San Francisco Bay Area rss

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

King of Thai Noodle House #2

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

415-831-9953

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King of Thai Noodle House #2 Yum!

Real Oaxacan Mole

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

707-765-2772

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Carniceria Mi Tierra [East Bay]

516 23rd Street, at Barrett, Richmond

510-232-0333

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Mole in the bay area

Don’t Miss the Boat

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

408-998-8170

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Board Links: Yuzu (San Mateo, sushi) updater —too steep for Sushi Monster

Sheba Piano Lounge

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

415-440-7414

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Sheba Lounge–what to order?

Savory Strawberry Salsa

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

510-923-0497

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SF & Emeryville–Cocina Poblana–Corundas, 5 moles, 6 + salsas (peanut, strawberry,etc), breakfast soup & more.

Roast Pork at Tweety Deli

Dave MP thinks the roast pork that comes in the roast pork wonton soup at Tweety Deli is the best in San Francisco. A generous serving of tasty, nicely sweet pork comes in a simple broth with large pieces of bok choi and overcooked, falling-apart wontons. For $4, though, the soup is worth it just for that lovely pork.

Tweety Deli [Mission]

1200 Vermont St., San Francisco

415-642-1189

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Roast pork wonton soup at Tweety’s Deli–23rd and Vermont by SF General Hospital

Mini Buns

If you’re making homemade sliders or adorable miniature sandwiches for a party, you can buy mini buns from Neldam’s Bakery. mochimunchie made miniature pulled pork sandwiches with them for a party and the guests loved them.

Another option is to use dinner rolls. San Francisco Sourdough makes a good version, available in the bread aisle in local grocery stores (look for the orange label, not the green one), that won’t overpower the flavor of the sandwich you’re making. foodiegrl has successfully used them to make sliders with grass-fed beef and pickled onions.

The best rolls ever are made by Panorama, but they can be tough to get ahold of. Robert Lauriston notes that they sell at many farmers’ markets (check their web site for locations), and suggests you call ahead to see if they could bring you some when they are at your local market. foodiegrl notes that these are the rolls that Myth restaurant uses for their sliders. Just don’t get seduced by the beautifully glossy, eggy dinner rolls ordinarily on sale at the Panorama stand at the farmers’ markets–they have orange rind in them, probably not appropriate for most savory sandwich uses.

Neldam’s Danish Bakery [Downtown]

3401 Telegraph Ave., Oakland

510-658-1967

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Panorama Baking

800-808-7077

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Know of a good bakery that sells mini hamburger buns?

Get in the Cauldron

It’s the place whose logo is a happy little lamb wearing a bow tie. He looks happy, doesn’t he? He might not be so happy when he gets sliced paper thin and served alongside a cauldron of bubbling, cumin-scented broth. He may not be happy, but you will be.

There’s not just little lambs, but also fish balls, tofu, mushrooms, winter melon, hand-pulled noodles, and a ton of other uncooked items that show up ready for you to cook in that vat of spiced broth. All items are fresh and delicious, says Martin Strell, and the broth itself is a work of art. Actually, there are multiple broths to try, and you can get your hot pot half-and-half, one side full of spicy Sichuan broth, the other full of a milder broth of cumin, garlic, clove, and other spice treasures. Turns out you may not have to go to China for superior hot pot.

Little Lamb Mongolian Hot Pot [East Bay]
34396 Alvarado Niles Rd., at Decoto, Union City
510-675-9919
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Little Lamb Mongolian Hot Pot in Union City

Portobello Mushroom Fritti

Dunkin Donut likes the Lafayette branch of Pizza Antica, both for the goat cheese pizza with a cracker-thin crust, and for the portobello mushroom fritti–like french fries, but made with beautiful strips of portobello mushrooms, served with a great dipping sauce.

The place is packed, so call ahead and put yourself on the wait list.

Pizza Antica [East Bay]

3600 Mount Diablo Blvd., Lafayette

925-299-0500

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Pizza Antica

A Worthy Tamale

Of all the tamales available on the Peninsula, yimster enthusiastically recommends those sold by the lady with the tamale cart who is usually found outside a produce shop called El Mercadito Latino. Her masa is the best around. Go early, because they sell out.

Tamales come in several flavors, including mild and spicy versions of chicken and pork that are spectacular. At $1 each, they’re a bargain, and they’re so good, it’s easy to get carried away. “My brother-in-law once purchase two dozen and ate fourteen of them at one sitting,” says yimster. “I believe he was sick for a couple of days, not from the tamales themselves but from the amount he ate.” You’ve been warned.

Lady with Tamale Cart [Peninsula]

ouside El Mercadito Latino

1726 El Camino Real, Redwood City

650-306-0104

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Tamales in the Peninsula