Thursday, November 29, 2007


Sometimes I miss the down to earth grittiness of the East coast. Or maybe it's just the greasy mom and pop fast food places I crave?

After a run through the Presidio and Chrissy Field on a gorgeous sunny day, it became clear to me that it was the food that I missed. I headed back to Jake's Steaks. The previous week, I enjoyed a great
cheesesteak with American cheese, but was disappointed by the chili on the chili cheese fries. I wanted to go back to try the cheese fries made with Cheese Whiz. To make more room for the fries I opted to go bunless. The cheesesteak salad was good and a large portion, it had as much steak as the sandwich with about two cups worth of salad greens. The cheese fries were outstanding. Plenty of salty cheese coating the crisp waffle fries enough for two people. Next time I'll order the cheese fries as my meal.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


A birthday celebration for J at Pesce in Russian Hill. He loves seafood and variety so the small plate style fit perfectly. We were immediately impressed with the warmth of the restaurant's decor and service, a nice long bar dominating the restaurant giving it a cozy neighborhood feel. We started with the Merluzzo Mantecato a grilled buckwheat polenta with cod brandade. The flavor of the salt cod matched well with the grilled polenta and was devoured quickly. The texture of the polenta was stiffened by the grilling and use of buckwheat, but we wished there was less softness and more contrast in texture between the cod and the polenta.

Next came the
Polpo a warm octopus, potato and celery antipasta in a garlic vinaigrette. The braised octopus was full of a garlicky briney sea flavor which was also incorporated in the soft potato. The combination of the soft potato the braised octopus, the crunch of the celery and the savory sea flavor made this my favorite dish of the evening.

The Roasted Whole Tai Snapper was fresh and came in a simple tomato based sauce allowing the fish to shine. The fish was filet and deboned at the table which made for a nice presentation. Though dish itself was upstaged by the juicy Merlot braised lamb shank. Our mouths watered as the dark red lamb fall off the bone with the first gentle touch of the fork. I thought the lamb was excellent, but would've like more spice to the sauce. J felt the simple sauce was a good foil to the rich render meat and was the highlight of the meal.

and squid ink risotto with grilled calamari were among the other items we sampled. I particularly liked the squid ink risotto which was thick and had a deep squid ink flavor. I understand that the restaurant is related to Antica Trattoria, which was one of my favorites when I lived in nearby. Happy to find that they've applied much of the same qualities to Pesce.

Polk near Green

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thursday, November 15, 2007


I usually go to Thai House Express on Larkin when I'm in the mood for some good red curry with duck and other Thai standbys. For some reason the Thai House Express on Castro has never won me over. The food is o.k. but, not as good as the one on Larkin or the Thai Chef nearby. This time I gave the Kao Ka Moo "special pork leg stew over rice" a try. The server described it as a Chinese style braised dish. Hmm. As I learned from Kasma, there are several dishes served in Thailand that Chinese immigrants brought to the country. Out came a mouth watering mound of juicy pork fall off your fork tender and flavored with the five spice anise soy sauce base. One taste and I realized it was the familiar base used in Chinese "lu-roe" and "hong sao ro." This one was good, though the five spice was not as strong as I've had at Chinese places. And there was a fish sauce based dipping sauce which had a nice sour flavor to contrast with the buttery pork. Something I'll look forward to ordering again.

Castro at 19th

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Dinner at Weird Fish, with some weird service. After waiting quite a while, we were hoping for a good meal. We started with the fried calamari and Yo-Yo's. The calamari had a typical cornmeal crust and had a good ratio of ring pieces to the tentacle pieces to which I am partial. Yo-Yo's were pickles battered and fried with two dipping sauces, one yogurty cream tasting and one tomato based sauce. The batter was tasty and the pickles were good, we polished them off quickly. Good start.

Fish and chips is a deceptively simple dish to cook and one that Weird Fish claims as a signature dish. We had two servings of this and both came out looking quite brown, as if they were overcooked. In fact, they were perfectly cooked, the batter was crisp and not greasy, the tilapia was tender and moist. The batter had good flavor and I suspect that the dark color was due to the batter mixture rather than over frying. Are these the best? It has been a while since I had the fish and chips at Edinburgh Castle (prepared by the neighboring shop), but I think they were better than this version. The one's at Martin Macks and the Pig and Whistle are greasier than these, but a larger portion due to their use of cod fillets.

Chips-wise, I was disappointed, these chips were greasy and not very crispy. To their credit they were the shape and size of the chips served in England. The sweet potato chips were fine, though nothing special.

grilled tilapia and the sweet potato taco were fine. The sweet potato was the better of the two tacos and had some seed (sunflower?) that gave it a nice crunch. The rice had cilantro mixed in and the beans were nothing worth noting. Overall it was a middling effort, but o.k. for the price.

The trout dishes were recommended by our server, the
cornmeal crusted tilapia was reported to be o.k. though the noodles accompanying it were not to my companion's taste.

After enjoying the batter on the fried pickles, we tried for a strong finish with the
fried banana dessert. We were unsuccessful. Between the four of us we were unable to eat even two of the little bananas. They were coated with something that was not batter and the consistency of the banana was actually chalky. The cookie in the middle had no flavor and just tasted of sugar, but the soy ice cream was pretty good.

I appreciate that the prices are reasonable, the menu is vegetarian friendly and that the place has its neighborhood fans. Overall, I was underwhelmed by the preparations. The ingredients seemed good, but the finished dishes unremarkable and even bland. The Yo-Yo's and Sweet Potato Taco were unique and the fried fish was decent. These items are probably not enough to make me return for more, but I'll still have breakfast at
Boogaloos its sister restaurant.

A side note about the service, we waited about forty minutes on a weeknight for a four top and we saw no other people waiting before or after us. After watching a party enter and get seated before us, we came in to discover that the servers didn't communicate to each other we had been put on a wait list and were waiting outside. Disorganized service or perhaps our bad luck.

Mission at 18th

Thursday, November 8, 2007


Just Won Ton is a noodle soup shop located across from some accountants' offices, on Vincente Street in the Outer Sunset. Hot Beef Wonton Noodle Soup and their fried tofu stuffed with pork are the two items I consistently order. It's a Cantonese diner style food with some homestyle rice plates and a neighborhood crowd. The wontons are the best thing they have, with a thin wrapper, a good ratio of shrimp to pork and a nice little pop when you bite into them. The hot beef is actually not that spicy but adds a little hot oil flavor to the broth.

The fried tofu is nothing special, but it's a nice conduit for soy sauce and the hot pickled condiments. Each fried tofu triangle is has a small slit in the middle where they stuff some ground pork to add a bit more to it. This might actually be more successful if the tofu pieces were a bit smaller. The large tofu pieces drown out any porky taste, but still I like their general thinking on the dish.

Vincente at 23rd

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Monday, November 5, 2007


In search of a place to sit down and enjoy a long meal, we headed to El Delfin on 24th Street. The service was very homey and we were immediately given freshly fried tortilla chips. The two rounds of sangria were reported as excellent. We had the molcajete volcano as a starter then two types of shrimp, enchiladas and fajitas. The molcajete (mortar) volcano was bubbling red mortar full of spicy red sauce, fresh cheese, green onions, nopales, and beef accompanied by tortillas. The sauce was spicy and was supposed to be balanced by the cheese, but the cheese was a plain farm cheese which did not add or reveal any depth to the sauce. The nopales and meat were good wrapped in the tortillas, but overall the interesting presentation overshadowed the one dimensional taste of the red sauce.

The restaurant offers several different preparations of shrimp. We chose the
camarones de arbol chile and the camarones de chile chipotle. De arbol chile originated in Mexcico and is popoular in Western Mexican cooking. It tastes similar to it's cousin the cayenne pepper, but had more depth than cayenne. The pepper was cooked with a cream resulting in a creamy red-orange colored sauce. The shrimp were perfectly cooked and complimented by the spicy sauce. The camarones de chile chipotle was also excellent and had the bold flavor of chipotle chilis, milder and more smokey than the de arbol sauce.

enchiladas are a favorite of the one El Delfin regular at the table. He felt that the red enchilada sauce was more flavorful than the other places on Mission and would definitely order this dish again.

Next time, the
camarones de chili arbol and sample a dish that uses the enchilada sauce.

24th and Folsom

Sunday, November 4, 2007

That Takes the Cake**

Cupcakes from That Takes the Cake. The owner is a very friendly and experienced caterer. Sampled three different flavors: Sleepless in SF - chocolate buttermilk cake topped with coffee buttercream -- moist chocolate cake with chocolate chips, the coffee buttercream was a good combo, a very chocolatey and rich tasting cupcake. Bunny Bites - carrot cake with pecans and pineapple topped with cream cheese frosting was good, but the cake was not as moist as at Noe Valley Bakery and the cream cheese frosting was not as sour as I like. Orange Zinger - orange cake with orange buttercream frosting was my favorite, a zesty orange flavored cake and the citrus helped cut the cream frosting so that it was not sugary tasting.

Thursday, November 1, 2007


**Update: This restaurant is now closed**

I've passed New Cheung Hing too many times to count. Somehow their hanging ducks have never enticed me to taste something from their counter of prepared foods. The few times that I have walked into the restaurant, the prepared foods seemed like they had been in the steaming trays for a long time. It just didn't appear as fresh as the food found at similar places on Clement. On a night when I was craving some vegetables, I decided to give the sit down part of the restaurant a try. The menu had a lot of decent sounding items and I quickly zoomed in on the Rock Cod Fillet with Tender Greens. When I asked what the greens were they told me it was bok choy. O.k. that's typical for a Cantonese restaurant, but I was craving something else. After asking if they had anything else, she said no, but then I suggested Kong Xin Tsai (water spinach) one of my favorite greens and she said they could do that. I was a little hesitant because I wondered whether the produce would be fresh. Turned out great. Some nice fillets sauteed in a light garlic sauce with a heaping mound of vegetables, the sauce was light and allowed the fish and the greens to shine. It tasted great and looked so good that the table next to me asked for theirs to be cooked the same way.

To whet my appetite, I started with the Crab with Fish Maw Soup, one of my favorite soups. Their version had a decent amount of fish maw and real crab. Though they might have gone a little overboard with the thickening agent, I would definitely order this again.

The menu shows some very inexpensive family dinners ranging from four to ten folks, which might be worth trying. The place is not bad, the food much better than I expected and the service efficient. I probably wouldn't get anything from their already made counter except for the duck or roasted meats, but wouldn't mind coming back to sample a few more of their freshly cooked items.

Irving and 20th