San Francisco Bay Area rss

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

Perfect Chicken Feet

gordon wing says the best chicken feet in the area are at Joy Luck. They’re just about perfect, fluffy in texture, and all the skin and cartilage come off easily. The seasoning is slightly hot and sublimely savory. They also make the best dry beef chow fun in the neighborhood, adds george. Service is very helpful.

Tai Wu serves similarly wonderful chicken feet, reports Nancy Berry.

Joy Luck Place [Oakland]
327 8th St., Oakland
510-832-4270
Map

Hong Kong Seafood Restaurant [Sunset]
(a.k.a Tai Wu)
2578 Noriega St., San Francisco

415-665-8338
Map

Board Links: Chicken Feet at Joy Luck/Oakland

Cafe Taiwan

You’ll find lots of unique and lovely little snacks at Cafe Taiwan, many of which are impossible to find elsewhere the Bay Area. And, best of all, they make some magical and rare Hakka specialties.

Ground pork with rice ($3.50) is excellent; a good amount of rice with lots of ground pork, tea egg, and cilantro. Mi tai mu (listed under Hakka Specials, $3) are like Japanese udon noodles, but made with rice flour–and you can really taste the rice. Served with a tea egg, it’s simple goodness.

KK reports on the contents of a Chinese-language blog post on this place, from a Vitomin (Hakkanese-Taiwanese) eater who really digs their Hakka specialties. We learn that the signature dishes are mahn luan ju jiao and mahn luan pig feet. The mahn luan pig feet are marinated for a long time, cooked, cut up, and served with dipping sauce; it is apparently much more delicious than their regular pig feet. So don’t settle for pedestrian pig feet!

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. The take-out menu reads “open 7 days,” but they may actually close on Wednesdays, so call first!

Cafe Taiwan [South Bay]
181 W. Calaveras Blvd., Milpitas
(in the Save Mart shopping center behind Burger King)
408-263-6788
Map

Board Links: Taiwanese Hakkanese food found in Milpitas–Cafe Taiwan
Cafe Taiwan, Milpitas report (w/ pics)

New Beer Store and Tasting Room

City Beer is a newly opened beer store and tasting room unlike any other beer store around. You’ll find a wide variety of specialty beers from around the world, arranged, interestingly, by style rather than by region. Belgian beers, for example, are grouped into singles, dubbels, trippels, and lambics, with American versions of those styles arranged alongside.

They’ve also got a license to serve beer, so they’ll open any bottle and serve it for a corkage fee of $1! Best of all, prices are surprisingly reasonable. Girardin Geuze lambic costs $9, and is served chilled in the proper stemware.

They’ve got four beers on tap, with 6 oz. tasting pours available. Tap selection rotates.

City Beer [SOMA]
1168 Folsom St., btwn. 7th and 8th, San Francisco
415-503-1033
Map

Board Links: City Beer–beer store and tasting room in SF

Brazilian Snacks, All the Time! And Cashew Juice!

Most of the time, Sabor Brazil is a combination grocery store and coffee house, with fresh Brazilian juices, snacks, and bakery items. The cafe part is cheery and sunny.

The fresh caju (pronounced ‘ka-ZHOO’) juice is some of the best juice rworange has ever had in her entire chow-focused life. It is all tart and tangy, something like pineapple juice without the fruitiness or acidity. Tons of other juices, too, including acai (palm berry), acerola (wild cherry), and abacaxi (brazilian pineapple). Cocao juice is white, with a unique taste–buttery, tart, and tangy. It tastes a little like lychees, and a little like passion-fruit. You can also get cocoa with cream–cocoa juice blended with milk and sugar. This results in a very different beverage–frothy, a little pulpy, and quite good.

Great snacks, too, like coxinha–a croquette shaped like a chicken thigh. This is basically a hunk of plain stewed chicken, wrapped in potato, rolled in bread crumbs, and deep-fried. The dough has a mochi-like texture, a nice contrast to the crisp breadcrumb crust. Theirs is a very nice coxinha, but the coxhina at Sunstream may have a slight edge.

The best two snacks are disco and empadeo goiano. Disco is a meat patty covered with flavored bread crumbs and deep-fried. It tastes like a really good Italian meatball. Empadeo goiano is Brazilian chicken pot pie. It has a nice brown crust, which looks like brioche, but turns out to be a delicious, thick layer of cheese. Inside, there’s shredded stewed chicken, mixed with green olives, diced potatoes, corn niblets, and spices.

Chicken enroladino is pie crust with a soft chicken filling (really soft–as in mashed potato soft) and bits of corn. It comes in two sizes; one’s a big turnover, and the other is basically a mini-muffin.

Pao de queijo are little walnut-sized cheese bread. These are good (though, again, Sunstream’s version might be a little better). Take ‘em home and heat ‘em up. Quibe (a mix of minced meat, mint, and couscous fried in oil) is good, as is rizole de milho–yet another deep-fried, breadcrumb-covered snack, this one filled with creamy cheese, corn nibblets, and some sort of chopped green herb.

There’s also a Brazilian marketplace with coffee, condiments, guava fig newtons, and a freezer case full of frozen Brazilian fruits.

But here’s the big news (and we thank you for your patience). This place also throws dinners once a month, on Sundays. The next one is in July. There is no dinner this month because, well, soccer.

But back to fried snacks once more if we may. The best coxinha of all may be the ones at Nino’s Pizzeria’s, which come in regular and cream cheese versions (the cream cheese is mixed into the dough). They’re served with jalapeno-spiked ranch dipping sauce. It’s peppy.

See a great web page (with photos) of Brazilian salgadinhos (all these crunchy savory snacks) at: http://home.wxs.nl/~rolfpoll/Brasilbar/Snackbrasil.htm

Sabor Brazil [East Bay]
4820 Bissell Ave., at San Pablo, Richmond
510-232-2500
Map

Sunstream Cafe [Richmond]
2884 Geary Blvd, San Francisco
415-346-0280
Map

Nino’s Pizzeria & Brazilian Restaurant [East Bay]
1916 Martin Luther King JR Way, Berkeley
510-845-9303
Map

Board Links: Brazilian snacks & cocoa juice at Sabor Brazil & Nino’s Pizzeria
Bay Area Brazilian Markets & Brazilian Easter Eggs

Kitsho

There’s darn good sushi at Kitsho, says Porthos. It loses some points for rice quality and for the commercial wasabi-from-a-tube, but compensates with extremely fresh and delicious fish, and a nice selection of imported fishes.

Kinmedai (extremely rare in the Bay Area) is very fresh and rich, and your order arrives with two cuts (the one from the belly is particularly excellent). Shimaaji is amazing, even richer and silkier than the kinmedai. Aji is soft and oily, though not as fine as the shimaaji–excellent, as far as aji goes.

Toro is labelled “o-toro,” but is probably closer to chu-toro in quality–too much red meat, not enough fat.

Omakase here is mindblowing once the chef learns your taste, says KK. He’ll open your eyes and mouth to all sorts of new experiences. And there are always surprises–various preparations, and special fishes hidden away out of sight.

Howard, the chef, is well-known for his cooked dishes, too. He’s especially good at soy bean products. He makes tofu in-house; try the three bean appetizer–cold tofu with green, black, and soy beans. There’s great miso, with broth finer than any you can find at Bay Area ramen shops. And Howard’s natto is the best–try natto toro maki, or any other natto preparation you can think of. And he’s got the best selection of shiromi in the neighborhood. There’s smooth and sweet grouper; delicate, wonderful moi. Nowhere else can you get hirame no konbu jime (kelp miranted hirame).

Also great: maguro zuike, and tamgo yaki. Ask for a fresh batch of tamgo yaki to get the juiciest cut. Their tamgo yaki is the second best in town, right after Sawa Sushi’s. There’s a good selection of sake, too.

Not so good: anago and ankimono. If you want good ankimono, go to Ino Sushi.

The cost is around $5-$6 per order of nigiri. Cuts are quite generous–to the point where Porthos feels nigiri almost overbalances towards fish. Of course, this is not something most people will find problematic…

Kitsho [South Bay]
19541 Richwood Dr., Cupertino
408-873-1444
Map

Sawa Sushi [South Bay]
1042 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale
408-241-7292
Map

Ino Sushi [Japantown]
22 Peace Plaza #510, San Francisco
415-922-3121
Map

Board Links: Sushi Alert: Kitsho in Cupertino

Nha Toi

Nha Toi translates as “Our House,” and it really does taste like it. This place makes simple, homey northern Vietnamese food. Nha Toi is like a dream, says Alice Pastis, or at least to a flashback to her childhood in Vietnam eating her mother’s traditional cooking–her mother’s old country cooking, that is, before they moved to the US and she started using American ingredients and time-saving shortcuts.

Look for the specials. Nha Toi offers shaking beef and green papaya salad, like any other decent Vietnamese restaurant, on their 180 item menu. But the specials menu includes a profusion of items completely unique to the Bay Area Viet dining scene.

Here are some notes to entice you: Raw fish salad is spectacular. It’s very fresh fish cooked in lime, like ceviche. The fish is not flaky, but more pleasantly chewy, like lobster. Add lots of finely chopped peanuts and herbs, and a blanket of crispy fried shallots. And some perfectly fried shrimp chips on the side.

Ca nuc kho mia, $9: Norwegian mackerel braised in sugarcane sauce. This is meltingly tender fish, rich in omega-3 fats. The slightly peppery sauce is shudderingly beautiful (and not very sweet). There are no pin bones in the fish, just a spine so soft it disintegrates in your mouth.

Canh mong toi/muop, $8: soup with Vietnamese spinach, squash, fresh shrimp, and charmingly misshapen mini-patties of crab. The broth is not much more than water with the flavor of veggies and seafood, but that simplicity is key to the pleasures of this dish.

Nem ran: spring rolls made with thin rice paper wrappers from Hanoi. These are northern-style spring rolls, using a different wrapper than the more common southern-style cha gio (also available here). These nem ran are filled with fresh crab, black mushroom, and some glass noodles. The filling has more oomph than your usual spring roll, and wrappers are fried to a crisp on the outside, but still a tender and chewy inside.

Mixed ong choy salad: This is a dish of the North Vietnamese poor–a jellyfish substitute, for those who can’t afford real jellyfish. It’s pork skin, with the fat removed, cooked gently to the texture of jellyfish. It looks like long shaved slices of onion, and is served with ong choy, halved shrimp, chopped mint, sesame sauce, and fish-sauce dressing. Very odd, but very tasty.

Exciting dishes yet untried include: raw beef salad with toasted rice and ginger, steamed young chicken with julienned lime leaves, and steamed pork with herbs and shrimp paste.

They serve various fruit shakes for $3, plus a number of che (sweet bean drinks). The tea here is nice, with a flowery, fragrant touch. Entertainment-wise, there’s a TV plus a tiny space for a little band.

Nha Toi Restaurants [South Bay]
formerly Thu DO Sandwiches
460 E William St., between 10th and 11th, San Jose
408-294-2733
Map

Board Links: Favorite Vietnamese
Nha Toi Report (long) – Northern Vietnamese in San Jose

The Brazilian Burger with More in it Than You Could Possibly Imagine

San Francisco Pizza serves an x-tudo (Brazilian burger) which is very good, and very, very, very large. The bun is five inches across. Inside is a half pound of hamburger. And thickly chopped pieces of bacon, hot dog, corn, peas, pineapple, two fried eggs, melted cheese, lettuce, onions, and tomato.

Oh, and shoestring potatoes.

And maybe a second hot dog. To be clear: these are not OPTIONS for what MIGHT come inside. This is what does come inside every order of X-tudo, The Stupendous Burger From Another Dimension.

Says rworange: you wouldn’t think the pineapple would work in this, but it adds it’s a nice sweet note. (Actually, Your Editor Thi isn’t really surprised by the pineapple. He was already bludgeoned past the possibility of surprise by the time we got to the peas.)

Every bite is a slightly different flavor combination. And, while it’s a fine sandwich as is, be sure to add some packets of mayo and catsup. With a full condiment load, it hits the next level. She says, “I’ve figured out how Brazilians always look so young and fit while eating this type of food. They must all die young. Eat delicious, die young. Sounds like a plan to me. Better than chugging Ensure later in life.”

Chowhounds compared this version to the version at East Bay Pizza thusly: the latter has more fries, and better presentation, but the former has the finer taste. And it’s bigger. Way bigger.

Be aware: this is a pizza joint run by Brazilians who used to run a more Brazilian-intensive restaurant. The menu you’ll get when you walk in the door looks mostly like a generic pizza chain menu…with some hints of Brazilian flavor (frango con catupiri pizza —with Brazilian soft cheese and hearts of palm; Portuguese pizza —with salami, linguica, green olives, onions, sliced hard-boiled eggs and virgin olive oil, etc.).

But if you want the x-tudo or the other pure Brazilian delights, you’ll have to beg for the Brazilian menu. There you’ll find such delights as roasted pork ribs, sauteed chicken in saffron sauce, and: X-tudo, The Stupendous Burger From the Twelfth Dimension.

San Francisco Pizza [East Bay]
1190 Macdonald Ave., Richmond
510-412-4400
Map

East Bay Pizza [East Bay]
12847 San Pablo Ave., Richmond
510-233-1920
Map

Board Links: Richmond – San Francisco Pizza (Porto Brazil)… X-tudo on steroids … with pineapple

Green Waffles

Pandan is a tropical shrub. The juice is light green in color (from chlorophyll) and subtly delicious. It’s most commonly used to make pandan cakes, but the Chowhounds have recently found a new taste sensation cropping up: pandan waffles!

You’ll find great pandan-flavored waffles at Pho Nguyen, where they’re made to order. A buck gets you a hot waffle, fresh from their waffle maker. Also good: their $3 mango shake, made without ice cream —just mango pulp and ice, blended together. It’s pretty nice, says hhc.

You can also score an excellent fresh pandan waffle at Grand Century Mall, a Vietnamese shopping mall and food court. The waffles are right by the front entrance to the mall —you can’t miss the smell.

A little bakery in the Lion Center, another Vietnamese food court, sells pandan waffles too.

Pho Nguyen [South Bay]
formerly Hai Noodle House
275 W. Calaveras Blvd, Milpitas
408-945-5909
Map

Grand Century Shopping Mall [South Bay]
1001 Story Rd. at McLaughlin, San Jose
408-298-5149
Map

Unnamed Little Vietnamese Bakery [South Bay]
1816 Tully Rd. #279, in Lion Center, San Jose
Map

Board Links: Pandan waffle at Pho Nguyen, Milpitas (w/ pics)