It's been a month since I was in SF and I apologise for the delay with this but was thrown straight back into work upon my return to London. I still haven't managed to catch my blog up with our eats in NorCal, but I thought I would report back on my outings since you were all kind enough to recommend some great restaurants.
Per my earlier post regarding itinerary help, we never in fact made it to dim sum in SF, much to my dismay. We had a jam packed trip and after missing our planned lunch for day 1, never found an opportunity to go again.
We did make it to: Mandalay, PPQ Dungeness Island, Ippuku, Mission Beach Cafe, Mama's and R&G Lounge.
The stars of the trip were Mandalay and Ippuku. We had never had Burmese food before (to be honest, we had no idea what it was) and to be really honest, we were sceptical, though open to trying new things. We were beyond delighted and lament the lack of Burmese food in our respective homes (Toronto/London). The tea leaf salad is delicious! - and I'm generally averse to all things salad! The combination of flavours worked perfectly together to result in a well balanced dish that got all the taste buds going. The Burmese style noodles had a great chew to them, and was well dressed in sauce which enhanced the flavour, rather than drowning the dish and over flavouring it. The lamb curry with coconut rice was a hit - the rice was fragrant and aromatic and the curry had a great balance of spices without being too hot or spicy.
Ippuku was almost a miss as we were headed to LA and told that LA does most Asian food better. However, for two reasons, we're beyond glad we went. 1) It was amazing. 2)We never made it to any Chowhound reputable restaurants in LA as we were so pressed for time.
We enjoyed every dish we ordered at Ippuku (and we got a pretty comprehensive sampling of most of the menu) except the cold tofu - nothing wrong with the flavours, but the tofu itself wasn't as smooth or silky as I would've liked. And also, I had actually wanted agedashi tofu, which they had replaced with this item in a recent menu change, so really, this dish was set up for failure from the get go.
Outstanding dishes included the chicken gyoza - more delightful little parcels of joy there never were! The wrapper was thin and light, well seared with a nice texture. A bite into it and the soup and chicken inside came through, with lovely vinegary hints. We were just sad there were only 5! We also loved the black sesame ice cream with mochi - perfect portion sizes and one of the best black sesame soft serves I've ever had. Basically, dining at Ippuku made us feel like we had never left Japan.
Mission Beach Cafe was a really mellow, chilled out breakfast. I got the MBC huevos, without the creme fraiche, because they didn't have it that day. I'm not going to lie, I wasn't quite sure how to eat it when it first arrived because I'd never seen it (or, clearly, had it) before. But I figured it out (I think!) The tortilla chips were crisp though a little greasy. The tomato-chilli sauce had a really good kick to it, perfect to jumpstart the day! The guacamole was delicious - could really taste the cilantro, which I absolutely love. My boyfriend got the MBC classic benedict - I'm not a big fan of hollandaise, which he had poured all over the muffin and egg, but I did try the yukon potatoes, which were super more-ish!
Mama's was a fun experience though, as advised, not something to rush back to. We arrived 15minutes early and there was already a line, though not substantial. I had the smoked salmon scramble - there was so much food!! In my humble opinion, you can't really make bad breakfast, especially with such classic ingredients, but it's also difficult to make really outstanding breakfast too. So, yes we enjoyed our items, but we would've been peeved if we'd have had to wait over an hour for it.
PPQ was a lot further than we expected and we happened to be biking on this day, so we were ravenous by the time we got there. I happen to love crab, but my boyfriend is a lobster fiend, so while I couldn't get enough of my peppercorn crab, he was less enthused. I do have to say, I'm not sure they left the meat speak enough for itself; I loved the peppercorn, but the fact it's fried onto the shell made me want to eat the shell more than the actual crab, and the flavour of the peppercorn and the deep frying, almost overwhelmed the delicate flavour of the meat. We also made the mistake of ordering a crab each - we've always considered ourselves big eaters, but maybe the crab was particularly large when we went (!?). In any case, we were so full after it, we barely touched the garlic noodles everyone raved about. The few bites we did have, we were left somewhat disappointed. But again I say, we were STUFFED, so it's highly likely we were biased against it.
And there you have it. An essay. Thanks again to everyone who helped with suggestions and recommendations. I'm officially beginning my newly enhanced foodie-dom in London, so hopefully when any SF locals come to visit, I can make a valuable contribution to your eating itinerary.
A more in depth review of Ippuku can be found at my blog, along with pictures. The other restaurants will be up soon as I find time! www.alwayspacking.com