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

Everyday Beijing

To sort through the dizzying array of menu items, and posts about menu items, on Everyday Beijing, we offer you this brief list of recommendations, courtesy of K K.

• Hot soymilk, a big bowl for $1.50. It smells a little burnt, which is considered authentic to some.
• Fish dumplings, $8 for about 10.
• Jing dong rou bing (“East of Beijing meat pancake,” roughly translated). This multi-layered meat-dough pancake is “very nice and hearty,” says K K.
• Marinated slowly cooked beef cartilage, a cold appetizer, is really good.
• Ja jiang mien (noodles with bean sauce and julienned cucumbers) is very distinctly Chinese, with an intense smokey flavor that isn’t present in the ubiquitous Korean-Chinese version of the dish.
• And a great pairing: Jia tsang bing, which is the meatless version of jing dong rou bing, goes supremely well with jing dzang rou pien (Beijing-style stir-fried pork strips, with scallions). This is “salty but very very flavorful,” says K K.

Deeg67 recommends beef stew noodle soup with hand-pulled noodles, which is “excellent.”

Everyday Beijing [Peninsula]
637 South B Street, San Mateo
650-373-7878

Board Link: Everyday Beijing Recs

Jagged, Thick Noodles

david kaplan likes jagged, thick, knife-cut noodles. The handmade noodles at ASJ are everything he’d hoped for: “firm, rough, and a little unwieldy.” These are big noodles, wide and flat, and their floppiness will fling soup broth pretty much everywhere, he warns. “I made a point of wearing a water-resistant coat, zipped up, over my white stainable shirt.”

Noodles like these are easier to eat when they’re stir-fried, says daveena, but she adds, “I think the amount of flavor they pick up from absorbing the soup makes them totally worth the trouble.” She has also “developed the most unattractive hunch to eat these types of soup noodles—mouth right over the bowl, with one hand blocking spatters.”

According to david kaplan, ASJ’s hot and spicy beef noodle soup has “modest spice-heat and strong numbing-heat from Sichuan peppercorns, but the beefiness of the broth stood up to the heat. The beef itself was long-stewed, nicely marbled, and melting like the best short ribs, in big slabs that stayed intact despite their softness.”

He also adds some helpful instructions: “The hot & spicy beef noodle soup is the top-left item on the third section of the order slip. Drawing an upward-pointing triangle next to the check mark is the way to indicate the big noodles.”

ASJ Restaurant [South Bay]
1698 Hostetter Road, San Jose
408-441-8168

Board Link: ASJ, Taiwanese beef noodle soup, San Jose: report

Sublime Sesame Bread

K K has found some superb sesame bread. It’s called Hamati bread, and it’s from a company called Aroma’s. It’s a big doughnut-shaped thing with a hollow center and sesame seeds on top. The strong roasted-sesame flavor permeates everything. “It smelled so delicious through the bag I had to get one to try. And it tasted really good, chewy but not hard and the sesame seeds on top really added to the texture and enjoyment … I think this will appeal to lovers of all sorts of bread: naan, green onion pancake, or those Northern Chinese Halal Muslim style sesame seed flat cakes.”

It’s good reheated in the toaster or right out of the bag, and has been spotted at Berkeley Bowl, Dean’s Produce, and Milk Pail market. It’s produced in San Bruno, so it’s probably available elsewhere around the Bay Area, too.

Berkeley Bowl
[East Bay]
2020 Oregon Street, Berkeley
510-843-6929

Dean’s Produce [Peninsula]
451 Broadway, Millbrae
650-692-1042

The Milk Pail
[Peninsula]
2585 California Street, Mountain View
650-941-2505

Board Link: Superb Hamati Sesame Bread from Aroma’s San Bruno

Some Surprisingly Superb Brisket

The secret of Pit Boss Barbeque? It’s highly variable, and you have to figure out who’s in the kitchen. Civil Bear’s first visit yielded OK meats, and inedible sides. His second visit: “the moistest, tenderest brisket in the Bay Area … And this time the sides were fantastic!”

adrienne156 explains what’s going on. There are different people who cook there: “Mr. Boss, Mrs. Boss, and ‘others’. The meat is always smoked the night before, but the sides are always spot on whenever Mr. Boss is in the kitchen.” Mrs. Boss is also good, but the worst meals adrienne156 has had are when one of the others is in the kitchen. adrienne156 recommends brisket, “which always has a lovely pink smoke ring but did come to me overcooked on one occasion,” and hot links, full of finely ground meat, with crisp skin and a slight kick. And the pulled pork? “Moist with a light smoke … probably one of the best I’ve had out and that’s saying a lot because my friends are self-described pork-a-holics who spend most of their weekends smoking something.”

Pit Boss Barbeque [East Bay]
12889 San Pablo Avenue, Richmond
510-237-1996

Board Link: Pit Boss BBQ revisited…

Lebanese Pizza

The standard pizza at Sahaara is kafta mankoushe pizza, which is ground beef with chopped parsley, onions, and Lebanese spices, on a thin crust. You get slices of lemon on the side; just squeeze some over the top to complement the spicing on the beef, says AntarcticWidow.

The mezzas are good, too. Moussaka is a mixture of eggplant, garbanzo beans, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and crushed mint. “Every bite was full of flavor. I had to restrain myself from licking the plate,” says AntarcticWidow. Foul moudamas (fava beans simmered with lemon juice and garlic) is very creamy, and well balanced.

Rice pudding is “quite good, creamy with a hint of rose or orange water, and not too sweet,” and overall the portions are generous.

Sahaara Mediterranean Pizza & Cuisine [Peninsula]
1130 Broadway, Burlingame
650-340-8640

Board Link: Burlingame: Sahaara Mediterranean Pizza & Cuisine

AVA for Fresh and Local

AVA (which stands for American Viticultural Area) serves haute-Californian fare, and the restaurant’s philosophy is to work with local small organic farms and wineries to produce perfect food.

MSK has gone six or seven times since the restaurant opened and hasn’t been disappointed by a single menu item. He likes to start with cheese-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon, which have just the right balance of sweet and salty. A salad of crispy duck confit with frisée, kumquat, and smoked almond vinaigrette has that same lovely balance.

Roast beef loin with garlic and parsley béarnaise is just right, says MSK. Braised pork shoulder with cotechino sausage, ceci beans, green olives, and coarse polenta is the perfect hearty stew for cold evenings.

Dessert of ricotta and apple fritters with honey ice cream has that same balance of sweet and salty.

AVA Restaurant [Marin County]
636 San Anselmo Avenue, San Anselmo
415-453-3407

Board Link: AVA, San Anselmo = Appetizing, Virtuous & Ambrosial

A Little German Market

Lehr’s German market has “all sorts of great German items,” says SteveG. There is “fresh looking rye in the fridge, vacuum packed loaves of rye on the shelf, imported German mustards, quite a few choices of sauerkraut, elderflower syrup, and a bunch of great candy.”

Windy says that if there’s sweet poppy-seed bread in the basket by the register you should grab some.

Lehr’s German Specialties [Noe Valley]
1581 Church Street, San Francisco
415-282-6803

Board Link: Rye, Elderflower Syrup,

True Salvadoran Pupusas

We have brought you news before of Los Planes’ glorious Salvadoran tamales. Now we bring you news of their pupusas: “some of the best pupusas I’ve had in San Francisco,” says Dave MP, who adds that they’re “freshly fried and served hot and crispy.”

Pacaya rellena is a dish that we’ve never heard of before. Dave MP thinks it’s made from the edible shoots of the pacaya tree, which are stuffed with cheese, fried, and topped with tomato sauce. “The pacaya itself was very interesting! It has a bitter taste which I enjoyed, but the texture and appearance was somewhat like a cross between squid and eggplant.”

“I came upon this place because a Salvadoran cab driver recommended it to me,” explains pane. “He said most Salvadoran places in SF had Mexican or Central American cooks; only at Los Planes did the food taste distinctly Salvadoran to him.”

Chicken tamal is good here, says pane, but elote tamal is even better: “With a punch of sweet corn flavor, it tasted like July.”

Los Planes de Renderos Restaurant [Excelsior]
12 Persia Avenue (near Mission), San Francisco
415-585-8645

Board Link: Los Planes - Excelsior - Report

Kingdom of Dumplings

coconut2 picked up a taste for steamed jiaozi, sometimes sold in the States as pot stickers, while living in Beijing. Most of the versions here, though, tend to be less fresh and greasier, with too much pork and not enough greens.

Your best shot for getting great jiaozi might be at Kingdom of Dumpling, says K K. The steamed/boiled lamb dumplings and soup dumplings are both very good, agrees yimster. The owners also run a “dumpling and mien guan (flour-based products) operation” called Asian American Foods.

Kingdom of Dumpling (formerly known as Dave’s Kitchen) [Sunset]
1713 Taraval Street, San Francisco
415-566-6143

Asian American Foods [Sunset]
1426 Noriega Street, San Francisco
415-665-6617

Board Link: Best jiaozi/steamed dumplings a.k.a. potstickers?

Warm, Moist, Perfect Pastrami

The pastrami Reuben at the Refuge is “simply outstanding,” says alfatcat. “The pastrami was warm and moist yet not fatty … with great texture.” It’s perfectly spiced, and perfectly sized, ample, but not overstuffed. “Let’s see if I can put it into perspective. The Refuge’s pastrami is to the typical Boar’s Head pastrami as a Hershey bar is to an artisan handmade truffle. Not in the same universe,” says alfatcat. They also serve a very tasty grilled cheese and fries, for the tykes.

The owner, Matt Levin, used to be chef de cuisine at Viogner but wanted to open up a less formal place. And the Refuge is, overall, great, especially for lovers of artisan meats, says Shane Greenwood.

It’s not cheap, but it’s reasonable given the quality. A basic pastrami is $13.

The Refuge [Peninsula]
963 Laurel Street, San Carlos
650-598-9813

Board Link: The Refuge in San Carlos: REAL Pastrami and more!