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MarkC | Aug 20, 201107:53 AM     5

Just finished our trip. Had a great time but it was COLD. Mark Twain wasn't exaggerating.

Likes

Shanghai House - Good food at cheap, Chinatown prices (though it isn't in Chinatown). The XLB wasn't much, but loved the lion head meatballs, walnut prawns, and tea-smoked duck (lots of bones and fat, but also delicious, smoky meat).

Medjool - The food here's pretty darned good. Loved the zhoug marinated shrimp and the short ribs. Interesting, reasonably-priced wine list (try the Lebanese cabernet). Great jazz on tuesday night. The out of the way location and lounge-y atmosphere probably keeps it off people's radar screen, but definitely a worthy consideration if you're in the area.

Izakaya Sozai - Small, noisy place with great food. Mostly Japanese clientele, not too many haoles. Spicy tuna and miso cod were standouts. Monkfish liver pate was a bit too weird tasting. I'm not a ramen expert, but really enjoyed it - the bacon, egg, and black pepper reminded me strangely of spaghetti carbonara.

Greenburger - Good burgers and fries in a pleasant, laid-back part of town. Fifteen bucks for a burger and a soda was a bit startling, but maybe I'm living in a time warp.

Smitten Ice Cream - Definitely a fun stop, and a good excuse to visit Hayes Valley area. My mint chip was bursting with fresh mint flavor, while the chocolate was a bit muted. Skip the boring cone, which costs extra, and go for a cup. The toppings also seemed like gilding the lily. I'm just waiting for Williams Sonoma to come out with a home liquid nitrogen ice cream maker.

Disappointments

Z&Y - after the rave reviews this place gets on chowhound, I was disappointed. Admittedly, the style is not what Americans typically think of as Szechuan (i.e. kung pao), but is rather a kind of raw, rustic village cooking (I'm guessing). That being said, some of the dishes were just plain bad. I liked the claypot eggplant and chicken with explosive chiles. On the other hand, the cumin lamb was made with cheap, fatty meat and reminded me of a bad schwarma. Didn't like the silky tofu in hot oil, which was, well, a big lump of soft tofu swimming in a pool of hot oil. Can't say I wasn't warned, but thought there would be a bit more to it. The tan tan noodles were a big zip. In any event, don't go unless you can really stand up to the heat. I like spicy food, and spent the entire evening wiping my nose and eyes. If you're a visitor with one Chinese restaurant to dine at, I'm not sure I'd make this the one.

Tony's Pizza Napoletana - This place is WAY overrated. In my opinion, an underachieving cult of personality restaurant. Or one that tries to do too much, and ends up not quite succeeding at anything. We had the New York pizza, which was OK, although the feta cheese added a weird, unwanted note. The second pizza was some All-American pizza with mushrooms which the waitress pushed on us, and was almost completely lacking in flavor. My wife said it was like Pizza Hut. Of course, we were unworthy to sample the godlike margherita pizza, which had sold out hours before. I realize that this is a brilliant tactic to stampede the herd in for lunch, but it's annoying to think that you're children of a lesser god if you come for dinner.

Those seeking pizza nirvana can probably do better than this place.

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Medjool
2522 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

Shanghai House
3641 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA 94121

Tony's Pizza Napoletana
1570 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94133

Smitten Ice Cream
Octavia Blvd Linden St, San Francisco, CA 94102

Greenburger's
518 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117

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