San Francisco Bay Area rss

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

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

Thorough Bread and Pastry

The famed San Francisco Baking Institute, where the bakers of Acme Bread et al. get schooled, opened Thorough Bread and Pastry earlier this year, and praise has been piling up. The baked goods—made by students at the institute—compare pretty well with those from Tartine Bakery, and the prices are a bargain. Not much of a crowd, either, and there’s a really nice courtyard in back.

The sourdough bread has a nice crust (often hard to achieve with this acidic dough); baguettes are great and a little fluffier than Acme’s product, notes Windy.

Ham and cheese croissant is on the light side, but with a crisp exterior and distinct flaky layers, says david kaplan.

There are other homey treats like brownies and sticky buns as well as fancier French pastries.

Thorough Bread and Pastry [Castro]
248 Church Street, San Francisco
415-558-0690

Board Link: Thorough Bread and Pastry?

Santa Rosa’s El Michoacano

A young Michoacán woman tipped off Eat_Nopal to El Michoacano for its enchiladas. But these aren’t your ordinary enchiladas: They’re enchiladas placeras, sort of a cross between chilaquiles and quesadillas.

The corn tortillas get quick-fried in a mild chile sauce to a nutty al dente state, folded around some Cotija cheese, and shredded cabbage, pickled jalapeños, crema, and pickled pork skins are piled on top. Eat_Nopal tried them “con huilota,” which means you get a whole quail, fried carnitas style, on the side. The thigh and breast are the texture of duck confit, while the rest is “so crispy you can eat just about all the bones.”

The menu includes a lot of pedestrian items, but there are other interesting choices, like bacon-wrapped shrimp with quail. And the basics are executed well, including the fresh and spicy salsas, and creamy, subtle, savory beans.

There are a bunch of Mexican restaurants in Santa Rosa, but the only others Eat_Nopal gets excited about are Antojitos La Texanita and Taco Max. At La Texanita, kare_raisu urges you to try the sopes and pescado zarandeado.

Restaurant El Michoacano [Sonoma County]
500 Sebastopol Road, Santa Rosa
707-546-4074

Antojitos La Texanita [Sonoma County]
1667 Sebastopol Road, Santa Rosa
707-527-7331

Taco Max [Sonoma County]
329 Coddingtown Center, Santa Rosa
707-528-3212

Board Links: Quail Confit Enchiladas Placeras at El Michoacano (Santa Rosa)
Taquerias, etc. near Santa Rosa

Lebanese-Mexican Mash-Up

Run by a superfriendly Lebanese Mexican couple, Wally’s Café draws its tasty, homey food from both the proprietors’ cuisines, reports rworange.

We’re not talking fusion. Most of the menu looks like generically Mediterranean dishes, but they’re prepared with Lebanese flair, like tangy pomegranate chicken, marinated in juice and Lebanese spices. It’s delicious with skordalia, a creamy, garlicky dip.

Mexico City–style tamales, not on the menu, have a light masa and tender stewed pork from a family recipe, says rworange. There’s “a nice touch of heat,” as well as a hint of what may be fennel.

Tilapia is always available, served either Mexican style, dredged in flour and fried, or Lebanese style, with tomatoes and onions. Pork chops are another constant, says Wally’s wife, Angelica.

The baklava is flaky and light, not too sweet; rworange also recommends the Lebanese coffee with cardamom.

The restaurant shares space (in a separate room) with the Bank Club, a bar serving up $3 Trumer Pilsner on draft.

Wally’s Café [East Bay]
3900 San Pablo Avenue, Emeryville
510-597-1303

Board Link: Emeryville: Wally’s Cafe and The Bank Club–a roadhouse with Lebanese Mexican food and draft Trumer Pilsner