San Francisco Bay Area rss

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

The Joy of Kabul

Firstly, Kabul City’s lunch buffet is gone. This is because almost everybody is interested in the kebabs, and kebabs don’t do well on a steam table. This is good news for you kebab-lovers; you will have fresh-made kebabs to your heart’s delight.

There is, instead, a lunch menu, with smaller portions and lower prices than the dinner menu. Badinjon burani (eggplant) is smooth, silky, and delicious. Kadu burani (pumpkin) has a lovely, bright flavor, though it’s a bit too sweet for some. Qabely pallow (braised lamb chunks with raisin rice) is excellently textured and colored. Kebabs are great, though well-done; lamb-lovers may want to request medium-rare lamb kebabs.

The true favorite, says Cynsa, is the mantu—a hugely satisfying meat dumpling with a delicate wrapper and light saucing.

Melanie Wong’s favorite thing is actually the daugh, an herbed yogurt drink. The yogurt itself is rich and tangy, and comes strongly herbed with mint, coriander, and some bits of cumin. Shola zand—rice pudding with almonds, saffron, and pistachios ($4)—is also excellent. “The style of cooking is more like the homestyle places I’ve tried in Fremont and less refined than Helmand’s,” she explains.

Every dish is $6.99 at lunch. It’s quite the bargain.

Do not be afraid that this place is on Fisherman’s Wharf. It actually makes the wharf worthwhile.

Kabul City [Fisherman’s Wharf]
380 Beach Street, San Francisco

Board Links: Kabul City Report

Dasaprakash for Southern Indian

Dasaprakash is a truly wonderful Southern Indian restaurant, says Fine. “The quality of the cooking and the warmth of the hospitality make Dasaprakash a restaurant worthy of any ethnic-food lover’s interest.”

The star of this dining experience is conjeevaram iddly, which, at $4.50, is an incredible bargain. It’s delicate, flavorful, with a deeply satisfying texture. Mysore masala dosai is another delight—a spicy crêpe filled with potato and onion.

Puliyodarai—a spicy rice and tamarind dish—is very likable, and rather like a good nasi goreng, with the dry, slightly oily textured rice. (The owner told Fine that he should have ordered bisi bele huli anna and wafers—the owner’s favorite of the rice dishes. Then the owner gave Fine a complimentary order of bisi bele.)

The hospitality is awesome. Once it was determined that Fine’s party was English-only, the owner came out and had a long discussion over the menu, which involved worrying about whether they had ordered too much, worrying that they were spending too much by not ordering the special thali, and worrying about whether any of them had cilantro tolerance problems. The owner seemed surprised that there were non-Indians enjoying his cuisine. Surprised, but very happy.

Dishes run between $4.50 and $7. Go nuts, eat your heart out.

Dasaprakash: Cuisine of South India [South Bay]
2636 Homestead Road, Santa Clara

Board Links: Dasaprakash, Southern Indian, Santa Clara

The Utterly Exceptional Underwood

Underwood Bar and Bistro is kare_raisu’s new favorite restaurant in Sonoma County. Everything at her first visit was extraordinary.

Frisée salad is perfect, with abundant, thick chunks of delicious pork lardons, and a beautifully poached egg. The seared ahi special is made for hot days: It comes with roasted corn, asparagus, arugula, and an Israeli couscous salad with creamy porcini vinaigrette. And it’s garnished with bits of pancetta and porcini. “I cannot begin to describe how well the rich texture of the tuna worked against this accompaniment—amazing.” Roasted halibut is cooked to a perfectly crisp, golden sear; the insides are marvelously juicy and warm. On top of sautéed mixed greens and a potato purée, it’s perfect.

It is, she says, “a truly great restaurant—worthwhile for anyone in the area to check out.”

It’s one of Lori SF’s favorite restaurants too. She suggests the patio; it’s a sweet spot for summer.

Underwood Bar and Bistro [Sonoma County]
9113 Graton Road, Graton

Board Links: Extraordinary Meal at Underwood in Graton

Mad Indian-Western Fusion

Spice Route is a seriously awesome sort of mad Indian-Western fusion restaurant in the lobby of a Best Western. This may weird you out. Don’t worry about it—you’ll completely forget you’re in a hotel.

Fussy Foodie had a freaking odd, completely exciting spread there. Mussel pakora—nicely fried, nicely tasty mussels placed back in their shells. Incredible mini lamb burgers, spiced like kebab and meltingly tender. And srirachi chicken wings batter-fried and tossed in a spicy, wildly flavorful sauce—completely addictive.

Herb naan is fantastic, with a nice crispy back, a softly chewy center, and tons of herbs on top. Lemongrass lamb chops come out perfectly medium rare, over creamy cumin-spiced potatoes and garlicky spinach. It is sweet, savory, and wonderful. Salmon is crisp on the outside and buttery soft on the inside, and covered with tamarind sauce. It’s solid.

This place is brand new. At the moment, there are no soups or salads on the menu, but they are coming. There is a web address, but no website. That is coming, too.

Closed Sundays.

Spice Route [South Bay]
Inside the Best Western Hotel
400 Valley Way, Milpitas

Board Links: Reports: Spice Route Milpitas & Singapore OTC Dublin

Oxtail Bonanza

If you crave the tang of oxtail, here are some choice spots:

Back A Yard Caribbean has an awesome dish that lots of Chowhounds dig. $12.50 gets you oxtails with sauce, rice and beans, a tiny salad, and plantains.

Powell’s Place has really good oxtails. Most people just go for the fried chicken and have no idea about the wonder of the oxtails, says Carrie 218.

Gator’s has oxtails at dinner. dhoffman1421 is completely hooked on the place.

Hard Knox has consistently excellent oxtails, says David Iott. They fall off the bone with their beautiful tenderness.

Hunicsz says Zza’s menu is mostly sucky, but the braised oxtails are actually pretty good.

Back A Yard Caribbean American Grill [Peninsula]
1189 Willow Road, Menlo Park

Powell’s Place [Fillmore]
1521 Eddy Street, San Francisco

Gator’s Neo-Soul Café [Peninsula]
129 South B Street, San Mateo

Hard Knox Cafe [Dogpatch]
2526 Third Street, San Francisco

Zza’s Trattoria [East Bay]
552 Grand Avenue, Oakland

Board Links: Oxtail on menus?

A Solid Breakfast Tamal

A young Oaxacan street vendor sells excellent morning tamales in Santa Rosa. There is, for instance, a perfectly executed cheese tamal, says kare_raisu—an exceptional example of how a tamal should taste, smell, and feel. So many cruddy tamales are horribly greasy; there is, instead, balance here. The subtle background of essence de puerco adds a nice, slightly smoky mystery to the experience, says kare_raisu. This tamal is $1.50.

There is also tamal Oaxaqueno, a deeper, denser, fattier tamal. The masa is in the Oaxacan cocido style: a suppler dough, with a bit more grease. It is filled with flavorful, tender chicken, and wrapped up in a banana leaf. Also $1.50.

All of these tamales are accompanied by intense, flavorful salsa roja. With a bit of lightly sweet arroz con leche, you’ve got a beautifully warming breakfast.

This vendor shows up on the south side of Sebastopol Road, across the street from the Dollar Tree. She’s there until about 9:30 a.m. The same space is later occupied by the blue Delicias Elenitas truck.

No English is spoken, but you can get by with restaurant Spanish, or a little friendly pointing.

Tamal vendor across the street from the Dollar Tree on Sebastopol Road [Sonoma County]
Sebastopol Road near Dutton Avenue, Santa Rosa

Board Links: Morning Tamal Report # 1 Santa Rosa

Frighteningly Addictive Frozen Yogurt

afatcat is now hopelessly addicted to Harmony Frozen Yogurt. Inspired by Pinkberry, Harmony serves just one flavor—natural. It’s tangy and a little sweet. “It tastes like what it is: Organic Straus Family Creamery Yogurt sweetened with a little sugar. Topped with fresh berries or mango, it completely blows away any frozen yogurt I have ever had.” It is nothing like your typical frozen yogurt. It is a distinctly fresh, very yogurty, and deeply dairy experience, says orezscu.

It’s creamy and dense, and for non–sweet fiends like honu, it’s just the right balance of yogurt and a wee bit of sugar.

A bunch of Chowhounds have been to Harmony. Every single one of them thinks this place is glorious.

Harmony Frozen Yogurt [Peninsula]
1226 Arroyo Avenue, San Carlos

Board Links: Harmony Organic Frozen Yogurt (San Carlos)—Awesome!

The Best Beer: Pliny the Elder

Russian River Brewing has given GermanShepherdPuppy the best beer experience of his life: its Pliny the Elder. The Dive agrees—Russian River Brewing makes the best beers in the area, and maybe the best beers in the state. And its Pliny the Elder is, he says, definitely the best beer ever. Pliny the Younger, though, is missing a certain something. It’s hoppier, but it lacks depth.

The most reliable place to get Pliny the Elder closer to metropolitan San Francisco is Barclay’s. It’s also sometimes at Ben & Nick’s, and Toronado.

Russian River Brewing Company [Sonoma County]
725 Fourth Street, Santa Rosa

Barclay’s Restaurant & Pub [East Bay]
5940 College Avenue, Oakland

Ben and Nick’s Bar & Grill [East Bay]
5612 College Avenue, Oakland

Toronado [Haight]
547 Haight Street, San Francisco

Board Links: Pliney the Elder

Eggy, Ricey, Homey Heaven

Donburi is the home-cooking comfort food of Japan. It’s a bowl of rice topped with … stuff. Like simmered fish. Or simmered chicken. Or simmered chicken mixed with egg. Or fried pork mixed with egg.

Oyako-don is a donburi with chicken, egg, and scallion. “For the definitive oyako-don, Sumika is the answer,” says K K. You can’t beat oyako-don made with free-range organic chicken and eggs, both from Petaluma Farms. It gives the whole dish “a full-bodied flavor that matches the best of Japan.”

GocHi and Saizo are “even more authentic and delicious,” he says. Saizo’s the place for grilled unagi over rice, with unagi liver—it’s superb, though a bit salty. Saizo’s lunches are pretty underrated; check out their fantastic, freshly made miso soup. GocHi’s gyu-don (beef bowl) lunch is a bit small, but also deeply Japanese. The raw egg borken over the meat gives it that extra dimension of good.

Ramen Club has lots of fans for donburi. It’s mighty tasty stuff. VirgoBlue suggests their dinner specials; it’s a great way to sample a little of everything. One of those specials is a great tonkatsu-don (pork cutlet bowl).

Sumika Grill [Peninsula]
236 Central Plaza, Los Altos

Saizo [South Bay]
592 E. El Camino Real, Sunnyvale

GocHi [South Bay]
19980 Homestead Road, Cupertino

Ramen Club [Peninsula]
723 California Drive, Burlingame

Board Links: Looking for donburi on the Peninsula

Glorious Fresh Pasta for Cheap

There is a glorious fresh pasta place wedged between the luxury car dealerships of Los Gatos. It is called Pastaria & Market (even though there’s actually no market), and the pasta there ranges from pretty good to ungodly spectacular, says katya.

Sausage lasagne is truly great—the experience of it will linger in your mind for months. Lobster ravioli are rich and superyummy; the dish shows up frequently on the specials menu. Butternut squash ravioli are beautiful, though perhaps a little overwhelmed by the tomato cream sauce they’re served in. And the mundane-sounding pasta with meat sauce is surprisingly good. Pastaria’s marinara sauce is a little boring, and its aglio y olio has a little too much olive oil, but that only means they’re just pretty darn good, instead of heavenly.

Don’t worry about how the stuff looks, says djh. His Caesar salad didn’t appear fresh. “The dressing looked a bit too creamy, and I feared a slick mayonaiss-y mess was about to follow. One bite and I was cured. A burst of fresh lemon complemented the well balanced and surprisingly light dressing.” Most of the dishes are like that: They look a little heavy and clumsy, but once you take your first bite, you won’t be able to lift your head up far enough out of your dish to even see your food.

Prices are shockingly low for such great pasta. Spaghetti with meat sauce is $9; the superluxurious lobster ravioli are $16.

Pastaria & Market [South Bay]
49 E. Main Street, Los Gatos

Board Links: If You See the Luxury Cars You’re Near Pastaria in Los Gatos
Pasteria —Nice Find in Los Gatos