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Dining with my daughter: Two different experiences

  • j
  • judy leibovitch Sep 21, 2000 06:04 AM
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Paradiso in San Leandro and Thanh Long in the outer Richmond were both on my list of places to check out. In general, I'd say JB and I have pretty strict standards for our 2 year old in restaurants, and she mostly does quite well and has eaten in some fairly nice places. We try to avoid non-kid friendly places, but sometimes it can't be helped. So anyway, after hosing ourselves down from being at the Raider/Bronco game in the broiling sun, no way could I cook dinner and my only criterion for a restaurant in that moment was that it be air-conditioned. Paradiso was - perfect. We arrived in t-shirts and shorts to walk into an airy, hardwood floored space that felt like an art gallery, complete with classical guitarist and waiters in crisp white shirts and long white aprons. Big oops, but we were welcomed nonetheless. A certain little person had bamboozled her baby sitter and had not taken a nap. She was overtired, overhungry, and wired. The waiter took our request for plain pasta with butter and cheese (not on the menu) with a smile, and she got more smiles from the open kitchen as JB walked her around to see the guitarist. When it turned out she liked the cherry tomatoes in my salad, he brought her a little bowl of them. By the time he was showing her his Pooh tie I could have kissed him. All that and the food was great, too.

Now at Thanh Long, very different story. We live in Oakland but I work in SF, so trying out this place seemed most practical in linking it to a day I work and Madeleine's at preschool. So JB picks her up, picks me up, and I stupidly overruled her request for pizza, (Mommy's turn.) Thanh Long was also way more formal than I expected for a neighborhood place, and once again my darling daughter was close to baby meltdown. The rice I asked be brought right away was brought, but she refused to eat it. We had to have several little "talks" outside, all watched with carefully blank looks from the hostess. I was frazzled, making it hard to enjoy the delicious, but labor intensive crab. Finally, while wrapping up thankfully to leave, we asked her sippy cup be refilled with half oj, half water. Our server looked a little put out and pointed out our tab had already been done, that it could be added to the bill but that the bar was backed up and it would be a few minutes. All in the face of a little girl who looked like she was going to lose it. Now we have made this same request all over the place. It is usually expedited and a small charge is added (or not) with no fuss. I am probably being oversensitive, but JB response to me was, "Not a very smart move to make before we added the tip." We left without juice, cranky baby, and annoyed.
I'd say we screwed up in both instances by taking Madeleine with us, but then again, how else are you supposed to figure out which places are kid-friendly?

Conclusion 1. Strong recommendation for Paradiso if you're in San Leandro.
2. Mixed feelings about Thanh Long; great food, but I'll have to wait before my parental juices calm down before I can go again, without my kid.

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  1. j
    JB Leibovitch

    I agree completely. Paradiso in San Leandro is the type of restaurant we are looking for in the East Bay. Simple but varied menu, friendly, high quality & comfortable. Pizza from the wood-fired oven was bigger than I expected and very good. The staff accomodated every request. We can go with our daughter and eat a simple menu. However, when we go without our daughter we are taking advantage of the amazing looking rack-of-lamb we saw at a couple of tables and the vodka selection they present front-and-center when you walk in the door. Paradiso does not seem well known or crowded, definitely a chowhound find in a neighborhood that will turn off the foodies. For crab, one of Judy's favorites (but not mine) which Thanh Long is famous for, I would rather go with her to someplace casual like Mama Lan's in Berkeley--definitely substance over style.

    3 Replies
    1. re: JB Leibovitch

      Is the crab just as good?

      I also heard there are these fantastic garlic noodles at than Longh. do they have something like that
      at Mama Lan's?

      curious, fellow berkeleyite.

      1. re: francis

        I've only been to Mama Lan's once, but it was great. We had the crab (ginger/scallion prep I think) and it was awesomely delicious. We also had a rice pancake stuffed with shrimp and sprouts and mushrooms (to my best recollection) which was eaten scooped up in lettuce leaves with some nam pla-based sauce. Staff is really friendly. We will definitely go back next time we're in the mood for Vietnamese.

        1. re: francis
          j
          judy (JB's wife) leibvobitch

          JB loves to get the shakin' beef, which he said tasted homier than the more refined one at Thanh Long. I recently had the soft shelled crabs (seasonal), which are sauteed and served with a highly seasoned, peppery, lemony sauce, served over watercress, and it was so good we went back the following week just so I could eat it again before it was gone. Word was that "Mama Lan" used to chef at Gertie's Chesapeake Cafe.

      2. I used to dine at Than Long way back when I was a college student 25 years ago. It was dark then, more of a hole in the wall. And the prices were great--I could afford the crab. Also, I remember it being different that what they serve today. I used to get it stirfried with a bunch of spices, and I don't remember all that butter! I do still like it, though.

        I can totally relate to the dining out with a 2 year old. I had many 'talks' outside about behavior. I always just hauled her outside and we would discuss whether we were going to be leaving or enjoying a pleasant meal. By the time she was 4 she was a perfect guest. I can see the kudos for above-and beyond service like you got at Paradisio, but I don't get being annoyed at a place because they don't give you something for free. I'm with the restaurant on this one.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Anne
          j
          judy leibovitch

          I put that badly, Anne. I wasn't upset that she intended to charge us for the juice at all. In fact,when places have comped us juice we tipped to compensate and thanked effusively. It was just grating to have her announce so pointedly that it would be added to the bill (duh) and to so obviously react that it would 1. be inconvenient to do so, and 2. behave so unsupportively in terms of expediting sloshing 2 ounces of juice into a cup so we could escape (a relief to all, I think.) I don't think she was evil or rude, just that she didn't seem to go the extra step. Thanks for pointing out that all your hard work paid off by the time your child was four; we figure this early socialization's got to do the same.

          judy

          1. re: judy leibovitch

            Yes, I think it does work, but then everytthing gets easier around 4-1/2. The downside is that my daughter is not a cheap date. Crab happens to be her favorite food. I hope the coming season is better than the last and the prices get better. I look forward to trying the place Tom mentioned. Hey, I see so many old posts to comment on--do people here get annoyed with that?

            1. re: Anne

              I don't get annoyed at all! It's easy to manage using the hot posts feature. New posts in old threads will pop up.

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                I just discovered Chowhound's today and am having such a good time reading all the entries. What is "hot post" feature?

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        2. For equally good (I think) roast crab in a more casual setting, check out La Vie (Geary betw. 22nd & 23rd, across from Ton Kiang). The waiters there have always been very nice, and I think they'd be much more accommodating.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Tom Hilton
            j
            judy leibovitch

            Excellent. We plan to try it. We eat at Ton Kiang a lot, and I have been eyeing La Vie. Thanks very much.

            judy