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Rod's New Year's Resolution: Eat, Eat, Eat!

Blast San Francisco Bureau

It's the start of a new year and I've made a resolution to eat in as many different types of places that I possibly can with my entertainment card.

For the uninitiated, The Bay Area offers an "entertainment book" chock full of discounts for restaurants, haircuts, oil changes, travel and hotels. The entertainment books cost about $20, but the savings are substantial. I've focused on restaurants in the Contra Costa County areas. My greatest problem with the entertainment book and my resolution isn't eating. It's the other New Year's resolution I made to lose weight.

Scale: 1 - awful, 2 - bad, 3- average, 4 - good, 5 - excellent
$ - cheap ($3-$6), $$ - moderate ($7-$11), $$$ - pricy ($12-$18), $$$$ - expensive (over $19)

3456 Camino Tassajara Rd., Danville, Calif.
(510) 736-9292
Food Type: Italian
Food: 3.5
Service: 3
Atmosphere: 4
Price: $$
Entertainment card savings: $9.

Danville is the town that borders Blackhawk and is a pretty upscale community about 25 miles east of Oakland. Strizzis is located in a nice little shopping center with a lot of shops to walk through. When we arrived for dinner, the place was fairly busy and quickly became standing room only.

I had the lasagne, which was all right. I usually try to avoid eating spaghetti and lasagne at Italian restaurants. Spaghetti is fairly simple to make and I have yet to find a restaurant that does something special with spaghetti that can't be done at home. I avoid lasagne simply because of price. Lasagne should not be more than $6 for a slice, but it usually runs in the neighborhood of $10.

Anyway, I was in the mood for lasagne for some strange reason, regardless of price. It was fairly light on the meat and not extremely heavy. My companion had the salmon, which was pretty good. (You have to check on the daily specials, since salmon is not normally on the menu.) We ordered a side salad with our meal. The salad was OK. The service was average, but the atmosphere was pretty nice. A great meeting place for friends or for casual dining. I would recommend catching a flick at the Blackhawk theatres, do a little shopping, and grabbing a bite to eat at Strizzis to kill a day.

La Belle Creole
4090 San Pablo Ave.
Emeryville, Calif.
(510) 654-6008
Food Type: Caribbean Food: 4
Service: 4

Atmosphere: 4
Price: $$$ Entertainment card savings: $14.

We decided to try this place because I have never eaten Caribbean food before. We were advised by the entertainment book to make reservations and to request our menu selections beforehand, but I found that reservations were not really required. We went with escargot and salmon for appetizers. I have never been fond of escargot and probably should not give it a review. However, my companion is an escargot eater and found them to be pretty appetizing. The salmon was excellent. It was served rawed and just melted in the mouth. The appetizers went really well with white wine.

For the main entree, I had La Chevre Sautee aux Piments verts Sauciere Tresepile (translatation: roasted goat in curry sauce). This was the first time I had goat and found the taste to be unique and quite good. My companion tried Le Requin de mer Court Bouillon au Beurre Epice (translation: sauteed fresh shark meat with a special spicy buttered lemon oyster sauce). It was my first time trying shark meat as well and found the taste to be pretty good. A little tougher than fish, but boneless. The meal ran $50, which included two entrees, two appetizers and wine.

The atmosphere was rather strange. Paintings, which can be purchased by diners, fill up the walls. The general decor is like an antique store and each table has different chairs. Overall, a good restaurant to bring a date.

Charbol's - Le Cateaubriand
2065 San Ramon Valley Blvd.
San Ramon, CA
(510) 820-7274
Food Type: French Food: 3.5
Service: 4
Atmosphere: 4
Price: $$$
Entertainment card savings: $16.

This is an out of the way place that is kind of romantic. At first glance, it looks more like a converted Denny's. We went cheap with this place since you can probably spend a good chunk of change with entree, wine and appetizers. We both went with meat. I had the Veal and my companion had the Chateaubriand (fillet mignon with bacon). The food was pretty good, but heavy with sauce. I guess French food has a reputation for being heavy. The chateaubriand cost $18.95, the veal $17.95. Included with the meal is a small salad and soup. The soup was a cream of mushroom that was excellent. This is the place to go for Valentine's Day or a special occasion. The atmosphere is a little dark, which makes it romantic. And the waiter spoke with a French accent, furthering the atmosphere. Overall, a pretty good restaurant.

2416 San Ramon Valley Blvd.
San Ramon, Calif.
(510) 820-8107
Food Type: Japanese
Food: 3.5
Service: 2.5
Atmosphere: 4
Price: $$$ Entertainment card discount: $13.

Well for sushi, I expect to pay a little on the pricy side. Miraku is in the hip, happening part of Danville's next door neighbor, San Ramon. There's T.G.I.F's, Tommy T's, a Thai restaurant, and a pool hall in the same center. A movie theatre is across the street and gives discount rates for students.

The service is not great at Miraku, hard to understand when the restaurant has three locations and a lot of customers. I had the combo dinner, which included mizo soup, salad and green beans. The main course included teriyaki salmon and tempura. My companion had had sushi, but was limited in choices since some of her selections were sold out. The Unagi and Avocado rolls were pretty good. The sushi was pretty fresh, but expensive (what I would expect for San Ramon).

Be careful coming here though, the entertainment card is only good for before 6 p.m. or after 8:30 p.m. on weekends. The savings is deceptive as well since the description was $13.00 off two entrees or 25% from sushi. You cannot mix a combo dinner and individual sushi. Really a lame way to do it if you ask me.

The atmosphere is OK. There are booths for dining and a sushi bar and small tables for anorexic people who are only eating a small bowl of rice. Overall, if you have to eat sushi and are in San Ramon, this is the place to go. Otherwise, seek out a restaurant in Walnut Creek or possibly Pleasanton.

Gold Coast Restaurant
230 California St.
San Francisco, Calif.
(415) 989-6939
Food Type: California Bar and Grill
Food: 3
Service: 2
Atmosphere: 4
Price: $$$
Entertainment card savings: $18.

This seems to be a semi-popular hang out spot for single people. When you first enter the restaurant, it's a huge bar area. The restaurant is toward the back. Upstairs has a stage for a live band.

Grill places are basically steak houses, which is what we tried. I went with the Rib Eye Steak Chicago style and my companion had the Filet Mignon. Rib steak ran $18.95 and Filet Mignon $19.95. I had the feeling though that our waiter was a little disappointed that we did not order drinks. The dinners did not come with salads, so we ordered a small salad to share. The food was smothered in sauce and both steaks tasted the same. I like steak, but was a little disappointed at the food. The discount was $18, so it was almost two meals for the price of one.

The atmosphere is more of a singles bar. Definitely not a romantic place. A pick up spot or first date place, probably. Overall, I would not return to this place. It's located in downtown San Francisco and there are many other places to try in the city.

Pinole Creek Cafe
2454 San Pablo Ave.
Pinole, Calif.
(510) 724-1040
Food Type: Italian/California
Food: 4
Service: 4
Atmosphere: 4
Price: $$1/2
Entertainment card savings: $13.

I lived in Pinole for 12-plus years and never ate at the Pinole Creek Cafe until recently when a friend lost a bet. I have to say that I missed out. It's a secluded restaurant near a bar. There was a party of five of us and I had a dish that was not on the menu. It is my friend's favorite dish and can be made by special request. It was a chicken dish, but I can't recall the exact name. It was pretty good. There's a small bar which is nice when you are waiting for the rest of the party to show up. We had for an appetizer Escargot, which was all right. Everyone dug into the Escargot and polished it off pretty quickly.

Since we went there as a large group, I didn't use the discount card, but it's $13 off the meal which allows for a nice dinner for a reasonable price. The atmosphere is great. The restaurant is inside a Victorian style house and is really nice. This would definitely be a date place and a good place for a special occasion. There's a small creek that runs nearby and just makes it a wonderful place for meals, especially during the spring. Overall, a nice restaurant worth another visit.