San Francisco Bay Area rss

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

Cannelloni Di Orsi

Ristorante Orsi, formerly located in Novato, is reborn after a two year hiatus in Santa Rosa, reports Melanie Wong. She enjoys the cannelloni di Orsi, the signature dish of the restaurant ($13.50). The proprietor’s father is credited with introducing cannelloni to San Francisco nearly 50 years ago. The tender crepe, fresh tomato sauce, and light besciamella are true to the glory of the old Orsi. The filling is coarser than the old Orsi’s, but that could be a batch difference. It’s still heavy on the nutmeg, though.

Also delicious is braised rabbit with olives and shiitake mushrooms over grilled polenta. Tender, meaty pieces of rabbit are simmered in a soulful yet light wine sauce; despite the mediocre olives and mushrooms, the stew’s gestalt is rustically beautiful.

The atmosphere is warm and intimate; customers visit with other patrons at neighboring tables. Prices are low; most entrees are in the $14 to $16 range.

Ristorante Orsi [Sonoma County]
formerly Caf

These Pastries, They Are Like Little French Jewels

Alain Pisan makes perfect, jewel-like French pastries. His catering outfit, Le Petit Delice, turns out truly exquisite little bites, says Melanie Wong. His passion fruit tartlet is a buttery, almond-flavored cookie-like crisp topped with a pyramid of sublime passion fruit mousse. His le pistache is even more decadent, with pistachio-flavored cream over chocolate ganache over almond genoise. The chocolate’s bittersweet and earthy.

Pisan has been looking for a retail space, but doesn’t have one yet. So you must call him 48 hours in advance–the goodies are delivered for free. $15.75 a dozen, with 10% off for orders over 15 dozen.

Alain Pisan, Certified Executive Pastry Chef [Sonoma County]
Le Petit Delice
1055 West College Ave. #331, Santa Rosa
Phone/Fax: 707-591-8960

Board Links: Le Petit Delice

Steamed Pork Patties

There are excellent steamed pork patties at West Lake Restaurant, reports vliang. Many varieties of pork patties are available. Favorite: mei tsai–steamed pork patty with water chestnuts, topped with pickled vegetables. Their steamed pork patty with salted egg is great, too; it’s even better than Capital’s version.

There’s a group lunch menu special–three dishes for $16.95–and the mei tsai pork patties are on it. There’s also a neat $2 menu, with things like salt and pepper shrimp (big, head-on shrimp with nicely crispy outsides and juicy insides, and a good amount of heat).

There’s a ton of offerings on their menu at every price point.

West Lake Restaurant [East Bay]
320 Jackson St., Hayward
510-881-0211
Map

Board Links: Steamed Pork Patty @ West Lake Restaurant, Hayward

A Wiener Winner, with Chili

Hot Dog City takes its hot dogs seriously, says Melanie Wong. They use Schwarz sausages, with natural casing. Their chili dog, $3.75, is everything a chili dog should be–meaty, brown, and glorious. Chili is made on premises. It’s made almost completely of hand-chopped, irregularly-sized, browned, and braised beef, with creamy red beans. It has a resonant, meaty depth to it. It’s not about the seasonings; it’s more a robust experience of pure beefiness. Cheese and onions are grated and chopped to order, ensuring freshness. The steamed bun is fluffy, and the dog itself is perfect–snappy, plump, and juicy. Every bite yields a burst of liquid meat flavor. The place is never that busy, and patrons worry it may not make it. So go, please!

The downtown location is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday to Saturday, and closed on Sunday.

Hot Dog City [Sonoma County]
631 4th St., Santa Rosa
707-579-4885
Map

Hot Dog City [Sonoma County]
804 Coddingtown Ctr., Santa Rosa
707-545-5448
Map

Board Links: Hot Dog City, Santa Rosa

Clearest of Corn Soups, and an August Wine Deal, Too

While most chowhounds consider XYZ merely decent, nja says some really spectacular dishes are buried in the menu. If you order well, you can have a meal of Myth-like quality. The big news, though, is their wine deal. Through August, any bottle on their list is half price. And the list is deep, with lots of Loire, Burgundy, and domestic Pinot Noir choices. You have to actually dine to get the deal though; it’s not offered at the bar.

Their best dish by the far is corn soup, with an intense, sweet, bright, clear corn flavor, plus a few cockles for garnish. Best of the entrees is scallop with corn risotto. Crab frito is also worthy, and gazpacho (with some smoked prawns) is is clever but the prawns will probably be better a bit further into the season.

The best option might be lunch: the wine deal is in effect, and a lot of the best dishes are available for a lower price.

XYZ [SOMA]
181 Third St., at Howard St., San Francisco
415-817-7836
Map

Board Links: XYZ: Half price wine (thru August) and great corn soup

Mokka: Equator Coffee and Dagoba Drinking Chocolate

Mokka is an impressive new organic coffee and sandwich shop. This is a hard-core place.

Take coffee, for instance. Their house-blend is Equator coffee, the same coffee served at the French Laundry. You can order it brewed, or, for 25 cents more, ground to order and drip-brewed. rworange, compulsive chowhound that she is, ordered both side-by-side and found them utterly different. The brewed version is mellow and lovely. The drip version is assertive, and similar to Graffeo’s dark roast. Both are likeable, but the brewed version has a certain winning smoothness.

Mokka’s Dagoba sipping chocolate is intense and very true to the taste of Dagoba chocolates. It comes in two versions–sweet, and not so sweet. Be aware that this is nothing like your usual American-style hot chocolate. We’re talking pure, intense, nearly brutal levels of chocolate. You can savor a little cup over an entire day.

Also: gelato made by the Latest Scoop. The Mokka gelato flavor has a good coffee taste.

Mokka [East Bay]
3075 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley
510-848-8909
Map

Board Links: Berkeley – Mokka … Latest Scoop mokka gelato, Equator coffee (drip & brew), & Dagoba organic sipping chocolate

New Med Tasties at Ziryab

Ziryab is a new Middle Eastern place, a little more upscale looking than most of the other shwarma factories in San Francisco. The food is a mixed bag–some failures, but some truly excellent items.

Mezze platter, with hummus, babaganoush, dolmas, olives, tabblouleh, cucumber yogurt, and little hunks of feta, is truly delicious, each flavor fresh and distinct. Their various dips are, says pane, entirely unlike the usual muddleed-tasting mashes at other local Middle Eastern restaurants. Mezze platter for two ($13) boasts even more stuff, including first-rate falafel.

Truly delicious is their chicken shawerma wrap ($8); it’s even better than the version at Truly Mediterranean, says Robert Lauriston. Lentil soup is simple and good. Arales ($6), spiced ground lamb on focaccia, is very tasty, as is spinach sauteed with garlic confit ($7).

Lesser dishes include chicken kebab that’s pretty good–but not quite as excellent as Ziryab’s top-flight dishes. Vegetable tajine, a special, is a bit bland. But, notes Absonot, this is a new restaurant, still straightening out kinks, and each visit has yielded better experiences than the last.

Service is friendly, but a bit forgetful.

Ziryab Mediterranean Grill [Western Addition]
528 Divisadero St., San Francisco
415-522-0800
Map

Board Links: Ziryab

Palo Alto Sol: Guajillo of Godliness

Cecelia has been going to Palo Alto Sol for ten years. She likes the mole fine, but the thing that really floats her boat is their pure pollo al guajillo. The chicken itself is variable in quality, but the sauce is always fabulous–mellow, complex, and deeply chile, without being spicy. That guajillo always satisfies, in all the dishes that use it.

The salsas are showstoppers, too–a fresh, chunky tomatillo, and a smoky salsa of roasted peppers.

Palo Alto Sol Restaurant [Peninsula]
408 S California Ave., Palo Alto
650-328-8840
Map

Board Links: Palo Del Sol (Palo Alto, CA) —wonderful mole and guajillo sauces

New Quality Sushi Presence

Hime is it, says chaddict. If he didn’t live so far away, he’d be there constantly.

Hamachi sashimi with jalapeno and soy-garlic sauce ($11.20) is one of the best dishes. It’s got just the right amount of jalapeno and very light saucing. You have to get this one.

Kobe beef lettuce cups ($9.50) are not super Japanese, but taste seriously good nonetheless, filled with a warm, savory beef mixture. A dish called “Japanese Garden” ($12) is a terrific example of kaiseki cuisine: eight cold vegetable preparations, all distinct. The textures of the vegetables are sublime; even the yam tastes different, with an utterly unique texture. This is a huge dish–split it, or it’ll be most of your dinner (by no means a bad prospect).

Sashimi moriawase ($19.50) is quite a lot of stuff–fish, scallop, amaebi, and tempura prawn heads–served in a lit bowl filled with ice. Baked black cod with saikyomiso ($18.50) is cooked to absolute perfection–silky delicate, yet boldly flavored. It’s even better than the black cod at Ame.

Forty bucks a person before tip will get you enough food for a lunch’s worth of leftovers.

The place has a great vibe, and exceedingly friendly staff.

Hours: from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
5:30 p.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays.
Closed Mondays.

Hime [Marina]
Formerly Market Place Cafe
2353 Lombard St., San Francisco
415-931-7900
Map

Board Links: Hime’s menu

Cafe Fanny Changes – Perfect Ice Cream and Sorbet

Cafe Fanny has acquired a new pastry chef–and their desserts have drastically improved.

rworange had a few less-than-delicious scoops under their old dessert regime. The new pastry chef has changed everything–the ice creams are truly stunning. Caramel ice cream is smooth and creamy, with an intense caramel taste. It inhabits the soul of the caramel. It is highly, highly recommended.

The mango sorbet is magnificent, especially its silky smooth texture. It’s like an elegant ganache, only full of tart mango.

$5 a scoop, though…

Cafe Fanny [East Bay]
1603 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley
510-524-5447
Map

Board Links: Oh MY !!!–Cafe Fanny–Organic Caramel Ice Cream & Mango Sorbet–They got it right … really, really right