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Friday, March 4, 2011

No. 52: Pelmeni from Cinderella Bakery

Posted By on Fri, Mar 4, 2011 at 9:42 AM

Cinderella Bakery's pelmeni, $6.99. - JONATHAN KAUFFMAN
  • Jonathan Kauffman
  • Cinderella Bakery's pelmeni, $6.99.

SFoodie's countdown of our 92 favorite things to eat and drink in San Francisco, 2011 edition.

Pelmeni, like oatmeal and Geoffrey Rush, do not photograph well. Rumpled, warty, and plain, served in a bowl of chicken stock with a dollop of sour cream on top ― for color contrast, you know ― the dumplings are not the kind of food you'd take pictures of to use as a screensaver. SFoodie would venture to bet that no one has ever sexted photos of pelmeni to their friends, trying to make them jealous.

The pelmeni served out of the 48-year-old Cinderella Bakery, though, are the kind of food you want to curl up around, accompanied by a glass of cheap white wine and three episodes of Dalziel and Pascoe. Given that the cafe has eight seats, tops, and advertises its pickup

service on the website, there's no need to change out of the comfy-pants before placing a phone order and jumping in the car.

Cinderella's meat dumplings may appear pallid and embryonic at first, but a closer look ― say, from the edge of a soup spoon ― reveals a precise pattern of pinches and folds. Even after a ride home in a bowl of chicken broth, the wrappers do not become bloated and flopsy. They have some chew to them, a definite presence.

Once the wrapping is breached, a gush of beautifully seasoned beef juices comes out. After a few pelmeni, it hits you that you're eating pasta with meatballs, inverted: something Chef Boyardee might come up with after a couple of bong hits, but could never make this good. A chocolate-chip-sized drop of sour cream on the first dumpling ― not tart so much as doubly soothing ― swells into a teaspoon on the last. Cinderella's pelmeni are, in fact, the culinary equivalent of a microfleece pullover. You might not wear it out to the supermarket, but that thing will never make it into your Goodwill box.

Cinderella Bakery: 436 Balboa (at Sixth Ave.), 751-9690.

Dishes in our series so far:

92: Goat tacos from El Norteño
91: Faux shark's fin soup at Benu
90: Esperpento's alcachofas a la plancha
89: Poco Dolce's olive oil chocolate bar
88: Decantr's chicken-liver mousseline
87: Outerlands' levain bread
86: Fraîche's frozen yogurt
85: Gyro King's spinach pie
84: Tandoori fish from Lahore Karahi
83: Braised oxtail and daikon from Namu
82: Golden Gate Bakery's custard tarts
81: Commonwealth's cured foie gras with umeboshi purée
80: Star Stream's Liège-style waffle
79: Mexican hot chocolate from La Oaxaqueña
78: Meatball sandwich from Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe
77: Cheesecake from Zanze's
76: Chicken pepian at San Miguel
75: Macau iced coffee at Vega/Special Xtra
74: Comstock Saloon's Pisco Punch
73: Hai Ky Mi Gia's duck leg noodle soup
72: Sauerbraten at Walzwerk
71: Boudin noir at Cafe Bastille
70: Blackstrap molasses gingerbread at Lotta's Bakery
69: Plow's crispy potatoes
68: Prospect's Catcher in the Rye
67: Pork banh mi from Little Vietnam Cafe
66: Nakaochi at Ippuku
65: Sidekick's chocolate spritzer
64: Farmhouse Culture's horseradish-leek sauerkraut
63: Destination Baking Co.'s challah
62: Cotogna's roasted carrots
61: Hard Knox Cafe's chicken and waffles
60: The Rebel Within from Tell Tale Preserve Co.
59: The Slanted Door's Whiskey Cocktail
58: Carnitas burrito from Taqueria San Francisco
57: Sakura mochi from Benkyodo
56: Birria at Gallardos
55: BBQ pork skewers at Fil-Am Cuisine
54: JapaCurry's katsu curry
53: Vegan flan at Gracias Madre

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Follow me at @JonKauffman.
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