Sunday, December 31, 2017

My favorites of 2017

I have my favorites in 2017. I divided them into different categories.

Outside of Chinatown
Favorite Asian Restaurant - Pho Hoa Noodle Soup & Jazen Tea
Favorite Non-Asian Restaurant  - Gumbo Jeaux's Northwest
Favorite Grocery Store - Trader Joe's Westchase
Favorite Bakery - EatWell Bakery Cafe

Inside of Chinatown
Favorite Asian Restaurant - 75 BBQ & Hot Pot Buffet
Favorite Non-Asian Restaurant - Tamales Dona Tere
Favorite Grocery Store - Great Wall Supermarket
Favorite Bakery - Olympics Chinese Bakery

Year in Review 2017

2017 was a thrilling year for me. I spent a lot of time on taking better photos and sharing more with the communities. Not just Yelp, I also Google a lot. 

Funky YES!

  • Completed 111 reviews in 2017
  • Updated 14 reviews in 2017
  • Uploaded total of 8025 media files (7549 photos & 476 videos) since the day I started Yelping, March 2011.  
  • As of December 30th, I had 6 Baronies. Somehow, it's no longer visible in 2018 (Android).

I could never broke my record of 300 reviews from 2016. Due to reviews disappearance, I've included a counter at the end of each review. I also saved the direct link to each published review with my archive. This process was extremely time consuming. I completed my 111 reviews in 2017. You can only see 110 reviews because 13th review was removed. Here is my story
As of January 2, 2018, before I added more stuff.

As for Google, I joined Local Guides sometime last year. I am currently Level 8.
Just Google. Nothing special about it.
  • I have surpassed 15,000,000 views on my 2,887 photos/videos in 678 places.
  • Reviewed 474 places, which contain more than 200 characters in 186 reviews. 
  • Received 85 helpful votes. 

Nothing spectacular about Google. There is no standard no quality like Yelp, no community manager no meetup and everyone can be anything as bad it can be. Therefore, I don't plan to be as active with Google in 2018. I will just maintain what I have.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Save Now Save Later - Kohl's

This is my 3rd of several blogs on merchants that offer cash back. I would buy certain items at Kohl's, Targets Stores, Amazon or elsewhere, only if I can get a bigger return based on their rewards program.

Kohl's Cash
First of all, beware. Don't use Kohl's Cash with discount. The value will be discounted. When you return an item purchased with Kohl's Cash will be deducted for the face value.
My biggest complaint about Kohl's practice on the refund policy
Do the math:
25% off = need $66.67 prior to discount to reach $50 than get a $10 Kohl's Cash
40% off = need $83.33 prior to discount to reach $50 than get a $10 Kohl's Cash
Formula is $50 divided by (100%-40%) to get desired require amount.

Here is my complaint:
A pair of pants selling for $14.99. After applied $10 Kohl's Cash and 25% off coupon, it came to $3.74 before tax. Here is the calculation: (14.99 - 10.00) x 0.75 = $3.74. If just using the coupon, it's $11.24. The difference of $2.50 from Kohl's Cash for something else. In other words, they treat reward cash as my hard earned cash. No fair.
Surprise coupon.

Kohl's Reward
Program says, "earn 1 point for every dollar spent (no matter how you pay!), and get a $5 reward for every 100 points. Plus, you’ll get eight savings offers every year, guaranteed, plus a special birthday gift, opportunities to earn bonus points and so much more. We'll even have some surprises for you along the way."

Problem is those merchandise are not the cheapest. I only buy discounted items. Yeah. I frequent clearance racks. Some items like Crocs are not in stores. Just pay hefty shipping charge.
$1 per year. Keep going

Watch me Yelping around: deep discounted shirt and Kohl's Cash Blues, and $10 off coupon.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Save Now Save Later - Best Buys

This is my 2nd blog about merchants that offer cash back from reward points. Whenever I want electronics, I start my research on Best Buys' website. After analyzing the value on this blog, I realized its true value at the end of this page.
One review gets 10% closer to earn $5 or 50 cents per review

Best Buys Rewards - free to enroll. You earn 1 point per dollar spent after discount before tax. It will rounded off to full dollar. So you get only 1 point for $1.99 item. I will get a $5 off coupon for every 250 reward points.
I'm getting closer to earn that $5. Buy Buy Buy.

Bonus Points - "Review your purchase and get 25 My Best Buy bonus points" - after each purchase, I get invitations to write a review on the product. This encourages me to share my experience. This opportunity doesn't expire but the email link will. I would recommend write a review quickly because the item could be sold out or deleted from the list. That would be a waste of time. Another problem, my profile is empty after an update. What a waste.

I wasted 2 hour to find something to buy.
Mystery Certificate - once a year around Black Friday. I receive an email invitation to buy something and I won't know my saving until cashier tells me. I had received double reward points to 50% off of something costs $10.
Surprise is in the email.
Anniversary Bonus - It's always a surprise. Because I don't know when that is.
Nothing I need. Nice try.
Happy Birthday -  On the first day of your birth month, you'll get an email for 10% off one select item.

On top of those, I use airline rewards. I get half mile for each dollar spent.

Bottom line: Not worth to buy something for the purpose of earning points at Best Buys. In order to make this work, each dollar I spend equates to 2 pennies toward $5 off coupon. After all, I normally shop around on Amazon, Walmart and Micro Center before making my final selection.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Save Now Save Later - Walgreens

I would buy certain items at Walgreens, but only if I can get a bigger return. Buyer beware, some items are more expensive here. So, shop around before making the final purchase. This blog is meant to help me to calculate its value and if it's worth to get out of my way to shop at Walgreens.

Question: How much do my Walgreen's Balance Reward points worth?

Walgreen's has a very strict earning bracket
How to earn the points: 
"With Everyday Points, you'll get 10 points per $1 on almost everything," according to the Balance Rewards page.

Earn more points and perks:
  • Prescriptions get 100 points per 30-day and 300 points per 90-day.
  • Bonus points on featured products
  • 20 points per mile when you link to a healthy behavior app, like Fitbit.
  • AARP members get 50 points per $1 spent (Did you know I redeemed my annual membership fee for 3 years already?) 
  • Coupons from emails and mails.
Coming back with more coupons

To redeem:
  1. You can only redeem the subtotal amount before tax.
  2. It has to be the whole amount of $1, $2, $3, $5, $10 etc, see image above. 
  3. Every 1,000 points equals to $1 from $1 to $10 and  $20 with 18,000 points, $35 with 30,000 and $50 with 40,000. 
My experience:
This can be very confusing. For example, my charge was $25.99 before tax. I can only redeem $20 or $5, not both. Sometimes, I could get a surprise discount after I carefully calculated the total. My purchase became a waste of time, after finding out the savings at the cash register. 

Bottom Line:
I can accumulate the points, easily. But when it comes to redeem them, I can only buy something with solid assurance on the price.

This is my first of several blogs on how to get money back. Next one is...

Monday, October 9, 2017

Feedback on Local Guide Meetup 2

In October, I hosted another meetup to invite Local Guides in Houston. I want to give LG another try on website, which is changed to They didn't tell me that. (this is usual with Google. I'm not surprised.)

My event was called National Cookies Month meetup in Houston TX. I limited 10 guests as I usually do. But I received a message from someone really wanted to attend but there was no more opening. That's odd. Among those 10, there were only 4 replied had reviews in Houston.

  1. Jawahir (Finland) - Level 2 - 109176936456734675648
  2. Bunda Imoet (Indonesia) - Level 6 - 114393280060569328492
  3. salvatore porru (Italy) Level 5 - 113940019571382231665
  4. Ericka Flowers (Houston) Level 3 - 106689765669046657086
  5. Vito Montanaro (Italy) Level 3 - 102425615440366601261
  6. MrAHMED SAEID (Egypt) Level 4 - 101547467045030028617
  7. William Daniel (Thailand) Level 3 - 115909375203005254472
  8. Siddharth srivatsa (Houston) Level 4 - 104503682632363210984
  9. Ashley Nichols (Houston) Level 4 - 109788889396731111856
  10. Blessed Chishanga (Houston) Level 5 - 117559043957034298852

Soooo... are those foreigners decided to travel across the ocean to attend my meetup? Or... they can't change the RSVP after clicked on "Attend this meetup". I am contemplating to give up this Local Guides meetup idea completely. It's a lot of hassle and lot of learning (my first try was a lot of work).

In my opinion, Google Maps reviews could never be like Yelp. Here are my thoughts to compare them:
  • Local Guides could never be like Yelpers. It lacks standards on reviewers. Everybody can be Local Guides and no incentive at any level. These levels do not translate to longevity and knowledge. 
  • There is no connection between Local Guide profile and Google+ profile. As I suggested on my first meetup feedback, I can't message attendees effectively.
  • Yelp has 2 classes of reviewers, Elite Squad and everybody else. We Elites tend to have higher expectation on how we behave in the community. Local Guides don't have any prestige. 
  • On Yelp Events, there are "I'm in" and "Sounds Cool". There are more people on Yelp observe RSVP rules than Google Local Guides. If you can't attend, you can always change your status.  I'm not sure if this is the case with Google Local Guides event page. I asked those attendees to message me, but no one replied. 
I get 3 chances to add event updates. But did attendees get notified?
Another issue with Google Local Guides, they don't require to use real name and real photos. I met a guy at my first Meetup. He said, "I'm here for your meetup" like I know him. Wait, the profile has no photo. That's another thing. That 21-digit profile number from Google+ profile has no relationship to profile on

If I were going to share another meetup on Local Guides page, I would limit it to 1. Anyone who wanted to attend would need to announce themselves in the discussion and hit my Google+ Event page to RSVP for real. Wow. Isn't that too much work for them? Well. It might be my last time to post anything at all.

Oh, BTW, no one from Local Guides showed up. That person who messaged me told me few hours prior to starting that he/she can't make it. (The avatar was blank)

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Send to Phone

Yelp has this convenient feature on the website similar to Google Maps' Send to Phone feature. Just in case you are at a computer not your own, like in a library or public places, send a page to your phone to bookmark it. It is also convenient to share a location with a friend who is looking for places to eat.
I discovered this feature early April 2017

From a biz page, look for "Send to your phone" link.

Enter your cell phone number and hit "Text Link"

Friday, October 6, 2017

Yelp Workshop Venue

This is part of my Yelp Workshop during the Zoom Zoom 100 & Beyond UYE. We are going to talk about the features on the Yelp app (Android) and website.
Houston Yelp Houston
First of all, I have no affiliation with Yelp.
Second of all, I am not getting paid by anyone to represent Yelp.
Most of all, #iYELPaLOT. I love to share what I know about Yelp and help Yelpers to get the most out of this app.

Once you know how things work, it will be more fun to Yelp about.

Featured topics:
  1. Friend or Follow
  2. Missed You on Yelp
  3. Yelfie 101
  4. Yelp Cash Back
  5. Yelp List on App
  6. Auto-Friending Feature (website)
  7. Where's my Badge
  8. Last 90 Days Stats
  9. Send to Phone (website)
  10. Yelp Talks
  11. The Local Yelp (fka The Weekly Yelp)
If you want to create a list for Yelp Challenge, please be sure to bring your user name and password to login to my laptop. Or, you can bring your laptop and you can use my mobile hotspot to connect to the internet.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Claimed or Not Claimed Biz Page

Whenever I write a review, I have to check if the biz page has been claimed by an owner or not. It makes big difference on the outcome.

Claimed biz vs Unclaimed biz
It doesn't mean I would give a claimed biz a 5-star for no reason or purposely write reviews at claimed biz. But reviews at claimed biz are likely to be read more often than unclaimed biz. However, biz owner can later claim a biz. It would change the dynamics.

Biz owner can then delete my review if it's not to their expectation without warning. They can also remove my photos with undesirable caption. For example, my photos were removed from the page of Bel Furniture before I wrote a 5-star review. Anyone with less than 5-stars are removed, as I saw it happened.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Friend or Follow

To reply my Yelper friend's question from awhile back, "Why do I see some people on my feed but they are not my friends?"

Answer: You marked to follow them. Doesn't matter if you are friends or not, anyone you follow will be showing on top of all feed, reviews and tips.

It's good to follow someone on Yelp. It's completely anonymous until November 28, 2017. After that, any new follower will be visible (updated per Yelp Blog 11/02/17). They don't know you are following them. Befriend with someone on Yelp will reveal each other's check-in messages. I don't see any harm to follow your friends. Except, the contents from people you follow will go to the top of everything.

I like extremes. Porsche posted over 17k media.

From what I know besides reviews, tips, photo post notifications, you'll receive notifications from your friends' interests in Events and posts on Talks on the feed. It's much easier to read them on the app because they presented in both groups, Friends and Following.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Time for Taiwan at Tainan Bistro

Crawlers, this is the recommended menu for #TimeForTaiwan #ChinatownCrawl event at Tainan Bistro.
Sunday, August 13, 2017

Everything on the menu is single serving, not family style dining. But feel free to share with other Crawlers.

I have carefully selected dishes for those people who is:
  • Vegetarian - steam buns and dumpling may contain eggs
  • Pescetarian - can be vegetarian contain eggs
  • Gluten intolerance or sensitivity
  • Restricted on the consumption of pork
  • Allergic to shell fish - see below, but skip fish and seafood on the name
  • Vegan - Not on the menu, but it can be prepared from the kitchen

Vegetarian and Pescetarian:
凉麵 $5.25 - Cold Noodles (dry) - tell kitchen to hold the shredded chicken
炸醬麵 $5.95 - Bean Paste with minced pork Dry Noodles - tell kitchen to hold the pork
素炒麵 $5.75 - Vegetarian Chow Mein
酥炸魚排飯 - $7.75 - Fried fish steak over rice
綜合素炒飯 $6.00 - Vegetarian fried rice
鮮蝦炒飯 $6.50 - Prawn fried rice
三鮮水餃 (15) $7.00 - Three Seafood dumplings
煎素餃子 (10) $6.50 - Fried vegetarian dumplings
三鮮鍋貼 (10) $6.50 - Three Seafood Pot Stickers
蘿蔔絲煎餃 (1) $1.30 - Shredded Daikon Pot Sticker
海鮮什锦系列 $7.95 - Seafood Combo Series (Rice noodles/Noodles/Rice Cake/Rice)
味佳香熏魚 (Half or Whole)  $11.00 / $21.00 - House Special Smoked Fish

Dumplings & Pot Stickers (3rd panel) and Noodles
Everything on these 2 menus contain wheat.

Non-Pork Dishes - plus dishes from Vegetarian and Pescetarian:
牛肉麵 $6.95 - Beef Soup Noodles
酥炸雞排飯 - $6.95 - Fried chicken steak over rice
紅燒牛肉燴飯 $7.95 - Braised beef over rice
牛肉水餃 (15) $7.00 - Beef dumplings
牛肉鍋貼 (10) $6.50 - Beef Pot Stickers
牛肉湯餃 (12) $6.75 - Beef soup dumplings

Everyone else, check out above listed dishes and below:
上海菜肉餛飩 (10) $6.50 - Shanghai style pork wonton
牛肉湯餃 (12) $6.75 - Beef soup dumplings
酥炸雞排飯 - $6.95 - Fried chicken steak over rice
炸排骨飯 - $6.95 - Fried Pork Chop over rice
麻醬麵 $5.25 - Sesame Paste Dry Noodles 
炸醬麵 $5.95 - Bean Paste with minced pork Dry Noodles 
擔擔面 $5.25 - Spicy oil minced pork noodles
台式炒米粉 $6.50 - Taiwanese style dry rice noodles
滷豬腳拌麵 $6.95 - Spiced pig feet dry noodles
鮮蝦小餛飩麵 $6.75 - Shrimp won ton soup noodles
切仔麵/米粉 $5.50 - Minced Pork Plain Noodles/Rice Noodles
肉焿 $5.75 - Pork Meatball Soup
肉焿米粉/ 麵 $5.75 - Pork Meatball Soup with Rice Noodles or Noodles
雞捲 (2) $7.00 - Tofu wrapped chicken roll

Monday, July 31, 2017

Tainan Bistro Menu Translated

Tainan Bistro serves lots of delicious Taiwanese food. Unless you read Chinese, you can't understand what's on the menu hanging on the wall.

So, let me break it down for you. There are 5 panels:

  1. Side Dishes (check the cooler for availability)
  2. Noodles
  3. Dumplings Pot Stickers
  4. Rice Dishes
  5. Beverage & New Items
Noodles (2nd Panel)
Noodles Panel
牛肉麵 $6.95 - Beef Soup Noodles
牛肉蓋澆陽春麵 $6.95 - Beef Topped Noodles
榨菜肉絲湯麵 $6.00 - Preserved mustard with pork strips soup noodles
雪菜肉絲湯麵 $6.00 - Preserved vegetable with pork strips soup noodles
番茄雞蛋麵 $6.00 - Tomato scramble eggs over noodles
鮮蝦小餛飩麵 $6.75 - Shrimp won ton soup noodles
豬排麵 $6.95 - Pork chop soup noodles
雞排麵 $6.95 - Chicken Steak soup noodles
魚排麵 $7.75 - Fish Steak soup noodles
切仔麵/米粉 $5.50 - Minced Pork Plain Noodles/Rice Noodles
凉麵 $5.25 - Cold Noodles (dry)
全家福 - Family Portrait - Fish, pork
砂鍋牛肉粉絲湯 - Clay pot beef strips rice noodle soup
蝦炒麵 $6.75 - Shrimp Chow Mein
雞炒麵 $6.50 - Chicken Chow Mein
鮮蝦炒麵 $6.75 - Prawn Chow Mein
麻醬麵 $5.25 - Sesame Paste Dry Noodles V
炸醬麵 $5.95 - Bean Paste with minced pork Dry Noodles P
素炒麵 $5.75 - Vegetarian Chow Mein
擔擔面 $5.25 - Spicy oil minced pork noodles
台式炒米粉 $6.50 - Taiwanese style dry rice noodles
滷豬腳拌麵 $6.95 - Spiced pig feet dry noodles

Rice Dishes (4th Panel)

Rice Dishes:
酥炸雞排飯 - $6.95 - Fried chicken steak over rice
炸排骨飯 - $6.95 - Fried Pork Chop over rice
酥炸魚排飯 - $7.75 - Fried fish steak over rice
雞炒飯 $6.00 - Chicken fried rice
鮮蝦炒飯 $6.50 - Prawn fried rice
綜合雞蝦炒飯 $6.50 - Chicken & Shrimp fried rice
綜合素炒飯 $6.00 - Vegetarian fried rice
滷豬腳飯 $6.95 - Spiced pig feet over rice
梅干扣肉飯 $6.95 - Prune pork stew over rice
紅燒牛肉燴飯 $7.95 - Braised beef over rice

Dumpling (3rd Panel)
Dumplings & Pot Stickers:
韭菜豬肉水餃 (15) $6.50 - Chives Pork Dumplings
白菜豬肉水餃 (15) $6.50 - Napa Cabbage Pork Dumplings
三鮮水餃 (15) $7.00 - Three Seafood dumplings
牛肉水餃 (15) $7.00 - Beef dumplings
煎素餃子 (10) $6.50 - Fried vegetarian dumplings
上海菜肉餛飩 (10) $6.50 - Shanghai style pork wonton
牛肉湯餃 (12) $6.75 - Beef soup dumplings
白菜鍋貼 (10) $6.00 - Napa Cabbage Pot Stickers P
三鮮鍋貼 (10) $6.50 - Three Seafood Pot Stickers
牛肉鍋貼 (10) $6.50 - Beef Pot Stickers
鮮蝦鍋貼 (10) $7.00 - Shrimp Pot Stickers
韭菜鍋貼 (10) $6.00 - Chives Pot Stickers
蘿蔔絲煎餃 (1) $1.30 - Shredded Daikon Pot Sticker

Beverage (5th panel)

汽水 $1.00 - Soft Drink
冰糖银耳 $3.00 - Rock Sugar White Fungus Drink
綠豆冰糖银耳 $3.00 - Rock Sugar White Fungus with Mung Beans Drink
酸梅湯 $3.00 - Sour Plum Drink

New Items (5th panel)
New Items:
肉焿 $5.75 - Pork Meatball Soup
肉焿米粉/ 麵 $5.75 - Pork Meatball Soup with Rice Noodles or Noodles
雞捲 (2) $7.00 - Tofu wrapped chicken roll F
味佳香熏魚 (Half or Whole)  $11.00 / $21.00 - House Special Smoked Fish
燙青菜 $5.95 - Hot Vegetables
海鮮什锦系列 $7.95 - Seafood Combo Series:
- 米粉 Rice Noodles
- 麵 Noodles
- 年糕 Rice Cake
- 泡飯 Soaked Rice
雞肉絲飯 $5.50 - Shredded Chicken over Rice
鹽水鴨肉飯 $7.50 - Salty Duck over Rice

Please come to my Time for Taiwan #ChinatownCrawl UYE on Sunday, August 13, 2017. 

I don't work for this restaurant. These are my best knowledge of Taiwanese food. Anything pre-made are not likely to be altered, such as dumplings. It's possible to ask for certain ingredients to be or not to be in your order.

Small red alphabet indicates other ingredient might be allergic. Pork, Fish

Monday, July 10, 2017

UYE, Meetup or just Event

For those of you familiar with my #ChinatownCrawl UYE (Unofficial Yelp Event), there is a scenery change. You won't see my UYE on Yelp Event page at the beginning of my announcement. In a perfect world, my Yelper friends receive notification on the app when I create an event and interested in an event. But lately, I don't see any response after the UYE page sitting there for 2 weeks. I guess there are too many notifications on their app.

You may not know this. It's very time consuming to use Yelp Event page to invite my Yelper Friends. On average, it takes about 2 to 3 hours to "share" my event to everyone lives in Houston from Event page. This share actually sends an email to their personal email address. But some people are invisible most of time or they don't check emails as often or get notified with incoming emails. Then, I have to use another method to get their attention - private message, compliments or check-in message. Other than that, they are just not reachable.

When the event gets closer, I begin my response struggle all over again... private messages, compliments or check-in messages. Besides no shows, there are those uninvited guests of no response and suddenly showed up. All these challenges are event organizers' nightmare.

So, here is my solution. My Yelper friends are the last to hear about my Chinatown Crawl event. I've decided to delay posting until my other events pages have reached a desired attendance counts. Here is my order: Facebook, Google and Yelp.

You don't have to be my Facebook friend to be the first to know. Follow my non-personal page MiniSites by PortAloha to get notified.

Then, I post it on Google+ Communities page Chinatown Crawl Houston. Because some people don't have Facebook or Yelp, they should at least have Google. You don't have to follow me and be in my circle, just follow my page.

If you are a Local Guide, I stopped posting meetup events on The site is more difficult to use than Yelp. Here is my blog about my dislikes.

I will post suggested images, but not event URL. Instagram is used for post event sharing only.

While there are still too early to post my next Chinatown Crawl Meetup on Yelp, you can find it on Google Events and Facebook.

Note: There are a few event VIP. I message them privately from the start.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Google Meetup Feedback!

I tried to like this Local Guide Houston on Google+ Community. It has over 19k members with too many spam messages and unrelated topics. The worse part was my question on meetup was unanswered. Everyone seems disinterested with everyone else. I felt like it's a bot world.

So I tried, a little better but still many unrelated replies. It seems people just want to get badges. I sent a message and never had high hope for a response back. But it has to depend on how they receive notification. For me, I receive updates on gmail. I get instant alert on my phone.

Now, they want to know how my meetup went 

Here are my answers to the survey:

Any other feedback you’d like to share?
  • The meetup event on LGC site is useless. Only 3 out of 9 showed up from there. I would rather use Google+ Events to be my only source for RSVP. 
Please link to a photo album from your meet-up
  • I tried to use Google Photos app. But it uploaded all unrelated photos on my phone without telling me. It used up my data usage. Instead, I asked my guests to upload the photos on my Google+ Event page. (it didn't post)
If you felt unprepared, please explain why and what would help you feel more prepared in the future.
  • The tools provided were not efficient for event hosting. The meetup on local guide uses Google+ handle - can't send private email unless I follow the person. The only way I can communicate to the person is when he replied to my Local Guide Connect post. But it has to rely on another communication tool to deliver this message - Gmail. 
Please link to your recap post on Connect
Please link to a video recap from your meet-up
Overall thoughts on Local Guide:
  • There are too many obstacles to host an event. I can't post a functional URL on Connect. I can't modify meetup info or communicate with my guests on Connect. Next time, I will post a Google+ event first before submit Meetup event on Connect.

Monday, June 19, 2017

HAAPI Films Gave me Good Vibes

Past weekend was the final week of HAAPI Film Festival. It was my pleasure to attend the screening of MELE MURALS and meeting the film director Tadashi Nakamura. I'm a big fan of his work. I watched his earlier film Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings on Xfinity on Demand in April, when it was available from CAAMFest sponsorship.
So glad to pose with my favorite Asian film director, Tad Nakamura
I couldn't believe he is a fourth generation Japanese American lives in LA and never lived in Hawaii. But he was able to bring the best of his ability to help the audience to experience the actors' reality. Both movies are based on true stories with a documentary format. However, it requires more knowledge about Hawaii when you watch Mele Murals. I asked someone after the movie as if she knew certain cultural references. But without those Hawaiian terms, the movie will not make sense.

Tad was at CAAMfest in SF.
So...Same feeling with Kumu Hina from last year's screening. I felt connected immediately with the topic, because I lived in Hawaii and learned something special about Hawaiian culture and customs. I didn't learn how to hula, but I sure learned how to properly pronounce Hawaiian. Hina was the language director for Queen Emma Hawaiian Civic Club Chorus. Under her direction and dedication, we competed at annual Aha Mele in 2001. It was nice to see a friend from the past on the silver screen.

Four Strings was on the cover of Cinemas of Asian American collection

I can't wait to see more Asian Pacific Islander films next year. Here is the page from this year's lineup.

I love this Festival video at the beginning of each screening.
(Mmm... not sure what I was doing here

Monday, May 29, 2017

Google Local Guides vs Yelp Elites

I've been an Elite Yelper for 6 years. I was curious with a constant popup from Google Maps app to join Local Guides. Here is a quick comparison with Google Local Guides and Yelp Elites.

  • Lack of Connection - There is connections with Google Maps reviewers and the readers. If you are a Local Guide, there is to have some sort of conversation. Most of conversations are fillers - users wants to get badges.
  • Lack of Social Interaction - Unlike Yelp, you can't follow a reviewer and read his/her reviews first. The reviews are sorted chronologically with ratings (non-verbiage review) on the bottom. It's meaningless to write a long review on a popular destination. I normally say a few words with dozen of photos.

It knows you're here. Some biz don't have one.

  • Content Quality - There's no standard with Local Guides. 
  • Level 5 Local Guides - Unlike Yelp Elites, there is no prestige to be recognized. Anything over 500 points is Level 5. Some people just post a sentence to say it's a review. So, one person wrote 500 nonsense reviews and he's a Level 5 Local Guides. 
  • Credibility - I've seen lots of Local Guides don't show their real name and no pictures. How can you be a reliable source to the community?
  • Lack of Community - There are few Local Guides in Houston. Who cares who's who.
  • Local Guides Meetup - I've seen this type of social event is not popular in Houston but overseas locations are common. I hosted  one meetup. Read my other blog.
These are my 2 cents about the Local Guides.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Xinjiang Dinner Explained

3 years ago when Brian D hosted his first meetup at Xinjiang BBQ, I already set my eyes on hosting an UYE (Unofficial Yelp Event) myself. This is not a remake. Instead, this unique traveling experience will take your taste bud around the western, northeastern and northern regions of China.

Today's cuisine is from Xinjian to Dongbei to Jiangsu.
Geographically speaking, Xinjiang is in the far west of China (light brown shaded area on the map) It's close to Mediterranean. So, the food tends to have more spices, but not pungent like Sichuanese food. Charcoal grilled skewers are made popular in this region.

Let's begin our journey with two of each Lamb Skewer ($11 per 10) 新疆羊肉串 and Beef Skewer ($11 per 10) 烤牛肉串 per person. I do not recommend eating every skewer flavor on the menu. Because it lacks variation with spices. It will be extremely boring at the end. Trust me. I don't want to disappoint you as I did this before.

Instead of a typical stir fried vegetables, you are here to experience something uniquely delicious and nutritious grilled vegetables. Please meet Grilled Chinese Chives 烤韭菜 ($4.50) and Grilled Enoki Mushrooms 烤金針菇 ($1.95) to the menu.

We will have the following entrées with steamed rice:
Beef Onion Blossom 葱爆牛肉 (Shandong) $9.65 - contains beef and ginger to replace Mapo Tofu.
Big Plate Chicken 新疆大盤雞 (Xinjian) $12.90 - contains gluten in noodles and hot pepper.
Shredded Potatoes in Vinegar 醋溜土豆絲 (Northern) $5.95
Northeast Sweet & Sour Pork 东北锅包肉 (Northeastern) $12.95 is replaced by Meatball in Brown Sauce 紅燒獅子頭 (Jiangsu).

Complimentary hot barley tea and steamed rice will be provided by your host.
Bring cash as we want to take advantage of 10% discount when we split the check.
You pay for your own beer.

This was from Bookmark Klub Meetup in July 2014
Sorry, Brian's meetup was not documented anywhere. The Meetup page got deleted. We had no trace of what happened that day except some photos for memory.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Chinatown Crawl Expanded

Did you know my Chinatown Crawl UYE (Unofficial Yelp Event) made one year? It started with a trial last May during Asian Heritage Month Celebration. The response and popularity were increasing on Yelp and Facebook. Managing guests list has been a chore using Yelp Events. I am experimenting a new system by posting my meetup on more event sites like Google and invited Google Local Guides to attend.
Extended my invitation to Local Guides

The hardest part of hosting a popular meetup event is attendance headcount. It has always been above my original expectation. But by how much? Finding a suitable restaurant with enough seating is important. When my count of 18 guests at December's Night Market UYE grew to 22. Sherry at Yummy Kitchen was able to find solution at the last minute. Again at February's Hotpot UYE, 12 guests became 16. I had to rely on restaurant to accommodate expandable crowd.

Speaking of accommodation, creating a good relationship to restaurant owner is also important. Sherry met me a week in advance to create my party menu. In order to sample everything, she broke a regular plate into two to share at each table while charging one. Where can you find a great party planner like that?

This year's AHM meetup got me a little upset when my anchor restaurant closed 3 weeks before my event and replacement restaurant refused to accept my reservation. Unfortunately, I had to move my venue 2 miles away. Not to mention how much money I already invested on eating and exploring the menu to create a perfect crawl experience.

Think quick, rabbit! 

I had to cram a new menu like taking a final exam. Instead of my usual way of experiencing the food, I read reviews. Luckily, there were plenty of my Yelper friends posted review to let me select the meetup food. This is not possible with reviews on Google Maps.

The event is listed on Google | Yelp | Facebook | Local Guide Connect

Heres my 4th Annual Asian Heritage Month UYE menu at Xinjiang BBQ in Metropole Center.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Colorful Holi Festival

I was among thousands of people to attend Holi Festival last Saturday, March 25. I enjoyed that perfect day drenched with vibrant colors and endless Bhangra music. The weather couldn't be better then a quick spring shower rinsed spring dusts away the day before the festival.
Holi powders were on sale by the entrance

Everyone was covered with color
Lots of children also take part at the festival.

Catching some shades next to a fake car

I was novice to Holi Festival. I've only seen the Holi Festival photos online. It's definitely a different feeling when I was among those friendly strangers, everyone was in good spirit.
I love that hand print on her jeans.

The festival was held at Houston Farm & Ranch, which houses Harris County Fair and many other festivals. The organizer used the huge grassy area for live performances. Tented booths from the community and food vendors lined along the edge. Children's moon walk was in the shaded area where lots of people used for picnic.
This was before I got "blessed" by those colored powder

Just about every celebrant bought gulal (Holi powder) gathered to touch with blessing motion to greet strangers in different colors. Emcee on stage asked people to throw powder in the air simultaneously to make a massive rainbow dust cloud. The scenery was indescribable.
Dinosaur is a mascot for Marsala Radio

Holi Festival is a Hindu tradition to celebrate the arrival of spring, share the joy of love and friendship.
Lots of activities outside of stage performance.
I was surprised to see this festival had no bag search. You can bring outside food in. People seemed to be well-behaving. 
You can be in any shape, size, color and spirit to enjoy.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Yelp Review Police

Back in January, I wrote my first review as the review #300 to start year 2017 right. Less than a month I noticed my review number dropped, not little bit but a lot. Then, began to add serial number on all of my reviews. Real soon, I'm going to "audit" my reviews.
I felt violated without any warning.

I have been saving my reviews since 2015. I really hate it when I spent time to write and ended up disappearing from my audience without a trace or warning.

I received an email from HQ today about a review got deleted because "did not appear to describe a firsthand customer experience" at Express Rolls. Heck, I went inside and talked to a lady who was clueless about poke but want to make me a poke. No thanks.

What could be worse? Mention a clueless employee or just brushing off?

Below was my 13th review on Express Rolls.

What a bummer. I really want to give this place a try, even when I know poke won't meet competitions. Now, I'm sad that it's gone. 

When it was still open, I shopped at H-E-B. I saw this place empty. It was so empty, it had echo in the restaurant like Grand Canyon. 

I couldn't get someone to explain to me about this name "Express Rolls". The name was not attractive and doesn't explain what they serve. Oh well. Could someone please let me know when it opens again?

I believe the owner Chase M. reported it. Since this location is closed, he can't make comments or send me an email. It doesn't break me. I just have to cautious about some viscous biz owners. Oh. I'll go to other restaurants. No big deal.

Just did a Google search, these are the only things I can find on Express Rolls: Asian eatery brings defamation suit against former employee, daughter and Express Rolls, a Houston-born chain specializing in grab-and-go sushi, summer rolls and other Asian fare.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Sheep Scorpion Hotpot

This is for my guests at Hotpot Year of the Rooster UYE @ 75 Yummy Kitchen

Today’s menu is based on a popular hotpot style in Beijing with Sichuan spices. It’s only available at 75 Yummy Kitchen. In Chinese 羊蝎子火锅 literally means “Sheep Scorpion Hotpot”. No worry, there's no scorpion in our food. But the shape of goat spine resembles scorpion. 

Sheep Scorpion hotpot menu at 75 Yummy Kitchen
The chef at 75 Yummy Kitchen prepares the goat meat by the pound and cook up the soup with Sichuan spices. Our guests can indulge in a hot pot with the following ingredients:
  • Fresh vegetables like: Napa cabbage, lettuce, shredded potatoes, chrysanthemum 茼蒿, cilantro, dried tofu skin, enokitake mushroom, youzai 油菜, black fungus 黑木耳, button mushroom, sweet potato slices, lotus root, konjac 魔芋, taro, lunch meat, kelp, tofu cubes, daikon,  
  • We can order additional meats: duck's gizzard, intestine, shrimp, sheep, beef, fish ball, shrimp ball, pork blood pudding 猪血, fish fillet, beef tripe, crisp meat 酥肉, and crab sticks, 
  • Besides served with rice, we can also order side starches: bean vermicelli, wide vermicelli, or we can watch them pull noodles at the table.
Please bring cash because we are going to split the bill equally. 
Most importantly, tell me about your food allergies. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

BOTM Anniversary

Mike M has been hosting BOTM “Burger of the Month” UYE since last February. This was from a Talk thread when Rachel B returned from her ACRONYM meeting in 2015.  After a long gap in Houston, BOTM was born. First few months, they were hosted by Rachel B. Then, Belly G, Jamie A finally, Mike M.
This mock up t-shirt was an idea to generate interest. 

Here is a quick overview of his 12 successful BOTM's. The attendance has increased month after month. It has became a popular and well-known event in Houston.

UYE Page in…
Event Page

Way to go, Mike!