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Dinners in SF with foodie toddler

Ragazza on Divisadero has great food and is well-suited for diners with kids. They open early (possibly useful if you're dealing with jet lag) and servers are accommodating and friendly (they do things like let my son hang out by the pizza oven).

Dec 05, 2014
dml in San Francisco Bay Area

The Ramen Bar opening 6/30/14 & Pabu opening 7/1/14, SF 101 Calif Street

Jun 26, 2014
dml in San Francisco Bay Area

Shandong House rebrands itself as Xi'an Gourmet [San Francisco]

The stir-fried green beans with pork (I don't remember what they call it exactly; it's under the vegetable section) is my gold standard for the dish. I always order it, and it's my favorite thing on the menu.

Hand-pulled noodle soup with lamb has tasty lamb and good noodles, but the broth is basically water, with too little salt and too much white pepper.

The sandwich was disappointing--v spicy but without flavor to back it up. I'll take the somewhat similar version at House of Pancake on Taraval any day.

Jun 14, 2014
dml in San Francisco Bay Area

Shalala Japanese Ramen in San Francisco Japantown

One can hope.

May 13, 2014
dml in San Francisco Bay Area

Lava Ramen [San Francisco]

I'm not a ramen ace. I've had some here and there, and I'm aware of general materials and methods involved, but I've not been to Santa, Halu, or other reference standards. My level of appreciation is informed by personal taste more than vast experience and knowledge. Nonetheless: if there is good soup to be had, it's worth telling others about. Which brings us to Lava.

They do a variety of noodle dishes, but I've only had their ramen. The lava broth and miso broth are both rich and balanced. Noodles (wrinkled) are firm. The onsen egg has a consistently excellent yolk texture and good flavor from a shoyu bath. Chashu pork is flavorful but varies in tenderness. Meat portions are a tad small, but otherwise topping quantities are reasonable and balanced. Everything is served appropriately hot, i.e. scalding.

Non-food summary: wait: usually little or none to be seated, but modest wait for food; service: efficient on a good day, brusque and inattentive on a bad one; environs: appealingly modern and comfortable; noise: good considering the rather dense seating; price: what one expects to pay for ramen, i.e. $8.50-11.00.

I wish I could provide a more nuanced review, but for now hope that this will encourage others to try and provide more opinions.

Lava Restaurant and Lounge
527 Bryant Street
San Francisco, CA 94107

Kin Khao - Thai-style Thai in SF


Feb 07, 2014
dml in San Francisco Bay Area

Scientific American: The Flavor Connection [Interactive] • Scientists link common flavor compounds across the world's favorite ingredients

Certainly the presence of common flavor compounds is no way deterministic of a harmonious match, as you say, but it's a tool that I find useful to expand my options when I find myself falling back on cliche combos.

Your comment on banana-ham interaction implies that you *actually tried it*; regardless of whether you regard the particular combo as a failure, the fact that it inspired you to try it might be seen as a success.

Unfortunately, there's no tool yet (except maybe cuuks.com) where one can comment on the actual outcome of putting these things in your mouth at the same time.

Aug 24, 2013
dml in Food Media & News

Scientific American: The Flavor Connection [Interactive] • Scientists link common flavor compounds across the world's favorite ingredients

Nice find.

I some quibbles with the visualization, but it makes a number of things immediately clear that others (foodpairing.com, the Flavor Bible) do not.

Raspberry and black tea? Rum and parmesan? Coffee and Peanut? Roast beef and, well, everything? Research is clearly necessary.

Aug 23, 2013
dml in Food Media & News

Chowdown Report: Ming Kee in San Francisco

I admit to being a little distracted by the tenth guest (the three year old in my lap) during the meal, but not so much that I didn't appreciate the great selection of items Melanie ordered for us.

This meal was my first encounter with Chinese roasted goose. What took me so long?

Boon fei so char siu, being particularly unctuous, was as good as others have noted.

Would that all versions of pork-n-beans aspired to be as good as the jowl/shoulder/neck with green beans is. Dry, crispy, slightly charred, and fantastic.

The tofu had a lovely, soft texture and was well-fried, and the black bean sauce was tasty. The broccoli was sadly cooked to oblivion, but otherwise the dish was great.

Tea-leaf prawns were only slightly disappointing in that they could have been cooked a little less and would have been better for it. That didn't stop me from enjoying what I got (which wasn't much: my kid has a thing for shrimp and shared only reluctantly.)

I have the Momofuku corn cookie recipe but have not yet made it. That will be remedied quickly, now that I know what I'm missing.

I also took home a pound of roast pork (my wife's favorite) and found it to be among the best I've had.

Apr 07, 2013
dml in San Francisco Bay Area

Chowdown Report: The Monte Carlo (Bayview District, San Francisco)

I'm not often offered coffee as the default beverage to drink with lunch. (It is better than expected for being served straight from the Mr Coffee carafe.) And rarely (ever?) do chefs come out of the kitchen to personally tie plastic lobster bibs on diners ordering dishes requiring shell-crackers. These are the charms of the Monte Carlo. The accidental substitution of buttermilk for cream (for aforementioned coffee) and the tendency to tie the plastic bibs a bit too tight? Laugh and take them in stride--that's what the staff do.

Derek, Melanie and myself seem to all agree about the food at the Monte Carlo. Yes to the cornmeal-crusted catfish, beans & rice, and lamb rack. The gumbo sadly didn't match its ambitions but tried admirably. The mashed potatoes and gravy gave the lamb the edge over other items.

Sep 02, 2012
dml in San Francisco Bay Area

Satellite Republic

I didn't explicitly ask but I'd be shocked if he didn't make the tkemali. The point of the Satellite Republic venture seems to be about obsessing over the details: the custom-fabricated moped, the ceramic tandoor thrown by his pottery teacher, baking bread to order, etc. And Portnoy is, after all, former pastry chef from Meadowood, so no slouch.

Jul 22, 2012
dml in San Francisco Bay Area

Satellite Republic

Mopeds, Georgia, cooking, pottery: Boris Portnoy's favorite things, as he says on the Facebook page for Satellite Republic, his new venture that combines them all. Boris and his moped-mounted tandoor grill came to South Park to serve Georgian lunch the other day and I was compelled to go investigate.

The menu for the day was two bread-based items: khachapuri (cheese bread with chili sauce) and lamb tandir sandwich. The bread is the star. He has a couple of boxes of little flour-dusted doughballs that he bakes to order in the tandoor, coming out with mixed tender and crispy bits.

The feta and mozzarella in the khachapuri are great with the dried-chili-and-herb sauce. I could eat them all day.

For the sandwich, Boris uses lamb raised in marshes around San Pablo, which he says has a similar effect to the pré-salé lamb of Brittany (I'm not sure I could tell). He's using shoulder, cooked sous-vide then heated in the tandoor. Lovely flavor, moist and tender. Super-tart plum sauce, mild white onion and parsley on top--great, if perhaps a bit too tart on the balance.

Jul 19, 2012
dml in San Francisco Bay Area

Baia Pasta Mostaccioli – Dried Pasta from Oakland

I got a bag, too, and have prepared it a couple of times now. It has a deeper flavor, firmer tooth and rougher surface texture than the domestic and imported pastas I typically buy. Good stuff.

Jan 06, 2011
dml in San Francisco Bay Area


It's Ramadan and we miss the atayaf (aka atayif, katayif, and many other variations) that our Syrian landlords used to make in Brooklyn for the holidays.

Atayaf are half-moon shaped pastries (for lack of a better word) consisting of a pancake-like wrapper that is filled with either a honey-walnut mixture or ishta (a 'cheese' of sweetened and thickened milk and/or cream), fried, and then, sometimes, doused in syrup.

Does anyone know where they're made around here? SF would be ideal, but anywhere in the bay area would be useful to know.

Sep 01, 2009
dml in San Francisco Bay Area

Chowdown Report: Chef Liu’s Tasting Menu @ Hunan, Fresno

It was a four-hour drive for me up to Fresno from LA, and another three hours afterwards on to San Francisco, but chef Liu definitely won for most effort last saturday. When we arrived, we heard that he'd been cooking for days in preparation, and had been up until six that morning working on the feast. His work paid off, and the food we had showed his talent and skill.

There were some familiar combos and dishes--jellyfish salad with sesame, crispy duck stuffed with sticky rice--and some very original ones that, had I been served them under different circumstances, I would never guess had emerged from a Chinese kitchen--raw, lightly-cured salmon salad, deep-fried shrimp with strawberries. These, together with the remaining dishes, covered a remarkable range of flavors, textures, and influences, and all of them were ordered and paced so as to maintain interest and not wear us out even with twelve dishes over three hours.

Though not necessarily exciting, the pairing of napa cabbage and chestnut was unexpectedly good, a lighter dish that gave a break to the meal just when it was needed. The duck was beautifully browned and crispy, the whole fish sweet and moist.

The meal included two firsts for me: both jellyfish and abalone were new experiences. Both were hard to judge but easy to like. The salad was delicate but also well-balanced. The abalone was dense but not tough, with an flavor earthy and a little smoky as well as scallop-like. I can only hope that other versions are this good.

A few dishes suffered from a heavy hand in one way or another: the daikon roll and the shrimp with strawberries were both overly sweet, making them easy to like but not necessarily balanced or nuanced. And the sichuan peppercorn sauce on the sliced chicken appetizer was so intense as to render the chicken valuable only for texture.
It was a great chowdown. Thanks to Mr Bear and Melanie for organizing!

Jun 09, 2008
dml in California

Where to find cavalo nero?

Cavolo nero, lacinato, dino kale, all the same thing. I got some at Ferry Plaza yesterday, and I've seen it recently at Whole Foods. I use the ribollita recipe from Rogers & Gray (the first River Cafe book)--what do you use?

Jan 20, 2008
dml in San Francisco Bay Area

Udupi Palace SF

Reebob tells me that a sign in the window of Firecracker says the Mission District spot will become Udupi Palace, the vegetarian Indian restaurant with locations in Sunnyvale and Berkeley.

1007 1 2 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA

Udupi Palace
1007 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110

Jan 20, 2008
dml in San Francisco Bay Area

Golden Natural Foods

Didn't notice the fra'mani products, but I'll look out for them next time.

I saw the Alexander Valley pickles and was wondering about them. I'll have to give them a try now that they've been recommended.

FYI, Rainbow also has 'farina tipo 00 tenero' in bulk.

Jan 09, 2008
dml in San Francisco Bay Area

Helmand Palace - I'm in Love

Good to know! I love the Helmand (both locations--SF and Cambridge) and was thinking of going soon, but I would have gone to the Bway location without even thinking. Glad to hear it's still around.

Jan 08, 2008
dml in San Francisco Bay Area

Golden Natural Foods

I went back today during normal business hours and took a look around. People walking down Church St were stopping dead in their tracks in incomprehension under the super-bright entrance. They paused, then entered, looking vaguely dazed, and wandered the aisles slowly. It's bright, it's large, it's preternaturally clean. The eerie silence is the welcome absence of muzak.

The store has some big empty spaces here and there where late-breaking product has yet to arrive. Stock skews towards organic, natural, and gourmet items, but though the freezer case was stocked with Amy's & Boca products and organic frozen fruit & veggies, they also carry Ben and Jerry's. Their stock includes much that will look familiar to people who know Golden already from the location down the street. They've
expanded the selection of many items (lots of oil and vinegar, a much larger freezer case, lots of chocolate, a selection of coffee and tea, etc) and added meat and seafood counters, a wine & beer, section, something that I think will be an olive bar, and a
cheese island (what do you call those standalone, two-tiered coolers?). There is no bulk (save a single barrel of rolled oats), no bread (I may have missed it), and none of the
interesting curiosities (dried galanga, pucks of palm sugar) available at Golden Produce.

The meat and seafood looked good from a quick look; it was not labeled hormone-free, grass-fed, sustainably harvested, or anything else with regard to its provenance or quality.

Prices are about the same as Golden Produce, which is to say a little higher than the Safeway across the street. As examples, some prices I can remember:

B&J Cherry Garcia: $5.49
Straus organic butter: $8.59
Muir Glen tomatoes (28 oz): $3.09
Rice Dream (32 oz): $2.89
Clif bars: $1.69
Whole, cooked Dungeness Crab: $10.49
Pork loin: $6.99/lb
Casa Sanchez hot salsa: $4.09
Large bottle of Chimay Blue: $9.49

I'm glad to have it as an addition to the neighborhood, and I hope that they hold their own against Safeway. That said, what I'm *really* hoping is that they will move the groceries to new store and expand the produce selection at GP.

Jan 08, 2008
dml in San Francisco Bay Area

Golden Natural Foods

Golden Natural Foods, the new market from the owners of Golden Produce, opened today. Or at least I assume they did--the owner said that they were planning to open, and when I walked by tonight (after business hours--I couldn't make it by earlier) they plywood was down. The market is considerably larger than Golden Produce, and will have a meat counter and a seafood counter, the owners said.

9:00am-8:00pm, seven days.

Golden Natural Foods. 130 Church St, San Francisco, CA 94114

Jan 07, 2008
dml in San Francisco Bay Area

Oakland: Piedmont Ave. recommendations?

Third rec for Dopo.

Jan 06, 2008
dml in San Francisco Bay Area

Costco (SF) kicks it up another notch.....

yes! well, I'm here half the time. the rest of the time in LA.

Jan 05, 2008
dml in San Francisco Bay Area

Costco (SF) kicks it up another notch.....

indeed, that's the real stuff. good deal.

Jan 05, 2008
dml in San Francisco Bay Area

Costco (SF) kicks it up another notch.....

For $85 the vinegar would, I'd hope, be the consorzio-approved stuff, which doesn't have producer information obviously displayed on it. $85 is not bad price for the extra-vecchio (25-year old) version. Do you know if it was consorzio vinegar? Was it the in the standardized 100-ml globe bottles?

Jan 05, 2008
dml in San Francisco Bay Area

Kanpai Sushi in Playa del Rey

I went the other night and I was pretty impressed with Kanpai. The table got omakase, which the server organized as a combination of traditional nigiri (toro, sawara, and ono were particularly good) some of the chef's sashimi inventions (scallop with truffle salt, for example), and a couple of small cooked dishes (wagyu filet with mushrooms, miso black cod).

Not cheap, but excellent food.

Jul 21, 2007
dml in Los Angeles Area

Comparable thai to Sripraphai

I've also recently moved from NYC to LA, and have found that the quality of Thai food here is generally far higher than what I got on the east coast. The lunch I had at Ruen Pair (5257 Hollywood) today was on par with dishes from Sripraphai.

Jul 15, 2007
dml in Los Angeles Area

Where to get preserved lemons?

Oriental Pastry and Grocery on Atlantic in Brooklyn has two buckets of them near the olives. The brine in both buckets contains a variety of spices, but one is red with chili.

Jan 03, 2007
dml in Manhattan

Garden of Eden

The produce is reasonably good, but not worth the exorbitant cost. Other departments have frequent problems with freshness--I've seen lots of expired items, moldy baked goods, plastic-wrapped cheese sitting out for a couple of weeks, stale bread, etc. Be vigilant and check everything. I avoid the Brooklyn Heights GoE entirely now.

Dec 30, 2006
dml in Manhattan

Three weeks in New Orleans

With the one-year anniversary of Katrina just past, much has been made this week of the trauma and hardship. But if you spend three weeks in New Orleans, like I did this summer, there's a lot of good food to be had, especiall with the help of friends, locals, and Pableaux Johnson's restaurant guide. Here's a few mini-reviews from my first trip.

Corner tourist spot somewhere in the French Quarter.

Just after arriving from the airport, we wandered out into the
quarter for a late lunch/early dinner, and when the inevitable
afternoon downpour began we ducked into some mildly charming place serving insipid beans, plain rice, average sausage, and mediocre fish. Beware!


Though, Eat, a new restaurant in the French
Quarter, is only a block off Bourbon Street, the surroundings are
quiet and residential. The dining room is split across two
levels, with a semi-open partition walls dividing up the space
into smaller areas, so the restaurant feels small and inviting.
The design and fixtures are light and modern, a style almost
nonexistent elsewhere in the Quarter, and rare anywhere in New

The food is a mix of updated cajun/creole classics and more
modern cooking. Examples of the former include etouffee and
gumbo; examples of the latter are fig-blue cheese tart and pork
chop with caramelized onions. Quality varies. Fried fish tasted
fresh but had an armor-like breadcrumb coating. The pork chop is
v good but not as moist as I'd have liked. The house caesar that
accompanies all dinners is well-dressed and made with fresh
romaine, but the cheese is merely perfunctory and the single
tough crouton perched atop each salad is best discarded. Service
is v good.

Zydeque Cajun Barbecue

After balking at the half-hour wait at Acme Oyster Bar, a group
of us ended up at this Cajun-style barbecue place on the next
block. Like many places in New Orleans, it felt a little
underpopulated, but the effect was more exaggerated here,
like it was meant to be crowded.

Almost everyone in our group got the "Cajun Two-Step" combination
plate: two meats and two sides, served on large plastic tray that
serves as a plate. The pulled pork was described on the menu as
cochon au lait, but it seemed like it spent more time being
smoked than being braised in milk: all charred edges and smoky
flavor, to its benefit, but rather dry, to its detriment. It came
with a thick, uber-sweet Texas-style sauce that's decent if you
go for that kind of thing (personally I prefer vinegary,
Carolinas-style sauce).

Everyone ordered the same sides--cornbread and greens-- and
enjoyed them. In addition to the sides, you get two soft, white
supermarket-style dinner rolls.

Praline Connection

The deep fryer was broken on the night four of us discovered
Praline Connection. This equipment failure eliminated roughly
half the menu, and somehow it feels wrong to evaluate this
restaurant under these circumstances. I don't think what I ate
was bad, but almost everyone had to pass on their first choice.
However, the bread pudding was excellent.


This west african restaurant was recommended by a French Quarter
shop owner. Start with the akara (black-eyed pea fritters served
with a dipping sauce). Try a dish with their coconut rice. Have
the ginger drink, but also consider buying a bottle of wine
across the street at Verti Mart (its BYOB). Fish dishes use
strong-flavored, bony fish, which generally works well with the
spices, but some in our party did not enjoy. The yogurt and fried
plantain dessert, as simple as it is, is incredible.

Italian Pie

The salad special sounded good, but was made from old, pre-mixed
greens that had come straight from the bag: the sturdier greens
were unwashed and occasionally yellowed; the more delicate ones
had collapsed into black slime. I had to pick those out myself.
After that, I really wasn't paying much attention to the pizza,
but I do recall the crust was hard and greasy.


Petunia's serves only breakfast and lunch, Southern style.
Biscuits, grits, bacon, and eggs are consistently well-executed.
Portions are large; omelets are huge. Bananas Foster was
fantastic, and enough to feed four. Service is friendly. I
probably ate here more times than anywhere else in my three weeks
in New Orleans, and it's one of the only places I miss now that
I'm back in New York.

Liuzza's By the Tracks

Liuzza's has New Orleans food as cooked by Italians, which means
that the fried oyster po-boy comes with garlic butter instead of
mayonnaise (v tasty) and the gumbo resembles minestrone.

Most gumbo I encountered in New Orleans seems like a parody of
itself, gloppily thick and overly spicy. Liuzza's version, though
not traditional, is far better than those. It is not thickened
(or only barely so) and the soup base tastes like good broth.
Rather than having a mound of rice on the side, the gumbo
includes a little cooked rice in the soup, which gives it some
body. There's enough meat to give it flavor without being stew-like.

Cafe Reconcile

Eight dollars flat rate gets you a main course and two sides,
plus salad, jalapeno cornbread, dessert, and a drink. Main
courses offerings are a rotation of standard fare like fried
catfish, fried chicken, or shrimp etouffee. Get the catfish,
which is fried to order, and has a thin, super-crispy coating.
Sides include mashed potatoes, greens, beans and rice, etc.
Everything had the mark of being hand-made.

This Central City restaurant is half lunch joint, half job
training program for formerly incarcerated people, and thankfully
it appears the kitchen staff are actually being trained to
cook, not just to reheat Sysco products.

Sound Cafe

Sound Cafe was the only coffee place to consistently apply good
preparation practices: the baristas grind the beans to order for
espresso. One barista pulled the shot for my macchiato three
times to get a shot he was happy with. They use beans from a
roaster literally around the corner.

Johnny's Po-Boys

The gumbo is spicy and so thick it will stand your flimsy plastic
spoon on end. V tasty in an un-subtle kind of way.

Domilise's Po' Boys

A 'dressed' po' boy here does not mean the usual lettuce, tomato
and mayo. Instead, you get pickles and hot sauce (and no tomato)
and the result is a stunningly good sandwich.

Whole Foods

If you start craving salad and fresh fruit, or if you are feeling
depressed that so much of New Orleans still feels empty, take a
trip to Whole Foods. It's huge, bright, pleasant, and the
lot's always full (be prepared to hunt for parking down the
block). Expensive, but where else can you go for produce?

Kitchen Witch

A 'collection' of books (to use owner Felipe's own description)
that at first glance might appear to be leftovers from a garage
sale, but on closer inspection is a remarkable selection of
culinary titles. You won't find any Food Network chef titles, but
you can browse multiple translations of Brillat-Savarin (and get
opinions on their relative merits from Felipe), or peruse an
entire shelf filled with different editions of the Joy of
Cooking, dating back to the 30s. Of course, Southern, Creole, and
Cajun books are specialties.

Certainly there are many curiosities whose anthropological value
outweighs their epicurean value, but there's lots of practical
stuff for cooks, too. I found a slim but techincal baking book
from 1906 that contains more useful info than I've found in many
modern books, and a great regional Italian book from the 60s.

Sep 03, 2006
dml in New Orleans