Restaurants & Bars

Report (day 4 and 5) of Van hound's April 2008 trip to SF

grayelf | Apr 24, 200810:41 AM     12

Click here for Days 1 and 2 http://www.chowhound.com/topics/512584
and here for Day 3 http://www.chowhound.com/topics/512596

Day 4 (Sunday):

The next morning we obeyed the siren song of the Canteen breakfast (817 Sutter St (between Jones and Leavenworth) and returned for another satisfying meal. Arriving at an overeager 9:15 there were tables to choose from but although the BIL didn’t get there till a bit after 9:30 we still got a coveted booth (no resos for brekky and brunch here). J ordered the omelette with fontina, ham and oyster mushrooms ($8.95), BIL went for the benchmark eggs and sausage ($8.75) and I opted to try the much-vaunted eggs benedict “with all the accoutrements” ($10.75). The boys also had the recommended short lattes ($2.50 each) and we were all very happy with our choices. The sauce on the benny was nicely tart and unctuous, maybe a bit much of it, and the eggs were well poached if a bit runny for my taste but once again these are tiny quibbles. I was also delighted to discover a small but functional pepper grinder on the table. Freshly ground pepper on eggs benny, oh yeah. Service once again was smart and snappy without feeling rushed, and we were on our way to the FiDi for an art deco walking tour.

Next, we hopped on the Muni for a late-ish lunch at the small but immaculate Lime Tree (450 Irving btwn 5th and 6th) which was full when we arrived except for one table. The roti pratha, martabek and Singaporean noodles were as good as promised, with the martabek being the standout. We washed it down with a young coconut drink, paid less than $20 all in, thanked the owner (?) and hied ourselves down Irving to 9th, noting the many inviting eating and drinking establishments for future reference. After a tour of the DeYoung Museum (highlight: the observation tower), we headed to very busy local chainlet Tart to Tart (641 Irving) for tea and vanilla steamed milk as well as a very tasty skinny apple strudel.

For dinner on Sunday night we had 7:30 resos at Thai House Express (901 Geary at Larkin). This corner resto is very lively inside and out (we knew about this ’hood but had never been in it at night) and the Geary busride there was pretty entertaining. We ordered the larb pla (deep fried catfish) for $9.95, the giuc mai (leek dumplings) for $5.95, the pad woon sen with pork and the gang dang with chicken. Standout was the larb which was expertly prepared with the ground rice providing a nutty counterpoint and bit of body to the lightly crisped catfish – a must have. The pad woon sen was very competently prepared and piping hot with fresh quality ingredients, but although this dish is always fairly subtle, it was verging on bland here. The dumplings were good but rather similar to ones I’ve had in Chinese restos, and the curry was a bit disappointing – all heat and not much flavour. So not a rave but by no means a bust and for $54 tax and tip (including one beer and two drinks for three), a pretty good value. We decided to walk to Hayes Valley in search of a hot beverage – no mean feat after 9 pm on a Sunday – and wound up at Momi Toby’s Revolution Café and Art Bar (528 Hayes near Octavia) for an outstanding chai tea ($3.25), not too spicy or rich, just right. We took the F line home and were treated to a bit more “behaviour” when an obviously inebriated gentleman brought his soccer ball on board and made like Pelé.

Day 5 (Monday):

Monday morning was reserved for our now traditional breakfast at Café de la presse (352 Grant at Bush), steps from our hotel. And yes, I had eggs benedict for the second day in a row. I give a slight edge to the bennies here over Canteen for two reasons 1) less sauce 2) eggs just a bit more set ($13). J had the oeufs en meurette ($13) and we both enjoyed a large bowl of Café Colombe au lait ($3 each). The service was impeccably Gallic as usual, the jazz was smooth and the clientele eclectically continental.

Next up was a trip to Russian Hill for the Lombard switchback, the Diego Rivera Gallery, the view from the café deck where Janis Joplin once flipped burgers, as well as Macondray Lane and other points of interest. After all those hills, we were ready for some lunch. So down we went to adjacent North Beach and hied our selves to Lichee Gardens. We were scared off by the super aggressive staff person who tried to talk us into spare ribs and out of the salt and pepper sand dabs we inquired about before we’d even taken off our jackets. We continued our quest and ended up (thankfully) at Great Eastern (649 Jackson btwn Grant and Kearny). We liked the look of the room, the demeanour of the staff, and the fact that there were many Asians at the mostly full tables despite the late hour. We also loved the little picture cards to help you order since there are no carts. Normally I’m not bad at figuring out a la carte dim sum but I was pretty pooped and the pictures were a godsend.

We ordered snow peas with dried scallops and shrimp dumplings (the standout, great fresh filling with light enrobing), Shanghai dumplings (nice pork/ginger taste, no soup), shiomai (very good, not too fishy), fried shrimp roll (a new one for me with a slightly alarming chewy yellow wrapper that was nonetheless a hit), panfried leek dumplings (our second favourite item), and eggplant with shrimp paste (the only slightly off note, as the skin was a bit tough and the sauce too oily). The tea was excellent, the chili garlic sauce a nice change from the dippers we get at home, the service was seamless and helpful, and the live fish tanks provided endless enjoyment for the small people seated either side of us. There was a mollusky beast I couldn’t identify so I shot a couple of pix (see attached). Probably not quite in league with our usual dimsum haunts in Vancouver but very good.

We were happily full but not stuffed for $26 all in which was a good thing as our next stop was Mara’s Italian Pastry (503 Columbus Ave at Green) for a raspberry ring and a honey-topped profiterole tower with rum-flavoured custard inside. Although very different, both pastries were top notch. We both had single lattes made with Lavazza coffee and rolled out the door $13.45 later. Next stop, SFO for the flight home! And of course, planning our next trip to the City by the Bay.

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