Alvin Tsao is a current cook at Farmstead in St. Helena & attends the Culinary Institute of America - Greystone. He attended UC Davis, was a member of both Phi Alpha Delta and the International Affairs Journal.
Alvin Tsao's Restaurant Recommendations Updated March 10th, 2009
The following is a list of restaurants I've tried in Davis, they are ranked in order. Background: I've lived in Davis for five years and am a pretty adventurous eater and cook. The restaurants above the line are those that I recommend
I don't rate major chains because you have probably already tried them and formulated your opininon.
1. Cafe Bernardo - I'm not generally a fan of french toast, but i LOVE the french toast here.
2. Black Bear Diner - I'm a fan of the chicken fried steak and the homemade biscuits.
3. Cindy's - Cinnamon Rolls there are really great.
4. Bistro 33
5. Shanghai Town (Soybean Milk & Chinese Donuts)
1. Tucos Wine Market And Cafe - Get a sampling of their cheese (I like the truffle one), Feijoada, Lamb Meatballs, Buffalo, or any fish entree. Ask the owner for advice on wine (any price).
1. Kathmandu Kitchen - The butter chicken in their lunch buffet is really good.
1. Biba's in Sacramento - They change their menu, but definitely try any Duck or Rabbit dish.
2. Osteria Fasulo
3. Caffe Italia
1. Zen Toro - Rolls: Lobster Roll, New Age Bake California, Avo-Negihama Special, Sean Hawaiian Poke Roll, O. Kings. Dinner: Miso Butter Fish, Albacore, Sesame Chicken, Seafood Chazuke
Only if it's Sunday and ZT is closed
2. Sushi Unlimited
1. Jusco - While the other Sushi buffets have taken a dip, the quality at Jusco's seem to have improved with time. Highlights: Service, because they are a smaller place the service here is generally more attentive and friendly. The hot food is the major draw here as everything is made to order (and you can taste the difference). The fried chicken wings and fried calamari are particularly decent for a buffet. I enjoy the sushi here (for a buffet) because it's also made to order (for the most part), and you can tell the difference with the quality of the seaweed and that any rolls with heated elements (like Shrimp Tempura) are still hot. I recommend the Kitty Roll.
2. Davis Sushi Buffet
3. Nobu Hiro - the quality is a bit better than Fuji's and there's less of a wait. If you do go to Fuji's make sure you get your money's worth by asking them for things they may not readily put out for mass consumption like Ikura or Sashimi.
4. Fuji Chef
1. Taqueria Guadalajara - Lengua & Chorizo burrito.
2. El Mariachi - The tacos are much larger here than at Guadalajara, great salsa bar and agua frescas (try Horchata with a bit of the strawberry juice).
3. Ali Baba
1. Tapa The World (Sacramento) - Try the Mussels, the Sangria, the Mushrooms, the Empanada of the day or the Strawberry Chocolate Addiction dessert. Skip the Paella and the Chorizo with Potatoes.
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2007-08-27 17:36:50 Thanks for the suggestion to try Zen Toro for Japanese — I'll have to check them out soon. Now it's my turn for a suggestion — you've got this great list of restaurant recommendations, so why not make them links to the appropriate wiki pages? —CovertProfessor
2007-09-18 20:55:26 you are so far in the closet you must be finding christmas presents —NickKory
2007-10-07 10:01:53 just curious. Have you tried all the places in davis (for instance there are about 15 chinese places) your list seems to suggest that if it is not on your list you dont like it, do you mean that you either dont like it or haven't tried it. Mayebe including the ones you dont like with a line seperating the ones you do like with the ones you dont would make things more clear. Just a suggestion. —MattHh
2007-10-07 12:15:33 Hey I see you work at Zen Toro, my friend and I go there a lot! I was just wondering, do you - or anybody, know where to get shabu shabu?? I can't seem to find any in Sac, closest is in SF?! —AmyLee
2007-10-15 21:01:17 Thanks Nick, with friends and little sibs like you who needs a noose? —AlvinTsao
2007-10-15 21:02:35 I didn't want to make my list super complicated, assume if it's not up there I don't like it or haven't heard enough positive things about it to try it (I've eaten at at least 30 different places in Davis). —AlvinTsao
2007-11-25 16:16:05 Actually I decided to go with your advice MattHh, while there are Chinese restaurants I would never try because of what I hear, I suppose it's not fair just not to include them.. —AlvinTsao
2007-11-25 19:28:10 thanks for the suggestions. I will try Zen Toro in the near future (if they have replaced the mac, they are likely to move to number one for japanese restaraunts). As for symposium i have tried their pizza, its good (clearly in the top 2), but im partial to the new york style, I rated them under greek/med, where I gave them an average score mainly for poor Greek food. On pizza alone they would probably be at least a 7.5-8 for me. —MattHh
2007-12-26 20:24:11 ok so i tried Zen Toro tonight once again. I now have moved them to the number one Japanese restaurant in Davis, and i did enjoy the meal. However, I could not move them to an 8 (although i debated on doing it for a while). Here is my main reason. The food is skillfully prepared, beautifully presented and quite complex and inovative, however most of the dishes seem to be just a tad off in terms of the seasoning/flavor combinations. Usually this is just a little heavy on the seasoning/salt. I think the chef really needs to let his/her skill and quality of the ingredients shine, too often the food is oversalted, or there is an inapropriate ingredient (this sounds harsh but usually the flavor infraction is quite minor). You can see my new review on the zt page. —MattHh
2008-03-25 19:30:14 you're so right about the turky burger at sam's with tahini. It was fabulous, and to my surprise it came with grilled onions :). Thanks for the recomendation, next stop might be tuco's, we will see. —MattHh
2009-05-22 21:02:28 haha big I've been using your recommendations for so long! I can't believe this is how I recognized you... —StephanieRobinson
2009-06-12 15:39:45 Haha you got me addicted to Shanghai Town! —StephanieRobinson
2009-09-16 00:14:40 I really wish you would layout your food list better. It hurts my eyes. —NickKory
2009-11-08 09:37:07 I have you ask you what you think is so great about the soymilk in Shanghai Town. The two times I tried it it always taste burnt. Maybe you like your soymilk burnt?? —geezlouisexyz
2009-11-14 02:12:10 Hmm... the first time I got salty and the other sweet, both burnt. There is better soy milk in Davis— it was located at the MU, but I'm usually not at that part of the campus, so I don't know if it's still there. They have sweet and original flavor. The company's name is escaping me right now, maybe it's called Sacramento Tofu Company? Do you know what I'm talking about? Their soy milk is pretty good. There isn't a salty flavor though. —geezlouisexyz
2010-02-03 22:43:13 RE: The opening of Hometown, are you sure you don't mean Februrry 8th? —JoePomidor
2010-11-06 21:50:59 If you like shopping for produce (something I love doing) and haven't been there yet, go check out Pedrick Produce . That place is spectacular. I make a point of going at least once every couple of weeks these days, and can typically get a big box of great, fresh produce for around $20-25. It's a fantastic experience :) —TomGarberson
2010-11-20 02:48:04 You can hit up the RR they dispatch someone pronto to check it out —StevenDaubert