Restaurant recommendations, new openings, and highlights from the SF Chowhound community.
Le Bistro Elephant serves very good small plates at a good value, says A Amore, like thick-cut, buttermilk-battered onion rings, dusted with melted cotija cheese and accompanied by a ketchup doctored with powdered chilis. Lamb sliders, duck tacos, and barely seared three-day-boat scallops are also recommended. Food and drinks for two, including tax and tip, will run you about $58.
Le Bistro Elephant [East Bay]
2134 Oxford St., Berkeley
Le Bistro Elephant–Berkeley
Pizza margherita–straight-up pizza that’s just a crust with tomato, cheese, and some basil–is excellent at Bucci’s, says TopoTail. Another contender is Cugini, though they put fresh tomato slices on the pizza even when it’s not tomato season. The rest of the pizza is perfect, though.
wchane likes the pizza margherita at the Lafayette branch of Pizza Antica. And Robert Lauriston is partial to the version at Pizzaiolo.
All of the restaurants above have wood ovens except Bucci’s.
Bucci’s [East Bay]
6121 Hollis St., Emeryville
Cugini [East Bay]
1556 Solano Ave., Albany
Pizza Antica [East Bay]
3600 Mt Diablo Blvd, at Dewing Ave., Lafayette
5008 Telegraph Ave., Oakland
Margherita Pizza in East Bay
NETO, says Ken Hoffman, is a Hebrew acronym that means something like the English acronym WYSIWYG. And Neto Caffe’s additive-free yummies, with no coconut oil or shortening or anything unpleasant, stand up to repeated tastings. The giant rugulach has a buttery, soft, flaky crust–not the usual piece of sweet concrete–and turns one’s mind to the bustling bodegas of Tel Aviv. Soft, chewy house-made pita and hummus that reeks of garlic cannot be put down.
Some hounds balk at the prices–$10-12 for a sandwich, $7.25 for yogurt and granola. Others, like sally r., are very enthusiastic and find the prices reasonable for the quality.
They also serve shnitzel.
Neto Caffe [Peninsula]
135 Castro Street (across from the Mountain View train station), Mountain View
Neto Caffe in Mountain View
Neto Caffe in Mountain View
Denny’s Cafe is a Hong Kong-style coffee shop featuring sil yeh, late-night eats. It’s open until midnight during the week, and until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. The chow is tasty, says Melanie Wong, such as the exciting seafood rice baked (and served) in a whole coconut. Baking in the coconut means the long-grain rice is tender and infused with the fragrance of fresh coconut. Shrimp, scallops, and plump mussels are tucked inside, too, along with bits of omelette and green onion. The mild flavor of the dish makes it perfect to accompany a more strongly flavored item. It costs $6.95.
Also great: ox tongue with mushrooms and spaghetti, and oxtail soup noodles.
Denny’s Cafe [Richmond]
5530 Geary Blvd., San Francisco
Sil Yeh at Denny’s Cafe on Geary
Get excellent traditional mini-biscotti (called cantucci di Prato) at Emporio Rulli. They’re delicious and small, the right size to serve with coffee after dinner, says Melanie Wong, who notes they’re better dunked in coffee than in vin santo.
Danilo Bakery does a respectable job with mini-biscotti, though not at nearly the level of quality of Rulli.
rworange is “crazy in love” with the biscotti at La Biscoterria. Mini biscotti direct from the bakery are fresh and delicious, and their pre-bagged biscotti sold in markets are no match at all.
Dianda is beloved by hounds for things like their Italian rum cake and almond torte, but skip the sweet, cakey biscotti, say bernalgirl and Mari.
Emporio Rulli [Marin County]
464 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur
Danilo Bakery [North Beach]
516 Green St., San Francisco
La Biscoterria [Peninsula]
2747 El Camino Real, Redwood City
Dianda’s Italian American Bakery [Mission]
2883 Mission St, San Francisco
Where to buy good mini-biscotti in SF?
China thinks King of Thai Noodle House #2 has the best Thai food for the money in the city. Som tum (green papaya salad) is very satisfying–tart, roughly shredded papaya with tiny pink dried shrimp mixed in. Kao pad gang khew warn (stir-fried rice with green curry paste, chicken, long beans, bamboo shoots, and basil) is very flavorful, with lots of lean chicken and basil. Dishes ordered medium come out quite spicy–a welcome piece of news for non-Thai hounds who seek “Thai spicy” and are leery of getting gringoed. Lunch for two, with tea, after tip, is around $18.
King of Thai Noodle House #2 [Richmond]
346 Clement St., at 7th Ave., San Francisco
King of Thai Noodle House #2 Yum!
If you’ve been fortunate enough to travel in Oaxaca, you may feel cursed upon your return–because back home, there’s none of that mole. You wander the world like a junkie, seeking that full strength black mole paste with which to brutalize chicken.
Never fear–Karina’s has the good stuff, though at $10 a pound, it’s not cheap. Eat_Nopal thinks it’s a very decent version, based on aroma and consistency.
Also note that many Mexican markets in the area sell fresh mole in the carniceria, often in a paste so thick it gets cut into squares. rworange thinks the carniceria in Mi Tierra Supermercado has the most promising mole, but look around your neighborhood and poke around any exciting carnicerias you find.
Karina’s Mexican Bakery [Sonoma County]
827 Petaluma Blvd N., Petaluma
Carniceria Mi Tierra [East Bay]
516 23rd Street, at Barrett, Richmond
Mole in the bay area
Sushi that comes by on a little boat on a conveyer belt isn’t going to provide you with the same epicurean enjoyment as omakase from a sushi master. But the stuff at Sushi Maru is extremely enjoyable and quite cheap, making it the perfect choice for when you’re cruising with, say, your four-year-old grandchild, says Sushi Monster. Other hounds agree. “Sushi Maru has better stuff on the conveyors than the majority of sushi bars in the Bay Area,” says Melanie Wong.
Check out their Japanese specials board, advises Humbucker. It often has unusual items you wouldn’t ordinarily find on the white boards at other cheap sushi-yas. And remember, you’re not limited to what’s on the conveyer belt–they’ll make sushi to order for you, too.
Sushi Maru [South Bay]
262 Jackson St., at 6th St., San Jose
Board Links: Yuzu (San Mateo, sushi) updater —too steep for Sushi Monster
Maya loves Sheba Lounge for upscale Ethiopian food–especially a dish of sirloin tips cooked in clarified butter with Ethiopian spices. The vegetarian sampler platter and lentil sambussas are great, too, and the mild injera will be loved even by those who claim to hate Ethiopian food. Food for two, plus two beers and a fantastic pomegranate martini, will run you about $50.
Besides the food, the real draw of the place is the atmosphere, featuring the eponymous piano, a comfortable lounge with a fireplace, big armchairs, and “two female owners who spoil you with great service,” says Maya. It’s the best option in the area by far, and a great destination in its own right.
Sheba Piano Lounge [Fillmore]
1419 Fillmore Street, at Ellis, San Francisco
Sheba Lounge–what to order?
Corundas (tamales) where the masa is made with olive oil instead of lard shouldn’t be good. Especially vegetarian corundas, topped with grilled cactus and potatoes. But, as it turns out, these abominations from the Emeryville branch of Cocina Poblana are indeed good–moist and tasty, and better than many lard versions. “This dish was just so wrong from every point of view that to win me over it had to be good,” says rworange. And it is.
The place gets extra points for its unusual and tasty salsas, like a hot peanut salsa and a savory, smoky strawberry salsa made with chunks of chopped fresh strawberry.
Cocina Poblana [Emeryville]
1320 65th Street, at Hollis, Emeryville
SF & Emeryville–Cocina Poblana–Corundas, 5 moles, 6 + salsas (peanut, strawberry,etc), breakfast soup & more.