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

Classic Bran Muffins and Blueberry Pie

FatApple’s serves up stunning pies, and classic bran muffins, says rworange. They currently have fresh blueberry pies. These are serious blueberry pies, just like glazed fresh strawberry pies (with a little custard under the fruit), only with blueberries–good blueberries, tasty ones. The glaze is excellent, and more light than gloppy. It just enhances the blueberry wonder of the pie. There’s some respectable whipped cream on the pie. All their pies are wonderful, says ChowFun-derek.

The bran muffin is nicely balanced, with big chunks of walnuts, plenty of raisins, and a nice, semi-moist texture. The bran itself is nutty.

Karen Schaffer says they make the best rhubarb crisp she’s ever had–a perfect combination of tart rhubarb and crisp, sweet, crunchy topping. If you get it with ice cream, ask for it on the side–otherwise it melts too fast. Sometimes, for no apparent reason, they have rhubarb crisp and forget to put it on their menu or chalkboard. Just ask for it.

FatApple’s Restaurant [East Bay]
1346 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley
510-526-2260
Map

FatApple’s Restaurant [East Bay]
7525 Fairmount Ave., El Cerrito
510-528-3433
Map

Board Links: FatApples–FRESH blueberry pie, fresh raspberry pie, apricot-ollieberry & the bran muffin

J’s Pots of Soul, with Pumpkin Pancakes

J’s Pots of Soul is, unsurprisingly, a soul food restaurant…and a fine one at that. It’s small, tidy, and covered with posters of Muhammed Ali and Josephine Baker. They serve breakfast and lunch, Tuesday through Sunday. The breakfast menu includes about nine items, and lunch is three: fried chicken wings, meatloaf, and salmon croquettes. There are also specials, like pumpkin pancakes.

An order of chicken wings is four very large wings in good batter–tasty and satisfying, says jaweino. Sweet, cinnamony yams are a delicious side order. There’s also great cornbread, with bits of red bell peppers baked in.

Pumpkin pancakes are awesome…when they have them. An order involves two very large pancakes with two eggs and two slices of perfectly crispy bacon. The pancakes are distinctly pumpkiny, and served with a pitcher of warm syrup and a pitcher of warm clarified butter. Why don’t more places serve it this way? Because they don’t love you. That’s why.

J’s Pots Of Soul [Western Addition]
203 Octavia St., San Francisco
415-861-3230
Map

Board Links: J’s Pots of Soul

Delicate Shark-Fin Dumplings and the Secret $1.79 Menu

S&T Hong Kong Seafood is the new restaurant in the old Tai Wu space. It’s truly new (new owners and everything), not just another name shift. For lunch, there’s dim sum, ordered off a check-off list.

The star of the meal here is boon tong gao ($5), shark-fin dumpling soup. The wrapper of this large dumpling is perfectly thin and fragile, almost gossamer, says Melanie Wong. Inside, there’s chunks of fresh scallop blended with shrimp, grass mushrooms, shreds of dried scallop, black mushroom, and more. And it’s in broth–double-boiled broth, crystal clear, greaseless and light yet intensely flavorful, with briny, savory, and meaty components singing perfect harmony. There’s plenty of this soup, too–enough for a little bowl each for four people. This boon tong gao compares very well to the gold standard version served at the dearly departed Seafood Harbor in Millbrae. This version is a bit deeper and not as ethereal; the dumpling skin is better, and there’s real shark’s fin–a two-inch piece hidden beneath the dumpling.

Beef chow fun comes dry, with no bean sprouts. It’s an excellent dish, with a nice sear on the thin and tender slices of pounded beef. Rice noodles soak up the beefy flavors. Instead of bean sprouts, there are yellow leeks, green onions, and thick slices of charred yellow onion.

The menu includes a $1.79 section, printed impossibly small and in Chinese. It lists very nice salt and pepper calamari–a considerably larger portion than you might expect for the price. The texture of the squid is spot on: tender, with the slightest bit of resistance. It’s tasty, too, with fresh chilies, deep-fried garlic bits, scallions, and a good dose of salt and pepper, which brings out the sweetness of the squid. The batter’s thick, but airy and ungreasy. Sticky rices are good, though the dish of sticky rice inside Chinese bread is a bit bland.

theSauce provides us with a translation of the $1.79 menu:

- Steamed white buns or flower rolls
- Home style green onion pancake
- Red bean cake
- Tofu hua or super sweet silken tofu
- Beef balls with bamboo shoots
- Mala gao or mala steam cake
- Sticky rice roll
- Salt and pepper salmon cheeks
- Salt and pepper calamari
- Chinese chives with chunks of pig blood
- Blanched pigs knuckle or pork (not 100% sure of this one)
- Salt and pepper tofu
- Chow jew style stewed tofu
- Albalone flavored chicken feet

Also, translations of the other untranslated items from the dim sum menu. In the second column, below taro dumplings, in the $2.80 section:

- Pan fried taro cake
- Pan fried seafood eggplant
- Pan fried seafood mushroom
- Pan fried seafood bell pepper
- Shrimp rice rolls
- Shrimp with spinach dumpling
- Shrimp with cilantro dumpling
- Pine nuts with veggies dumpling
- BBQ pork and lapcheung turnip cake
- Shanghai soup dumplings
- Pork and veggies steam dumplings
- Pork tofu skin roll (not sure)
- Spareribs with rice noodle or rice powder steam spareribs
- Shrimp with corn sauce
- Egg yolk thousand layer cake
- Egg yolk mala roll
- Sesame or peanut rice balls

The $4.20 section is hard to translate because “it’s one of those poem translations.” Here’s the best effort:

- Side street flavor rice rolls or chitterlings
- Tofu skin roll with seafood.
- Soy sauce yellow chives chow mein

S & T Hong Kong Seafood [Sunset]
Formerly Tai Wu
2578 Noriega St., at 33rd Ave., San Francisco
415-665-8338
Map

Board Links: $1.79 Calamari and Excellent Boon Tong Gao

Frascati – Neighborhood Action

In an area with lots of little neighborhood joints, Frascati is the choicest. First courses include perfect gazpacho, outstanding charcuterie, wonderful tuna tartar, and duck rillettes and salad with rabbit rillettes. Entrees include duck breast with hazelnut-sweet corn wild rice and morels; pork tenderloin with Italian sausage, and halibut with clams in broth. Every single dish is spot-on, reports rtmonty.

They’re famous for their black and white pudding; it’s one of the best bread puddings in town. Blueberry tarts are equally wonderful.

Frascati [Russian Hill]
1901 Hyde St., at Green, San Francisco
415-928-1406
Map

Board Links: Frastati Report

Bun Comin’ At Cha!

Vietnamese makes for good summer food. One favorite is bun cha. In the US, it’s cool, springy rice vermicelli, with grilled meat and herbs on top and veggies on the side. The traditional version you’ll find in Vietnam serves the charred meat on the side, in a bowl with warm, tangy broth.

You can get the standard US meat-on-top version at Loi’s. “I love Loi’s with a burning passion,” says pane. Their bun cha is excellent–the char on the meat is unbelievable, and the meat itself is quite fresh. If you get there early enough, you may see the owner walking through the restaurant with live chickens.

Hung Ky’s bun cha rocks, says chaddict. It’s the traditional Vietnamese style, with the meat in a separate bowl in lovely broth.

Bodega Bistro makes lovely bun cha with grilled pork and pork sausage pieces in the tangy broth, says david kaplan. Noodles, picked carrots & daikon, and a pile of herbs come on the side, along with lettuce leaves for wrapping. It’s delectable, agrees fino wino. The slightly fatty pork is so tender and the broth is so good, he’d sup it like soup.

Binh Minh Quan also serves the traditional bun cha. And Saigon has a decent version.

Loi’s Vietnamese Restaurant [Sunset]
2228 Irving St., San Francisco
415-661-5936
Map

Hung Ky Restaurant [Tenderloin]
337 Jones St., San Francisco
415-674-8278
Map

Bodega Bistro [Tenderloin]
607 Larkin St., San Francisco
415-921-1218
Map

Binh Minh Quan Restaurant [Chinatown]
338 12th St., Oakland
510-893-8136
Map

Saigon City Restaurant [Peninsula]
418 E 3rd Ave., San Mateo
650-340-8878
Map

Board Links: Authentic Bun Cha in bay area?

Going To The Source: Santi’s Perfect Chorizo

Is there a salumi revolution afoot in the Bay Area? Well, for starters, we’ve got the Fatted Calf, and we have Tavern Santi.

Some of the fancier local high-end places proudly serve Santi’s sausage, but you can skip the middle man and go to the source. Santi has tents at the Windsor farmer’s market on Sundays, and at the Saturday farmer’s market in Healdsburg. You eat some grilled sausages on the spot, or buy takeout for $8 a pound. Melanie Wong’s favorite: fresh linguica, filled with smoky Spanish paprika, wine, tangy sherry vinegar, a bit of sweetness, and the gentle smoke of alderwood. Layered into the heritage pig meat, the flavor is indescribably complex and delicious.

The sausage is made with Duroc pigs–Santi’s Franco Dunn buys whole pigs and splits them with Bruce Aidell, who takes the bellies for bacon.

Tavern Santi [Sonoma County]
21047 Geyserville Ave., Geyserville
707-857-1790
Map

Sunday Windsor Farmer’s Market [Sonoma County]
Windsor Town Green, Windsor
707-433-4595
Map

Healdsburg Saturday Farmers’ Market [Sonoma County]
North and Vine Sts., Healdsburg
707-431-1956
Map

Board Links: Saturday Farmers Market in Healdsburg
Portuguese Linguica by Santi

Persian Fight!

katya put two top Persian places–Shalizaar and Chelokababi–to a direct comparison. And the winner? Shalizaar, by a mile.

Chelokababi may have better atmosphere, what with the nice rugs on the walls and the nice Islamic architecture and all. But Shalizaar has it all over Chelokababi when it comes to the food.

Take, for example, the free stuff. At Chelokababi, you get a basket of pita on the house–thin, room temperature, and store-bought. At Shalizaar, you get a free basket of thin, bland lavash, accompanied by a free basket of exotic herbs, feta, and walnuts, which you can roll up to make perfect little mini-burritos. (You can order the same at Chelokababi, but it’ll cost you $5.50.)

Shalizaar’s non-free stuff is even better. Their chicken breast kabob is one of the best kabobs ever. Their polos (zeresht polo and shirin polo) are full-flavored. Their tahdig ($6.95) is texturally perfect–a big rice pot with stew on the top and a crunchy rice layer on the bottom. And they’ve got great gheymeh, a stew of tender lean beef, yellow peas, tomato sauce, and potato sticks. It’s hearty and tasty, and, unlike other gheymehs in the area, not at all watery. Now, if you’ve never tasted Shalizaar, Chelokababi might seem pretty great. And they have some very nice dishes–like their koobideh (lean ground meat kabobs, $9.50), juicy and bursting with flavor. But only Shalizaar inspires post facto dreams and yearnings.

Chelokababi’s chicken breast kabob is disappointing–nicely flavored, but dry. Zeresht polo is weak, too, lacking the proper dense flavor-melange.

Shalizaar has excellent service–knowledgeable servers, and omnipresent bus boys.

In her ranking of Persian restaurants, Chelokababi ranks in the middle of the worthwhile restaurants–above Rose Market and Yas, and below Shalizaar and Pomegranate.

Shalizar is open Tues-Sun, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.. They’re closed Mondays.

Shalizaar [Peninsula]
120 W. 25th Ave., San Mateo
650-341-2600
Map

Chelokababi [South Bay]
1236 S. Wolfe Rd. (at El Camino Real), Sunnyvale
408-737-1222

Rose Market [Peninsula]
1060 Castro St., Mountain View
650-960-1900
Map

Yas Restaurant [South Bay]
1138 Saratoga Ave., San Jose
408-241-5115
Map

Pomegranate Restaurant [East Bay]
1585 University Ave., Berkeley
510-665-5567
Map

Board Links: San Mateo’s Shalizaar Puts the Persian Smackdown on Sunnyvale’s Chelokababi

Chino’s Hidden Gem

“Owen’s Bistro is the first, real, professional, grown-up restaurant we have found in Chino, and is a standout of the Inland Empire,” declares ChinoWayne, whose stomping grounds are notably lacking in good restaurants.

You can start with the likes of spinach salad with goat cheese and pine nuts, or mixed field greens with wasabi dressing, and tuna tartare in a fried wonton “cup.” The flavors here tend to be subtle to a fault, though–the wasabi is pretty much undetectable.

Rack of lamb is impressively presented, charred outside and perfectly medium rare, tender and juicy inside. A truffle oil-infused pan sauce lies under the meat. Vegetables are done really well here, cooked till crisp-tender and no more. The rack comes with French green beans and risotto, while beef filet comes with asparagus and mashed potatoes. Portions aren’t huge–you won’t be stuffed, but you’ll be satisfied.

Service is helpful and professional. The wife of chef James Kelly, Denise, runs the front of the house and puts folks at ease. The restaurant is in a century-old brick building in the heart of Chino’s original downtown, which the city has made efforts to redevelop in the last few years.

Three-course dinner for two runs $135 before tip.

Owens American Bistro [Inland of LA]
5210 D St., at 6th St., Chino
909-628-0452
Map

Board Links: Owen’s Bistro: The Hidden Gem Of Chino (Photos)

Brand New Source for Fine Shanghai Xiao Long Bao

Shanghai Delight is brand spankin’ new restaurant, just opened in June. There’s a huge menu, but the highlight of hhc’s initial foray was xiao long bao, a.k.a. juicy soup dumplings. They are listed merely as “dumplings”; one order comes with eight good-sized dumplings, filled with pork and soupiness, with a nicely thin wrapper. They are very juicy, and very tasty.

The other items he tried–fish filet in spicy red sauce, curry chicken lunch special–were only OK. Many other patrons seemed to be getting noodle soup dishes. The menu includes Shanghai chicken, lion’s head meatball in claypot, Shanghai noodles, and seafood. Supposedly their Shanghai wontons are very good.

Get there early for lunch. It’s packed by 11:50 a.m. on weekdays.

Cash only, open from 10:30 a.m.

Shanghai Delight [South Bay]
218 Barber Ct., in Milpitas Square, Milpitas
408-434-6888
Map

Board Links: Shanghai Delight, Milpitas Grand Opening, good xlb

Grass Fed Lamb, $5 a Pound

Queen of Sheba has excellent grass-fed halal lamb, for the unheard of price of $4.99 a pound. Meatball took some home, rubbed it in spices and seared it, and found it utterly delicious–very full of flavor, to the point some folks might deem gamy.

Queen Of Sheba [Van Ness Corridor]
1100 Sutter St., near Pho Kien Giang, San Francisco
415-567-4322
Map

Board Links: Delicious grass-fed lamb at Queen of Sheba market.