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Turtle Tower, Aziza, Cafe Gratitude (report)

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Turtle Tower, Aziza, Cafe Gratitude (report)

pani | Feb 20, 2006 04:08 PM

Sunday was Raoul Duke's birthday. Fittingly, two hounds enjoyed a day of chow.

Sunday morning and Sunset was buzzing. We decided to get coffee and some food at Cafe Gratitude, which looked like the only place with an available table. Mistake. We split almond toast and a pecan bun, both of which tasted like mud patties left to dry in the sun. I gazed longingly across the street to Arizmendi. The couple next to us surveyed the menu and left. The woman who took their spot ordered a salad that looked pretty good, but our food was so bad I wouldn't chance going back.

So...Sunday morning and still hungry. We shambled downtown to the Turtle Tower on Ellis. We'd never been, but frequently enjoy the pho at Golden Star. I had the pho ga, Raoul had pho chin. Pho ga was love at first sight. Just like grandma would make, if she were Vietnamese and a good cook. Delicious, thick noodles and succulent strips of chicken. Raoul prefers the style of broth at Golden Star, finding TT too fatty and not spiced to his liking, but we both agreed the noodles were amazing at Turtle Tower.

Dinner: Aziza. We had prepped by watching Morton the Mousse's "Bay Area Eats" episode on KQED On Demand. We ordered the chef's tasting menu; 5 courses for $39. First up were two soups: asparagus and lentil. The asparagus soup was rich and delicious, anchored with a chunk of fresh crab. The lentil was good, not amazing. Next: flatbreads and a dish of lima beans with French feta. Monsieur Le Mousse was right about loading up the flatbread with the various dips. The lima beans were good, and the French feta was particularly lovely. Basteeya I don't love, anywhere at any time. Too dry for my taste; RD thought it was good but not exceptional. For dinner I had the stewed lamb with eggplant, which I would recommend. However, the superstar of the night was Raoul's rabbit, coated in paprika and served with pureed parsnips and roasted carrots. Succulent, perfectly spiced, not too sweet. Question: If you suck on the bones, will more meat appear? It will not.

The one sore point of the night: service. Our entrees came out over an hour after the previous dish was served. Our waitress stopped by to apologize after 20 minutes, saying it would be a few more minutes, then disappeared until the food was delivered. She offered free tea, but there were no takers. Oh, and what's with a one person woman's bathroom in a restaurant that probably seats 60? I had to wait in line with two other ladies, equally unimpressed. These blips in service were certainly eclipsed by the delicious eats, though. Even with the world of culinary possibilities in SF, we'd go back.

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