San Francisco Bay Area rss

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

Consomé de Barbacoa

Next to the California Street branch of Mercado Marlen in Mountain View is Taqueria Marlen. It is very, very good, says grinch. His wife adds that it reminds her of her youth in Mexico—it tastes just like the sort of food you get at the in-between spots when you’re traveling from town to town.

They have some magic stuff, including lamb barbacoa tacos and consomé de barbacoa. Barbacoa is meat slow-cooked over an open fire; consomé de barbacoa is the juice runoff from the making of the barbacoa. You sip the consomé as you eat the tacos. I can’t think of a better life experience than that.

Taqueria Marlen [Peninsula]
Next to Mercado Marlen
2530 California Street, Mountain View

Board Link: Mercado and Taqueria Marlen in Mt. View

Home-Style Peruvian in the Mission

Here’s a neat little discovery: real home-style Peruvian, smack-dab in the middle of the Mission District. kare_raisu is excited about the place; on her first lunch, she had escabeche de pescado. There was truly awesome steamed white rice, boring beans, and very nice fried fish. The fish flesh is a little stiffened from long marination in vinegar—whether this is a plus or a minus is up to you.

El Perol Restaurant [Mission District]
2590 Mission Street #7, San Francisco

Board Link: El Perol–Homestyle Peruvian in the Mission

A Serious Rarity

Now here’s a discovery: pescado zarandeado at Antojitos La Texanita. This is some seriously delicious fish, says kare_raisu. It’s a halved tilapia, shallow-fried, and judiciously sauced with chile and tomato on the flesh side. There is also some mysterious spice energy going on. The spine peels off in one pull; the fish underneath is moist. Put some pieces into a warm tortilla with some slices of perfectly ripe, buttery avocado and a bit of juice from one of the eerily nice limes. It is the perfect fish thing.

There is also the best version of huarache con pollo asado ($6) she has ever had. It’s a multilevel, multiflavor, multitexture construction: Cotija dust, ripe avocado, shredded lettuce, salsa roja, flavorful chicken hunks, refritos, and crisp, warm cornbread. And the best sopecito de picadillo ($2) she’s had—a nice, handcrafted sope with diced zucchini and carrot.

Everything is very homemade: Order a taramindo; you might see a dude shelling tamarind pods for you. One of the cooks is Oaxaqueño; you may be able to talk her into making some Oaxacan food, if you’re nice enough.

This is genuinely glorious food.

Antojitos La Texanita [Sonoma County]
250 Sebastopol Road, Santa Rosa

Board Link: Excellent Lunch at Antojitos La Texanita [Santa Rosa]

A Taiwanese Joint with Potential

Yi He is an excellent new Taiwanese restaurant; after a first visit, K K declares that it has tons of potential, and that he’ll definitely be back for more.

Kung fu mein—long flat noodles with minced pork and sauce—is quite delicate and tasty. Noodles are beautifully al dente; they’re good enough that they could be homemade. Chicken soup (yuen zhong ji tang) is absolutely fantastic: The broth is clear, pure chicken nectar, and is in the same range as the holy chicken broth of Din Tai Fung in Los Angeles. There is well-prepared garlic fried ong choy, with light, crunchy stems and soft, juicy leaves.

There is stewed pork belly meat in a clay pot (tung por mahn rou). At $14.50, it’s way pricier than other menu items, but it’s very pleasing. You get the pork belly, some steamed white buns, and a tray of condiments with cilantro, diced peanuts, sauce, and pickled veggies. You basically grab some pork belly and make a little sandwich.

Chinese-language signage outside says that they’re proudest of their braised eel, sticky rice roll, soy milk, fried doughnuts, and a few other things.

Yi He Garden [Peninsula]
420 Broadway, Millbrae

Board Link: Yi He Garden Millbrae report

A Fabulous Mexican Flea Market

“A trip to this year-old flea market is like going to a Mexican street market … except you don’t need to buy a passport, get frisked by security and hop on a plane to get there,” says rworange about the Richmond Flea Market. There is pretty much everything your heart desires, especially if what your heart desires is Mexican street food. Also, if your heart desires parakeets, tires, lingerie, power tools, or computer-controlled tamale pots, you’ll dig it.

There are taco trucks. There are fish tacos. There is Café Allegra, which sells meat on a stick, spaghetti, pozole, birria, and menudo. There are fresh fruit drinks. There are whole coconuts. And there are excellent chicanos, which are sort of like fresh-made Mexican Cheetos, but without the nasty preservatives and with a strong chile-lime coating.

There’s a Don Pandos churro cart—$1.50 for long, hot churros rolled in cinnamon and sugar.

Admission to this market is free on Saturdays. On Sundays, kids and seniors are still free; others must pay a whole dollar to get in.

It is, explains rworange, “located just off 580 on the Richmond Parkway in a location even God would abandon. It is next to an auto parts lot with a fence of old truck trailers and cars. In the not too far distance are the Richmond refineries.”

Richmond Flea Market [East Bay]
716 W. Gertrude Avenue, Richmond
Open Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Board Link: Richmond Flea Market–A major fiesta addresses taco trucks, sanitation, and authenticity

Huge Basque Madness

If you want enough food to break your skull, go to the Basque Cultural Center. This, says larochelle, is big-meal heaven. Twenty or so dollars gets you an excellent entrée, fried potatoes, veggies, soup of the day, salad, and ice cream.

Magré de canard au poivre vert (duck breast) is fantastic—not overcooked, not too fatty, but just right. The Sunday special is lamb stew and prime rib, for a mere $19. Prime rib is rare and pretty good; lamb stew is completely delicious.

They’ve got very good, inexpensive Basque wines, too, says Robert Lauriston.

Basque Cultural Center [Peninsula]
599 Railroad Avenue, South San Francisco

Board Link: Basque Cultural Center–big meal heaven

The Best of Nigeria and the British Empire, Together Again

Lagosia is a complete and utter treasure. It’s pretty much the only spot for an upscale presentation of genuinely great Nigerian food. If you like Nigerian, you will love Lagosia. If you think you do not like Nigerian, you will love Lagosia, says rworange. If you’re British and you long for British food experiences, you will love Lagosia.

The restaurant interior is gorgeous; the food presentation very pretty. And the manager and chef are both absurdly friendly. There’s a lot of chef-coming-out-of-the-kitchen-to-chat-up-the-diners action going on.

Black bean soup is one of the best marlon has ever tried. It’s sweet and smoky, and has been stewed for six hours. Pepper soup is very tasty, and not too spicy. Groundnut stew is a thick tomato and peanut stew with delicious chunks of perfectly poached chicken breast. It’s milder than the versions that Food_Dude is used to, but quite tasty nevertheless.

There is the bizarre and beautiful Scotch egg—a hard-cooked egg that’s been breaded and deep-fried. There is suya—West African kebabs seasoned with an excellently tasty spicy peanut rub, and served with raw red onions. And mustard.

An order of plain puff-puff yields four tennis-ball-size beignets rolled in powdered sugar and topped with raspberry and chocolate sauces. rworange recommends chocolate puff-puff, which are plain puff-puffs stuffed with hunks of chocolate. The interior chocolate gets all melty, like a warm chocolate cookie. ksully415 says she’s related to the executive chef, and has been eating her cooking at family parties for years. She says you absolutely must get these puff-puffs, preferably with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Slice the puff-puff, put the ice cream inside, and eat the whole thing together.

There are a good number of Nigerians at the restaurant, but also a bunch of non-Nigerians who have, according to the chef, been complaining about the spice level. The chef has been thinking about toning down the flavors. Be sure to try to persuade your server to give you the full, un-Californianized Nigerian spice experience. In fact, says rworange, just try to persuade the chef to keep the food un–dumbed down. It’s your obligation as a Chowhound to preserve a gem like this in its full, unblanded glory.

There’s also a good mixture of British and Euro items. There’s spaghetti. They’re planning on offering real British meat pies soon, and other British baked goods.

Lagosia West African Cuisine [East Bay]
1725 University Avenue, Berkeley

Board Links: Lagosia–Nigerian in Berkeley
Berkeley: Lagosia – Stylish, modern, upscale British and Nigerian cuisine … go, please, go

Eating Inside Old Weang Ping’s House

Going to Old Weang Ping Village is a little unnerving. It’s tucked inside a house on a residential street. You have to knock loudly on the door before the owner unlocks it, emerges, and lets you in. There are bars on the windows. The owner locks everything back up and shows you to your table. Inside, there are a few tables and booths under a thatch awning; everything’s a little worn and cozy.

The food is intriguing, says Lillian Hsu, and worth the journey. There’s tasty fish curry, and a smoky eggplant dish that still calls to her, days later. It’s a mysterious and weirdly wonderful dish; sort of like Cambodian eggplant curry, but even smokier.

The restaurant seems like a two-person operation: The owner takes all the orders, and his wife does all the cooking.

Old Weang Ping Village [East Bay]
6217 MacArthur Boulevard, Oakland

Board Link: Old Weang Ping Thai restaurant in east Oakland

Sheer Tangy Clean Wonderfulness

“I don’t even like yogurt gelato, but at Cici it was sheer tangy, clean wonderfulness,” says rworange. Raspberry sorbet is also stunning—it’s elegant in texture, and tastes deeply of the fruit. Cherry vanilla is similarly deeply cherry.

The folks here are welcoming. They’ll let you try as many flavors as you want; they’ll even warn you off flavors that they think didn’t turn out as well that day.

Cici [Marin County]
17 E. Blithedale Avenue, Mill Valley

Board Link: Mill Valley–Cici … simply gelato greatness … and organic

Surprises of Xyclo

Ruth Lafler is surprised by the tastiness of Xyclo. It has all the hallmarks of cruddy food: upscale, “modern Vietnamese” cuisine, with gringo-friendly surroundings. But the food is damn fine.

There are very good fried spring rolls—crisp and wholly ungreasy. There are excellent raw rolls, sparklingly fresh, and well-balanced in the filling department. Bun Cha Hanoi is fresh and flavorful, with nicely charred meat and tender noodles. Steamed tofu is silky and deliciously sauced, and garlic noodles are nice—not overpoweringly garlicky, like in some other versions.

Xyclo [East Bay]
4218 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland

Board Link: Xyclo (Oakland) —a pleasant surprise