behind-the-scenesOh and a little sneak of the mess behind the scenes of the blogging world. Keepin’ things real.

What are some of your favourite foods?
Mine are: asparagus, carrots, potatoes, chicken, popcorn, candy, sandwiches and pizza. Ha!!!!

What are some foods you hate?
My husband and I both cannot eat or touch anything with onions on/in it.

What do you like on sandwiches/paninis?

Disclaimer: O.Co aka Overstock kindly sent me the Cuisinart Griddler for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

La Lune Sucrée, San Jose

La-Lune-headerImagine waking up in a quiet secluded apartment with fresh flowers hanging from the balcony, overlooking a cobblestone street. You simply just want to throw on a casual loose linen tee and an old pair of comfy jeans and sandals, walk out your front door to grab some freshly baked french pastries and steaming hot coffee to wake yourself up on a lazy weekend morning.

Not so easy when you don’t live in Europe, right?

Walkway-to-La-LuneI’m happy to say you don’t have to venture too far if you live in the Bay Area and want to recreate that European feeling in San Jose. That’s exactly what we did one morning while we were playing tourist in our new home city.

La-Lune-SucreeI’ve been across the pond a couple of times (once to England and Ireland x2), but nothing in the last ten years. I can get my fix of European bistros by simply visiting La Lune Sucrée, a quaint little restaurant in downtown San Jose. This is definitely a spot where I’ll be taking out-of-town visitors to, and will be popping in here for morning treats and lattes. Yum!  It is a small café, and only has a couple of tables, with more seating outside on the walkway, so keep that in mind if you’re travelling with a larger group of people.

breakfast-at-La-Lune-SucreeToo bad I had to have manners and only order a regular amount of food. I could have easily consumed numerous plates offered at the café.

Pastry-at-La-Lune-SucreeAlthough I do plenty of café and restaurant reviews around the area, I don’t always rave about them and recommend you must try the place. Some of them are average run of the mill restaurants that aren’t all that special, but this place I want you to go visit if you’re ever in the city of San Jose.

Morning-hot-choc-at-La-LuneEspecially if you want a few pastries and a cuppa joe.

hot-choc-and-whip-creamOr in my case a white hot chocolate with whipped cream.

Crepe-at-La-Lune-SucreeThe Guy and I both ordered sweet crepes (as opposed to their liqueur or savoury options which also looked incredible). Their menu is cute and each crepe is labeled by country. I ordered the Italy crepe and my husband went for the Milan. Next time I will definitely add in à la mode which is an added scoop of hand-made gelato. Oh boy. Both crepes were heavenly, but thinking back we should have ordered one sweet and one savoury to split between us. Because two sweet crepes was a bit too much for a morning breakfast, but absolutely fantastic none the less.

I had a chat with both Mark and Bettina, the owners of La Lune Sucrée and enjoyed their story of how they came to open this french pastry café. Bettina learned how to make her pastries and most popular item in the cafe, the Almond Chocolate Croissants in a tiny village in France by a French pastry chef. To make a long story short, Mark and Bettina met in Europe, and fell in love. They relocated back to the Bay Area where he is originally from, and opened this café years later! Now, aren’t I glad I moved from Canada to California, so I can enjoy some of this wonderful piece of Europe that Bettina so carefully creates with her desserts? :)

La-Lune-Sucree-sandwichesI had one of my closest friends come for a visit shortly after finding out about this spot (where my husband and I ate breakfast) so I took my friend for brunch the day we got back from our three day Yosemite climbing trip. We split two sandwiches between each other so we could nibble at both to get a bit of variety. It’s a running joke that I could eat sandwiches for every meal of every day if I had to. It was a good choice to order these, instead of breakfast – even if it was just 10:30 in the morning.

Alright, so I’m pretty picky with my sandwiches and at first I didn’t really want to share since Lori ordered hers on a croissant.

She had the chicken salad sandwich with pecans, apples, raisins, honey dijon and romaine. Mine was the turkey bistro, which had jarlsberg (cheese), dijon, pear pomegranate jam and fresh rosemary. The jam was a great addition to the sandwich, so kudos to Bettina coming up with that creation, and I’ve never heard of jarlsberg cheese before. Apparently it’s similar to swiss. It was really good.

Which one stole the show? Honestly, it’s a tie. There’s no way I can go in there and tell you which one I loved the best. Like I said, picky sandwich-er over here and not all are created equal. But these are excellent, and even on a croissant! I’m a huge lover of a nice crunchy on the outside chewy on the inside ciabatta bun.

Nancy-LoriDo you think we look related? We used to get it a lot when we were younger and both living in Newfoundland, hanging out at our local climbing gym.

I have another best bud coming down in May and I’ve already planned most of her itinerary, and you better believe that I’ll be taking her here, too. Each time I popped into La Lune Sucrée, the staff working there were super friendly and really helpful with indecisiveness to order off the menu. After taking some guidance from them, I ended up with excellent choices from their great selection of pastries. I already can’t wait to go back, luckily they’re a quick drive away!


La Lune Sucrée 

116 Paseo de San Antonio
San Jose, CA 95112

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