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Restaurants & Bars

Zone 88: My first shot at the menu

Gary Soup | Apr 9, 200710:12 PM     13

With the rework of the Third Street corridor lines following the opening of T-car service, a 9x line bus suddenly showed up at a location where it had never been seen before, so I jumped on, just because. 40 minutes later I jumped off on San Bruno Avenue, an area I hadn't nosed around since doing some Neighborhood Improvement Program support work a couple of years ago. What pushed my eject button was the sight of Zone 88, the newish place on San Bruno Ave. between Silliman and Silver. I had read some reports on a hotpot chowdown there, but nothing else.

The menus posted in the window made me regret that I hadn't shown up in the vicinity with an appetite. A place whose longish $5.50-and-under over rice midday specials includes the likes of spicy frog, deep-fried pig intestine and dry-fried eels (do you hear me, Z&Y/Sam Lok?) isn't your father's American-Chinese restaurant. So, as I browsed the area for the next couple of hours, the idea set in of bringing a couple of Zone 88's mains home for dinner. My wife would be at her mother's for the evening, and the thought of searing my tastebuds with some real Sichuan heat gave me a naughty thrill. (She is Shanghainese, hence of a group for whom red chilis and Sichuan peppercorns is the very definition of Fear Factor and who will proudly serve you ma la doufu which is neither "ma" nor "la".)

I chose full orders of cumin lamb, and a dish called "dry-fried eel" (wild horses......) to take home and restore a couple of hours later. The lamb came back to life quite nicely in the nukrowave. It was tender and lamb-y (obviously not mutton) but could have used a little more cumin and a little more spice heat. The "dry-fried" eel, however, threw me a curve; while "dry fry" often means quickly stir-fried in a minimum of oil, here it quite literally meant that they came out crunchy-fried; great out of the wok, but a challenge (which I was unable to meet) to revive at home after cooling. After briefly nuking the dish, then nearly turning it to cinders on the "warm" setting of my toaster oven, then re-steaming in a wok, I came up with a very tasty, highly-spiced mess of textures from soggy to tooth-breaking crunchiness. More's the pity, because the dish held a HUGE amount of river eel, which I dearly love from my Shanghai sojourns.

Zone 88 is a pretty easy no-transfer shot from home, and with some appetite management I intend to plumb their retiree-budget friendly list of over-rice specials sitting at their attractive counter. First up will the be the dry-fried eels as God and the chef at Zone 88 intended them.

Zone 88
2428 San Bruno Ave
San Francisco, CA 94101

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