Restaurant recommendations, new openings, and highlights from the SF Chowhound community.
Melanie Wong is smitten with the “boon fei so” roast pig at Wing Hing Restaurant. It’s the most beautiful roast pig available from the many delis along San Bruno Avenue in Portola’s developing mini-Chinatown. The boon fei so has fine-grained, bubbly, crisped skin and succulent meat well-striated with fat. It’s the platonic ideal of this type of roast pork, and it tastes as good as it looks.
Wing Hing Restaurant [Portola]
2550 San Bruno Ave., San Francisco
‘Boon Fei So’ Roast Pig @ Wing Hing)
Pupuseria San Salvador has some of the tastiest pupusas rworange has ever had–especially the loroco-stuffed variety, which is full of characteristic green tea flavor that even the delicious curtido can’t mask.
About those pupusas, though. “There is no way to be euphemistic about this,” says rworange. “These are some of the most flavorful pupusas I’ve had, but they are also the greasiest.” In this case, grease is good–it works with the cheese and the strong flavors, and is not remotely unpleasant, but rather adds to the yumminess. The same principle applies to the fried tacos–as you might expect. And if you happen to notice a batch of chicharrones being fished out of the hot lard while you are there, definitely give in to the grease and get some.
Pupuseria San Salvador [West Oakland]
1498 7th St., Oakland
West Oakland (near BART)–Pupuseria San Salvador–loroco pupusas & taco frito
Vung Tau II, destined to be forever overshadowed by its brighter, more talented sibling Vung Tau Restaurant in San Jose, is worth checking out in its own right for its excellent banh khot, says echo. The crust on the outside of these little fried tasties is crisp, and the shrimp-laden interior is tender and custard-like. They are served so hot that even wrapped in cool herbs and lettuce and dunked in fish sauce, they are dangerous. At around $7, they’re a bit pricier than some other versions, but well worth it.
Also try the banh khot at Ngoc Mai, which, though not quite as good as the Vung Tau version, are totally worthwhile–so says zippo, who keeps going back and ordering them.
Vung Tau II Restaurant [South Bay]
1750 N. Milpitas Blvd., Milpitas
Ngoc Mai [Union Square]
547 Hyde Street, San Francisco
shrimp cups at vung tau 2 (milpitas)–delicious
“This is the best tasting shan jean bao I’ve had outside of Shanghai,” says stanfordfoodie of the fried pork buns at Shanghai Flavor Shop. The bao are pan-fried crisp on the outside with a wonderfully soft layer just beneath. Inside, a good portion of meat is surrounded by juicy broth–be careful not to scald yourself as you bite down. The weirdest part–it’s good food near Stanford.
They also have great baked radish cake (baked buns with radish shreds inside).
Shanghai Flavor Shop [Peninsula]
888 Old San Francisco Rd., Sunnyvale
Shanghai Flavor Shop in Sunnyvale
The kulfi at Lahore Karahi is really special, says Big Larry. It comes in irregularly-shaped hunks, speared with toothpicks. Mango, pistachio, and cardamom are all part of this ice cream experience–rich flavors, but not too sweet. And the texture is pleasantly solid. Eat it.
Lahore Karahi [Tenderloin]
612 O’Farrell St., San Francisco
Lahore Karahi Dessert
Ngu Binh is a new Vietnamese restaurant that appears to be focusing on central Vietnamese food, like the kind of stuff they serve in Hue, rather than Saigon or Hanoi. This place is only a few weeks old, and they’re still sorting out the menu, but hounds say it’s promising. zippo is charmed by the delicate bahn nam, little tiny dishes filled with a layer of soft, custardy rice cake, topped with chopped shrimp, chives, and croutons ($4.75). Ruth Lafler likes the thin, lacey crust of the bahn xeo ($6.45), with its distinct coconut flavor, but thinks the filling-to-pancake ratio is off. And Melanie Wong finds the bun bo hue much more delicate (“a better word might be ‘watery’”) than versions she’s used to. Those seeking the funky, fishy flavors and unctuous textures of hardcore Vietnamese food may be disappointed. However, all the hounds who have tried it plan on going back. Catch a late breakfast–they open at 8:30 a.m.
Ngu Binh (Dac Biet Bun Bo Hue) [Tenderloin]
formerly Hung Ky
337 Jones St., between Ellis and Eddy, San Francisco
Ngu Binh–new Vietnamese @337 Jones, SF
Where can you get the best Italian rum cake in the Bay Area? For once, there’s no debate–just go to Dianda’s. It’s the only Italian bakery that comes close to the great ones in Brooklyn and the Bronx, says sfoperalover. Robert Lauriston and RWCFoodie agree. Note that Dianda’s has two locations, one in San Francisco, one in San Mateo.
Dianda’s Italian American Pastry Co. [Mission]
2883 Mission St., San Francisco
Dianda’s Italian American Pastry Co. [Peninsula]
117 De Anza Blvd., San Mateo
BEST Italian rum cake in the Bay Area
Check out the gingerbread at Semifreddi’s Bakery, says Alexandra Eisler. It’s a small, old-fashioned tea loaf, very highly spiced with ginger and molasses, and very moist. It’s baked in a cute little decorative paper container.
Morton the Mousse and wally direct you to the gingerbread at Sketch. It’s one of their best cakes, and their cakes are transcendent. The gingerbread has great flavor and texture, and comes in a single-serving portion about the size of a large muffin. Enjoy.
Semifreddi’s Bakery [East Bay]
372 Colusa Ave., Kensington
Sketch Ice Cream [East Bay]
1809A Fourth St., Berkeley
Gingerbread at Semifreddi’s
Kushi-age, Japanese deep-fried skewers, are a favorite in Japan, but at many places in the Bay Area they tend to come out excessively heavy, with oil soaking through the crust in an unappetizing way. Enter Sushi Yoshi. It’s surprising that deep-fried items at a sushi restaurant would be so good, marvels yamada3, but these have the perfect combination of crunch, body, and light crispiness in the breading. The juices from each bite of chicken blend beautifully with the faint sweetness of the oil. Have a Kirin Ichiban to go with them–these kushi-age are the bar food of the gods.
Ebi-furai (deep-fried jumbo shrimp) are also incredible–“better than many ebi-furai in my hometown of Nagoya, which is famous for ebi-furai,” says yamada3.
Sushi Yoshi [East Bay]
39261 Cedar Blvd., Newark
The Andhran dishes at Southern Spice Bistro shine with a fiery heat and brightness, says Melanie Wong. Complimentary rasam is refreshingly zippy and packed with flavor, but still light, an excellent palate cleanser for the meal to come. For appetizers, cut mirchi pakora–battered, deep-fried whole yellow wax peppers ($4.95)–are tasty, with the full medium hotness of the chili peppers coming through. Special biryanis, served on weekends, are a good bet. In chicken dum biryani ($9.95), beautiful, loosely packed long grains of fragrant basmati, stained yellow with aromatic spices, surround succulent pieces of chicken. It comes with a cooling raita and a mirchi salan full of deadly hot whole green chilis.
Andhra-style food is known throughout India for being spicy, and this place does not disappoint. It’s not one-note heat, though–the spicing is fascinatingly complex, suitable for spice-loving hounds who aren’t into just sitting around licking a habanero.
Southern Spice Bistro [Peninsula]
2700 West El Camino Real, Mountain View
Southern Spice Bistro, Mountain View