San Francisco Bay Area rss

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

Lobster Rolls and Ipswich Clams, in Napa

Much excitement for you lovers of the Northeasterly clam shack: Lobster Shack is now open. This is the Napa relative of the excellent Old Port Lobster Shack, which has been satisfying Peninsula Chowhounds for a while.

It’s a classic seafood joint: tables with rolls of brown paper towels, bottles of malt vinegar and hot sauce, and a pretty casual attitude. Fried Ipswich clams are priced about what they would be in your usual Northeast shack—$10.75 for a half order, $18 for a full order—but the portions are a little smaller. The clams are a little smaller too, so they end up coming out a bit overcooked, though they are true belly clams.

The winner, though, is the amazing, gorgeous, perfect lobster roll, says Dan Wodarcyk. It’s in the classic mold: cold lobster, mixed with a teeny bit of Hellmann’s, salt, pepper, and green onions, served on a toasted “New England Hot Dog Bun.” It is a stellar sandwich, with perfect flavors, perfect textures, and a pretty generous serving of claw meat.

The buns are the true New England type—big slabs of crustless white bread. The crustlessness allows for the right level of grilling. The folks who run the place actually brought over the molds for the buns from New England, and are having a local bakery make ’em right.

Good New England clam chowder, too.

Lobster Shack [Napa County]
806 Fourth Street, Napa

Board Links: Old Port Lobster Shack in Napa … fried Ipswich clams … in Napa!!!

Alert! Perfect Fresh Porcini!

It is fresh porcini season, and excellent porcini dishes are showing up all over town.

César on Piedmont is serving up some wonderful roasted fresh porcini with white truffle butter; it’s amazing says JasmineG. “Get ’em while they last,” urges Robert Lauriston. Also great there: pimentos de padron, sand dabs, and a beautiful apricot custard.

At Eccolo, ML8000 found an exciting dish of fresh porcini and veal chops al cartaccio (in a parchment bag). “The chop was good but the mushrooms were outstanding.”

César [East Bay]
4039 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland

Eccolo [East Bay]
1820 Fourth Street, Berkeley

Board Links: Fresh porcini at Cesar

The Wonders of Multilayered Roti

A truly great roti prata, explains commuter_101, is a multilayered beast, one that you have to pick at to eat. It is not flat and monolayered, like a naan. He says there’s great roti prata at Straits Café.

atobiko loves, loves, loves the fantastic roti prata at Banana Leaf. “If you’re ever there on the weekends, you can see the special roti chefs churning these out like there’s no tomorrow!”

Roti prata is quite good at Banana Island. They have a special open kitchen where the roti is made, and it is, indeed, a many-layered beast. They’ve also got roti prata desserts—like one stuffed with peanut butter and fruit, and folded into little sweet roti pockets.

iOrderTheLamb is a fan of the roti prata at Shiok!

Fussy Foodie recommends roti canai at Old Town Café.

Straits Café [Peninsula]
3295 El Camino Real, Palo Alto

Banana Leaf Restaurant [South Bay]
182 Ranch Drive, Milpitas

Banana Island [Peninsula]
311 Lake Merced Boulevard, Daly City

Shiok! [Peninsula]
1137 Chestnut Street, Menlo Park

Old Town Café [East Bay]
4288 Dublin Boulevard, Dublin

Board Links: best roti prata?

The Joy of Kabul

Firstly, Kabul City’s lunch buffet is gone. This is because almost everybody is interested in the kebabs, and kebabs don’t do well on a steam table. This is good news for you kebab-lovers; you will have fresh-made kebabs to your heart’s delight.

There is, instead, a lunch menu, with smaller portions and lower prices than the dinner menu. Badinjon burani (eggplant) is smooth, silky, and delicious. Kadu burani (pumpkin) has a lovely, bright flavor, though it’s a bit too sweet for some. Qabely pallow (braised lamb chunks with raisin rice) is excellently textured and colored. Kebabs are great, though well-done; lamb-lovers may want to request medium-rare lamb kebabs.

The true favorite, says Cynsa, is the mantu—a hugely satisfying meat dumpling with a delicate wrapper and light saucing.

Melanie Wong’s favorite thing is actually the daugh, an herbed yogurt drink. The yogurt itself is rich and tangy, and comes strongly herbed with mint, coriander, and some bits of cumin. Shola zand—rice pudding with almonds, saffron, and pistachios ($4)—is also excellent. “The style of cooking is more like the homestyle places I’ve tried in Fremont and less refined than Helmand’s,” she explains.

Every dish is $6.99 at lunch. It’s quite the bargain.

Do not be afraid that this place is on Fisherman’s Wharf. It actually makes the wharf worthwhile.

Kabul City [Fisherman’s Wharf]
380 Beach Street, San Francisco

Board Links: Kabul City Report

Dasaprakash for Southern Indian

Dasaprakash is a truly wonderful Southern Indian restaurant, says Fine. “The quality of the cooking and the warmth of the hospitality make Dasaprakash a restaurant worthy of any ethnic-food lover’s interest.”

The star of this dining experience is conjeevaram iddly, which, at $4.50, is an incredible bargain. It’s delicate, flavorful, with a deeply satisfying texture. Mysore masala dosai is another delight—a spicy crêpe filled with potato and onion.

Puliyodarai—a spicy rice and tamarind dish—is very likable, and rather like a good nasi goreng, with the dry, slightly oily textured rice. (The owner told Fine that he should have ordered bisi bele huli anna and wafers—the owner’s favorite of the rice dishes. Then the owner gave Fine a complimentary order of bisi bele.)

The hospitality is awesome. Once it was determined that Fine’s party was English-only, the owner came out and had a long discussion over the menu, which involved worrying about whether they had ordered too much, worrying that they were spending too much by not ordering the special thali, and worrying about whether any of them had cilantro tolerance problems. The owner seemed surprised that there were non-Indians enjoying his cuisine. Surprised, but very happy.

Dishes run between $4.50 and $7. Go nuts, eat your heart out.

Dasaprakash: Cuisine of South India [South Bay]
2636 Homestead Road, Santa Clara

Board Links: Dasaprakash, Southern Indian, Santa Clara

The Utterly Exceptional Underwood

Underwood Bar and Bistro is kare_raisu’s new favorite restaurant in Sonoma County. Everything at her first visit was extraordinary.

Frisée salad is perfect, with abundant, thick chunks of delicious pork lardons, and a beautifully poached egg. The seared ahi special is made for hot days: It comes with roasted corn, asparagus, arugula, and an Israeli couscous salad with creamy porcini vinaigrette. And it’s garnished with bits of pancetta and porcini. “I cannot begin to describe how well the rich texture of the tuna worked against this accompaniment—amazing.” Roasted halibut is cooked to a perfectly crisp, golden sear; the insides are marvelously juicy and warm. On top of sautéed mixed greens and a potato purée, it’s perfect.

It is, she says, “a truly great restaurant—worthwhile for anyone in the area to check out.”

It’s one of Lori SF’s favorite restaurants too. She suggests the patio; it’s a sweet spot for summer.

Underwood Bar and Bistro [Sonoma County]
9113 Graton Road, Graton

Board Links: Extraordinary Meal at Underwood in Graton

Mad Indian-Western Fusion

Spice Route is a seriously awesome sort of mad Indian-Western fusion restaurant in the lobby of a Best Western. This may weird you out. Don’t worry about it—you’ll completely forget you’re in a hotel.

Fussy Foodie had a freaking odd, completely exciting spread there. Mussel pakora—nicely fried, nicely tasty mussels placed back in their shells. Incredible mini lamb burgers, spiced like kebab and meltingly tender. And srirachi chicken wings batter-fried and tossed in a spicy, wildly flavorful sauce—completely addictive.

Herb naan is fantastic, with a nice crispy back, a softly chewy center, and tons of herbs on top. Lemongrass lamb chops come out perfectly medium rare, over creamy cumin-spiced potatoes and garlicky spinach. It is sweet, savory, and wonderful. Salmon is crisp on the outside and buttery soft on the inside, and covered with tamarind sauce. It’s solid.

This place is brand new. At the moment, there are no soups or salads on the menu, but they are coming. There is a web address, but no website. That is coming, too.

Closed Sundays.

Spice Route [South Bay]
Inside the Best Western Hotel
400 Valley Way, Milpitas

Board Links: Reports: Spice Route Milpitas & Singapore OTC Dublin

Oxtail Bonanza

If you crave the tang of oxtail, here are some choice spots:

Back A Yard Caribbean has an awesome dish that lots of Chowhounds dig. $12.50 gets you oxtails with sauce, rice and beans, a tiny salad, and plantains.

Powell’s Place has really good oxtails. Most people just go for the fried chicken and have no idea about the wonder of the oxtails, says Carrie 218.

Gator’s has oxtails at dinner. dhoffman1421 is completely hooked on the place.

Hard Knox has consistently excellent oxtails, says David Iott. They fall off the bone with their beautiful tenderness.

Hunicsz says Zza’s menu is mostly sucky, but the braised oxtails are actually pretty good.

Back A Yard Caribbean American Grill [Peninsula]
1189 Willow Road, Menlo Park

Powell’s Place [Fillmore]
1521 Eddy Street, San Francisco

Gator’s Neo-Soul Café [Peninsula]
129 South B Street, San Mateo

Hard Knox Cafe [Dogpatch]
2526 Third Street, San Francisco

Zza’s Trattoria [East Bay]
552 Grand Avenue, Oakland

Board Links: Oxtail on menus?

A Solid Breakfast Tamal

A young Oaxacan street vendor sells excellent morning tamales in Santa Rosa. There is, for instance, a perfectly executed cheese tamal, says kare_raisu—an exceptional example of how a tamal should taste, smell, and feel. So many cruddy tamales are horribly greasy; there is, instead, balance here. The subtle background of essence de puerco adds a nice, slightly smoky mystery to the experience, says kare_raisu. This tamal is $1.50.

There is also tamal Oaxaqueno, a deeper, denser, fattier tamal. The masa is in the Oaxacan cocido style: a suppler dough, with a bit more grease. It is filled with flavorful, tender chicken, and wrapped up in a banana leaf. Also $1.50.

All of these tamales are accompanied by intense, flavorful salsa roja. With a bit of lightly sweet arroz con leche, you’ve got a beautifully warming breakfast.

This vendor shows up on the south side of Sebastopol Road, across the street from the Dollar Tree. She’s there until about 9:30 a.m. The same space is later occupied by the blue Delicias Elenitas truck.

No English is spoken, but you can get by with restaurant Spanish, or a little friendly pointing.

Tamal vendor across the street from the Dollar Tree on Sebastopol Road [Sonoma County]
Sebastopol Road near Dutton Avenue, Santa Rosa

Board Links: Morning Tamal Report # 1 Santa Rosa

Frighteningly Addictive Frozen Yogurt

afatcat is now hopelessly addicted to Harmony Frozen Yogurt. Inspired by Pinkberry, Harmony serves just one flavor—natural. It’s tangy and a little sweet. “It tastes like what it is: Organic Straus Family Creamery Yogurt sweetened with a little sugar. Topped with fresh berries or mango, it completely blows away any frozen yogurt I have ever had.” It is nothing like your typical frozen yogurt. It is a distinctly fresh, very yogurty, and deeply dairy experience, says orezscu.

It’s creamy and dense, and for non–sweet fiends like honu, it’s just the right balance of yogurt and a wee bit of sugar.

A bunch of Chowhounds have been to Harmony. Every single one of them thinks this place is glorious.

Harmony Frozen Yogurt [Peninsula]
1226 Arroyo Avenue, San Carlos

Board Links: Harmony Organic Frozen Yogurt (San Carlos)—Awesome!