San Francisco Bay Area rss

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

Two Bakeries, Like Irish and Israeli Twins

There are two bakeries, right next to each other on Geary. One is Irish, the other Israeli, and they both deliver superb baked goods.

At Israel Kosher Meat, Poultry and Deli, there are a few baked goods from local distributors. There’s Irving’s challah, and some stuff from Grand Bakery. But mostly, the baked goods are made in-house. The strudel is the best rworange has had in the Bay Area. Cheese strudel is filled with great farmer’s cheese and raisins in a light, buttery crust. Poppy seed strudel has a nice, honey-flavored filling in a flaky crust. The cheesecake is Russian-style: light, tangy, and moist.

Next door to Israel Kosher is John Campbell’s Irish Bakery. “Step in the door and you are no longer in SF,” says rworange. “Everyone has a lovely Irish accent, both customers and staff.” And the baked goods—fantastic.

There are perfect custard tarts. “I throw down the challenge that no Chinese bakery in the city makes a better more elegant custard tart … it makes Golden Gate taste crude by comparison,” rworange says. The tarts have a delicate, buttery crust and a perfectly light custard filling. They are tiny pieces of beautiful custard perfection—though they must be eaten the very day they’re made.

What else? There are tarts with thick, lovely whipped cream. There are indescribably great beef and vegetable pasties—flaky crust around savory coarsely chopped beef with potatoes, peas, and carrots. There is wonderful soft, white, light-crusted Irish crusty bread. There are elegant scones, which make Cynsa ludicrously happy. They’re “even better than Joanna Karlinsky’s Meeting House biscuits,” she declares. There are breakfast sandwiches on fresh bread, loaded with egg, cheddar, sausage, and Irish bacon. There is dangerously good meat pie, says Bruce Harlick. And there is, strangely enough, delicious focaccia—soft, yeasty, and with a bit of jalapeño.

Israel Kosher Meat, Poultry and Deli [Richmond]
5621 Geary Boulevard, San Francisco

John Campbell’s Irish Bakery [Richmond]
5625 Geary Boulevard, San Francisco

Board Links: SF: Israel Kosher Meat Poultry and Deli – cheese and poppy seed strudels, fluden and cheesecake
SF–John Campbell’s Irish Bakery update
John Campbell’s Irish Bakery

Crab with Silk Gourd

The place: Shanghai Taste Delight. The menu: a fixed secret menu. The dish: xie rou si gua, a.k.a. crab meat and silk gourd. It’s a great find, says snewdl, an amazingly simple and tasty dish. The silk gourd is tender and sweet, and the combination perfect.

Happily, snewdl has been working on an English translation of the secret menu, made available to us by dint of his sheer awesomeness.

Fen pi is great, too, says misspiggy, with an excellent dose of wok aroma. Ma la tang—spicy tofu with beef—is pretty good, too.

The staff here is friendly, and the space feels like you just space-warped to a little mom-and-pop joint somewhere in deep China.

Shanghai Taste Delight [South Bay]
855 W. El Camino Real, Mountain View

Board Link: shanghai taste delight / crab with silk gourd

A Little Nepalese Cooking

Little Nepal serves impressive and satisfying Nepalese cuisine. Every dish Dave MP tried was excellent. Kukhura ra mula—boneless chicken with radish, garlic, ginger, and tomato sauce—is flavorful, with delicious pieces of radish, and severe amounts of ginger. It reminds him of the food he ate in India—which was, on the whole, a lot more gingery than Indian food in the States. Saagko tarkari—mustard greens with tomatoes, garlic, and ginger—feels very homemade. Naan is good, but very sweet.

Also try the eggplant, tandoori chicken, and jhinge machako tarkari—king-size tiger prawns cooked to absolute perfection, in the usual blitz of ginger, garlic, and tomato.

Little Nepal [Bernal Heights]
925 Cortland Avenue, San Francisco

Board Links: Little Nepal and Maggie Mudds–Bernal Heights–Report
Little Nepal suggestions or updates?
Little Nepal- Bernal Heights, SF–Friday Night Review

The Holy Grail of Fried Chicken

“This is it, the holy grail of fried chicken. It puts every other piece of fried chicken I have eaten to shame,” says Morton the Mousse. “How do they achieve perfection? Small farm birds, twelve hour brine, long buttermilk soaking, fresh herbs in the batter, perfect fry technique. I may never eat fried chicken anywhere else for as long as I live, because I know it will not live up to Ad Hoc.”

The crust is perfect: thick, crispy, and completely ungreasy, with the ideal balance of pepper and fresh herbs. The meat is perfect: tender, juicy, and flavorful, with every piece cooked to the exact point of doneness—the breast meat is as good as the thigh.

Most other dishes are excellent, too: There is fantastic baby iceberg wedge salad with Hobbs bacon, exquisite cherry tomatoes, pickled onions, and herb cream. Creamed spinach is also great.

The cheese course is superb, with some rarities you won’t be able to find anywhere else. What really impressed Morton was the pairings—in this case, Beecher’s reserve cheddar paired with plum-blackberry jam and toasted almonds. Where cheese-course accompaniments are so often extraneous, Ad Hoc makes the plate beautiful and whole.

Ad Hoc’s fried chicken night is Monday. It’s $45 for a four-course meal.

Ad Hoc [Napa County]
6476 Washington Street, Yountville

Board Link: Fried Chicken Perfection at Ad Hoc

The Best Taiwanese Oyster Omelet Around

Taiwan Restaurant has its ups and downs. It hires chefs from Taiwan, who tend to work for three or four years before departing for greener pastures, explains yimster. Right now, the Berkeley branch of Taiwan is awesome.

The oyster omelet is stellar, says Han. The eggs are perfectly cooked; the oysters are the right size; the tomato sauce is properly sweet. It’s one of the best Taiwanese oyster omelets in the Bay Area. Pork roll with five-spice is delicious, much better than it used to be. South Taiwan–style noodle soup is still very good.

We’re talking only about the Berkeley branch here. The Clement branch isn’t as good. The one great thing about the Clement location is that it’s the only place to get a particular pastry called a cow’s tongue, which looks like a huge set of sugarcoated lips. It’s chewy. And good.

Taiwan Restaurant [East Bay]
2071 University Avenue, Berkeley

Taiwan Restaurant [Richmond]
445 Clement Street, San Francisco

Board Link: TAIWAN Restaurant–Berkeley

Two Filipino Choices

Asian Flavor is on the way up: It now belongs to the Filipino elite. Han’s experience was uniformly outstanding. There’s great pork adobo; a nice dish of fried tofu, fatty pork, and sour dressing—a bit unusual, but with charmingly bright flavors; and an excellent dish of small slices of grilled pork, ever-so-slightly spicy.

Kawayan is probably the only Filipino place in Berkeley. It’s very much a family operation—with Mom in the kitchen. It’s low-key, inexpensive, and tasty, says Joel. Pork adobo is very good, with huge chunks of tender spareribs. Fried tilapia is moist and delicious. Vegetarian options are nonexistent. The website is not yet operational, but will be soon.

Asian Flavor Fast Food [East Bay]
24036 Hesperian Boulevard, Hayward

Kawayan Filipino Cuisine [East Bay]
2134 Oxford Street, Berkeley

Board Links: Kawayan, Filipino restaurant in Berkeley
Report: Asian Flavor (Filipino), Red Chili(Thai) & Curry Corner–Hayward

The Greatest Posole and Tortillas in California

“Not only are these the best tortillas and posole in the Bay Area … I’ll bet they are the best in California,” says rworange. She’s talking about Cazuelas Grill, where the posole is ungodly good. “The deep red broth was flecked with chile and herbs. There were huge tender pieces of pork with just a touch of fat. Even the fat was a gastronomic wonder, almost like delicate bone marrow.” Already seem perfect? Add crisp cabbage, stellar fresh radishes, and perfect chopped white onions, and it actually gets better.

And the tortillas? The best she’s ever had in her life, she says, in Mexico or the United States. And remember, we’re talking about rworange here—one serious Chowhound who has eaten about as many different corn tortillas as anybody. The tortillas here are thick and golden brown, and covered with beautiful grill marks. You can actually sit and watch the cook slap together the masa with her hands before she grills your tortillas, says Dagny. He likes the chiles rellenos. Carnitas is even better: perfectly cooked, with those wonderful handmade corn tortillas. There’s really great salsa, too, an assertively spicy thick red version, and a subtly spicy green tomatillo salsa.

Flan is excellent, almost as dense as cheesecake, and packed with cinnamon goodness.

Some things here are problematic, though. Birria is not particularly great. Chorizo is only average. Chicharrones tortilla soup is premade and a little soggy, with desiccated chicharrones. And the place looks like a former Burger King that’s been cheerfully personalized and Mexicanized.

Cazuelas Grill [East Bay]
2200 Hilltop Mall Road, Richmond

Board Link: Richmond–Cazuelas Grill – Serious posole and tortilla greatness at Hilltop Mall

Some Choice Tripe

A16 has fantastic Neapolitan tripe—tender, in a rich tomato sauce with egg and sheep’s milk cheese, says Amy G.

Incanto is famous for its vast and ever-changing selection of glorious tripe dishes. Most frequently mentioned: the tripe salad—tender boiled tripe served cold with olive oil, lemon, and herbs. It’s light, bright, and beautiful.

There’s a sensational tripe alla fiorentina appetizer at Delfina, says Windy. You get a ceramic dish with tripe, tomatoes, and onions—it has the texture of roasted eggplant. Windy’s also fond of Balompie, a Salvadoran restaurant with a great tripe-and-vegetable soup.

Szechuan restaurants tend to do great work with tripe. China Village has good dry-fried tripe. Says RWCFoodie, “Any visit to Zone 88 MUST include the crispy pork intestine.” Of all the tripe dishes he’s had, this is by far his favorite. At both these restaurants, you can also partake of excellent renditions of husband-and-wife slices, with poached and thinly sliced beef shank and poached beef tripe bathed in a wickedly hot, numb-tingly chile oil, says Melanie Wong.

Bigos loves tripe dishes at Asian Pearl restaurant. While the regular dim sum is just OK, the tripe dishes are fantastic. For instance, tripe in clear broth, with a hint of spiciness. There’s also heartier, well-sauced tripe stew.

And for your hard-core fried tripitas taco needs, hit Ruth Lafler’s favorite, the El Novillo taco truck, across from Guadalajara Restaurant.

A16 [Marina]
2355 Chestnut Street, San Francisco

Incanto [Noe Valley]
1550 Church Street, San Francisco

Delfina [Mission]
3621 18th Street, San Francisco

Balompie [Mission]
3349 18th Street, San Francisco

China Village [East Bay]
1335 Solano Avenue, Albany

Zone 88 [Portola]
2428 San Bruno Avenue, San Francisco

Asian Pearl [East Bay]
In Pacific East Mall
3288 Pierce Street, Richmond

El Novillo Taco Truck [East Bay]
Across from Guadalajara Restaurant
1001 Fruitvale Avenue, Oakland

Board Link: Best tripe dishes?

Uni Excellence

Maybe the best spoonful of sea urchin in town is at Koo. The appetizer “A Spoonful of Happiness” is a large, Chinese soup spoon filled with uni, quail egg, tobiko, ponzu, and ankimo, wrapped with whitefish, and topped with truffle oil. It comes with a shot of chilled sake on the side. It is happiness indeed, says vliang. Take in a spoonful, and immediately take a big sip of sake, recommends K K. “The results are quite astounding.”

There are other great uni dishes around town. At Ame, don’t miss the chawan mushi with uni, and Lissa’s Staff Meal with uni, cuttlefish noodles, and a quail egg. Try Two’s spaghettini with sea urchin, and Tanto’s baked scallop with uni.

The best pure uni experience Robert Lauriston has ever had is uni nigiri at Sebo. It’s fresh, wild, Japanese, and flown in that day. The restaurant serves Hokkaido baifun (literally, horse poop uni—named for the shape of the shell), “the prize of all prizes,” as far as uni goes.

Koo [Sunset]
408 Irving Street, San Francisco

Ame [SOMA]
In St. Regis Hotel
689 Mission Street, San Francisco

Two [SOMA]
22 Hawthorne Street, San Francisco

Tanto Japanese Restaurant [South Bay]
1063 E. El Camino Real, Sunnyvale

Sebo [Hayes Valley]
517 Hayes Street, San Francisco

Board Link: Dishes with Uni

Peaches in Jamón! Boar Salami! Garlic Flan!

New tapas bar Laïola is delicious, says unspuncapricorn. Her favorite dish: Medjool dates stuffed with chorizo and wrapped in bacon, served on a wooden skewer. “The minute we finished them, and practically still chewing, we ordered a second skewer.” Also amazing: peaches a la plancha—perfectly ripe peach wedges wrapped in jamón and grilled. The charcuterie plate is equally delicious; particularly good is the wild boar salami. Blood sausage with chickpeas is tasty and “well integrated as a dish rather than just being boiled chick peas with a hunk of blood sausage on top,” says Amy G. And the fuet and boar chorizo is fantastic.

Laïola is great, agrees goingoutagain. The waitstaff is very knowledgeable, and will make excellent suggestions on Spanish wines. She digs the garlic flan, too.

Laïola [Marina]
2031 Chestnut Street, San Francisco

Board Links: Laiola hits the spot
laiola report