San Francisco Bay Area rss

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

Hand-Shaved Ice Raspados

There’s a pretty good raspado cart outside of La Raza Market, reports rworange. Raspados are shaved from a big block of ice by hand, to order, and their syrups are pleasing. No English is spoken–she ordered what she assumed was mango, but which turned out to be vanilla.

These are properly done raspados–well-mixed, with no extra syrup or untoothsome patches of white ice.

Raspado Cart [East Bay]
2131 MacDonald Ave., outside La Raza Market, Richmond

Board Links: Richmond–the raspado cart

Chavez Supermarket for Al Pastor

We’ve heard many, many good notices for al pastor at Chavez Supermarket and Taqueria. Unlike most al pastors, which are oily and gross, this al pastor is clean and good. There is much love for it in both tacos and burritos. Note that the Redwood City location is just opening right about now.

Chavez Supermarket & Taqueria [East Bay]
1157 W. Tennyson Rd., Hayward

Chavez Supermarket [Peninsula]
817 Arguello St., Redwood City

Chavez Supermarket [South Bay]
666 N. Fairoaks Ave., Sunnyvale

Chavez Supermarket & Taqueria [Peninsula]
5th St. near El Camino, Redwood City

Board Links: Chavez Supermarket & Taqueria, Hayward?

Dumplings for Breakfast

What better breakfast is there, asks Poot, than a bowl of delicate dumplings in tart broth? Breakfast dumplings at Out the Door are pretty much the best you’ll find this side of Yonghe, the famed center of Chinese soy milk. Dumpling wrappers are made from rice flour–they’re translucent, thick and pleasingly chewy. Vegetarian steamed dumplings are also fantastic. Morton the Mousse recommends crispy duck, and rare beef salad.

Out the Door is actually the takeout window for the Slanted Door. While most love this pair of Vietnamese restaurants, Gary Soup finds both sterile and overpriced.

Out the Door [Embarcadero]
Ferry Building Marketplace, One Ferry Building, shop #5, San Francisco

Slanted Door [Embarcadero]
1 Ferry Building #270, San Francisco

Board Links: I love Out the Door

Fresh Pani Puri at Chat Patta

Pani puri is one of the great pleasures of life. It’s the epitome of mouth drama. You pick up a little fried, hollow crispy bit of bread, crack a hole in the top, and drop in various fillings–stuff like potatoes and chickpeas in tamarind sauce. Then you fill the fried bread with pani water–a cool, minty, thin liquid. Put the whole thing in your mouth–quickly, please–and bite. And there ensues a crunchy, minty, cool explosion and subsequent flood of flavor.

Pani puri at Chat Patta is unlike other pani puri, says Melanie Wong. They’re made one at a time, to order. And they’re absolutely fresh, without any of the old, stale taste you get at your typical joint. The puri shells are so thin they’re transparent, yet they manage to retain all the pani water.

And there’s more. Chat Patta is, in general, Melanie’s favorite outpost for Indian snack foods. Their choley bhature ($5.50) is her favorite version, an outstanding tasting watery broth filled with choley–spiced garbanzo beans. The secret? They use more black cardamom and roast the pods longer than most. The broth has a dark, inky color, and a deeper, more complex taste than any other choley bhature she’s had. Mix chaat ($4) offers a little of everything.–meaty garbanzos, super-fresh sev, onions, and cilantro. Pav bhaji ($5.50) are fantastic. There is great life in their uneven textures and blended vegetable flavors.

Samosas are a buck apiece, and are outstanding. The crust has an interesting pebbly, crumbly texture–so much better than the usual leaden, tough-crusted blobs. They’re served dangerously hot, right out of the fryer.

Desserts? Falooda ($3.50) is made with pistachio ice cream, basil seeds, sweet syrup, and noodles. Their version rocks. Gulab jamun ($1.50) are fried to order and come out blazing hot, topped with a very light syrup of uncommon delicacy. The gulabs are well browned and amazingly tender, with just a bit of chewiness. These are now her favorite gulab jamun in town, edging out former favorite Ajanta.

Fruity mango lassi is frothy and wonderful. Mango shake with ice cream is less good.

The ladies behind the counter are sweet, loving, and they will occasionally take a look at you and inform you that what you really need to sooth your tired soul is aloo puri. And they will be right.

The Chat Patta branch inside the Dana Bazar is standing room only. Order your pani puri one at a time from the counter and gobble them while standing between stacks of dried foods. At the Ardenwood location, you actually get to sit down. And they’ve got longer hours. But the two locations are identically priced and identically spiced.

Chat Patta Corner [East Bay]
34751 Ardenwood Blvd., Fremont

Chat Patta Corner [East Bay]
in Dana Bazar
5113 Mowry Ave., Fremont

Ajanta Restaurant [East Bay]
1888 Solano Ave., Berkeley

Board Links: Chat Patta Corner and Dana Bazar, Fremont–Fresh Pani Puri

The Crepe of the Vietnamese

A Vietnamese crepe (banh xeo) is a more hot-blooded affair than a French crepe. While the latter is a thing of grace and delicacy, of yielding textures and measured softnesses, a Vietnamese crepe is closer in aesthetic to, say, a fried bar snack. The outside is thickly crispy, the inside a bit melty and oozy. The way my Vietnamese mom used to make ‘em, the inside of the crepe was still clearly a form of batter–and you liked it that way.

Oh, and Vietnamese crepes are filled with sprouts and shrimp and pork.

Edie’s favorite Vietnamese crepes are at Bodega Bistro. The crepes next door at Mangosteen are good, but not as delicious. Bodega Bistro is open seven days from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

veebee’s favorite Vietnamese crepe is at Lotus Garden. Her second favorite crepe is Angkor Borei. Though Angkor Borei’s crepe is not quite Vietnamese, it’s pretty close, and, in any case, it’s simply a real good crepe. Her third favorite is that at the aforementioned Bodega Bistro, though they can occasionally be undercooked and gummy.

Mike Lee’s favorite Viet crepes are the ones at Le Soleil.

Bodega Bistro [Tenderloin]
607 Larkin St., San Francisco

Mangosteen [Tenderloin]
601 Larkin St., at Eddy, San Francisco

Lotus Garden [Mission]
3216 Mission St., San Francisco

Angkor Borei [Mission]
3471 Mission St., at Cortland, San Francisco

Le Soleil Authentic Vietnamese [Richmond]
133 Clement St., San Francisco

Board Links: vietnamese crepe recommendations?

Thai Satay

Thai Satay may look and feel like every other little Thai restaurant in town. No weirdo-specials, no regional intensity. But nearly every Thai standard on the menu is prepared either competently or brilliantly. It is, consequently, the winner of katya’s survey of Peninsula Thai restaurants.

Her four favorite dishes are:

Egg rolls: filled with silver noodles and chicken, and entirely ungreasy. These are perhaps her favorite egg rolls in the Bay Area.

Cold vegetable spring rolls: filled with glass noodles, tofu, and bean sprouts. Not quite as good as the egg rolls, but still satisfying.

Pad kee mao: wonderous, with a good level of spiciness. And…

Yellow curry chicken: with a nicely complex sauce.

Also excellent: red curry, mussamun chicken, pineapple fried rice, panang chicken, and rad na. Quite good are tom kha gai, garlic pepper chicken, and sweet basil chicken. Not so good: cashew chicken, chili paste beef, and baby corn chicken. There also the excitingly named F.B.I.: fried banana with ice cream. Sadly, it is less than ballistically delicious.

One last note: order stuff medium spicy. If you get stuff very spicy, they just throw on lots of excess chili oil and pepper flakes. Sloppy and unmodulated spiciness. Not good.

Sun-Thu, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Fri-Sat, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Thai Satay [Peninsula]
173 E. 4th St., at S. Ellsworth, San Mateo

Board Links: Thai Satay in San Mateo – Great Curries and Egg Rolls But Don’t Get Busted by the F.B.I.!

Korean Fire Chicken

umetaro found a buldalk restaurant during a drunken post-sushi stumble. Buldalk is Korean fire chicken, a.k.a. “kill my mouth and make me scream” chicken. Fire chicken is the latest Korean craze–brutally spicy barbecued chicken, typically consumed by drunken twentysomething Koreans.

At this place, there’s no panchan, the rice is old, and the maekju is Americanized (which, in this case, means smaller pitchers and mugs). The acoustics are terrible, too–loud and echoey. But you can get buldalk with ddeok, and it’s satisfyingly spicy.

In brief: this place wouldn’t survive long in Seoul, but as San Francisco’s only buldalk restaurant, it’s worth a visit when you’re in the mood for chicken and pain.

It looks like they open at 5:30 p.m., and stay open as long as they’re busy. The restaurant sign reads “Korean Restaurant” and “Fire Chicken.”

Unnamed Korean Restaurant [Union Square]
East side of Taylor St., between Post and Geary, San Francisco

Board Links: buldalk (fire chicken) restaurant


Muffalettas at Murphy’s Deli compare pretty nicely to the genuine article–the ones from Central Grocery in New Orleans, reports KathySK. The bread is replete with toasted sesame seeds; meat and cheese fillings are generous and tasty. If you ask, you can get your fillings toasted for a hot muffaletta. Coarse chopped olive tapenade is a good mix of olives and roasted peppers. dkgoody, though, has a dissenting opinion: he thinks the sandwich tastes too much of olives, and only so-so olives at that.

The bread’s a little on the dry side, but if you leave the sandwich sitting around for a while, the tapenade will soak in and then everything’s groovy.

It’s $6 for a half muffaletta and $10 for a whole one. A half muffaletta is a very filling lunch for one.

Murphy’s Deli [SOMA]
560 Mission St., San Francisco

Board Links: Murphy’s Deli–Home of the Muffaletta

Pupusa Catering Tip

The best bite at last month’s Cinco de Mayo fair in Santa Rosa was a Salvadoran pupusa, reports Melanie Wong. Pupusas are rice and corn cakes, filled with your choice of cheese, beans, meat, and veggie niblets. Evelyn Carolina Linares’ pupusas are perfect, with a delicate crisp exterior and a tender, chewy, almost creamy interior. Throughout the fair, there was a thirty minute wait for her pupusas–and it was, says Melanie, entirely worth the wait.

Linares doesn’t have a restaurant, but she does do catering.

Evelyn Carolina Linares
Phone: 707-575-3832
Mobile: 707-494-5904

Board Links: Pupusas in Santa Rosa by Evelyn Carolina Linares

Sea Salt Is Better Than You’d Expect

Sea Salt Restaurant (mentioned earlier) has a poor reputation among Chowhounds. But several dissent, saying food here is exceptionally good, though expensive.

Robert Lauriston thinks the place is actually a good value, considering the quality of the ingredients and the finenss of execution. He had a bunch of stuff, all good: monkfish liver torchon with sea urchin and caviar ($12), clam chowder with bacon and cream ($9), grilled sardines ($12.50), bacon-wrapped grilled sturgeon ($22), gigantes with tuna confit ($10), broccolini with aleppo pepper ($6). The chowder and tuna-bean salad are about as good as these dishes get.

Veebee says that she’s been surprised by how good Sea Salt is, especially given all the negative feedback. Monkfish liver torchon (without sea urchins) is amazing. Grilled sardines are another favorite–the combination of bright herbs and rich grilled sardines is perfect. She still thinks about it. A lot.

Also excellent: grilled calamari with arugula pesto and gigante beans, a great combination. And a super lobster roll, which is particularly satisfying for brunch.

Sea Salt Restaurant [East Bay]
2512 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley

Board Links: Sea Salt