San Francisco Bay Area rss

Restaurant recommendations, new openings, and highlights from the SF Chowhound community.

Destination Doughnuts in Los Altos

The new, family-owned Donut du Jour makes light, nongreasy doughnuts that rival those at Stan’s, says Claudette. The glazed old-fashioned, chocolate sprinkled, and “Boston-cream-pieish” varieties all make the grade. Each is only about three bites’ worth, nice for a snack.

buoncibo tried a raspberry-filled one that was “soft and plump, with a good amount of filling,” and also sampled an apple fritter that had “good amounts of cinnamon, but could have used more apples.”

“The early bird gets the coconut cream-filled doughnut rolled in burnt coconut,” notes rworange, who points out that the place opens at 5 a.m. and closes at noon weekdays, or 1 p.m. on weekends.

Just down the street at the new Esther’s German Bakery, the German coffee is nice and strong says Claudette, and “the salted and sesame pretzels were the best pretzels I’d ever had in the U.S., but not nearly as good as the ones I’d had in Germany.” Among the pastries, bee sting cake has a delicious custard filling and caramelized almond topping.

Donut du Jour [South Bay]
108 State Street, Los Altos

Esther’s German Bakery [South Bay]
987 N. San Antonio Road, Los Altos

Board Links: Los Altos report: Esther’s, Donut du Jour, Cravery
Los Altos–Breakfast and lunch at Esther’s German Bakery?

Latin Food Crawl in Richmond

The al pastor from Taqueria La Selva’s taco wagon setup is a thing of beauty, reckons rworange. “This is no pre-formed, pre-cut pastor. The irregularly-cut slices in the spit are topped with two golden roasted rings of fresh pineapple,” she says. “It tastes even better than it looks … rich and complex with heat.”

Nearby, outside Central American market Mi Raza, there’s a lady turning out top-notch pupusas on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Hand-patted and cooked on the spot, they are the “least greasy pupusas” rworange has ever had. Loroco pupusa is just what it should be, she says, with the herb’s distinct flavor. The curtido is nice and tangy, with actual bits of puréed tomato in the sauce.

A few vendors can be found in front of St. Mark’s Catholic Church on Sundays while the two Spanish-language Masses are going on (which begin at 9:15 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.). Look for the one under a shady tree selling tamales, pan de elote, and bags of fresh fruit with chile.

“The pan de elote are wonderful: oblong, griddled and pancake-like filled with fresh corn flavor,” says rworange. “In texture [they’re] somewhere between cornbread and a pancake and about 1/3 inch thick.”

As for the pork tamales, she says, “the pork in the moist masa tasted like it had been roasted rather than stewed. Now why hasn’t anyone else thought of that? There was a rich porky flavor like getting a slice of roast pork out of the oven.”

Taqueria La Selva [East Bay]
1049 23rd Street, Richmond

Mi Raza Market [East Bay]
1045 23rd Street, Richmond

St. Mark’s Catholic Church [East Bay]
159 Harbour Way, Richmond

Board Links: Richmond: After mass street chow at St. Mark’s–pan de elote and pork tamales
Richmond street feast part 2: Taqueria La Selva–the best al pastor tacos vapor in the Bay Area
Richmond street feast part 3: Mi Raza Market’s sidewalk pupusa lady

Anchor & Hope’s East Coast Seafood

Anchor & Hope, the newish fish house opened by the Rosenthal brothers and Doug Washington, does East Coast–style seafood with a twist. Lobster salad involves a “delicious blend of spices” and the classic roll, says Corte Medusa, while eetnsleep appreciates its light, olive oil–type dressing. But at around $30 for the roll, slaw, and fries, notes Xiao Yang, East Coast nostalgia ain’t cheap.

For dessert, Corte Medusa recommends the house-made chocolate cake with salt and nuts on the frosting.

Reports from Anchor’s first week, back in May, were mixed: Absonot found the sea urchin appetizer and the ceviche outstanding. “The Portuguese stew was also wonderful. Really complex flavors in a very satisfying broth.” But the lobster roll underwhelmed.

While not a fan of the restaurateur trio’s other San Francisco ventures, Salt House or Town Hall, goingoutagain liked Anchor more, finding the service friendlier and the place less pretentious.

Anchor & Hope [SOMA]
83 Minna Street, San Francisco

Board Links: Anchor & Hope
Anchor & Hope
Trip report–Anchor & Hope on 83 Minna Street San Francisco

Sonoma County Pizza

One of the best new vendors at the Friday morning farmers’ market in Sonoma is Kashaya’s Brick Oven Pizza, says Melanie Wong, who visited and posted photos. Kashaya’s day job is baking for Whole Foods in Petaluma, and she learned about wood-burning ovens while working at Della Fattoria.

The pizzas are baked to order in a brick oven on a trailer that’s fired up well before the market opens and transported there hot.

“The pizza crust, made with organic flour, is great with the special nuance that wood smoke and high heat add,” says Melanie Wong. “Chewy-tender on the puffy edges, stretched extremely thin in the middle, crisp on the bottom, and full of yeasty goodness.” Melanie ordered hers “scorched,” but it got a little tough when it cooled; the regular well-browned way is probably better.

Spinach, ricotta, and garlic pizza perfectly balances salt and savory against the green leafiness of the baby spinach. Other topping combos include potato, rosemary, and mushroom; and apricot, strawberry, and slivered almonds. Some toppings run out toward the end of the market, so order early. Pizzas are $7 regular size, or $12 large.

Kashaya sells at both the Tuesday and Friday Sonoma markets and the Cotati market on Thursday evenings. She also does catering.

Over in Petaluma, Melanie also tried pizza at a franchise of one of Oregon’s favorite pizzeria chains, Pizzicato. At lunch, two slices with a fountain drink is $6.99 with tax, and costs even less if you order cheese pizza.

“The crust is very thin, well-browned, and crispy-chewy,” she says. “The April special had savory bits of scallions and fresh herbs combined with sweet caramelized red onions and nuggets of prosciutto.”

“Toppings aren’t pedigreed,” she continues, “yet they’re wholesome and fresh and good quality at this price.” The place is located in a strip mall next to Whole Foods, and has “a fast-food feel.”

Kashaya’s Brick Oven Pizza [Sonoma County]
Sonoma and Cotati farmers’ markets

Pizzicato [Sonoma County]
615 E. Washington Street, Petaluma

Board Links: Kashaya’s Brick Oven Pizza (Sonoma, Cotati, Santa Rosa)
Pizzicato’s Two Slice Lunch Deal (Petaluma)

Thai Chefs Defect to the East (Bay)

The former chef at Thai House Express in San Francisco has left, along with his sous-chef, and opened Chai Thai Noodles in Oakland, says DezzerSF. It has about 10 nicely spaced four-tops and a flat-screen TV on the wall.

The new place has all the atmosphere of an institutional shower room, complains Robert Lauriston, who doesn’t like the bright fluorescent lights and white tile. However, the squid salad is “stellar,” and he also liked the Dungeness crab noodles despite a paucity of the promised crab.

The menu is basically the same as at Thai House Express, minus a few items, say hounds. The much-loved pork leg stew is there, almost as good as ever, says pastryqueen, whose only quibble is that the rice seems to be regular long-grain, not jasmine.

Catfish salad (yum pla dook foo) is “more like an airy batter with catfish bits mixed in, served over a bed of shredded lettuce, and topped with cashews and red bell pepper,” says DezzerSF. It’s served with a mixture of fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, red onions, and cilantro.

The finely textured, lemongrass-scented fried sausage is nicely browned, with “an addictive snap,” says daveena, who adds that another catfish dish, this time deep-fried pieces of fish with vegetables, is also really tasty, with a similar sauce as the salad.

Back in SF, Thai House Express doesn’t seem to have suffered. The pork leg stew is still juicy and tender, reports DaveMP. “One of the best meals you can get for $8 in San Francisco,” he says, even though here, too, the rice now seems to be long-grain.

Chai Thai Noodles [East Bay]
545B International Boulevard, Oakland

Thai House Express [Tenderloin]
901 Larkin Street, San Francisco

Board Links: Chai Thai Noodles (Oakland) Thai House Express chef alert
Quick Thai House Express Report

Viet-Style Crab Salad

“The crab salad at Jasmine Garden has soared to the top of my SF Fave List,” says Cynsa. “A whole cold crab is marinated in a delectable dressing, garnished with mint and slices of hot red chilies, and presented in shell, with picks, shell crackers, and cloth napkins. Messy fingers to lick are a delight.”

As a grand opening special, the crab salad is just $19.95. And a side order of garlic noodles is subtle and delicious, neither too buttery nor too garlicky.

“Service is friendly and welcoming; the décor is modern and artful,” adds Cynsa.

Jasmine Garden [Duboce Triangle]
708 14th Street, San Francisco

Board Link: Grand Opening Crab Special–Jasmine Garden

Duck Soup in Oakland

Having thoroughly explored the duck noodle soup options in Oakland’s Chinatown (or at least tried all the places with a duck hanging in the window), daveena has concluded that the best of the bunch is Gum Wah.

Tender duck meat that comes easily off the bone with no fat; springy, skinny wheat noodles; and broth that tastes “like it came from roasted duck carcasses” makes this place a winner for daveena.

Ying Kee Noodle House is a runner-up thanks to its tender duck with a little fat, slightly soft noodles, and rich broth that tastes like a chicken-duck combo. You can get veggies as an add-in; the noodles are also extra. The whole roast duck, though, is awfully salty.

At New Gold Medal, daveena had duck that was “flavorful but tough.” The skinny wheat noodles had great texture, and daveena also liked the home-style scrambled eggs with bitter melon: “The squash was barely bitter, super silky, really delicious.”

Gum Kuo is “wildly inconsistent, even within a single bowl,” reports daveena. But the noodles are good, and the chicken-duck broth is fairly rich.

The duck at Café 88 has a strong star anise flavor, but is slightly tough. It’s served separately from the excellent broth and noodles. Rice vermicelli is standard here, and wheat noodles are an option, although daveena reports receiving a “fairly skimpy portion” on one visit.

Gum Wah [East Bay]
345 Eighth Street, Oakland

Ying Kee Noodle House [East Bay]
387 Ninth Street, Oakland

New Gold Medal [East Bay]
389 Eighth Street, Oakland

Gum Kuo [East Bay]
388 Ninth Street #182, Oakland

Café 88 [East Bay]
388 Ninth Street #181, Oakland

Board Link: My Tuesday Project: Oakland Chinatown Duck Noodle Soup Roundup

Burmese in Burlingame

The same family that brought you the Mandalay in San Francisco has outdone itself with Mingalaba, the new Burmese restaurant in Burlingame. “This version of lap pat dok [tea leaf salad] is superior to any I’ve tasted recently at Burma Superstar, B Star Bar, or Larkin Express Deli; each component is a bright burst of flavor,” says Cynsa.

If you go at lunchtime, several hounds recommend ordering from the regular dinner menu (just ask for it), which has more varied and rewarding Burmese choices, while a lot of the entrées on the lunch menu come off like boring quasi-Chinese dishes. However, Cynsa notes that judicious application of the dry chile powder and chile sauce transformed a rather “one-dimensional” Burmese curry lamb into something more layered, and that the curry sauce was “heavenly” with coconut rice.

Palatha, the Burmese version of paratha or roti, is good here, while a dish of Burmese-style pan-fried string beans was a surprise hit with several hounds, thanks to what JasmineG describes as the “amazing flavor and texture” of the paste it was cooked in, made with dried shrimp, chile, garlic, and pickled vegetables.

The house special noodles with coconut chicken, yellow pea powder, and onion get a flavor jolt from wisps of kaffir lime leaf, says JasmineG.

Mingalaba [Peninsula]
1213 Burlingame Avenue, Burlingame

Board Links: Chowdown at Mingalaba in Burlingame
Mingalaba lunch today

Salted Caramel Gelato, Affordable Chocolates

“I don’t know when I’ve enjoyed a chocolate company as much since XOX opened,” says rworange of the Xocolate Bar in Berkeley. “It has that same small, personal feel … and the chocolate is very good … and I didn’t feel ripped off by the price as I do most places.”

The kalamata olive–flavored dark chocolate is “really different and wonderful,” says nicedragonboy, and rworange likes its combination of “salty caramel-like ganache and pronounced olive flavor.” The “Aztec Amor” is also good, continues rworange, with mild heat from chile guajillo, plus cinnamon and organic orange zest. Other flavors on offer include cardamom, lemon ginger, and white chocolate with pomegranate filling, says nicedragonboy, and there are also quite a few vegan chocolates available.

There’s also a changing selection of about eight gelatos made off-site with Strauss milk, says rworange. Their texture needs some work, reckons David Carlson, but the salted caramel flavor is awesome, and goes great with the chocolate gelato. He adds that his wife loved the sipping chocolate, which was very rich but “not sweet enough” for his own tastes.

The Xocolate Bar [East Bay]
1709 Solano Avenue, Berkeley

Board Links: Berkeley: The Xocolate Bar … very nice organic salted caramel gelato
The Xocolate Bar–opening soon on Solano Ave.

Brunch at the Farley Bar

rworange says that Farley Bar is “the type of place to just sit back and relax.” She advises that you snag a couch on the veranda, watch the “ships, boats, and ferries glide through the Golden Gate,” and order some treats such as savory-and-smoky prosciutto-wrapped peach, or fritto misto of local fish and shellfish. The bar is next door to Murray Circle restaurant, and both places serve the same brunch menu.

At breakfast, the house-made croissant is “what all croissants should dream of being … the perfect crunchy exterior with a rich light center and full of buttery flavor,” says rworange. The blueberry streusel muffins are large, buttery, and not overly sweet, continues rworange, who adds that Executive Pastry Chef Ethan Howard has Bouchon Bakery and Ad Hoc on his résumé. Meanwhile, chutney says that the sweet-pea gazpacho with fennel-citrus granité she had for brunch was “absolutely delicious.”

The brunch menu is driven by a small-plates concept, notes rworange, which means everything comes à la carte, and prices can add up quickly; expect to spend $20 to $30 for a typical brunch spread. On the other hand, the breakfast buffet is $18 and includes the above baked goods, fresh fruit, and some hot dishes.

The wine list is broad and includes affordable bottles, but the cocktail and spirits list “goes on for over 40 pages describing in detail each drink … over half of which are available at Safeway,” says rworange. The beer selection consists of just Anchor Steam, Amstel Light, and Guinness.

The Librarian finds the service overly formal, even pretentious, which is “somewhat ironic,” notes susancinsf, considering the place is named after a comic strip character created by local artist Phil Frank.

Farley Bar [Marin County]
601 Murray Circle, Sausalito
No phone available

Board Links: Lunch at the Farley Bar at Cavallo Point
Sausalito: Mmmmm Murray Circle and Farley Bar… a nice bay view AND good food