San Francisco Bay Area rss

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

Burmese in Burlingame

The same family that brought you the Mandalay in San Francisco has outdone itself with Mingalaba, the new Burmese restaurant in Burlingame. “This version of lap pat dok [tea leaf salad] is superior to any I’ve tasted recently at Burma Superstar, B Star Bar, or Larkin Express Deli; each component is a bright burst of flavor,” says Cynsa.

If you go at lunchtime, several hounds recommend ordering from the regular dinner menu (just ask for it), which has more varied and rewarding Burmese choices, while a lot of the entrées on the lunch menu come off like boring quasi-Chinese dishes. However, Cynsa notes that judicious application of the dry chile powder and chile sauce transformed a rather “one-dimensional” Burmese curry lamb into something more layered, and that the curry sauce was “heavenly” with coconut rice.

Palatha, the Burmese version of paratha or roti, is good here, while a dish of Burmese-style pan-fried string beans was a surprise hit with several hounds, thanks to what JasmineG describes as the “amazing flavor and texture” of the paste it was cooked in, made with dried shrimp, chile, garlic, and pickled vegetables.

The house special noodles with coconut chicken, yellow pea powder, and onion get a flavor jolt from wisps of kaffir lime leaf, says JasmineG.

Mingalaba [Peninsula]
1213 Burlingame Avenue, Burlingame
650-343-3228

Board Links: Chowdown at Mingalaba in Burlingame
Mingalaba lunch today

Salted Caramel Gelato, Affordable Chocolates

“I don’t know when I’ve enjoyed a chocolate company as much since XOX opened,” says rworange of the Xocolate Bar in Berkeley. “It has that same small, personal feel … and the chocolate is very good … and I didn’t feel ripped off by the price as I do most places.”

The kalamata olive–flavored dark chocolate is “really different and wonderful,” says nicedragonboy, and rworange likes its combination of “salty caramel-like ganache and pronounced olive flavor.” The “Aztec Amor” is also good, continues rworange, with mild heat from chile guajillo, plus cinnamon and organic orange zest. Other flavors on offer include cardamom, lemon ginger, and white chocolate with pomegranate filling, says nicedragonboy, and there are also quite a few vegan chocolates available.

There’s also a changing selection of about eight gelatos made off-site with Strauss milk, says rworange. Their texture needs some work, reckons David Carlson, but the salted caramel flavor is awesome, and goes great with the chocolate gelato. He adds that his wife loved the sipping chocolate, which was very rich but “not sweet enough” for his own tastes.

The Xocolate Bar [East Bay]
1709 Solano Avenue, Berkeley
510-525-9626

Board Links: Berkeley: The Xocolate Bar … very nice organic salted caramel gelato
The Xocolate Bar–opening soon on Solano Ave.

Brunch at the Farley Bar

rworange says that Farley Bar is “the type of place to just sit back and relax.” She advises that you snag a couch on the veranda, watch the “ships, boats, and ferries glide through the Golden Gate,” and order some treats such as savory-and-smoky prosciutto-wrapped peach, or fritto misto of local fish and shellfish. The bar is next door to Murray Circle restaurant, and both places serve the same brunch menu.

At breakfast, the house-made croissant is “what all croissants should dream of being … the perfect crunchy exterior with a rich light center and full of buttery flavor,” says rworange. The blueberry streusel muffins are large, buttery, and not overly sweet, continues rworange, who adds that Executive Pastry Chef Ethan Howard has Bouchon Bakery and Ad Hoc on his résumé. Meanwhile, chutney says that the sweet-pea gazpacho with fennel-citrus granité she had for brunch was “absolutely delicious.”

The brunch menu is driven by a small-plates concept, notes rworange, which means everything comes à la carte, and prices can add up quickly; expect to spend $20 to $30 for a typical brunch spread. On the other hand, the breakfast buffet is $18 and includes the above baked goods, fresh fruit, and some hot dishes.

The wine list is broad and includes affordable bottles, but the cocktail and spirits list “goes on for over 40 pages describing in detail each drink … over half of which are available at Safeway,” says rworange. The beer selection consists of just Anchor Steam, Amstel Light, and Guinness.

The Librarian finds the service overly formal, even pretentious, which is “somewhat ironic,” notes susancinsf, considering the place is named after a comic strip character created by local artist Phil Frank.

Farley Bar [Marin County]
601 Murray Circle, Sausalito
No phone available

Board Links: Lunch at the Farley Bar at Cavallo Point
Sausalito: Mmmmm Murray Circle and Farley Bar… a nice bay view AND good food

Berkeley Italian Branches Out

The people behind the ever-popular Rivoli have opened a more casual offshoot, Corso, featuring pizza, pasta, and small plates. Florentine dishes also are a specialty, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

The place reminds Robert Lauriston of Rose Pistola just after it opened and Reed Hearon was in the kitchen: simple, great flavors, and very Italian. (Corso’s chef is Elaine Rivera, who spent many years at Oliveto.)

Acquacotta, a minestronelike soup topped with toast and a soft-cooked egg, and the cauliflower sformatino, a custard with intense cauliflower flavor, are both “great” reports Robert Lauriston.

bigchowfun tried the pizza funghi (“crisp, charred crust, very flavorful, with a touch of truffle oil”), pasta with sugo (“luscious slow-cooked pork/beef”), and bollito with salsa verde (“melt-in-your-mouth beef”).

And the dessert of caramelized pear with vin santo sauce and whipped cream is “heavenly,” says bigchowfun, who adds that the wine list is “totally Italian but reasonably priced.”

The small plates, such as spinach with garlic and chile, and creamy fagioli beans, went down well with megek, who also likes having the option of ordering wine in half glasses and half carafes.

Layout-wise, the restaurant has an open kitchen with a counter, a bar area, and a large, communal table, which could prove useful, since Corso doesn’t take reservations, notes bigchowfun.

Corso [East Bay]
1786 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley
510-704-8004

Board Links: Corso (Berkeley)
rivoli on shattuck?

Two New Indian Restaurants in SF

San Francisco dosa-lovers, take note: Udupi Palace has opened on Valencia Street. The rava masala dosa is nice and crisp, says nuttie_cat, while the mysore masala dosa has a layer of tangy chutney inside. The potato fillings in both are tasty, if not quite spicy enough.

The vada was also nice and crisp, continues nuttie_cat, but the idly was a bit dry. Still, based on an excellent spinach masala dosa, jpancake gives this location the edge over the small chain’s Berkeley branch, and says it’s a welcome addition to San Francisco given the “bland and overpriced” food on offer at nearby Dosa, which also specializes in South Indian cuisine.

Prices at this Udupi Palace seem about a dollar higher than the one in Sunnyvale, reports nuttie_cat, with dosas mostly $7.75, uthappams $6.75, and combos of dosa or uthappam with idly and vada $9.75.

It’s clean, and folks are friendly, according to nuttie_cat, but the hours are a little, well, unpredictable in these early days, says jpancake.

Also new in town is Kasa in the Castro, reports osho. It specializes in the kati roll, a sort of Indian burrito (also known as a frankie), and fillings include lamb curry, aloo jeera (sautéed cumin potatoes), or chicken tikka, all wrapped in a flaky roti.

The grass-fed lamb is outstanding, says osho, and the curry sauce is great on its own for dipping. The chicken tikka, however, was a bit dry and underspiced. On the side you get a mixed salad and some raita. Two rolls cost $8.95.

Udupi Palace [Mission District]
1007 Valencia Street, San Francisco
415-970-8000

Kasa Indian Eatery [Castro]
4001 18th Street, San Francisco

415-621-6940

Board Links: Udupi Palace SF open
SF–Kasa Indian–Castro

San Jose’s Saigon Seafood

Its name may be Saigon Seafood, or Nha Hang, or perhaps even Saigon Vien Dong. But, whatever it’s called, hounds say this San Jose joint serves up good, fresh Vietnamese food, like goi sua tom thit, an herb-laced salad of pork, prawns, and jellyfish. The contrast of pork ear and skin with the jellyfish is fantastic, says The Ranger.

Also recommended: sizzling goat, sizzling fish (though on one occasion this wasn’t sizzling and arrived on a cold plate instead), dry nam vang rice noodle soup, and baby clams with special spices. There are plenty of herbs and dipping sauces, plus matchsticks of galangal for what markseiden calls “that indispensable hint of menthol.”

RWCFoodie also recommends you keep an eye out for the fruit vendor on the sidewalk just outside, selling fresh mangosteens, jackfruit, Manila mangoes, litchis, and the like.

Saigon Seafood [South Bay]
740 Story Road #1, San Jose
408-298-8488

Board Link: Lunch at Nha Hang Saigon Seafood Restaurant aka Saigon Vien Dong–San Jose

Great Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup

After searching the Bay Area for Taiwanese beef noodle soup, vliang is thrilled to have found a great version at TMM Desserts, a strip mall café in Millbrae. The broth is multidimensional, with a hint of anise, vliang reports, and is neither too spicy nor too oily. The la-mien/ramen noodles have bite, even by the time you reach the bottom of the (huge) bowl. And the beef, the ideal combo of lean meat, tendon, and fat, is cooked to melting perfection without losing any of its flavor.

TMM apparently started out as a tea and dessert place, and now is branching out into Hong Kong/Taiwanese small eats, with some Shanghai dishes to follow. There’s no English signage outside: You can find it next to the L&L Hawaiian Barbecue.

TMM Desserts [Peninsula]
350 Adrian Road, Millbrae
650-259-9213

Board Link: OMG, I Found My BNS!!!

Hunan-Style Bacon at Ton Kiang

Ton Kiang’s steamed bacon with dried mustard greens is the best version of this Hunan dish Robert Lauriston has found. The waiter even muttered “good dish” when augustiner ordered it, which is always a good sign. The sauce is haunting, continues augustiner, especially when mixed with the rice.

In the East Bay, Robert Lauriston says your best bet is Great China, while lexdevil reports there’s also a “rock solid” rendition of the dish available at Daimo.

Ton Kiang [Richmond District]
5821 Geary Boulevard, San Francisco
415-752-4440

Great China [East Bay]

2115 Kittredge Street, Berkeley
510-843-7996

Daimo [East Bay]
3288 Pierce Street, Richmond
510-527-3888

Board Link: Hunan Bacon

Ramen at Caffeine in SF

An excellent bowl of ramen can be found, for now, at the Geary Street café Caffeine on Friday and Saturday nights. Tabe Trucks is serving up ramen at the counter before launching its mobile truck business.

There’s rich, buttery chashu; firm noodles (the wavy, eggy kind); and perfectly cooked soy egg with a slightly soft yolk. The broth is shoyu-ish, leaning toward the chickeny side. It’s lighter and more in the Tokyo vein than it is at Santa or Himawari, says vliang.

Order at the counter, and take a seat—there are only about six tables. A bowl of ramen is $8, and comes topped with chashu, egg, bamboo, bean sprouts, scallion, and nori. You can get extra chashu and noodles for $2 per portion.

Caffeine [Tenderloin]
835 Geary Street, San Francisco
415-928-5888

Board Link: Tabe: new SF ramen option

Royal Oak British Pub & Restaurant

The old Baltic Square Pub in Richmond is now the Royal Oak, a real British gastropub serving traditional dishes like fish and chips, meat pies and pasties, and bangers and mash. The chef is from Liverpool, and almost everything is made in-house (the pasties are a two-day operation). Bangers come from Saag’s.

Fried fish is a fine example of the genre: a long piece of delicate fish in a light, greaseless batter, says rworange. She passed on the chips, but was pleasantly surprised by the “mushy peas”—about the consistency of mashed potatoes. Shepherd’s pie is “really, really good,” adds J T.

Ye olde English décor hasn’t changed much from the Baltic days, except for the addition of more British tchotchkes. Dinner entrées average $12 and come with chips, sautéed potatoes, or mashed spuds.

Royal Oak British Pub & Restaurant [East Bay]
135 Park Place, Richmond
510-232-5678

Board Link: Point Richmond: The Royal Oak British Pub & Restaurant