San Francisco Bay Area rss

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

Gutsy Sichuan Quality

Little Sichuan closed, and is reincarnated in the form of Classic Sichuan. And it’s awesome—as long as you stay on the Sichuan menu, and avoid the standard fare from the regular menu, says Deeg67.

Spicy boiled beef is properly intimidating—a massive bowl of beef pieces swimming in red chile oil. The beef is high quality flank steak, tender and flavorful, happily cohabiting with cabbage and onions. Herbal chicken soup is incredibly rich and deep—tiny pieces of chicken with potato, and a truly satisfying, complex stock. And their xin jiang stir-fried roasted lamb is one of the best versions that Deeg67 has ever had—moderate cumin levels, balacned with ample jalapenos, dried pepper, and Sichuan peppercorns—and tons of fragrant roasted garlic. “Ths is gutsy, high-quality Chinese cooking—amply spicy, boldly seasoned, and subtle at the same time,” he says.

Classic Sichuan Restaurant [Peninsula]
148 El Camino Real, Millbrae

Board Links: A Survey of Classic Sichuan

House of the Blessed Pupusa

There is a store in San Pablo that sells holy pupusas. It started with somebody selling pupusas out of their home on a Sunday. And then it became a store with jewelry and clothes—no pupusas. Then, the store grew a semi-restaurant, explains rworange. On Sundays, the alleyway outside the store turns into a food stall. There are portable grills with huge black skillets frying up whole fish.

Along the wall of the building there are big bowls of masa and griddles; place your order and one of the women grabs a handful of masa, fills it, pats it, and grills it before your very eyes. They are lovely, oily wonders with brown and blistered skin. The cheese oozes goodness, and comes with beautiful loroco, which adds a fresh, herbal, green-tea zen thing to the whole deal.

The curtido—the salsa that’s supposed to go on top of your pupusa—is cabbage, bordering on sauerkraut in its fermented intensity.

It’s festive. It’s bright. It’s always packed. The pupusas are $1.25.

Look for some signs. There is a bright yellow sign that says Igleia Evangelia Voz De Salvacion Eben-Ezer in front of the building. There is a large sloppily painted sign that says something like “Venta de pupusas Desallonos.” It is across the street from El Porvenir Market.

Open Sundays, lunch only.

Mysterious pupusa store [East Bay]
1472 Rumrill Blvd., San Pablo (across the street from El Porvenir Produce Market)

Board Links:San Pablo – Holy fried fish & blessed pupusas … Praise the Lord and pass the tlapia !

Stunning Olive Baguette Showing Up Everywhere

The Phoenix Pastificio makes an utterly stunning olive baguette; the bread is dangerously good, says Aaron —so good that it almost never survives the car ride home. It’s soft, white, warm bread with thin, crackly crust. And it’s packed with the best olives that gordon wing has ever tasted in an olive bread; rworange describes them as “fast, salty purple olives, heavy with oil.”

They also have great pecan chocolate chewies.

Some thought The Phoenix Pastificio lost when they closed down their old Shattuck location. But they’ve reopened on Addison, and it is a cooler location in many ways. What it lacks in coziness it makes up for in directness—the ovens are on premises. You can sometimes nab freshly cooked bread.

Most importantly, a stand for The Phoenix Pastificio has started showing up at various farmers’ markets around the Bay Area. Most days, if you catch the stand early, the bread’s still warm from the oven. They’re currently showing up at the Berkeley farmers’ market, the Sunday Montclair market, the Saturday Oakland–Grand Lake Farmers Market, and the Sunday Temescal Farmers Market.

The Phoenix Pastificio [East Bay]
1250 Addison St. Suite 109, Berkeley (cross street: Bonar)

Board Links: Phoenix Pastificio Rustic Olive Bagette
Berkeley–The Phoenix Pastificio – Knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door

Moroccan Teas

Café Ya-Bon has all the standard café fare—lattes and mochas and whatnot—but if you pay close attention, you’ll see a little Moroccan sparkle in the menu. That’s because the two owners are Moroccan, and they’ve insinuated a little bit of their home cuisine into the café menu.

Try their Moroccan mint; it’s ridiculously good. It’s a refreshing, perfectly sweetened glass of green tea topped with mint. pane says he’s had this tea at places all over the states, and this is the best he’s ever found. A perfect companion to mint tea is shepakia—long strips of flour and almond paste, baked or fried, then coated in honey.

The owners will be offering more homemade Moroccan-Tunisian stuff, made by one of the owners’ wife, starting in April. A few delights are already available, like m’laoui ($1.50), a circle of fried flatbread served warm with granulated sugar and honey. It’s rich, flaky, and buttery, like a very thick crepe, and “would pair well with a cup of tea and a long winter’s nap,” says pane.

Oh, and it’s open 24 hours. The only way it could be more perfect would be if it were free.

Café Ya-Bon [Nob Hill]
1201 Sutter St., San Francisco

Board Links: A find: Cafe Bon-Something

A Great Clam Pie, and a Great Cream Pizza

pane was hanging out at the counter bar at Pizzeria Delina when he stumbled across a great clam pizza. It happened like this: he was having a pizza margherita at the bar. It was excellent—with a crisp, blistered crust that crackled nicely under the teeth, and very good quality cheese.

After chatting with one of the cooks about the glories of Pepe’s clam pizza in New Haven, the cook made himself a clam pizza for dinner and offered him a slice. Pane is not a friend, an insider, or even a regular—”the guy just felt so strongly about the quality of the pie he had to give me a slice.”

The clam pie was not New Haven standard. It had red sauce, which seemed wrong, like having a lobster roll on a sprouted wheat hot dog bun, says pane. But it turned out to be excellent. The cherrystone clams had a briny tang that was perfectly matched by the crust. It was a fabulous slice of clam pie.

Pane may still prefer Pepe’s, but this is a great clam pie in San Francisco.

Also: there is excellent panna pie here. This is made by half-baking a pie with tomato sauce, removing it from the oven, adding cream, and finishing the baking. It’s a new species within the genus of pizza, and it may be better than anything in the original species—especially if you get them to add sausage, says readingstand.

And one of the secrets of dining at Delfina is that they’re open the whole afternoon. So slide in at 3 or 4, have your pizza, and laugh as the lines start to build at dinnertime. Because You are better than Them.

Pizzeria Delfina [Mission]
3611 18th St, between Dolores and Guerrero Sts, San Francisco

Board Links: Counter-dining in SF, report of Pizzeria Delfina and Incanto

Hanging Out and Scarfing Oysters

How do you feel about hanging out on some picnic tables at Point Reyes and scarfing down vast quantities of delicious, ultra-fresh oysters? For next to nothing? We’re talking, like, 50 cents an oyster. That sound good to you?

Go to Tomales Bay Oyster Company. Buy bags of oysters from them. A bag of 50 small oysters costs $25. Bigger oysters cost more; a bag of 50 jumbo oysters costs $50. But their “small oysters” are actually pretty big. Then go outside to their picnic tables and chow down. And they’re beautiful—briney, juicy, slightly metallic; in short, they’re perfect oysters, says OnceUponABite.

Please be aware, that Tomales Bay Oyster Company doesn’t provide anything—there’s no shucking knife, no eating utensils, no sauce. If you’re unprepared, you can buy terribly overpriced knives and utensils from them, but why not just bring your own? Also, Tomales Bay Oyster Company sells only one kind of oyster—the local Sweetwater.

Your other choices in the area are Hog Island Oyster Company and Drake’s Bay Oysters. Hog Island Oyster Company sells almost exactly the same Sweetwater as Tomales Bay Oyster Company, but they charge about a dollar more per dozen, says Zeldog. They also charge $8 for use of a picnic table (though they do provide knives and fixings and stuff). On the plus side, they have a wider variety of oysters. They always have Kumamotos, and sometimes have Atlantic and European varieties. The Kumamotos are more expensive, but completely worthwhile.

Eugene Park says that Tomales Bay Oyster Company has a milder tasting oyster, and tends to be more popular with the casual oyster eater, but he ever-so-slightly prefers the more forward tasting oysters of Hog Island, which tends to appeal to the ardent oyster eater. His usual solution is to pick up some oysters at Hog Island, head over to Tomales Bay, buy some oysters there, and then sit on their free picnic tables and do a side-by-side comparison.

Drake’s Bay Oysters, on the other hand, are absolutely vile, says Zeldog. “Ever handled a car battery and touched your mouth with dirty fingers?” That’s what their oysters are like.

Tomales Bay Oyster Company [Marin County]
15479 Highway 1, Marshall
(415) 663-1242

Hog Island Oyster Company [Marin County]
20215 Highway 1, Marshall
(415) 663-9218

Drakes Bay Oysters [Marin County]
17171 Sir Frances Drake Blvd., Inverness
(415) 669-1149

Board Links:Tomales Bay Oyster Company report

Best. Dim. Sum. Ever.

Dol Ho is the single greatest dim sum LaserGecko has ever had. Ever.

This is not a place that’s trying to earn your business by luring you inside with, well anything, says LaserGecko. There’s no décor. There’s no service. You have to grab a menu and seat yourself, squeezing into gigantic tables with other eaters. There’s arguing coming from the kitchen. It’s packed with Chinatown locals, who are all gabbing with each other and swapping tables and talking. Service is slow, and if you ask, you’ll be told that the dim sum will come out “when it’s ready.” When it comes out, the diners pounce like a pack of wild dogs. Sometimes, there’s none left for you.

The dim sum is, if you haven’t figured out by now, completely fabulous.

They have the most incredible siu mai. Theyre are giant meatballs filled with crunchy bits of vegetable. They are almost too good to eat, but LaserGecko managed, somehow. And the steamed pork buns… Let’s be straight. LaserGecko is doubtful of steamed pork buns. LaserGecko is doubtful of Chinese barbecued pork. Because LaserGecko is from the South, and most other barbecued pork isn’t really his cup of tea. But, says he, “these damned steamed pork buns were just the best damned things on the planet. The bread was better than ever. Their pork on the inside was nothing but pure, made-with-love goodness.”

And the last surprise? The bill. The dishes are mostly $1.50, the specials are a staggering $2. You can easily feed two people for under $10. LaserGecko felt as if he were stealing from them.

So go, everybody, and be a thief.

(Last note: Dol Ho is temporarily closed from March 7th to April 1st. Vacation or something like that.)

Dol Ho [Chinatown]
808 Pacific Ave., San Francisco
(415) 392-2828

Board Links: Dol Ho: A bit slow, but You Must Go!
Dol Ho closed 3/7-4/1

An Exceptionally Large Burrito

gordon wing is impressed with the majestically huge burrito from Hacienda Grill. It’s stuffed with carne asada, rice, beans, guacamole, sour cream, cheese, and salsa. The beef is tasty with a bit of chew, and the rice is just great: well seasoned, and not overcooked. Everything in this burrito is super—even the cheese has more flavor than usual.

The burrito could satisfy anybody’s appetite. It’s probably enough for lunch for two normal people. We’re talking 12 inches by 4 inches here, people.

We normally feel that you demean the food by giving its measurements, but for every rule, there is an exception. 12 inches by 4 inches of raw burrito power.

Hacienda Grill [Richmond]
1000 Nevin Ave., Richmond
(510) 233-0800

Board Links: Huge burrito at Hacienda Grill-Richmond

A Very Good Mexican Bakery in Sonoma

Pasteleria La Mixteca is a very good Mexican bakery, says Eat Nopal. There’s product coming out of the oven all day long. Walnut smoothies are good, though perhaps not for everybody. Tres leches cakes are a mixed bag—they’re the moistest and freshest versions around, but too much artificial frosting flavor. Try going for the flavored variations with less frosting.

Pasteleria La Mixteca [North Bay]
a.k.a. Maya Bakery
18981 Highway 12, #B, Sonoma

Board Links: Pasteleria La Mixteca

As Close to Singapore as You Can Get in the Bay Area

Dolcetta knows her Singaporean food. If you’re looking for Singaporean food, stay away from Indonesian restaurants. They may be neighbors, and the names of dishes may be deceptively familiar, but the foods are quite different. And she thinks the most authentic (whatever that means) Singaporean food you can get out here is at Old Town Singapore Café. Their Hainanese chicken rice is excellent.

Her other favorite for decent Malaysian food: Banyan Garden.

Singapore Old Town Cafe [East Bay]
Ulferts Center
4288 Dublin Boulevard, #109, Dublin
(925) 833-8300

Banyan Garden [East Bay]
1771 Decoto Rd., Union City
(510) 324-8506

Board Links: best Singaporean foods