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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Number 48: Fish With Explosive Chiles From Spices!

Posted By on Thu, Mar 8, 2012 at 3:30 PM

Spices's fish fillet with explosive chile pepper, $12.95 - ALBERT LAW
  • Albert Law
  • Spices's fish fillet with explosive chile pepper, $12.95

SFoodie's countdown of our favorite 50 things to eat and drink, 2012 edition


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If you couldn't tell from its name, Spices! has a penchant for hyperbole. The local chain of Taiwanese-Sichuan restaurants specializes in STiNKY! tofu, numbing-spicy pork intestine (actually a direct translation of the dish's Chinese name), and SFoodie's favorite, "gangsta casserole murder style," a hot pot served by the Oakland branch.

Few of the dishes can match the drama of their names in appearance quite like the Eighth Avenue Spices' "fish fillet with explosive chile pepper." A variant on a popular dish sometimes called Chongqing chicken, Spice's fish is lightly battered and deep-fried in oil containing a thousand dried red chiles and Sichuan peppercorns.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ashley Lee of Jang Soo BBQ on Her Grandmother and Her Garden

Posted By on Wed, Dec 14, 2011 at 2:00 PM

Ashley Lee, manning the barbecue table. - LARA HATA
  • Lara Hata
  • Ashley Lee, manning the barbecue table.

Ashley Lee is the force behind -- and the face of -- the newly renovated Jang Soo BBQ, the subject of this week's full-length restaurant review. Within the space of a year, she renovated and renamed her first cafe, then took over Jang Soo with her family. Before filing the review, I chatted with Lee.

SFoodie: So how did you go from starting Kaju Cafe (now Ashley's Cafe) to Jang Soo?

I grew up in the food business. My grandmother had a restaurant, my mom had a restaurant (both in Pohwang, South Korea) ... and I have a totally different college degree. But I love coffee, pastries, and cookies, so I opened Kaju Cafe on California Street about five years ago. We've gotten known for our Fair Trade coffee and our organic sandwiches. We serve a bulgogi cheese steak sandwich on the menu.

Then two months ago, I had the opportunity to open another business. My grandmother passed away two years ago, but my mom has all of her recipes. So I asked her, do you want to open a restaurant?

Now she's the head chef, and we make everything from scratch. We have our own garden in Mill Valley, where we grow all the vegetables and herbs. And Korean food is all about pepper paste and soybean paste -- that's the base of all our sauces. So we make all that from scratch. We try to stay organic as much as we can.

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Jang Soo BBQ's New Owners Are Swankifying Up Korean

Posted By on Wed, Dec 14, 2011 at 8:22 AM

Barbecuing kalbi at Jang Soo. - LARA HATA
  • Lara Hata
  • Barbecuing kalbi at Jang Soo.

A couple of months ago, Jang Soo BBQ -- the subject of this week's full-length restaurant review in the paper -- closed for a short spell to change owners and make a few radical changes, which are only visible to those who pass through the front door. Now it's decorated in slate-bricked walls and sparkling chandeliers, and the tables are set with slim-stemmed wooden spoons and chopsticks in place of the standard metal silverware.

New owner Ashley Lee, of Ashley's Cafe in the Inner Richmond, has re-envisioned the Korean restaurant as a San Francisco bistro, slimming down the menu and rotating dishes on and off (and knocking the prices up 25-30 percent, to boot). Her mom's in the kitchen, making all the sauces and pickles herself and preparing some of the most traditional dishes according to Ashley's grandmother's recipes. The cooks haven't yet settled into their new space, and quality can vary widely, but between the house special kalbi, the kimchi stew, and grandmother's pork bossam, it's not hard to feast.

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Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Restaurant Supply Part 4: Kamei Restaurant Supply

Posted By on Fri, Mar 20, 2009 at 1:01 PM

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Kamei Restaurant Supply (525-547 Clement) is also known as Kamei Household Wares, and the latter's really a better name. You can't get everything you need for a restaurant kitchen here, the way you can at Economy or Forest, but you can get most of what you'd need for a home kitchen or dining room at very low prices. The store offers huge selections of dishes (some quite nice), rice cookers, carafes, cheap glassware, cooking pots, and probably the biggest variety of kitchen gadgets in the city.

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The best part of my most recent visit was reading the back of the packaging for Edison Chopsticks (shown at right). The copy includes quotes from famous fans such as the violinist Yehudi Menuhin, who said, "The discovery of the static and peaceful chopstick culture that does not hurt your hands gave a dramatic change to my music." Or, as French philospher Roland Barthes put it, "Chopstick are nutrition intake tool as free and adroit as a thinker's fingers that are not mechanical any more."

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Friday, February 27, 2009

First Korean Market's Killer Kimchi

Posted By on Fri, Feb 27, 2009 at 1:48 PM

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For the past several years, I've been obsessed with learning about Korean food. After trying at least 30 restaurants, buying every Korean cookbook on the market, and making a pilgrimage to LA's incredible Koreatown, I still have a lot left to learn, but I do know one thing for sure: the best kimchi you can buy is at First Korean Market (4625 Geary).

The stuff is made fresh in the back of the store, and it couldn't be much simpler: just vegetables, hot pepper, garlic, salt, and salted shrimp. They pretty much always have Napa cabbage (labeled "sliced"), daikon ("radish"), and bachelor radish ("baby radish"), all priced at $4.99 a quart or $7.99 a half gallon. Occasionally they also have other seasonal vegetables, such as cucumbers or spring onions. The store also has a complete selection of Korean groceries and a nice serve-yourself bar of tasty panchan (appetizers / side dishes).

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Roll Play: Pistachio Avocado Roll at Rumble Fish

Posted By on Tue, Feb 24, 2009 at 9:30 AM

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The pistachio avocado roll ($5) at Rumble Fish (200 23rd Ave.) is a lively alternative to plain avocado rolls, which are a staple of any veggie sushi enthusiast's diet but can be a little bit boring. The nuts are crushed and rolled both inside and outside, so the flavor really comes through in every bite. In addition to the usual seafood suspects, this cute little bistro in the Richmond District also makes a cashew avocado roll (and, for carnivores who want to stay on land, an amazing beef carpaccio). Strangely enough, the restaurant also sports a poster for The Godfather on the wall, giving off a cute gangster vibe.

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