San Francisco Bay Area rss

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

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.

Sandwicho Supremo

La Guarecita makes the best torta in all of the Bay Area, says rworange. Their humble milanesa ($4.99) is better than anything she ate in Mexico. First of all, the meat is good–the thinnest, meltingly tender slice of beef, lightly breaded and grilled so the edges are slightly crispy. The roll is brushed with butter and lightly grilled on both sides. That warm, soft bun lovingly holds the meat, tomato, lettuce, avocado, sliced onions, jalapeno, and real Mexican beans. Everything, she says, is done in the spirit of true balance.

The shop is also a grocery and meat market. It’s got one of the best Mexican cheese selections in the area. Butter comes in one-pound blocks wrapped in waxed paper, 69 cents a pound.

The menu is in Spanish without English translations, but the staff speaks excellent English. And there are pictures of the sandwiches.

There is also something called cubana suprema, a $12 torta involving milanesa, jamon, chorizo, and more.

Abierto:
Mon–Fri: 8 a.m.-9 p.m..
Sat–Sun: 9 a.m.-9 p.m..

La Guarecita Taqueria y Mercado [East Bay]
1848 23rd St., nearish the San Pablo Ave. merge, San Pablo
510-236-1644
Map

Board Links: $11.99 Cubana Suprema–La Guarecita Taqueria y Mercado – Bay’s best torta, beats DF

The Burger That Legends Are Made Of

The Chieftain Cheeseburger is what legends are made out of, says wchane. It starts off as an innocent-looking $8 burger: bun, patty, cheddar, lettuce, tomato, sliced onions. The important thing is to order all the extras. We mean, everything. You have to pile it up: fried egg, sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions, crumbled blue cheese, smoked bacon, and maybe even a second patty. The second patty is optional; the rest isn’t. Once fully loaded, it is scrumptious. With a side of thick-cut fries drizzled with malt vinegar, it’s real pub food.

Most of the other stuff is, by general hound opinion, pretty poor. Most seem to consider the Chieftain’s burger as their sole moment of shining glory. vliang disagrees: what’s sucky is all their other American/Californian items. So go for their Irish stuff, especially Irish breakfast–bangers and mash, corned beef hash, cottage pie, and vegetable pie. Those things are as awesome as the burger. Some also like their fish and chips.

Back to burgers. The Chieftain’s is the best, but a decent second best is St. John’s, says wchane. Their’s is a perfectly grilled hamburger with thick-cut bacon, crumbled blue cheese, and fresh baked buns. It’s a great burger–but it would not inspire legends.

The Chieftain [SOMA]
198 5th St., at Howard, San Francisco
415-615-0916
Map

St John’s Bar & Grill [South Bay]
510 Lawrence Expy. #110, Sunnyvale
408-738-8515
Map

Board Links: Chieftain Cheeseburger…

Salmon With a Dairy Chaser

At the new Cambrian Plaza Farmer’s Market (Wednesdays, 4-8 p.m.), one of the best booths is the one run by Red River Smoke House, which smokes a range of fish at their Half Moon Bay smokery. The little tub o’ magic here is their smoked salmon and cream cheese spread. It’s full of bits of smoky salmon that are actually visible to the naked eye. “The predominant flavor is that of fish with a cool dairy chaser,” says Ken Hoffman.

These guys are regulars at farmers’ markets throughout the Bay Area.

Cambrian Park Farmers’ Market [South Bay]
Camden and Union Aves., San Jose
Map

Red River Smoke House [Peninsula]
205 Yale Ave., Half Moon Bay
650-728-7972
Map

Board Links: Red River Smokehouse—top flight Salmon spread