Wednesday, May 30, 2007

San Tung

1031 Irving St. (between 11th 12th Aves)
(415) 242-0828

Chinese-Korean in the Sunset

This is another of my favorite places in SF, and it never fails. Anything with dough is good (i.e. noodles, dumplings), and they're pretty well-known for their chicken wings.

What to order: chicken wings (dry), dumplings (either shrimp+leek or pork - i prefer the prior), fried shrimp (served with the same sauce as the chicken wings), noodles (their black bean noodles aren't that good... but the peanut sauce one is pretty decent, as is the spicy combo noodle soup thing). Their green beans aren't bad either.

This place is pretty much packed every night, and during lunch on the weekends. Expect a wait! It's worth it though.

*** Edit: There was a time when I ate here every week (good lord! I know. Almost as bad as Brian Sze and Hotei!). Now it's like once every other month after Kevin moved. However, the other day I tried their pork+pickled vegetable noodle soup for the first time (which is more of a Taiwanese dish), and it was quite satisfying. I like!


Monday, May 28, 2007

phyllo rolls w/ ricotta & strawberries

So I don't want this blog to try to do too many things at once, which is why I never post about stuff that I make (I bake). However, I took some relatively decent photos of my food today, and I had nowhere to post them... so I'm just going to classify this as an "I'd Hit That" post. This is the thing about how important visually eating is: good pictures/good-looking food just makes you want to eat it (I mean, tastespotting seems to accept anything as long as it's a good picture). The rolls didn't taste bad (Karen described them as "danish-like"), but these pictures are definitely deceiving....

I had two firsts today: using phyllo, and entering the world of molecular gastronomy. For the prior, I thought "Oh, ricotta+strawberries+phyllo? That just makes so much sense! " Well, I must've been on crack at the time I made up this recipe. I added an egg yolk to the ricotta mixture (cinnamon, orange zest, vanilla, honey) thinking that it would stabilize when baked, but maybe one wasn't enough. Or maybe it was the fact that strawberries have a lot of water in them and boil when baked. Or maybe I just put too much filling in (although I don't think this is the case because I tried making them as thin as possible). Or maybe I should've baked them in smaller rolls instead of one long one. Whatever the reason, they all burst in the oven. The picture above shows some of the salvaged pieces with drizzled honey and...

... watermelon "caviar." Yes, I realize that watermelon doesn't go at all, but that was the only juice I was able to make without going to the store, and it didn't really matter what I used in the long run. With my handy dandy UCSF-stolen lab syringes, this was pretty successful and I came out fairly unscathed (I stabbed myself once, accidentally of course). Some of the pieces look oblong, and that's because it look me awhile to figure out how to position the syringe and how far to distance it from the bowl so there wouldn't be a tail. The first batch looked a lot like pink sperm (appetizing, I know), but when they're grouped together like above you can't really tell - phew. They aren't as delicate as I had imagined, and they don't really taste like watermelon at all. I'll try something with stronger flavor next time.

*** Edit: after writing this post, I realized that the problem was very much the fact that I used strawberries. They're like sponges! I should've known better. Oh well!


Friday, May 25, 2007

21st Amendment

563 2nd St (and Brannan)
(415) 369-0900

American Brewery in SOMA

After my coworkers had raved about this place for the past 6 months, I finally got a chance to check it out before seeing Spoon (they were playing at popscene, which is very close). This is a great restaurant to go to before a Giants game, or after work for happy hour since they have a pretty unique beer menu. I got a very sweet pomegranate ale (not on the online list), and Jason got a tall glass of their signature watermelon wheat, slice of watermelon garnished on the lip and all. Never in question, Jason's masculinity barely wavered when he was served his girly-looking drink. Kudos. You couldn't taste the actual watermelon, but he said it was definitely sweeter (I couldn't tell).

So I came here for the jerk chicken, and I'll agree that it was good. It was moist (I almost never get chicken at restaurants because it's so normal and oftentimes dry) and had a lot of flavor... but I just don't think it was worth $15. I also expected the portions to be huge, but I thought they were normal-sized... or maybe I just eat a lot. Either way, it was good but not $15 good. Jason got fish & chips, which he said were ok... so I'm going to take that as ordinary and nothing special.

Like most breweries, this place is more about the beer and the atmosphere, so I wouldn't come with high expectations for the food. Spoon ended up being an unfortunate experience, too. They had no advance tickets so we had to wait forever in line and in the cold! We barely made it and when we finally got in, there were no openers and Spoon's set was incredibly short. Despite it being short-lived, they're still good live. I don't really remember which songs they played from their new album, but they did start with "Don't Make Me A Target."


Monday, May 21, 2007

TOP 5 alimentos de Ecuador

I recently returned from a trip to Quito + the Galapagos (also part of Ecuador) and of course, I just had to post about the food!

1. Cuy - guinea pig (can be prepared whole roasted or fried. Ours was fried after being cut up). Aaron and I seemed to be the only ones who didn't mind eating it. I thought it tasted like a gamey fried chicken (rabbit-like) with hardly any meat. The skin was so tough it was inedible - I just took it off and ate the meat I could dig up. I don't really eat fried chicken skin anyway (let alone fried things in general). We also saw a live guinea pig a few days later. They're so cute! Like little hamsters... in my tummy.

2. Choclo - this tasted the best toasted ("chumpi," although I'm not sure about the spelling). Toasted, it tasted like corn nuts, except 10 times better! I actually don't like corn nuts, but I had to ask for more at El Pobre Diablo in Quito.

3. Plantains galore - they're basically potatoes here. They come as chips (chifles), fried, grilled, you name it. Plantains are nothing new, but they're just so everywhere outside the US.

4. Llapingachos - these are basically potato+cheese pancakes. With some good ahi (freshly made, not bottled because bottled tastes like tobasco), this side dish is very satisfying. (pictured on the right - the yellow things accompanying the lechon)

5. Ceviche - Ecuadorian ceviche is different than the Peruvian version, primarily that it's kind of like a cold soup. We had a few different kinds, but shrimp seems to be the main attraction in the dish there.

Honorable mentions:
- empanadas: (pictured on left) also good at El Pobre Diablo
- guanabana: I actually don't like this, but I thought it was interesting. In ice cream form, it tasted ok, but that was primarily because the milkiness of the ice cream overpowered the flavor of the actual fruit. Fresh, this tasted kind of nasty... like a cross between a guava, banana, and coconut, but slightly bitter (= nasty).
- tomate de arbol: Erin really likes this fruit, but when I tried the juice I was just left with a really bitter aftertaste. Before the aftertaste, however, it's like a really sweet guava-tomato which was interesting.
- hearts of palm: (pictured on the right - the 2 triangle pieces standing vertically with the shrimp salad) this is very common in salads (even my airplane food had them). They're SO good! The only reason why I didn't put it in my TOP 5 was because they exist in the states (but I had actually never had them until this trip). If you've never had it, it tastes like baby corn, except smoother and BETTER.
- suspiro de limena: it's kind of like a custard+meringue (all the desserts we tried had meringue! Strange). The guy at the restaurant described it as "dos leches," so I guess you can imagine the custard tasting strongly of condensed milk, although according to the link that's not how it's made... so I have no idea! I wish my Spanish was better and I didn't have to rely on confusing google translations.
- nescafe: somehow, they rule Ecuador (alongside other companies like Pilsener and this phone company that I forgot the name of but distinctly remember the logo of). You would think Ecuadorians would drink fabulous coffee, but they all drink nescafe! WTF indeed.

Actual description of my trip will be on travbuddy.



510 Embarcadero West (Oakland)
(510) 238-9200

Japanese in Jack London Square

So this was my second time coming here and seeing The Bad Plus, but this time we wanted to take advantage of preferential seating at the show and decided to eat here. I ordered the Niman Ranch beef tri tip with some kind of mushroom sauce which sounded mediocre and tasted mediocre... go figure. A few others in our party ordered grilled salmon and sushi rolls: the fish was thankfully fresh, but the flavors were typical.

The service was terrible: our waitress forgot one of our orders, got one of them wrong, and consistently tried to hustle us into buying more food, which really made us all uncomfortable. I really don't want to talk about the restaurant anymore because it's making me kinda mad when I think about how we spent $400+ on food which was small and overpriced, so on to the show...

The jazz club is really the only reason to come here and if you like expensive, but good cocktails you'll probably find good reason to get hammered like my friends did! The venue is intimate, the lights are dark, the acoustics are good, but the problem with the performance this time was that it was unusually short: a 35 minute set for a band with 7 or 8 minute songs was disappointing. Maybe they were jet lagged or maybe it was because they've been playing 2 shows a night for four days... I don't really know, but the performance was just like the food.

So yeah, overall, I think none of us really had a good time. The only reason I would ever come back here is if an artist I REALLY wanted to see was playing here and they didn't have any other shows at any other venue.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Hayes & Kebab

406 Hayes St (& Gough)
(415) 861-2977

Mediterranean in Hayes Valley

This is a very busy place on the weekends, especially for after church lunches (saw everyone there, including my pastor and his family!). In the center of Hayes Valley, it's great to sit outside on a nice day and just people watch with good food.

We just had lamb gyros - the meat was moist and flavorful, unlike a lot of mediocre gyros I've had in the past. The only caveat was that since this place was so busy, we had to wait FOREVER for our food. The staff felt bad though and gave us free baklava (score! either that, or they heard Jesse say that he wanted some).



1550 Church St. (& Duncan)
(415) 641-4500

Italian in Noe Valley

I've never really had faith in San Francisco's Italian selection, since most of the places I have been to before this have been so-so or bad. But of course, there are a lot of restaurants I haven't been to that are supposed to be good, but I just haven't checked them out yet because I've been trying to not eat out so often (which explains that lack of restaurant reviews as of late). However, I decided to go to Incanto on a whim, and I was pleasantly surprised.

First of all, I really like Noe Valley. It's a cute area that's close to the Mission and the Castro, and it's a great neighborhood to walk around in. Secondly, it was surprisingly easy to get a day-of reservation here for a party of 4 on a Friday night at 7pm! I don't know if that's good or bad, but I was very surprised (that's prime eating time... maybe more so on a Saturday, but still). The service was ok (not great, not bad, but normal), and the ambience was nice. The big windows let in a lot of natural lighting.

The Food:
- to start, we had the handkerchief pasta: the pasta itself (i.e. the noodles) was cooked perfectly. The sauce was nothing special - a ground pork red sauce that I could probably make myself.
- I had the braised pork shoulder with rhubarb and fava beans. I say any meat that you can eat without a knife is always a good indicator for tenderness. I'm not a huge fan of rhubarb, but altogether, it was a good complement to the savory (a little too sweet for my taste though).
- My sister and her fiancee had the roasted lamb, which was ginormous. It was a little too hickory-tasting that it kind of threw me off.
- for dessert, we had a bay leaf panna cotta with strawberries drizzled with balsamic vinegar. I'm more of a dessert snob that anything else, and I must say that this was a thumbs up for me. Simple and clean, this dessert was the perfect ending to a light dinner on a warm day. Bay leaves and fruit just go really well together (top chef anyone?).

We also got a bottle of red wine (sorry, I don't know anything about wine, but it was similar to a pinot) which I liked, but I'm easy to please when it comes to wine. This place is known for it's wine list, but I can't really vouch for that. All in all, this restaurant is great for a light dinner.


Friday, May 04, 2007

QUESTION: what kind of bear is best?

No, that's not really my question, but the answer is obviously black bear.

THE REAL QUESTION: what type of Asian cuisine is the most romantic?

I was having a conversation with Francis about this, and he claims Vietnamese (I think he's a little biased). I, on the other hand, have no idea! My first thought was Korean - not because of the food, but because they're known for their dramatic films and soaps. But if you were to judge by food alone? I'm really not sure, since our (i.e. America's) notion of romance is usually inspired by European countries like France, Italy, etc.

This is what I do at work.