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San Francisco dining report (long)

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San Francisco dining report (long)

Clare K. | Apr 5, 2005 01:54 PM

Hello...

Just returned to LA from my fabulous 4-day San Francisco trip (used to live there so am familiar with the area). Lots of good eats to share.

My first stop was to Citizen Cake, because I absolutely cannot go to SF without a taste of their almond crossaints. Since they go fast, I called ahead of time and asked them to hold a couple for me and my friend. We checked into our hotel (the new Hotel Vitale, which was a joy to stay in) then rushed off to Hayes Valley for our crusty joy of buttery pastery. Unlike most bakeries, Citizen Cake bakes the crossaint first, THEN adds the almond filling, so the middle is never doughy or gooey. The outside of the crossaint is flakey and a bit crunchy, and every bite includes the light almond paste filling. Absolutely worth the trip.

That evening, I accompanied some friends from San Jose to the E&O Trading Company in San Francisco (Sutter & Grant). I realize it's a chain, but must say the food was quite good. We ordered the tea-smoked pork lettuce wraps (excellent!!), the lamb satay (moist, good flavor), the lamb-stuffed Naan (not greasy at all and not too big), some fried rice (average) and some roasted chicken dish (cannot recall the name; this was good but a bit on the dry side). Service and atmosphere were on point.

The next morning we went back to Citizen Cake and split an almond crossaint (could not resist!!) before heading over to the Crepe House on Gough. Last time I was in the city, this was a little Italian place (Stelline's) so I was a bit sad to see it gone. However, it always seemed that, with Delle Stelle across the street, the corner wasn't big enough for two mediocre Italian places. We ordered a breakfast crepe and a Miami Heat crepe (chicken, cheese, avocado and hot sauce), both of which came with a side of potatoes. Both crepes were very good, not soggy or overstuffed like many SF crepe places do it. They fold it into a fourth, leaving the edges crunchy and the filling inside the crepe. The potatoes were the real winners here, though - flavored with oregano and thyme, I believe, they were the best breakfast potatoes we'd ever had.

Dinner that night was a group event at Medjool, on Mission St. Ordered some great, cheap red wine ($19 per bottle) and a slew of small plates. We had the Couscous with Preserved Lemons (light, well-flavored with a hint of olive-oil taste which was nice), Roasted Beet Salad (very nice), Pommes frites with parsley & preserved lemon (super thinly sliced, almost like potato chips - excellent!!), Bacalao fritters with romesco sauce, which are basically salt-cod fritters, which were okay. The Grilled Monterey Bay squid on saffron-caperberry was probably the best thing we had, plus we had a great hummus sampler with pita bread and some pita chips as well. We ordered the hangar steak because we'd heard it was the thing to order here, but it was tough and burnt. We told the waitress, who promptly took it off the bill, no questions asked. We finished with the Brined pork tenderloin on a bed of chorizo and white beans, which was a smokey, lovely stew-like dish with tender pieces of pork and perfectly-seasoned chorizo.

Saturday's breakfast was at another must-stop for anyone visiting SF: The chilequiles served at the Farmer's Market stand from a restaurant I cannot recall the name of (sorry!!). Probably the best chilequiles I have ever had in my life. Crunchy tortilla chips covered in a spicy sauce, perfectly cooked eggs and a side of black beans with avocado and Mexican sour creme. Definitely sticks to your ribs.

That night, we checked out Limon for dinner. Loud place, but great service and excellent food. The four of us started with Ceviche Limon, a combo of seafood marinated in lemon. The mussels in this dish are a stand-out with a spicy salsa topping. We also split the lamb empanadas - the outside is fried crispy and there's nothing but meat on the inside, no fillers. For an entree, I had the grilled filet of free range lamb, served with lentil tacu-tacu (rice and lentil cake), lamb jus and crisp plantains - I am trying to decipher what they put in the lentil cake but cannot; nonetheless, it was spectacularly good. My fellow diners had between them: 12 oz. Niman Ranch pork chop over sauteed cabbage and potato hash, and a mushroom ragout (chop was a bit chewy but the mushroom ragout was to die for!!); Grilled 12 oz. Ribeye steak served with roasted Peruvian purple potatoes and grilled aspargus with chimichurri and mustard sauce (excellent); Traditional Peruvian dish of Top Sirloin sauces with onions, tomatoes and fries, served with a side of rice (very good, authentic). For dessert we split a coconut and pineapple milk cake, and a warm chocolate cake with ice cream. Nice finish to an excellent meal.

Breakfast the following day was at the Delancy Street Cafe, where I had the lemon-poppyseed waffles with a side of bacon, and my friend had banana pancakes. The waffle was light and fluffy (basically the opposite of a lemon poppyseed muffin) and the pancakes were full of bananas and crispy on the edges. Fantastic service to boot.

Finally, on our way out of the city (we picked up a box of almond crossaints on the way out - ack!!), we stopped by Arlequin Cafe in Hayes Valley for a couple of sandwiches: Pork confit on foccaccia, and a ham and cheese pannini. Enjoyed the back patio and our beautiful sandwiches.

Funny - it is so rare that I have an amazing dining experience where everything comes together: food, service, atmosphere. So it was a pleasant surprise when nearly every place I went impressed me as much as it did. Gotta love San Francisco....

CK

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