My wife and I spent a few days in San Francisco over Spring Break with an added drive down to Monterey. We had a nice visit, our first time back in quite a few years. Chow wise it was a mix of good and bad.
First the bad. We arrived late on a Saturday night after a long travel day. By the time we got our bags, taxied in and checked into our hotel it was after 11:00 pm. My wife wasn't up to going anywhere far so we walked a half block over to Lori's Diner. The best thing I can say about Lori's is that it was a half block from our hotel, open 24 hours and the food was hot. That's about it for Lori's.
Two other disappointments for us were Kuleto's and Sears Fine Foods. Again, walking distance from our hotel, and places in years past we had enjoyed some good meals. At Kuleto's we ordered the baked eggplant, tagliatelli with crab meat and the veal scaloppini with capers and spinach. Everything arrived lukewarm, like it had been sitting a while in the kitchen and the food really suffered for it. At Sears, breakfast was a total disappointment. The pancakes were flat, the corned beef hash was dry and the hashbrowns were really mushy. I recall walking out of Sears feeling like you had a really great breakfast, not anymore.
Now the for the good. Dim sum at the Hong Kong Flower Lounge. Really high quality, refined dim sum, some of the best I've had in the U.S. Everything was fresh and piping hot from the kitchen; char siu bao, siu mai, har gau, spare ribs in black bean sauce, scallop shrimp dumplings. Too bad it was only my wife and myself because there were so many other things we wanted to try like the fresh won tons, taro balls, tripe with daikon, etc., but we could only eat so much.
At the opposite end of the spectrum we ate at Yee's Restaurant on Grant Avenue in Chinatown, almost a hole in the wall but the food was excellent in its own way. A real local place, everyone in there were speaking Chinese. There is an English menu, but all the specials are on the wall and are only in Chinese, no English translations, so if you can't read you are out of luck. We had a clay hot pot of rice with char siu (roast pork), lup cheong (sausage) and gai lan (broccoli). The oil from the char siu and lup cheong gave the rice a nice flavor and aroma. It came with a light soy sauce that you drizzled over everything. A delicious, cheap meal. Most of the Chinese customers were having things like beef brisket over look fun noodle soup, soy sauce chicken or roast duck on rice and beef with choy sum over rice. Everything looked good, simple but well done.
Our best meal was at Tadich Grill, a true gem and a San Francisco classic. In fact we enjoyed Tadich so much we ate two dinners there. We have never done this on any of our travels before. On our first visit we had the cioppino. This has got to be the perfect cold weather meal. Clams, mussels, bay shrimp, prawns, scallops and fish in a rich, thick tomato stock with garlic bread for dunking. Absolutely delicious and served piping hot. We also thought the waiters were great, friendly and helpful in a brusque way, but very professional.
Our second dinner there we had the charcoal broiled petrale sole and the seafood saute. The sole was perfectly cooked, light, moist and flavorful. The seafood saute of prawns, scallops and crab came in a white wine mushroom sauce with some amazingly tasty rice. Both dishes were very good and we enjoyed them, but I must say the cioppino topped both dishes by a mile.
Thanks for all the tips I received as I researched this trip. Enjoyed visiting your great city.