On March 5th, 2020, I remember furiously checking my phone as updates came in. A former co-worker of mine, Keane Li, tweeted about his parents being onboard the Grand Princess. Then a helicopter was dispatched to airlift test kits to the Grand Princess to collect specimens from dozens of passengers and crew. The ship was hovering a day’s voyage off the coast of California and I clearly remember feeling as though a dangerous tsunami was about to begin building just off shore.
Flash forward four months and I still feel as though an impending sense of doom continues to lurk and grow stronger with each passing day. Normally my outlet for stress is travel. It’s exploring sites I’ve never seen, being surrounded by faces and languages that I don’t know and tasting new flavors. It’s having conversations with small shop owners and restauranteurs and learning about where they come from and how they built their businesses. Lately it’s been a whole lot of cooking Blue Apron enchiladas, Martha & Marley Spoon enchiladas and Sun Basket turkey chili at home with my husband and his mom who lived with us for three months during the pandemic.
This week has been a particularly rough one in the United States. We broke single-day highs of recorded coronavirus cases during six of the last 10 days. Yesterday almost 60,000 cases were recorded. For the most part, we’ve done our best to hunker down. COVID-19 has been winding its way across the globe like some kind of a manic globetrotter on a mission to say it’s been to every corner of our pretty planet. While the jet setting virus has been crossing borders and wreaking havoc, we’ve been staying put, but this week my heart was yearning for an explosion of non-enchilada related flavors.
Thankfully I got an email this week from Bird Dog in Palo Alto, California. They are now offering weekend “road trip” bundles and this week’s special focuses on Hokkaido, Japan. Japan is a country I love. The people, the food and the fashion are all reasons why I’ve been happy to travel to the land of the rising sun and would happily visit it again. My husband and I have been to Japan a bunch of times both separately and together, for work and for fun. Hokkaido (Japan’s second largest island) is a destination we haven’t made it to yet, so Bird Dog’s offering this week seemed to be kismet.
When we’ve dined in person at Chef Robbie Wilson’s restaurant in downtown Palo Alto, we’ve always enjoyed how effortlessly his team elevates casual cuisine. One of our favorite go-to dishes is their grilled avocado with ponzu. (If you want to give this dish a trial run in your own kitchen, thankfully 7×7 featured Bird Dog’s delicious avocado recipe here.) Thankfully our meal last night came with a generously sized squeeze bottle of Bird Dog’s homemade ponzu, so hopefully we’ll get to whip up our own batch of creamy grilled alligator pear goodness later this week.
Our bundle came packaged in two sturdy containers and our meal was actually ready for us early (nine minutes ahead of our assigned pick up time). Most of the meal was preassembled and ready to go. Some portions required light prep (like bringing the ramen broth to a boil and warming up the tasty milk bread).
Containers were not labeled, but it was fairly easy to figure out what went where. The one mystery was our black sesame custard desserts with black sesame crumble. Since they weren’t listing on the cute little menu included in our package, we did both have a moment of, “Uh, where does this go?” and neglected to pop them in the fridge, but eventually we figured that one out.
We tested out the beverage pairing offering. It was a refreshing cherry blossom highball according to the preview email, but a Toki highball according to the packaging. Made with Japanese whiskey, shiso and cherry it was the perfect travel companion for us to begin our long haul foodie flight experience with. We also loved the cute glass flasks they came in.
Our first dish of the evening was a cold melon salad made with shiso. We ate it straight out of the bag with chopsticks. It was light, refreshing and just a tad sweet without being overpowering. In short, it was the perfect palate cleanser.
In addition to Bird Dog, here’s a list of other neat little local spots we love in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Next up was a donburri bowl featuring three kinds of sashimi: shima aji, hamachi and king salmon. We nibbled on the accompanying ikura and devoured the sashimi, but then waited to put Bird Dog’s decadent homemade ponzu on the remaining koshihikari rice. We had the option of adding additional sashimi at $8.00 each, but were glad we decided to pass because the portion Bird Dog supplied us with was perfect.
We did opt for one optional add-on to our meal which was a hefty $26.00 king crab leg option for our shio ramen. The kitchen did a fabulous job pre-cutting the leg, so it was easy to access all the juicy meat. The juxtaposition of the ground pork in the ramen with the succulent crab meat was unique, decadent and delicious. The accompanying Japanese scallion was beautifully cut and meshed well with the miso, egg and corn in the dish. I bet Chef Wilson and his team never imagined we’d be serving up his contemporary cuisine in a pink pig bowl, but, hey, coronavirus, right?
At this point in the meal our bellies were fully ready to cry uncle, but we pushed forward because there was warm bread on the table gosh darn it. We both tore into a hunk of the Hokkaido milk bread with nori butter. The butter was salty, so just a dab was all that was needed.
The first road trip meal Bird Dog did was last week and it focused on Thailand. We were interested, but ended up passing since it was a meal for four people and we only needed to feed two hungry adults. We hope the Bird Dog squad keeps the far flung destinations flying out of the kitchen. We’d love it if they’d also include more two person meals (perhaps with the option of doubling it if you’re a family of four). Knowing full well that everyone is a bit out of sorts given the current crisis, some hiccups were to be expected. Hopefully the pandemic ends sooner rather than later, but if takeout mode continues Bird Dog may want to ensure that the language that’s written in its email blasts matches the website ordering form, the labels on the resulting dishes and the accompanying menu instructions. None of these are deal breakers, and wrinkles during this time are expected, but the steeper the price point the higher customer expectations are likely to be.
Our Hokkaido outing set us back $165.00. It was definitely a pricey splurge for us, but on the upside Bird Dog also costs significantly less than two flights to Japan and a pair of his and hers matching hazmat suits. The bundle was also billed as “serves two, generously” which I’d say was an understatement. We were so delightfully full that we ate our remaining koshihikari rice (about half of it), milk bread (we ate maybe a quarter of the loaf they gave us last night) and both of our black sesame milk custard desserts with black sesame crumble for lunch this afternoon. If you look at it that way, the price was more like dinner for two plus a lunch. If you’re in need of a staycation, I’d highly advise signing up for Bird Dog’s road trip bundle next week. This weekend’s version is completely sold out, but we’ll be keeping our eyes on our inbox to see which exotic locales they feature in the weeks to come …in case we need another break from reality.
Address: 420 Ramona Street Palo Alto, CA 94301
Hours: Takeaway and Delivery Wednesday Through Saturday 4:00pm to 8:00pm, Sunday 3:00pm to 6:30pm, Closed Monday and Tuesday
Phone: (650) 656-8180
Bird Dog Menu Pricing (All in USD):
– Weekend “Road Trip” Bundles $100.00 to $200.00 (Some bundles serve two people while others serve up to four people generously.)
– “Road Trip” Themed Cocktails $14.00
– Additional Add-Ons Available (For example, with this week’s bundle we had the option of adding extra pieces of sashimi and other items for an additional fee. Options vary depending on the bundle theme.)
– Sodas $4.00 to $4.50
– Beer $6.00 to $10.00
– Bottles of Wine $45.00 to $152.00
We get it, it’s tough work reading word after word about delicious ramen and tasty sashimi. Give your pointer finger some much needed exercise after all that heavy scrolling you just did. If you enjoyed our article on Bird Dog, let us know. Please click the “like” button with a star on it at the bottom of this post, share the link to this article via your social media handles or email this article to someone you know who might be heading to the Bay Area.
If you’re feeling super ambitious, we’d love it if you’d buy us a cup of coffee, so we can visit and review even more awesome places for you!
For information about our conflict of interest disclaimer, please visit our About Krista page.