#122: Tomi Japanese Seafood & Grill

On Wednesday night I went to Tomi Japanese Seafood & Grill, a buffet located between Ginger’s and Tandoori Nights on East Roseville Parkway at North Sunrise.  I needed to use a SacPerks deal that was expiring this week.  My friend Justin joined me.  I’m not really big on buffets and tend to avoid them for the most part (Indian buffets being the exception).  Maybe I’ve just not been to the right ones but I never have a very good experience.  The food is often old, has a weird texture, just doesn’t look appetizing or has no taste.  I will usually do one pass where I take a tiny bit of anything that looks somewhat decent and then return for a full plate of the one or two items I ended up liking.

There’s this sushi/Chinese/Mongolian BBQ buffet near where I work in Rancho Cordova that has closed and reopened with new owners at least 3 times in the last 5 years.  I’m pretty sure it was closed for health violations at least one of those times.  The Yelp reviews for the current iteration of it are just staggeringly bad.  Since I see it pretty much every day it’s what I think about when I think of buffets.  Going in to Tomi, with this in mind, I was not optimistic.

We arrived at about 6:30PM.  The parking lot is cramped and always looks like it’s full, even when there are plenty of spots.  Tomi was actually pretty dead.  There were maybe 4 or 5 customers eating when we walked in.  A woman greeted us and showed us to a table on the opposite side of the dining room from where the other people were, so for a little while we had that side to ourselves.  After about one plate a young couple were seated nearby.  One other table may have been seated while we were there.  The place is BIG.  I don’t think my photos of the seating really do it justice.  There’s like 2-3 times that much.  It’s a very nice space in general.  Right when you walk in there’s a big entryway with a huge chandelier and some glass “walls” that are the type that look like they are shattered and about to crumble to the floor.  The buffet is lit up with moody green lighting all the way around.

As we were shown our table she took our drink orders, a water and a Dr Pepper.  We headed off right away to start our first plates.  I used 3 different plates this night and each one was still wet from (hopefully) the dishwasher.  I kind of shook them off and went about loading up.  I started on the right side, which was all the cooked stuff.  I picked up a little bit each of: chow mein, General Tao’s chicken, stuffed mushrooms, (what looked like) mushroom chicken, walnut shrimp (though no walnuts, same style sweet glazed shrimp), salmon stuffed eggplant and a couple fried potstickers.  Back to the table I found my Dr Pepper and a fork rolled up in a napkin, as well as a small stack of napkins in the middle.  I went to town on my plate.  The chow mein was “meh.”  I think if it were hotter it would have been good, but it was just a little warm.  The General Tao’s chicken was definitely on the older side, also not as hot as it should have been and a bit dry.  Flavor-wise it was decent.  The stuffed mushrooms were about room-temp and not really special.  The majority of flavor came from the drizzle of sweet-tasting sauce over it.  The mushroom chicken was much like the General Tao – dry and not very hot.  The walnut shrimp seemed to have, at the risk of sounding repetitive, been sitting out for quite a while.  Again, needed to be hot.  The eggplant was tempura-battered and fried.  I didn’t tatse anything other than the batter and a hint of eggplant.  Finally the fried potstickers were just borring, not that crispy since, again, they hat been sitting for a while.  They were definitely room temp.  Justin had immediately went for the crab legs which he said weren’t great.  At one point he said “I’m going to pay for this” and then continued eating.

I headed back out, this time to check out the sushi selections.  The first items I came across where pieces of nigiri.  Most of the fish looked to be on the dry side and I selected the best(safest) looking ones.  The salmon actually looked decent and relatively fresh.  Next up was a platter full of salmon and yellowtail sashimi.  This also looked OK so I took a couple of each.  Finally I rounded the corner to where they had many different rolls and picked a few different pieces.  They were all on the small side and I think I only saw one that had fish on it.  Most of the others looked to have tempura shrimp and/or shredded crab.  I finished this plate off by heading back to the cooked side and picking up a crab leg, which I didn’t have room for the first time.  I took a moment to look over the rest of the buffet before heading off when a guy working just on the other side of the buffet table motioned to the butter, which I had forgotten about, so that was cool of him.  I grabbed a bit and went back to the table.

This plate was more disappointing than the last.  I’m typing this about 4 hours after eating and feeling OK, so everything must have been  relatively safe.  At the time though I wondered.  Pretty much all the fish, with the exception of the sashimi, was just about room temperature. I think the sashimi must have been recently put out.  Most of the sushi had been sitting on a glass-top over what I guess was some sort of cooling system or ice.  Even so, it just didn’t do the job.  I ate a piece of the salmon sashimi.  It was a bit cooler, texture seemed ok, but really didn’t have much flavor.  Same was true for the yellowtail.  Next up I ate the salmon nigiri.  This was acceptable but would have been much better chilled.  I kind of poked at some of the other pieces but didn’t really want them.  I was losing my will to eat.  Having not seen much in the way of utensils I bare handed the crab leg and worked to get the meat out.  At one point I apparently sprayed Justin’s side of the table with a shower of juice and bits of crab, but I was so focused on opening the shell that I didn’t even notice until he showed me later.  I thought the crab was OK.  Again, could have been hotter.

Finally I went out to see the fruit and desserts.  I thought the fruits mostly looked pretty good.  Their desserts consisted of a chocolate/coffee cake thing, what almost looked like jello shots, some yellow cake and little cups of some sort of custard.  They also had some ice cream that I passed up.  I tried out the custard, which was kind of thin and I’m not really sure what flavor it was supposed to be, it wasn’t very rich.  The chocolate/coffee cake thing was actually pretty good, very light and tasty.  I picked up some pineapple, watermelon and cantaloup.  The pineapple was the best, juicy and flavorful.  The watermelon and cantaloup were not really noteworthy.  All these could have been colder.  They were almost room temp.  (forgot to get some photos of this plate)

I had low expectations of a sushi buffet and I was actually surprised because it didn’t even live up to those.  The staff was mostly absent, save for the one woman that kept a very close watch on the dining room and cleared our plates as we finished with them.  Most of the guys working in the kitchen stayed in the back the whole time.  Of the extremely limited interactions I had they all seemed generally nice.  I couldn’t believe that they were OK with my taking photos of the food on the buffet line.  For some reason I was expecting some amount of hostility or a “no photos” policy.  The place was fairly warm.  I was on the brink of sweating just sitting there.  I would think with a sushi buffet you’d want to crank the AC, but not here apparently.  I can’t ever see myself returning.  It’s a good thing we had the $25 Sac Perks deal.  Without it the price would have been about $36.  As it is I was disappointed in what we got for $11.  Had we paid full price I think I would have actually been upset.  This place was overpriced and the quality was awful.  My opinion of buffets stands.

Website: http://tomisushibuffet.com/  –  Site seems to be down

#121: Taste of India

Tonight for dinner I was joined by my mom for Indian food at Taste of India.  They opened late last year in the Safeway shopping center at Pleasant Grove and Roseville Parkway.  I had a $30 Amazon Local deal burning a hole in my wallet and I was hungry for something tasty.  We arrived at about 5:30PM to an empty restaurant and were greeted by a friendly woman and seated by a window.

Just a couple weeks ago I had stopped here one night on a whim and had their buffet.  Everything I had was very good though their buffet table is somewhat smaller than Mehfil or Bombay Bistro which limited the selection a bit.  The place seems fairly large, and even larger this time since it was still light out and one side of the dining room is all windows.  The previous time I had arrived just as a belly dancer was finishing up her routine for a half-dozen patrons.  This night there was no one but the two or three staff, and later a couple guys that showed up to put a big poster of the Taj Mahal up.  We were the only customers the whole time we were there.

We looked over the menu, which seemed pretty standard to the other Indian restaurants I’ve been to so far.  Curry, biryani, various tandoor-cooked meats and of course several types of naan.  We immediately chose the chicken tikka masala (boneless white meat chicken cooked in creamy butter sauce with fresh and fragrant spices) as it’s hard to go wrong there.  We pondered the tandoori shrimp (jumbo shrimp marinated and cooked on skewers in a tandoor oven) but ultimately decided against it as most of the tadoori things we’ve tried so far have often been overcooked/dry.  Eventually I’ll give something from the tandoor another shot, but not tonight.  At some point earlier today I had gone looking for the Taste of India website, found some other restaurant by mistake and had mushrooms on the brain after seeing a mushroom based dish on their front page.  This led me to the lamb mushroom curry (tender lamb cooked with mushrooms), which I ordered.  We picked the plain naan from their options of potato, onion, chicken, or garlic.  Finally, we wanted to try a salad, of which they basically have two to choose from.  One is a mixed green salad (lettuce, tomatoes & cucumber with tangy, homemade dressing) and the other is a cucumber salad (finely chopped cucumbers and tomatoes in our very own sauce).  I’m not huge on cucumbers so we went with the mixed green.

I also ordered a mango lassi which, judging by the blender sound I heard from the kitchen right before it came out, they make fresh to order.  It was quite cold and very delicious.  I’ve yet to have one of these anywhere that was not fantastic.  I often stop by Tandoori Nights to grab one of their ready to go ones from the self serve cooler when I’m out and about.  The salad arrived at about the same time.  Even though the description had cucumbers as one of the three ingredients listed I was still surprised by the amount of them and how big they were sliced.  There may very well have been close to, if not, a whole cucumber there.  I manned up and started crunching away on the huge chunks.  The tomatoes were also fairly large slices which, as tomatoes do, dominated the bite they were in.  The dressing was the most interesting thing.  It was creamy, sweet with a little tang to it and with waves of cumin that were not present in every bite.  It was very unique, and I kind of liked it.  Had this been a lot more lettuce I probably would have liked it a lot more.  Cucumbers are just so…boring 😉

We had just about finished the salad when our two entrees were brought out.  A large plate of basmati rice accompanied the two smallish metal bowls.  The chicken tikka masala looked to be mostly sauce, though there was actually quite a bit of chicken hiding under the surface.  I spooned some chicken up over rice and then realized that it would take a while to get the amount of sauce I wanted like that.  I’m not sure if she warned me about the hot bowl, if so I wasn’t paying attention.  I nearly dropped the whole thing after picking it up to try and pour some of the creamy orange colored sauce over the chicken and rice.  I repositioned to hold it around the rim and finished the maneuver.  The lamb mushroom curry was a bit thicker and easier to spoon out onto my plate.  Our naan was glistening with a light coating of butter and was crisp and fresh from the tandoor.

The lamb mushroom was quite good.  it had what seemed to be a somewhat tomato-based sauce with very fragrant and flavorful spices that I’m not even going to begin to try and identify.  The lamb was tender.  Not that there was a lack of mushrooms in this dish, but I kind of hoped it would be a lot heavier with them.  It was fine though, I just love me some mushrooms.  The chicken tikka masala was absolutely wonderful.  Rich, creamy and full of flavor with lots of super tender white meat.  I did a lot of dipping my naan in the excess sauce to get more of it and wiped my plate clean with the last piece.  This was the best part for sure.

The price was pretty much the same as I expect from an Indian restaurant in the area.  We spent about $37 after tax for everything and I left with enough for a good sized lunch tomorrow.  I felt like the dinner buffet price was a bit high, especially with the smaller selection.  I’m pretty sure it was higher than Mehfil though I don’t recall what either charge, off the top of my head, only that it seemed like a lot when I got the bill.  Overall I was generally happy.  The lamb curry and bread were good, the chicken tikka masala and mango lassi fantastic and the salad decent.  I think I prefer Mehfil and Bombay to Taste of India by a little bit, mostly just due to the larger buffet selection though.

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#120: Cupcake A La Mode

Cupcake time! I must admit I was not really in the mood to do a whole dinner thing tonight, but I’ve been really happy with my posting momentum lately that I didn’t want to skip the mid-week one, so I picked Cupcake A La Mode. I noticed this little cupcake shop in the Stone Point shopping center a few weeks ago. It’s at the far end in a little corner spot, sharing the building with Paul Martin’s. I didn’t even realize there was another space there, I figured Paul Martin’s used the whole building. Not long after seeing it I got an email for a Groupon here (which is still available, click here to go to it). A bit of poking around on their website and Facebook page showed me that this is the 3rd location, with the other two located out in Kansas and Missouri.

I stopped in at about 4:15PM. Inside is a very small space, enough room for the counter/register and a handful of seats. They have a full permanent menu with descriptions of each cupcake as well as a blackboard with monthly specials. Today the display case looked mostly full, with just a few flavors that they were out of. I took a moment to skim over the selection and then picked out one for myself and six more to take to work tomorrow. For the last couple I asked what she recommended. She pointed out that lots of people usually like red velvet, which I agreed with, and that she thought the Marshmallow Fondue reminded her of a S’more (s’more of what?), so I went with those. They are $3.25 a piece which is about on par with Smallcakes and Sweet Stuff. I asked how well they would hold up overnight and was told they should be just fine as long as I refrigerate them and take them out about an hour before serving to let the buttercream frosting soften back up.

And with that I was back home for a little cupcake photo shoot, all the while under constant watch from Dusty, who wished he could get his paws on one or more of them.

I had the Mama Mia: [(Our version of tiramisu!) A Vanilla cupcake topped with alternating layers of mocha buttercream and cream cheese icing, sprinkled with cocoa powder]. Wow. Just wow. This was so intensely sweet and rich that I found myself carefully balancing cake and frosting in each bite. Paired with a glass of milk this was amazing. Without it might have been torture. I was blown away by how strong the tiramisu/coffee taste was. It was by far one of the most full-flavored cupcakes I’ve ever had.

Update 3/7/13: I had some left over after work today and ate the ChocoVanillo which was totally awesome. It was a lot less dense and rich (though it was still rich) than the Mama Mia. This was more like the ones I liked from Sweet Stuff Cakery. I still have the Marshmallow Fondue and will probably check that out tomorrow, hopefully it’ll hold up after two nights in the fridge.

Red Velvet: Traditional red velvet cupcake topped with our white chocolate cream cheese icing and red velvet cake crumbs.

ChocoVanillo: Vanilla cupcake topped with our rich, creamy chocolate buttercream and covered in dark chocolate shavings.

After Dinner Mint: Chocolate cupcake swirled with white chocolate peppermint buttercream, covered in finely grated dark and white chocolate and topped with a chocolate peppermint cookie.

Peanut Butter Kiss: Chocolate cupcake topped with a layer of smooth semisweet chocolate, a peanut butter buttercream swirl and a Hershey kiss on top.

Vanilla Creme de Coco: Chocolate cupcake topped with our signature french vanilla buttercream. This cupcake usually has pink and white sugar crystals sprinkled on it with a pink malted milk ball BUT may be seasonally decorated as well.

Marshmallow Fondue: Chocolate cupcake topped with a layer of smooth, semisweet chocolate, a swirl of marshmallow creme buttercream, a sprinkling of graham cracker crumbs and a chocolate covered graham cracker on top.

Roseville definitely has a solid three cupcake joints at this point. I feel like what I’ve had from Sweet Stuff Cakery edges out Smallcakes and Cupcake A La Mode out a little overall because they’re less intense and more well balanced, but their limited hours annoy me so I’m more inclined to go to the others for my cupcake desires. Add to that, Cupcake A La Mode and Smallcakes both have great outdoor areas to sit and eat and are both near some nice restaurants to have lunch/dinner at first. Wherever you decide to go though, you probably will not be disappointed, they all really are pretty great!