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

A Flawless Ristretto in San Jose

teela brown was completely shocked to find an astoundingly skilled set of baristas pulling awesome espressos in downtown San Jose.

They use Blue Bottle Coffee: That should have San Jose coffee drinkers already swooning with delight. Baristas Eddie and Dan pull a “flawless, tiny ristretto heavily capped with silky red-brown crema, and I amused Eddie and Dan by doing a happy dance as I drank it.” teena brown thinks they’re clearly better than Barefoot Coffee Roasters. chipman thinks this little operation is on a par with the big three of Bay Area Coffee—Blue Bottle, Ritual, and Barefoot.

eMocha [South Bay]
231 E. Santa Clara Street, San Jose

Board Links: Well, I’ll be dipped in ristretto–a terrific espresso joint in downtown SJ!

Coffee Rubbed Pork Shoulder at Range

Coffee-rubbed pork shoulder is the true classic at Range, say many hounds. It’s pretty much the best comfort food you could find, says reading stand—not subtle, not delicate, but just one big platter of tender, heavy, slow-cooked pork, with creamy hominy and braised greens. Range also does excellent roast chicken, a little firmer than the average. It’s good enough that, once you become a regular at Range, you’ll get the chicken instead of the pork shoulder once every three or four visits.

Desserts rock hard, too. Everything the pastry chef does is great, but the true shining jewel is his chocolate souffle. Tarts are beautiful—always with a perfectly light, simple crust, amazing fresh fruit, and a clever ice cream pairing. Right now, for example, there’s rhubarb tart with candied ginger ice cream.

Range [Mission]
842 Valencia Street, San Francisco

Board Links: What to order at… Range?

New China’s Rice Noodle Soup

New China has one of the best versions of rice noodle soup (dan zai mi fen) that vliang has ever had. It has a deep, rich broth—it tastes like good chicken, instead of watered down junk with MSG. There’s also rice noodles with pork sauce and a soy marinated egg. This dish is not on the printed menu, or in English anywhere—it’s on the wall on the right hand side of the restaurant, when you’re facing the counter. It’s the only strip of signage in pink, so intrepid chowhounds can just point their way to noodle glory. (Note that the version on the wall comes with regular egg noodle, so you have to ask for rice noodle special. The correct term for rice noodle is “mi fen.”)

New China [East Bay]
a.k.a. China Tofu
1743 Decoto Road, Union City

Board Links: A Very Taiwanese Lunch @ New China

The Supreme Hidden Soft Serve of the Universe

Michaelis Wine & Spirit is a liquor store—but in the back corner they have a frozen yogurt stand. Once you get there, avoid the Wowcow stuff—this is the 10 calorie, fat-free, flavorless variety. Go for the regular fro-yo. There is a delicious peanut butter that Doodleboomer is totally smitten with. And they have a custard flavor that is out of this world, says mrsricho.

Michaelis Wine & Spirit [Cow Hollow]
2198 Union Street, San Francisco
(between Fillmore Street and Webster Sreet)

Board Links: Soft serve in SF

Nami Nami Is Kappo Ecstacy

“Let me make this clear,” says vincentlo. “The dishes at Nami Nami are phenomenal. ... It is already uncommon to see a kitchen truly excel in almost every dish on the menu, but it is indeed awe-inspiring—and yes to me it was an experience really this rare—to see a restaurant try so many innovations in an established cuisine and yet be able to come out with such polished results.”

Take ohitashi. In most Japanese restaurants, this is tired spinach in soy sauce. At Nami Nami, ohitashi is a gem of a dish, made with ever so slightly spicy crysanthemum leaves, perfectly complemented with the oceanic flavors of salmon roe. Or their beef tongue, cooked to such a velvety texture that it’s no longer recognizable as tongue. And the steamed monkfish liver with ponzu sauce is truly delicious, says hhc.

It is nice, says K K to have a real Kappo-style Japanese restaurant, amidst the deluge of ramen, shabu shabu, and sushi joints. There is sushi here, but perhaps you ought to revel in the small cooked dishes which are Nami Nami’s specialty.

Nami Nami Kyoto Style Japanese Cuisine [Peninsula]
240 Castro Street, Mountain View

Board Links: Phenomenal dishes at Nami Nami
Another Nami Nami, Mtn View report w/ pics

Flaky Australian Meat Pies

Australian Products Co. sells about three thousand different things from Australia—including tims tams, mites, biscuits, lollies, Gravox, and fountain sauces.

There are, excitingly, frozen Australian meat pies available, both at the Santa Clara location and online. They’re very tasty, if you like meat and flaky crusts, says LarryL. The top layer is quite thick, and it comes out of the microwave surprisingly flaky.

Australian Products Co. [South Bay]
294 Brokaw Road, Santa Clara
Open Mon-Sat, 9am-5pm (Closed Sunday)

Board Links: Santa Clara–Australian Products Co–Anyone tried the meat pies?

Gutsy Sichuan Quality

Little Sichuan closed, and is reincarnated in the form of Classic Sichuan. And it’s awesome—as long as you stay on the Sichuan menu, and avoid the standard fare from the regular menu, says Deeg67.

Spicy boiled beef is properly intimidating—a massive bowl of beef pieces swimming in red chile oil. The beef is high quality flank steak, tender and flavorful, happily cohabiting with cabbage and onions. Herbal chicken soup is incredibly rich and deep—tiny pieces of chicken with potato, and a truly satisfying, complex stock. And their xin jiang stir-fried roasted lamb is one of the best versions that Deeg67 has ever had—moderate cumin levels, balacned with ample jalapenos, dried pepper, and Sichuan peppercorns—and tons of fragrant roasted garlic. “Ths is gutsy, high-quality Chinese cooking—amply spicy, boldly seasoned, and subtle at the same time,” he says.

Classic Sichuan Restaurant [Peninsula]
148 El Camino Real, Millbrae

Board Links: A Survey of Classic Sichuan

House of the Blessed Pupusa

There is a store in San Pablo that sells holy pupusas. It started with somebody selling pupusas out of their home on a Sunday. And then it became a store with jewelry and clothes—no pupusas. Then, the store grew a semi-restaurant, explains rworange. On Sundays, the alleyway outside the store turns into a food stall. There are portable grills with huge black skillets frying up whole fish.

Along the wall of the building there are big bowls of masa and griddles; place your order and one of the women grabs a handful of masa, fills it, pats it, and grills it before your very eyes. They are lovely, oily wonders with brown and blistered skin. The cheese oozes goodness, and comes with beautiful loroco, which adds a fresh, herbal, green-tea zen thing to the whole deal.

The curtido—the salsa that’s supposed to go on top of your pupusa—is cabbage, bordering on sauerkraut in its fermented intensity.

It’s festive. It’s bright. It’s always packed. The pupusas are $1.25.

Look for some signs. There is a bright yellow sign that says Igleia Evangelia Voz De Salvacion Eben-Ezer in front of the building. There is a large sloppily painted sign that says something like “Venta de pupusas Desallonos.” It is across the street from El Porvenir Market.

Open Sundays, lunch only.

Mysterious pupusa store [East Bay]
1472 Rumrill Blvd., San Pablo (across the street from El Porvenir Produce Market)

Board Links:San Pablo – Holy fried fish & blessed pupusas … Praise the Lord and pass the tlapia !

Stunning Olive Baguette Showing Up Everywhere

The Phoenix Pastificio makes an utterly stunning olive baguette; the bread is dangerously good, says Aaron —so good that it almost never survives the car ride home. It’s soft, white, warm bread with thin, crackly crust. And it’s packed with the best olives that gordon wing has ever tasted in an olive bread; rworange describes them as “fast, salty purple olives, heavy with oil.”

They also have great pecan chocolate chewies.

Some thought The Phoenix Pastificio lost when they closed down their old Shattuck location. But they’ve reopened on Addison, and it is a cooler location in many ways. What it lacks in coziness it makes up for in directness—the ovens are on premises. You can sometimes nab freshly cooked bread.

Most importantly, a stand for The Phoenix Pastificio has started showing up at various farmers’ markets around the Bay Area. Most days, if you catch the stand early, the bread’s still warm from the oven. They’re currently showing up at the Berkeley farmers’ market, the Sunday Montclair market, the Saturday Oakland–Grand Lake Farmers Market, and the Sunday Temescal Farmers Market.

The Phoenix Pastificio [East Bay]
1250 Addison St. Suite 109, Berkeley (cross street: Bonar)

Board Links: Phoenix Pastificio Rustic Olive Bagette
Berkeley–The Phoenix Pastificio – Knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door

Moroccan Teas

Café Ya-Bon has all the standard café fare—lattes and mochas and whatnot—but if you pay close attention, you’ll see a little Moroccan sparkle in the menu. That’s because the two owners are Moroccan, and they’ve insinuated a little bit of their home cuisine into the café menu.

Try their Moroccan mint; it’s ridiculously good. It’s a refreshing, perfectly sweetened glass of green tea topped with mint. pane says he’s had this tea at places all over the states, and this is the best he’s ever found. A perfect companion to mint tea is shepakia—long strips of flour and almond paste, baked or fried, then coated in honey.

The owners will be offering more homemade Moroccan-Tunisian stuff, made by one of the owners’ wife, starting in April. A few delights are already available, like m’laoui ($1.50), a circle of fried flatbread served warm with granulated sugar and honey. It’s rich, flaky, and buttery, like a very thick crepe, and “would pair well with a cup of tea and a long winter’s nap,” says pane.

Oh, and it’s open 24 hours. The only way it could be more perfect would be if it were free.

Café Ya-Bon [Nob Hill]
1201 Sutter St., San Francisco

Board Links: A find: Cafe Bon-Something