San Francisco Bay Area rss

Restaurant recommendations, new openings, and highlights from the SF Chowhound community.

Szechuan Cuisine’s New Trend

Trend Restaurant recently opened in the location that was formerly Wynn’s Chinese restaurant. While its menu also offers Shanghainese and northern dishes, its true specialty is Szechuan food, says Melanie Wong. Apparently the chef previously worked at Great Szechuan in Richmond (at least, if that’s what the server meant by “the restaurant with Ranch 99, north of Berkeley”), and the menu looks quite similar.

Chongqing chicken, served with a pile of dry-toasted chiles and Szechuan peppercorns, is “really cleanly deep-fried and had a wonderful crispy coating and juicy meat,” says Nancy Berry. Melanie Wong notes that it’s worth letting the chicken sit a bit to really absorb the chile-infused oil.

Tasting the garlic A-vegetable, or A-cai, “you can tell this was cooked in a hot wok, smoky,” in the words of Melanie Wong’s brother William. The fresh crunch of the juicy stems and smooth tenderness of the leafy parts remain intact, Melanie says.

Handmade knife-cut noodles with seafood are thick and firm, she continues, and very tasty with the stir-fried caramelized veggies, and chunks of fish, shrimp, and squid. The complementary pickled vegetables in chile oil (pao cai) are also quite good, and there’s house-made chile oil for sale.

Trend Restaurant [Peninsula]
400 Moffett Boulevard, Mountain View
866-518-6691

Board Link: Mountain View’s Trend Restaurant: Next Installment of “Find the Sichuan Chef”

Afghan Kebabs, Fresh Off the Grill

Kabob House, an alfresco eatery at San Jose’s Flea Market, makes a mean chapli kebab, says Melanie Wong. This Afghan/Pashtun specialty of grilled ground beef patties studded with scallions is cooked to order, so be prepared to wait. You get two broad, thin patties on a bed of basmati rice cooked with aromatic spices, alongside a tart and spicy mint chutney, fresh, warm Afghan flatbread, and a superfresh salad of sweet red onions, cilantro, and tomatoes.

She also gives due credit to Ken Hoffman, who originally posted about this place back in 2003, bigging up the paprika-laced chicken shawarma.

Kabob House [South Bay]
Corner of 12th and Q, San Jose Flea Market, 1590 Berryessa Road, San Jose
No phone number available

Board Links: Chabli Kabob @ San Jose Flea Market
San Jose Flea Market

Frozen Yogurt Favorites

According to hounds, one of the best places for frozen yogurt in the Bay Area is Clear Optometry. The name is no joke: You can actually have your eyes checked and buy prescription lenses along with your fro-yo. Melanie Wong reckons that the ubiquitous YoCream is used as a base here, but it tastes better somehow. There are just two flavors each day. The litchi that Melanie tasted was very natural and pure, she says. The frozen yogurt is not very tart, says kauz, and some toppings are layered in the middle as well as painstakingly packed on top. artemis was impressed by the generous servings (a small is plenty for two), the perfectly ripe fruit, and the eight flavors of mochi.

Hounds also rated both Fraîche and Harmony. jsaimd prefers the former, saying it’s less sweet and less tangy, but somehow more refreshing. Melanie Wong agrees with the characterization, but she prefers the weightier, tangier Harmony fro-yo above all others. meloncollie loves the fact that Fraîche uses organic, local ingredients, including the yogurt, made fresh each day.

Melanie Wong, who’s been reporting faithfully on frozen yogurt places for weeks, says her top five also includes Gelayo Gusto (which serves gelato too, from Fiorello’s in San Rafael), Snowbunny in Healdsburg (organic Straus yogurt and Clover milk, excels with flavored yogurt), and SoGreen in San Francisco (intense green tea flavor, blended in-house). “What they share … is that they’ve developed their own unique product and one that’s relatively unadulterated and tastes like natural yogurt,” she says. Frutti in Saratoga, she adds, formulates its natural flavor in-house and uses only pectin as an emulsifier.

Clear Optometry [Peninsula]
138 E. Third Avenue, San Mateo
650-348-8818

Fraîche [Peninsula]
644 Emerson Street, Palo Alto
650-566-0055

Harmony Frozen Yogurt [Peninsula]
1226 Arroyo Avenue, San Carlos
650-596-8500

Gelayo Gusto [Peninsula]
856 W. El Camino Real, Mountain View
650-938-1333

Snowbunny Frozen Yogurt [Sonoma]
312 Center Street, Healdsburg
707-431-7669

SoGreen Yogurt [Financial District]
Crocker Galleria, 50 Post Street, San Francisco
415-391-7933

Frutti Gelato & Yogurt [South Bay]
18562 Prospect Road, Saratoga
408-446-0272

Board Link: Best Frozen Yogurt in Bay Area? (a.k.a. “Froyo”)

Veggie Dumpling Recommendations

Next to all of the fantastic xiao long bao, pork and shrimp dumplings, and other meaty delights in the Bay Area, vegetarian dumplings tend to be a menu afterthought, says Eris48. But many hounds answered his call to recommend places where the veggie dumplings aren’t just bland concessions to vegetarians.

“Yank Sing’s vegetarian dumplings are really good,” says daveena. “I wasn’t super-impressed with their standard dim sum offerings (they’re fine but didn’t convince me they were worth the premium price), but many of the veg dumplings were ones I haven’t seen anywhere else. I especially liked the snow pea shoot dumpling, and the mushroom dumpling (both flavorful fillings encased in a translucent rice wrapper).”

Dave MP listed the vegetarian dumplings at Shanghai House as one of his top tastes of 2007. He doesn’t recall exactly what’s in them but says the combination is flavorful.

San Tung has several vegetarian varieties of very good boiled dumplings known a jiaozi, says yen4food, all made in-house.

Shan Dong’s vegetarian dumplings can be enjoyed at the restaurant or bought frozen to cook at home, says Michael Rodriguez.

Sarah may have been dubious about Harmony Restaurant when it first opened in late 2006, but she has since attended a vegan reception there and says it was “fantastic.” There are lots of vegetarian dim sum and noodle dishes on the menu.

Robert Lauriston likes the veggie dumplings at Hong Kong East Ocean Seafood.

And, on the Tibetan side, the vegetarian momos at Taste of the Himalayas are “absolutely delicious,” says kresge86.

Yank Sing [Embarcadero]
101 Spear Street, San Francisco
415-957-9300

Yank Sing [SOMA]
49 Stevenson Street, San Francisco
415-541-4949

Shanghai House [Richmond District]
3641 Balboa Street, San Francisco
415-831-9288

San Tung Chinese Restaurant [Sunset]
1031 Irving Street, San Francisco
415-242-0828

Shan Dong Mandarin Restaurant [East Bay]
328 10th Street, Oakland
510-839-2299

Harmony Restaurant [Marin County]
800 Redwood Highway #401, Mill Valley
415-381-5300

Hong Kong East Ocean Seafood [East Bay]
3199 Powell Street, Emeryville
510-655-3388

Taste of the Himalayas [Marina]
2420 Lombard Street, San Francisco
415-674-9898

Board Links: Great Vegetarian Dumplings in the Bay Area?

International Hot Dogs

Russotti’s Dogs specializes in “Italian hot dogs.” But what, Melanie Wong wanted to know, makes them Italian? “Garlic sauce,” says the cart’s owner, Justin Russotti.

“The jumbo hot dog ($3.50) was grilled and then topped with a muffuletta-style olive and garlic salad from New Orleans,” says Melanie. “You can add more condiments: for me, a little mustard and pickle relish to add some tanginess. This is a great concept; the combination of flavors is absolutely fantastic.”

Russotti is at the Thursday evening Cotati Farmers’ Market (May to September), and is also available for events.

Russotti’s Dogs (at the Cotati Farmers’ Market) [Sonoma County]
La Plaza Park, Old Redwood Highway and W. Sierra Avenue, Cotati
707-227-6127

Board Link: Russotti’s Italian Hot Dogs (Cotati Farmers Market)

Bonbon’s Sweet Lunches

On a block that’s little more than a “lunch-grab ghetto,” DCarbonaro was pleased to check out the first-day soft opening of Bonbon, a new patisserie and lunch spot, reporting that savory goat cheese tarts made with lardon and onion, or broccoli, olive, and onion, are well-balanced, crisp, and flavorful. There are also sandwiches (including croque monsieurs), with salads on the way.

“Pastries included apricot mousse cake, chocolate mousse cake, lemon tart (emphasis on ‘tart,’ and intense, brilliant fresh-lemon flavor), and macaroons (also very good, with light cream inside).” There is also a full service of coffee, espresso, and lattes.

Xiao Yang notes that the place has a good pedigree, linking to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle that lists the men responsible for Bonbon as Jerome Rivoire of Garcon! and Eric Klein and Olivier Azancot of Plouf. Baker Herve Mathe of Plouf, Garcon!, and Chouchou is doing the pastries and specialty cakes.

Bonbon Patisserie [Financial District]
308 Kearny Street, San Francisco
415-956-5005

Board Link: BonBonSF–New Patisserie on Kearny @ Bush

Machaca to the Max

The machaca made by Mateo Granados at the Healdsburg Farmers’ Market on Saturdays is “brilliance on a paper plate,” raves Melanie Wong. It contains Black Sheep shredded beef with pasilla pepper, Middleton Farm torpedo onion, handmade olive oil tortillas, La Bonne Terre little gem lettuce, and a fried duck egg. It costs $12.

“Whatever you call it, this was a glorious plate. Beautiful colors, textures, and flavors,” says Melanie. The rich duck egg plays well against the lean, grass-fed beef. There are sautéed scallions blended in with the meat, and crispy, juicy pickled onions on top. The cold, crunchy lettuce provides an excellent foil to the hot, spicy stuff. And there are nice touches of sea salt everywhere, which is the Granados trademark.

Mateo Granados [Sonoma County]
541 Fitch Street, Healdsburg
707-433-2338

Healdsburg Farmers’ Market [Sonoma County]
North and Vine streets, Healdsburg
707-431-1956

Board Link: Machaca a la Mateo Granados

East Bay Barbecue

Robert Lauriston says that T-Rex’s spareribs are reliably great: “That’s my go-to place and order when I crave barbecue. Brisket seems more variable.”

“I’ve found the brisket at T-Rex to be a bit dry, but the long-cut short rib is HEAVEN,” says lexdevil. “The mild sauce has about as much flavor as ketchup, minus the vinegar. Hot is substantially better. The short rib, however, needs no help.”

Uncle Willie’s serves Robert Lauriston’s favorite brisket in the East Bay, but virtualguthrie describes it as: “Chopped, not sliced, good but not great. It could have been smokier and perhaps a little less fatty. However it was nice and tender and overall a satisfying experience.” On the other hand, the house-made links are “definitely a star. Homemade, coarse ground, and smoked to perfection. Not the most aesthetically appealing, but they really deliver in the flavor department.” virtualguthrie also detected some “spicy overtones,” perhaps from cloves, cinnamon, or coriander, and definitely a lot of black pepper. “If you like links, Willie’s is the place to get ’em.”

“I really like the brisket and ribs at Bo’s,” says Cheesy Oysters. “Links are good but not as chunky as Everett and Jones. It’s a little trippy to be able to get good beer and wine at Bo’s but that’s something I can get used to.”

As for Everett and Jones, quality varies by branch, says Cheesy Oysters: “I used to live near a local Everett and Jones and loved their ribs and links and sauce.” However, the location on Broadway near Jack London Square isn’t as good. According to jillyju, the location on Fruitvale in Oakland is worth it though: “I’ve now been twice, and each time the ribs were outstanding, as were the links.”

Finally, Munching Mark wants to put in a good word for KC’s Bar-B-Que. “Smooth sauce, nice as heck people, funky setting,” he says. “The links are as good as any I’ve had, and the pork BBQ is also wonderful.”

T-Rex Barbeque [East Bay]
1300 10th Street, Berkeley
510-527-0099

Uncle Willie’s BBQ and Fish [East Bay]
614 14th Street, Oakland
510-465-9200

Bo’s Barbecue [East Bay]
3422 Mount Diablo Boulevard, Lafayette
925-283-7133

Everett and Jones Barbeque [East Bay]
2676 Fruitvale Avenue, Oakland
510-533-0900

Everett and Jones Barbeque [East Bay]
126 Broadway (near Jack London Square), Oakland
510-663-2350

KC’s Bar-B-Que [East Bay]
2613 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley
510-548-1140

Board Link: BBQ in the East Bay: T-Rex, Brick’s Pig House, Chef Edwards, Flints??

Mapping Oakland’s Taco Trucks

“Whenever anyone asks about taco trucks the answer is search the board for lots of recs,” says rworange. “Well, yeah … but finding the SIGNIFICANT recs can be a pain.” rworange was motivated enough to put together a Google map of the best taco trucks in Oakland. Special props go to Ruth Lafler, notes rworange, for her pioneering reports.

Board Link: Map of Oakland Taco Trucks and Street Carts

Promising Pizza Pies

Melanie Wong stopped by the new Diavola Pizzeria and declares it “pretty awesome for only being open for four days.” Chef-owner Dino Bugica aims “to use local ingredients in a way that’s true to Italian roots”; his wood-burning pizza oven uses walnut and almond wood.

And as for Melanie’s margherita pizza, ordered scotto, or scorched, “the crust was nicely singed on the bottom lending a crispy initial bite that segues to a delicately chewy mouthful. While rather blank in flavor, the crust had a fresh, unadulterated taste. ... The crust’s soft chewiness and tender crumb made this pizza unique.”

The sauce is just crushed Italian tomatoes, nice and simple, Melanie says; the chef plans to make his own sauce from local tomatoes once the season gets under way. And though Melanie “would have liked a little more browning on the cheese, it was the right proportion for me and not overloaded.”

It’s not the perfect pie yet, though. “Cut into eight wildly uneven slices, this pizza wouldn’t win any beauty contests. The colorful basil and zucchini flowers, added after firing, weren’t distributed evenly, and one slice had none of either topping on it. The thickness of the crust varied dramatically between the two halves of the pie.”

Salumi is very good. Melanie prefers “it to early examples of Boccalone or the imported salumi from Italy that was served at Tigelleria in Campbell.” No salumi at lunch, though.

For breakfast or lunch, there’s also panini—“A man at a nearby table was having foodgasms over his brisket sandwich, one of six or so panini on the menu.”

Service is friendly and knowledgeable. It’s worth trying to get a seat near the open kitchen, to watch the chef at work.

Diavola Pizzeria [Sonoma County]
21021 Geyserville Avenue, Geyserville
707-814-0111

Board Link: Lunch @ Diavola Pizzeria and Salumeria (Geyserville)