San Francisco Bay Area rss

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

Salty Pig Candy

Boccalone is an Italian salumeria, and it’s fantastic. Everybody who has tried it worships the pancetta piana. It’s dry-cured pork belly, and it tastes like a cross between pancetta and prosciutto, explains Ruth Lafler. It’s the most delectable pancetta Gio has ever tasted. “It is gorgeous raw,” says lexdevil. “Almost crazy to cook it, but I did crisp some up when I first received some in my box and it was mind bending. They’ll tell you it’s wasteful (due to shrinkage) and unnecessary (because it’s great raw), but if you cook it (carefully so it doesn’t evaporate like foie gras) to a crisp it’s like eating salty pig candy.”

Boccalone also sells Carrie 218’s benchmark mortadella. Try it fried, on Artisan bread, for a mind-blowing pimped-out version of a fried bologna sandwich, says lexdevil.

What we have here in Oakland is basically the Boccalone factory; they actually distribute across the United States. You can go in and just buy the stuff from the factory during particular pickup times. The secret, though, is that local salumi-lovers can subscribe to the Boccalone box and get regular samplers of products. The last box had suckling pig ham (very mild and tender), orange-fennel salami, and some of that pancetta piana. You have to pick it up from the factory, but subscribers can also buy anything Boccalone sells at discount prices.

Boccalone [East Bay]
1924 International Boulevard, Oakland
510-261-8700

Board Link: Boccalone pancetta piana

New, True Turkish

Turkish Kitchen serves actual, genuine Turkish food, instead of that usual blend of vaguely Mediterranean dishes at most so-called Turkish joints, says Agent 510. It’s very similar in cuisine to Turkish reference restaurant A La Turca—in fact, some Chowhounds think they’ve spotted a cook who used to work at A La Turca.

Adana kebap sandwich is spiced lamb kebab: “the seasonings on this one were bright and strong, and it tasted wonderfully of being grilled over an open flame,” says twocents. You can get it in an unusually tasty lavash—it’s about as crispy as lavash can get, while still being rollable.

Lahmacun is on an even crispier lavash, spread with lamb and tomato paste; it’s very tasty. And pide (listed on the menu as “baked pie”) is great: ground chicken, rolled in lavash, with tomato and yogurt sauce.

And there are manti—lamb dumplings—about the size of a thumbnail. They’re wrapped in thick, handmade pasta, and are satisfyingly chewy, with bits of seasoned lamb inside, and yogurt and chile sauce. “I loved the texture of the dumplings and will be back for this dish alone,” says daveena.

Turkish Kitchen [East Bay]
1986 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley
510-540-9997

Board Link: Turkish Kitchen, Berkeley

Great Roast Goose

Suppenküche is going uphill, says Joan Kureczka. On previous visits, the food quality has been pretty poor: watery salads, lifeless seasonings. A recent visit shows everything’s changed for the better. Mixed salads are truly great: tender, tart white and red cabbage salads; very good beet salad; and fine carrot salad.

That night’s special was goose, and it was truly wonderful—tender, flavorful, with little bits of very crisp, delicious skin. Even the potato dumplings were great. Potato dumplings at a place like this are usually gluey, leaden masses. But here, you get a nice ball of flavorful mash, encased in tender skin.

The venison is also good. It doesn’t have quite the savor of the venison at Weisses Brauhaus in Munich, but it’s tender, and it’s here.

Portions are huge.

Suppenküche [Hayes Valley]
525 Laguna Street, San Francisco
415-252-9289

Board Link: Grosse Ganse—Great Goose!

Fabulously Fresh, Primally Satisfying

Melanie Wong has been back to Rosso Pizzeria three times in one month. It’s the pizza—and the meatballs, and the burrata. It’s the fact that they serve simple, utterly fresh food, and they make it right.

When the pizza crust is perfect, it’s perfect, with a charred and puffy edge and a tender, but not wet, center. There have been some small inconsistencies in the crust from visit to visit—sometimes it’s a little too pliable, and other times just a wee bit too crunchy—but even when it’s slightly off-center of perfection, it’s great. Melanie’s favorite pizzas are the Funghi ($12.50) and the Inter-Milan ($12.50). The Funghi—mushroom pizza—has a richness, complexity, and depth of flavor that are completely, primally satisfying. The Inter-Milan is perhaps even better: perfect crust, and a seamless meld of topping to crust. There are alliums—leeks, scallions, and garlic—each giving its own sweetness to the pizza. In general, the least-beloved pizzas are the red-sauce-based ones (other than the terrific Margherita). Something about the current crust recipe doesn’t sit well with red sauce.

Meatballs are wonderful and homey. Burrata with prosciutto di Parma is a must, says Melanie. The burrata is pretty much the silkiest, most cloudlike version of mozzarella you could imagine. “[S]oft billows of heaven,” says Lori SF, who appreciates Rosso’s partnering with local food producers; it makes for fabulously fresh food.

Rosso Pizzeria & Wine Bar [Sonoma County]
53 Montgomery Drive, Santa Rosa
707-544-3221

Board Link: Return to Rosso Pizzeria

The Upper Echelon of Oakland Tacos

The quality and variety at Tacos Estrellas put it in the upper echelon of Oakland taco trucks, says Ruth Lafler. The tacos are quite good: Carnitas is in the drier style, with shredded meat, some of it crispy. Al pastor is well spiced and not very barbecue-y. The truck also apparently has access to a masa specialist: There are tamales and atole. When you order a tamale, it is, astonishingly, removed from its wrapper and toasted on the grill. The filling is not superporky, but there’s a generous amount of green chiles, giving the whole thing a warm glow.

foodfan really likes the lengua tacos. Another plus: morning burritos, starting at about 8, but note that the truck is not out on Sundays. (foodfan’s other favorite Oakland taco truck is Mi Grullense, in the parking lot of a Goodwill.)

The Tacos Estrellas truck is parked in a dirt lot behind the Purcell paint store.

Tacos Estrellas [East Bay]
Dirt lot behind 615 High Street, Oakland

Mi Grullense Taco Truck [East Bay]
Goodwill parking lot at 1301 30th Avenue, Oakland

Board Link: Oakland taco truck report: Tacos Estrellas

Vietnamese-Chinese Pho

Try Pho Ga Huong Que Café (a.k.a. Huong Que Chicken Noodle House)—it’s truly excellent, says grocerytrekker. And it’s a Vietnamese-Chinese place, so a lot of the specialties are unusual. Take, for example, unlaid egg ho fun soup. It’s in the pho/mi section of the menu, listed under the chicken intestine options.

They have amazing green ginger sauce. And try the “whole fresh chicken,” it’s a surprisingly good approximation of the Hainanese chicken. “Not as plump, a little bony and no accompanying rice, cucumbers or soup the way Singaporeans eat it, but having just been disappointed by the Hainanese chicken rice at Kopitiam in Lafayette, this was a small revelation. … With the green garlic and ginger sauce, the chicken is as good as boiled chicken gets,” says grocerytrekker.

Pho Ga Huong Que Café [East Bay]
a.k.a. Huong Que Chicken Noodle House
1228 Seventh Avenue, Oakland
510-835-8488

Board Link: Early Sunday breakfast at Huong Que Chicken Noodle House / Pho Ga Huong Que Cafe

SF 2007 Top 10 Roundup

1. Do You Want to Get Slayed by a Stew?
2. Filipino Tour of Destiny
3. Gob-Smackingly Perfect Beef
4. Sushi Quest ’07
5. The Truly Massive Insider’s Guide to the Cheeseboard
6. House of the Blessed Pupusa
7. The Best Cheesesteak on the West Coast
8. Let Your Taxi Driver Tip You
9. Ultrarare Burmese Fermented Tea Leaves, To Go
10. The Best of Nigeria and the British Empire, Together Again

Home-Style Middle Eastern Eats

pane has been trying to ask taxi drivers for restaurant recommendations; she figures if anybody really knows all the turf, it’s the cabbies. The latest recommendation: a beautiful little home-style Middle Eastern place called Old Jerusalem. She was impressed by the warm service, and the little touches—like fresh mint leaves in her glass of Alwazah tea.

The menu is surprisingly deep; there’s way more than your usual shawarma. There’s lamb and white beans, Jew’s mallow soup (Jew’s mallow is a pot herb used throughout Israel, Egypt, and Syria), and a rotating special of the day. On pane’s first visit, the special was bamyeh: chunks of fatty lamb and okra in a rich tomato sauce. Entrées come with great sides, too: little green olives, pickled turnips, deliciously garlicky tahini, and Turkish salad—an excellently spicy mix of stuff, high in tomatoes.

The Friday special is also excellent, a homey beef stew, fragrant and spicy with Middle Eastern flavors, says augustiner. He loves the stuffed falafel as well, fried to order, with caramelized onions and pine nuts at the center of each falafel.

And don’t forget to try the desserts, like shredded wheat and honey over goat cheese. Both desserts offered are house-made, and excellent, says farmersdaughter.

Old Jerusalem [Mission District]
2976 Mission Street, San Francisco
415-642-5958

Board Link: Taxi Cab Recs: Palestinian

Curry Fried Drug

Curry fried rice at Thai Taste is one of the best things in the North Bay, says kare_raisu. It’s listed on the menu as pineapple fried rice. And it makes people into junkies. It is “addictive drug-like sexy yellow curry fried rice.”

The pumpkin curry is OK. The lemongrass red curry is a little better. But this golden yellow curry fried rice? “Crunchy cashews, egg, shrimp, pineapple, raisins, fried crisp shallots, tender pork, & sweet sauteed onion slices and jasmine rice,” with just the right touch of curry. “[C]ombine this, then make it steaming hot on a cold rainy day and you have eternal happiness on a plate,” says kare_raisu.

Thai Taste Restaurant [Sonoma County]
170 Farmer Lane #8, Santa Rosa
707-526-3888

Board Link: Curry Fried Rice–Thai Taste in Santa Rosa

And the Best Roast Suckling Pig Is …

CYL had the fortunate experience of having roast suckling pig from two primo spots—Koi Palace and Cheung Hing in Millbrae—back-to-back. Pig from both places is excellent, but CYL gives a slight nod in favor of Cheung Hing’s. “Cheung Hing’s pig had exquisitely crispy skin (and slightly more depth).” It had a much more intense flavor, too, from seasonings rubbed directly into the meat. The sample from Cheung Hing was thicker and meatier than Koi Palace’s; it probably came from forward of the rib cage, in the boneless region, while Koi Palace’s was probably sliced from above the rib region.

Cheung Hing’s pig is a little tough to get, though. It’s only available early on the weekends. It comes out of the oven at about 10:30 in the morning, and it’s usually gone sometime in the afternoon.

Yes it is worth getting up early on a weekend for good roast pig.

Cheung Hing Restaurant [Peninsula]
245 El Camino Real, Millbrae
650-652-3938

Koi Palace [Peninsula]
In Serramonte Plaza, 365 Gellert Boulevard, Daly City
650-992-9000

Board Link: Roast Suckling Pig