The CHOW Blog rss

Insights, tips, and restaurant reports from CHOW editors and Chowhound.

Dinner Party for Beginners: Shrimp Pasta

Dinner Party for Beginners: Shrimp Pasta

Think you can't cook a meal for friends? You can. READ MORE

The Royal Treatment

Hounds have been checking out the location of Queen's Louisiana Po-Boy Cafe on San Bruno Avenue for over a year now. That's because while the owners were able to build out the space in eight months, it took 14 months to get a permit. But it's open now, to the delight of locals and New Orleans chow-lovers.

The restaurant's namesake "queen" is Danielle, the chef, who is co-owner of the place with her husband Troy. She comes in every day at 7 a.m. to start the roux for her gumbo, which is fantastic, says jillyju: "I went last night, and was really blown away by the gumbo," says jillyju. "I've never tasted a version here in the Bay Area that even came close to the depth of flavor and freshness of the seafood." But Danielle has been complaining about making that roux every day, jillyju warns, so don't delay in checking it out.

The po' boy sandwiches use Leidenheimer bread from New Orleans, as essential to the po' boy as Amoroso rolls are to Philly cheesesteaks. It's par-baked and frozen in New Orleans, then finished off here. BernalKC notes that it's white and light compared to the artisanal breads that hold sway in the Bay Area, but a few bites show that it makes sense in this sandwich. The oyster sandwich has small but beautifully fried oysters, and the shrimp one has shrimp in every bite of the footlong sandwich, says wolfe. Fried chicken po' boy is good too. Just be sure to ask for some extra remoulade or tartar sauce, as the sandwiches tend to be a bit dry.

The hush puppies are crisp and tender, and the not-too-sweet honey butter is perfect for bringing out their savory aspects. And the garlic fries are perfect, says mlutsky, "not smothered in fresh garlic like the ballpark ones." There are also beignets.

There's Crystal hot sauce and Zatarain's filé powder (for the gumbo) on the tables for extra authentic flavor.

Queen's Louisiana Po-Boy Cafe [Portola]
3030 San Bruno Avenue, San Francisco
415-468-9066

Discuss: Queen's Louisiana Po Boy Cafe

Burmese Food for Burmese People

"Little Yangon has become my new favorite Burmese restaurant," declares Melanie Wong. Situated in Daly City, which apparently has a large Burmese population, the restaurant serves food geared toward that community rather than outsiders. Unlike other Burmese restaurants in the Bay Area, its owners are not ethnically Chinese.

Right up front is a Burmese version of a salad station, with a huge variety of fried and raw crispy ingredients as well as cooked, infused, and raw oils for dressing all ready to be mixed to order. Tea leaf salad has "all the spitfire and textures I love about the dish," Melanie says. Little Yangon use only the small, tender shoots of tea, and plenty of them. A bit of cabbage slaw lightens the mix, and the carefully cut tomato slivers are free of seeds or gel. Plus, the fried and roasted components are all "crackly fresh." The flavors are rounded out with fried garlic, ground dried shrimp, and plenty of fish sauce.

Coconut chicken noodle soup (ohn noh kaw swe) is a bowl of coconutty comfort that Melanie's dining partner Spencer referred to as "Burmese carbonara." Mohinga, the classic fish noodle soup, is a favorite with kairo.

On the other hand, chin bong jaw is such an acquired taste that the owner is nervous to even serve it to non-Burmese. Spencer described the concoction of sour vegetable with green chile, bamboo shoots, and various fish/shrimp condiments as having "notes of barnyard and fire," but it grew on him; the "spicy/sour/bitter/barnyard/garlicky/salty/iron/grassy elements," as Melanie says, are well balanced by coconut rice.

But it takes no schooling to love the paratha. Even without a side of curry dipping sauce, it's "golden brown, flaky, crisp," Melanie says.

Little Yangon [Peninsula]
6318 Mission Street, Daly City
650-994-0111

Discuss: Little Yangon, Authentic Burmese in Daly City

The Exquisite Harmony of Kaiseki

Refined and perfectly balanced, a kaiseki meal at Wakuriya puts a contemporary spin on this multi-course Japanese dining experience, says burumun.

"Two of us had dinner at Wakuriya in late September, and though I did not take any photos, the meal is etched in my memory, too," adds pilinut. "In terms of quality of ingredients, skill, and creativity, the kitchen (all two of them) is at least on par with Manresa."

"All two of them" means the couple who run the place, Katsuhiro and Mayumi Yamasaki. The pair came up through the restaurant business in Kyoto, including a stint at the longtime kaiseki restaurant Kitcho. They opened Wakuriya in 2008.

The appetizer course that kicks off the full nine-course meal sums up the approach: something fried (fig tempura), something broiled (unagi and avocado roll), and a dashi-based dish (in this case, eggplant). That fig tempura also showed off the menu's seasonality.

"The quality of the fish is on par with what you would expect at a highly regarded sushi restaurant," burumun says, and you get excellent sashimi as well as cooked dishes likes moist, delicate steamed butterfish coated in soft yuba, or tofu skin. A deep-fried cake of scallop, corn, and tofu has a light, crisp tempura coating. Then an inventive palate cleanser breaks up the meal: watermelon gelée with black sesame.

Grilled tai snapper with pickled plum and shiso basil over rice in dashi broth was "perhaps was my most memorable dish that night," burumun says. The "complex, smoky" dashi is outstanding, agrees pilinut.

A simple-seeming dessert of housemade barley tea-flavored mochi with green tea ice cream is a delicious mash-up of contrasting textures (chewy/melty) and the distinctive flavors of barley tea and an Okinawa black sugar sauce.

The nine-course experience is $85; a six-course version is $70. There's an extensive sake selection.

Wakuriya [Peninsula]
115 De Anza Boulevard, San Mateo
650-286-0410

Discuss: Wakuriya (San Mateo): An Exquisite Kaiseki Journey [Review+pics]

Overheard on the San Francisco Boards

"Nothing Roman-style about the pizza, the crust's not that thin, the oven's not that hot, there's too much sauce, and the crust I got wasn't that crisp. That said, it was quite good."
-Robert Lauriston

"We were spoiled customers that night. She made a new batch of cantaloupe? drink (orange colour) for us and heated whatever dishes we wanted."
-Han

"If one goes in expecting that nothing in that place has ever touched meat, they're sadly mistaken."
-Piperdown

High-Proof, Spirited Gifts

High-Proof, Spirited Gifts

Liquors that will surprise and delight. READ MORE

More to Love About Brussels Sprouts

If you buy Brussels sprouts on the stalk or grow them yourself, don't toss the long leaves that grow from the top of the stalk; they're delicious in their own right.

To remove the tough ribs from the greens, fold each leaf in half along the rib, and either pull the rib away from the greens with your hand or cut it out with a knife. If they are young and tender, add them raw to salads, suggests toodie jane. Otherwise, try steaming or braising them as you would other greens. katierose sautés the greens with onion, garlic, and Fuji apple, and serves them topped with crumbled nuts. scubadoo97 has used the leaves in place of grape leaves when making dolmas, and says they work really well.

Discuss: Brussel Sprout GREENS or LEAVES

Creative Cheesecake Crusts

Many cheesecake recipes call for a classic graham-cracker crust, but the flavor of the crust is limited only by your imagination. Choose one that complements your filling, and get creative.

"You can use practically any cookie to make a crust," says Cherylptw. "Just pulse it to make crumbs and add a little butter to bind." Hounds like using chocolate wafers, gingersnaps, sugar cookies, and digestive biscuits. If you use Oreos or other cream-filled cookies, you don't even need butter, says nemo; the cream filling acts as a binder.

Crumbs made from dry cake or other day-old baked goods also work great, says chowser. And hotoynoodle suggests a nut crust, made from ground nuts, butter, and sugar.

Discuss: Good cheescake crust- not graham cracker

Is Cod Dead?

The question of sustainable seafood is one that has rightfully electrified and provoked anyone who earns a living from selling the stuff or takes great pleasure in eating large quantities of it.

Minnesota food writer Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl has a tendency to dig beyond the surface in her writing, so rather than just harpooning a Twin Cities fish and chips chain for its extensive use of North Atlantic cod, counter to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch guidelines, she puts all the evidence in one extensive blog post and lets her readers have at it.

The pros and cons (mostly the latter) are more numerous than you might expect, and it's interesting to sift through the raw data: A statement from the seafood supplier, arguments about different fishing regions, details about why Canada doesn't rein in its fish industry. The conclusion is necessarily muddy, but it may make you think twice before ordering any old basket of fish and chips at the neighborhood pub.

Overheard on the Home Cooking Boards

"I'm all no-flour, no-sugar, pour it into a blazin' hot skillet kinda guy. If I want soft, I'll eat cake. Cornbread's supposed to be crunchy, corny, at least somewhat redolent of pig fat and practically incapable of going stale."
-Will Owen

"Purée the rest of your can of chipotle with the adobo sauce in a food precessor and put it in a jar. I always keep a jar of puréed chipotle in my frdge. This will keep in your fridge for months."
-Norm Man

"Besides nipping out of the jar while holding the fridge door open with my leg, I love splashing a bowl of potato chips with pickle juice (plus a shot or two of Louisiana hot sauce)."
-porker