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Hot Meal

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Mission Chinese Food's Debut Was the Hottest Meal in Town

Posted By on Tue, Jul 6, 2010 at 3:32 PM

Danny Bowien's ma po tofu is super hot. - TAMARA PALMER
  • Tamara Palmer
  • Danny Bowien's ma po tofu is super hot.
Mission Chinese Food began eat-in, takeout, and delivery service yesterday at Lung Shan, site of the past Mission Street Food dinner events. We slid in for lunch (operating hours are 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.) and spent quite a few minutes debating our tempting choices. Adding to the difficulty, the entire Lung Shan menu was also available. We chose pot stickers from the Lung Shan offerings, a lifelong habit that makes our Chinese meal feel "complete," and a few dishes from Mission Chinese Food.

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Funky, Hot, and Delicious: Viet-Thai Sunday Brunch at Doc's Clock

Posted By on Tue, Mar 2, 2010 at 10:58 AM

The Cantonese "tamale." - A. SIMMONS
  • A. Simmons
  • The Cantonese "tamale."
Of all the bars within three blocks of our domicile, Doc's Clock might be our favorite. We appreciate $2 cans of Olympia, perilously low lights, and lots of dark wood. Last Sunday, however, we headed over to the Clock not to tie one on, but to unlace ourselves ― with brunch. Every Sunday, from noon until 4 p.m., Doc's Clock hosts Three Papayas, the Thai, Vietnamese, and pan-Asian "cultural liberation" brunch curated by Ta-Wei Lin, formerly of Yamo.

Our friendly bartender was sipping Powers and showing off her alien abduction-themed 2010 calendar. Folks were choking down Bloody Marys. Hostess and server Vivian Nguyen was ferrying massive bowls and plates to and from tables buried in the bar's shadowy recesses. Shuddering off the memory of our last glass of Jim Beam drained eight hours earlier, we sat at the bar, close to the door, so the light streaming in might shine upon our food, enabling us to see what we were stuffing down.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Hot Meal: Pizza, Beer, and a Whiff of the Familiar at Delarosa

Posted By on Thu, Dec 17, 2009 at 4:21 PM

Delarosa's arugula pizza: The crust is said to be Roman style. - C. ALBURGER
  • C. Alburger
  • Delarosa's arugula pizza: The crust is said to be Roman style.
Over the past four months, the folks behind the Mission's magnetic Beretta (Ruggero Gadaldi, Deborah Blum, and Adriano Paganini) have tripled their presence in San Francisco. First it was Starbelly in the Castro, and late last month came Delarosa, with its gently mod décor, in the Marina.

Scallop spiedini: Almost there. - C. ALBURGER
  • C. Alburger
  • Scallop spiedini: Almost there.
The Beretta faithful will find similarly sharable Italian plates and carefully made cocktails, though the pizza here is purportedly Roman style, and Starbelly cicerone Rich Higgins has added 30 draft and bottled beers to Delarosa's mix.

We needed one right away to take the edge off the crowd roar and cramped communal seating. Next time we'll wheedle into one of the relatively private two- or four-tops in the 100-seat dining room. Our neighbors were close enough to smell our order of wilted winter chicories and cauliflower ($6), brought to life with crumbly hazelnuts and sweet balsamic. A less impressive sliced chicken sausage ($7) mingled with halved red grapes in a bowl. Its side of homemade mustard helped, but not enough.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Hot Meal: Frances Impresses with Rustic Flavors, Polished Technique

Posted By on Wed, Dec 2, 2009 at 11:56 AM

  • J. Birdsall
Though it's on a street that skews residential, Frances feels strictly Manhattan: tight tables, even tighter bar seating, and a stripped-down design of darks and whites that nevertheless gestures toward American rustic. Melissa Perello's cooking reveals a similar tension. The place is literally an homage to her heartland roots (Frances is Perello's Texas grandma), while the food's execution -- at last night's official opening, anyway -- revealed seriously impressive technique.

Lamb and pork albondigas, one of the pre-meal bouchées. - J. BIRDSALL
  • J. Birdsall
  • Lamb and pork albondigas, one of the pre-meal bouchées.
The menu's in three parts, including a roster of bouchées ($6.50 each), small share plates designed to precede the meal proper. When chomped, applewood smoked bacon beignets released a delicately smoky wheeze. Just as surprising were albondigas con salsa verde, tender meatballs of lamb and pork in a sort of kale pesto whose so-called Moorish spice blend made you think of some darkly herby Indian chutney.

An appetizer of semolina gnocchi ($12) was all about texture -- the pliant, pinky-tip pieces of the star ingredient, in a thin, deep-tasting duck broth not ashamed to be cloudy. There were bits of duck and spigarello, too. A nearly perfect square of slow-roasted beef ($23) had a beefiness you tasted in your chakras. It was a boneless rib cut, Niman, with a fiber-y texture like short ribs, under a load of deep-fried shallot rings. Coarsely smashed German butterballs and braised greens were perfect with.

The only dish we didn't love was the cube of ling cod swaddled in Boccalone lardo, poised on Brussels sprouts and a smear of squash and apple puree ($23). The lardo made the fish about as salty as seawater (though, in fairness to Boccalone, the kitchen definitely wasn't shy about salt elsewhere), and the sweetness of the orange stuff seemed a clumsy contrast. But even with a plate you couldn't warm to, it made you wish you lived in the Castro, where Frances could be your neighborhood go-to. As long as you wouldn't mind a whiff of Chelsea.

Frances 3870 17th St. (at Pond), 621-3870

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hot Meal: Ex-Broken Record Chefs Ryan + Kat at Bruno's

Posted By on Wed, Nov 11, 2009 at 11:10 AM

The BBQ Pork Rib Plate: A successful mashup of snarl and finesse. - J. BIRDSALL
  • J. Birdsall
  • The BBQ Pork Rib Plate: A successful mashup of snarl and finesse.
In July, Ryan Ostler and Kat Zacher wadded up their aprons and split from The Broken Record, where they'd racked up critical hype as independent kitchen operators at the rough-edged Excelsior bar. They're back, this time at Bruno's (2389 Mission at 20th St.), cooking five nights a week (Tues.-Sat). Judging from dinner last night -- a week after they fired up the range -- the break from the Record was good for them. Their Southern roadhouse cooking blew us away with its mashup of country snarl and city finesse. If you've ever walked out of Wexler's feeling that Charlie Kleinman's rehabbing of American BBQ was too tidy to totally satisfy, there's a good chance you'll find deliverance at Bruno's. Plus, with entrees maxing out at $16 (half are under $10), it's satisfying in ways that have nothing to do with what comes out of the smoker.

Spciy Buffalo Wings: Electric. - J. BIRDSALL
  • J. Birdsall
  • Spciy Buffalo Wings: Electric.
And what comes out of the smoker is amazing. Take the BBQ Pork Rib Plate ($16). Smoked over hickory and applewood, the West Texas-style ribs had a densely pebbled, espresso-colored crust, a sweet campfire perfume that somehow made you think of maple syrup, and a luscious, properly stringy texture. You didn't even need the accompanying sauce (not spicy, but subtly smoky).

An Oyster Po'boy ($8) had a tangy aïoli that threatened to overwhelm any sea-like nuance of the star ingredients, but was hard to fault. The yeasty tang of Tabasco turned Spicy Buffalo Wings ($7) electric. Even so, the most startling thing about them was the texture: crisp skin, juicy flesh you had to strip off the bone. Crisply fried shallots and tart yogurt dressing turned a Roasted Beet Salad ($7) from Cali set piece to American classic with a whiff of backwoods. And Zacher's apple tart dessert special with buttermilk ice cream ($5.50) was as texturally satisfying as fried pie.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hot Meal: 'Good Morning Breakfast' at Bar Tartine

Posted By on Wed, Oct 21, 2009 at 11:38 AM

The breakfast sandwich: Quietly deft. - J. BIRDSALL
  • J. Birdsall
  • The breakfast sandwich: Quietly deft.
Used to be only prep cooks and cleaning crews who showed up early mornings at restaurants. But eateries are trying to get you in the doors -- whenever they can get you, frankly -- and if that means staffing up with a short-order a.m. line cook and server, so be it.

This morning, Bar Tartine joined Pizzaiolo and Salt House as members of the Bay Area's Breakfast Club, dinner-focused restaurants with casual morning service. Tartine's Good Morning Breakfast offers half a dozen options, a couple of house-baked pastries, and coffee drinks extracted from Four Barrel beans (though on day one, the java was Blue Bottle).

An apple fritter from Tartine Bakery. - J. BIRDSALL
  • J. Birdsall
  • An apple fritter from Tartine Bakery.
A breakfast sandwich ($7.50) of scrambled egg and house-cured bacon piled on a split biscuit was quietly deft: egg curds of almost custardy lightness and subtly smoky bacon on a biscuit with a buttery aura. Honestly? It was the sprinkle of mixed chopped parsley and thyme that gave the thing a kind of delicately weedy lift. Nice.

Poached hunks of tangy-sweet fruit studded a bakery-made apple fritter ($2.75). The soft-textured bran muffin ($2.50) was all about surprise, from the coarse-sand crunch of demerara that dusted it to the snarl of salted maple butter that came with.

Pretty much the most refined start to a Wednesday we can remember having.

Good Morning Breakfast at Bar Tartine 561 Valencia (at 16th St. ), 487-1600. Wed-Fri, 8-11 a.m.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Don't Believe the Hype: Hubert Keller's Burger Bar is Just Another Pricey Chain. Really Pricey

Posted By on Mon, Oct 19, 2009 at 1:10 PM

Sliders and a shake: The Cheesecake Factory with black truffles? - M. BRODY
  • M. Brody
  • Sliders and a shake: The Cheesecake Factory with black truffles?
Sliders and a shake: Is this the Cheesecake Factory with black truffles?We blush to admit that we got caught up in the hype swirling around Hubert Keller's new Burger Bar. We showed up for a late-night snack on Saturday, its second day of operation, despite having visited the Fleur de Lys chef's Las Vegas Burger Bar shortly after it opened in Mandalay Bay in 2004 and leaving slightly less than, how you say, blown away. But hope springs eternal. Maybe especially when it comes to burgers.

Alas, once we entered the Macy's sixth floor space (reachable after store hours via a dedicated elevator) -- despite its Keller pedigree, the infamous $60 foie-gras- and truffle-slathered Rossini, its extensive beer and abbreviated wine list -- it was eminently clear that this is, after all, a chain restaurant, with all that that implies: beer-sign décor, annoying techno, mini TVs in the booths, T-shirts and mugs for sale, and indifferent service.

Channel surf 'n' turf: Booths come with their own TVs. - M. BRODY
  • M. Brody
  • Channel surf 'n' turf: Booths come with their own TVs.
The rather overwhelming, eight-page oversize menu offers a choice of four basic meats (Black Angus, $9.75; sustainably farmed Country Natural, $10.50; and American Kobe beef and buffalo, both $16.50) and four non-meat patties (veggie, salmon, and turkey, all $8.50; and chicken breast, $9.25), served in six different buns, with tomatoes, onions, lettuce, and dill pickles.

Special orders not only don't upset Burger Bar, the kitchen apparently craves them. There's a list of more than 50 add-ons for customizing your burger, ranging from the expected (cheeses and bacons) to the less so (asparagus, pineapple, and pesto) to the downright unexpected (black Perigord truffle sauce, grilled half-lobster, and black truffles -- the latter a whopping $30).

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Friday, October 9, 2009

Hot Meal: Prime Rib Shabu

Posted By on Fri, Oct 9, 2009 at 11:46 AM

Swish swish. - M. BRODY
  • M. Brody
  • Swish swish.
Shabu shabu is the Japanese equivalent of fondue. It's a participatory meal you cook at table, dipping meats, seafood, and vegetables into a simmering broth that picks up flavor as the meal wears on. The name, legend has it, is onomatopoetic, from the sound a piece of food makes as you swish it through the soup. Shabu shabu = swish swish.

Bill Murray asks in Lost in Translation, "What kind of restaurant makes you cook your own food?" One answer: a restaurant that's both fun and delicious, as in Prime Rib Shabu, which opened 10 days ago in the Inner Richmond. The compact storefront is nicely decorated with gleaming wood, pierced-metal light fixtures, and Asian art, but the real focus is the hot plate at the center of every table.

Owner Luke Sung knows the value of good ingredients. - M. BRODY
  • M. Brody
  • Owner Luke Sung knows the value of good ingredients.
There are five different shabu meals, or sets: thin-cut rib eye ($16.95), hand-cut extra-marbled rib eye ($18.95), thin-cut lamb shoulder ($17.95), seafood ($17.95), and vegetarian ($9.95). All the dinners come with chicken broth, two kinds of tofu (fresh cubes and dried yuba tubes), two kinds of noodles (fat udon and glassy vermicelli), enoki, organic ton ho (aka tong hao, spiky-leaved chrysanthemum greens), watercress, nappa cabbage, and lettuce, each of which you add to the broth as you like. The table is set with jars of chili oil, satay sauce, and chopped green onions, and Prime Rib Shabu's special fresh sauce (soy-based, with cilantro and jalapeño) arrives with the meats.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Hot Meal: Authentic Antojitos at Chilango in the Castro

Posted By on Tue, Oct 6, 2009 at 3:09 PM

Pozole, topped with a julienne of radish and finely shaved cabbage. - J. BIRDSALL
  • J. Birdsall
  • Pozole, topped with a julienne of radish and finely shaved cabbage.
Chilango opened a week ago, in the old Azteca Taqueria on Church in the Castro. Where you could once score a gut-busting burrito of middling quality, chef Roberto Aguiar Cruz is putting together Mexican street-food dishes remarkable for the quality of the ingredients. And they're hella tasty.

Cruz helped open Mexico DF (he's still listed as chef on the Web site), and before that cooked at Fonda in the East Bay. (The chef has family roots in the state of Nayarit on Mexico's Pacific coast.) His menu of two dozen antojitos, in this case, pretty hefty snacks -- almost all of them built around house-made tortillas or some other permutation of corn masa. It's not your everyday masa: It's from La Palma in the Mission, and contains a puree of nopal, or cactus. Not only does it tint the dough a pale green (the color pretty much fades with heat) and add a very subtle grassy flavor, but it yields tortillas with wonderfully rustic chew. Cruz claims Chilango is the only restaurant in the city that uses cactus masa. All beef and pork are Niman; the chicken is from Fulton Valley.

Tacos de suadero, long-cooked brisket turned crisp on the griddle. - J. BIRDSALL
  • J. Birdsall
  • Tacos de suadero, long-cooked brisket turned crisp on the griddle.
A trio of tacos filled with suadero (long-cooked beef brisket, turned carnitas-crispy on the griddle, $9) were fantastic, a hefty flurry of browned meat shards under a sprinkling of onion and cilantro. Tacos come with two salsas, a viscous red chile number so mild it was borderline bland, and a searing raw-tomatillo mash that more than made up for it. The kitchen's version of pozole ($10) is decidedly refined, with nuggets of dark-meat chicken and hominy in a guajillo chile-spiked broth with plenty of body, under a delicate julienne of radish and cabbage. Duck flautas ($12) were one dish that seemed to suffer from the toothy tortillas, rolled around shredded bird and deep fried. They proved a bit hard to chew.

The only thing harder to chew at Chilango? The prices, reasonable when you consider the ingredients and the kitchen's chops, but arguably steep if you can't quite shake the memory of those Azteca burritos. Cruz told us he's considering dropping the prices at lunch. But even at the present level, you won't find us complaining.

Chilango Cenaduria y Antojeria 235 Church (at Market), 255-7330. Open daily, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hot Meal: Breakfast at Charles Phan's Out the Door Bush

Posted By on Thu, Oct 1, 2009 at 12:22 PM

The chicken porridge: An extravagance of crispy shallots - M. BRODY
  • M. Brody
  • The chicken porridge: An extravagance of crispy shallots
It was delightful indeed to sit in the brand-new Out the Door Bush and peruse an alluring East-West morning menu that features chicken porridge (aka chao, congee, or jook) and phỏ as well as baked eggs with French ham and tomato coulis, and poached eggs with braised Niman Ranch beef brisket and crispy potatoes.

Sunlight streamed in through the glass window wall, illuminating a chic, spare décor that wittily juxtaposes hard surfaces (gray and white marble tables and counter tops) with soft (a pale wood wall and plaid upholstered armchairs). Alongside the long open kitchen is an impressively big oven, whose flickering flames roast pork and fish for lunch and dinner.

Coffees, with coconut-jam-filled pull bread. - M. BRODY
  • M. Brody
  • Coffees, with coconut-jam-filled pull bread.
We drank Vietnamese iced coffee ($3.50), and French press coffee (single $3, double $6), nicely served in a silver pot, and picked at a warm coconut pull bread ($5), a three-leaf-clover affair, each leaf filled with luscious house-made coconut jam.

The chicken rice porridge ($7) was haute nursery food, flavored with the exciting, herbal, ever-so-mildly soapy, and bright green leaves of rau ram, topped with tender shredded chicken breast and an extravagance of crispy shallots. Two poached eggs from Sun Hill Farms spilled their golden yolks over the diced braised brisket and equally small crispy potatoes ($13), a deconstructed hash.

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