Surprising find in a generic bar & grill

Mojito Skirt Steak

Billy Berks in downtown San Jose is your typical contemporary casual pub fare. Undoubtedly a popular pre-game destination, we walked in just after everyone had left to see the Sharks play.

Along with the usual macrobrews, we dug into chips + guac, buffalo wings, and calamari. All pretty typical fare although the calamari was served with two sauces, a sweet and sour, and a creamy cilantro instead of the usual cocktail/marinara combo, and the guacamole had mangoes in it. The buffalo wings were boneless, but had a really nice crisp that probably used a two-step corn starch and batter dredge that’s common in Asian cooking.

Blue Moon

Upon seeing the standard-fare menu, I decided to pick something that looked a little different, the Mojito Skirt Steak.

This was a great choice. A generous helping of nicely marinated and grilled flank steak was prepared with a wine reduction and topped with jalapeƱos cut lengthwise and fried, garnished with an diced red onion chutney and half a lime. For me this dish set Billy Berks well above the typical sports bar. The beef was perfectly cooked, and the fried jalapeƱos were spicy without being overwhelmingly hot. The frying technique also blistered the skin on the peppers a bit, which releases a lot of great flavors reminiscent of roasted green chiles from New Mexico. The lime juice perfectly offset the sweetness from the wine glaze, and the onions were mild and added a nice flavorful crunch.

Mojito Skirt Steak

On the side I had a mushroom polenta. The polenta was nice and creamy, and not dense or gelatinous at all. It had a texture like a risotto, where the cooking liquid plus the soaked up starches create a sauce. Clearly they didn’t use the mushroom braising liquids in the polenta cooking, so the mushrooms tasted like they were added at the last minute, rather than an integral part of it.

Mushroom Polenta

Silicon Valley Sushi


A business trip to San Jose left me with few dining options at our hotel out by the airport. A coworker from the local downtown office recommended Izakaya, which was right across the street from our hotel.

First item, my coworker had to try the coquettes since she fell in love with them in Spain. I was surprised to find them on a Japanese menu. A simple savory potato filling was lightly breaded with panko crumbs and then fried. It resulted in a piping hot, moist interior, with a thin crispy exterior. The panko crumb gave a nice light and crispy texture that very different from tempura or western batters.

Japanese Croquettes

Normally I hate seafood (long story that I’ll go into another time) but suffice it to say sushi is one of the forms I seafood that I’ll eat, primarily because it lacks that fishy flavor. I didn’t get too adventurous, ordering fairly items. I was surprised to see they allowed you to order off the dinner menu at the sushi bar.

Tamago, Spicy Yellowtail Roll, Caterpillar Roll

The tamago had the usual nice texture, was still warm which meant it was fresh, and had some other flavor I couldn’t place that worked well with the sweetness. I think that mystery flavor I what added the discoloration to the dish. It was a nice take on what can often be a generic dish.

The second dish is a spicy yellowtail roll. Wonderful texture with perfectly balanced amounts of rice and fish. I didn’t think it had enough kick to be considered spicy, but delicious nonetheless.

Last up is one of my favorites, the classic BBQ eel roll with avocado, frequently called a caterpillar roll. The sauce was flavorful but light, the avocados were perfectly ripe, soft, but not yet mushy, and again the rices due a perfect backbone for the roll.