Prabhakar Ragde's Profile

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Saint Frank Coffee Shop (Russian Hill, San Francisco)

You have considerable experience with wine, though. And I suspect you would be the first to call foul on someone saying "This is a wine you can only appreciate if you have considerable experience with wine." I have been working on home espresso and home roasts for many years, and my sense of it is that, while there are nuances and complexities one learns to appreciate, and espresso is an acquired taste, it doesn't take that long to acquire it. If it sucks for you, I bet it will suck for me also.

I liked the atmosphere at Sightglass SOMA, and the food was good when I visited also. Would that work for the kind of business meetings you're talking about?

Please review my itinerary - lunch

Five lunches on one weekend?

I would drop Mission Chinese, which is past its pull date.

Saint Frank Coffee Shop (Russian Hill, San Francisco)

That speaks of inconsistency, which is not good. But that is really a function of the individual barista. Go back when someone else is at the machine and it might be different.

Saint Frank Coffee Shop (Russian Hill, San Francisco)

That sampler sounds pretty comprehensive; I can't imagine you missed something.

Admittedly, I have stopped trying, but I don't remember an SF espresso that I consider amazing. Linea Caffe may be the best of what I've had recently, and Sightglass SOMA was decent. Four Barrel, meh; Ritual, forget it.

Phan's South at SFJazz is now Mexican (SF) -- anyone been?

I tend to wait for reviews on non-downscale Mexican; they'd need to compare to Nopalito for me. But there's no fideo seco at Nopalito. You know it's not that hard to make at home? You just have to make sure to break the noodles fine enough, otherwise browning them gets tricky. And it isn't quite the same, but try fideo/fideuà at a Spanish or Catalan place (B44, for example).

Chili House at 8th and Clement? [San Francisco]

If anyone knows where the "green citrusy variety" of Sichuan peppercorns can be bought (fresh or soft-preserved, not dry) I would love to get my hands on some.

Four Days in San Francisco-- Please Critique (apologies for the long intro)

That is my impression as well.

Thin sliced bread for tea sandwiches

It's supposed to be firm, but the last loaf of pain de mie we got (from the Ferry Plaza shop, a couple of weeks ago) was fluffy. Hope it was just an aberration.

Iza Ramen Pop-up at Blowfish Sushi in San Francisco

Oh, man, Melanie, this is so scathing. I'm sorry if I steered you wrong. It seems like we had quite a different experience than you did; I don't remember the powdered bonito, the tepid puddle of water, or the grease. I guess this place is inconsistent, which may be part of the reason why it's still a popup. But what is a guy living in SF without a car to do for ramen?

Chad Robertson's influence on SF pizza scene

Bauer visited recently (I know, I know, but a data point at least) as part of his series on old-school places. The article doesn't say a lot about the pizza.


authentic chinese restaurant with good ambience for a first date? [San Francisco]

I've only been to TCW for lunch, but I agree that the ambience is good enough for a date, and both menu and staff are friendly. The place is small, though, and doesn't take reservations, so that might be an issue.

A Clean Well Lighted Place For Birds [San Francisco]

Are fresh duck legs available at any of these places? The threads I can find on this are a bit old.

The Presidential @4505 Burgers & BBQ - Divisadero [San Francisco]

You might wait on 4505 until they get their patio situation worked out. It is not only basically eating in a parking lot right now, but there is no coordination between inside and outside to speak of. We were told there was a long wait for the patio, so we got our food to go, but we could have gotten seats in the time it took the food to arrive (you have to hover and grab, no one is managing it). We took the food up to the park a block away but I had to down my beer quickly; they wouldn't give me a cup for it. I suspect it all suffered from being eaten out of a paper bag on a windy bench, but it would have been only slightly better on site.

Please Help Critique My San Fran Eating Itinerary

The Tartine visit and early walk-in at SBP look really close together. Why not nibble your way through some Mission stops on Friday?

LA to SF Weekend Trip Report

You may have chosen badly at Tartine. Their croissants (plain and chocolate) are good, as are their cakes. The bread is fantastic.

You're right about the lines. I do not get it with SF and lineups.

Another best burgers SFBA list to create ripples

Has anyone had the burger at Hi Tops? Pretty close to me, so I'm intrigued.

Hà Nam Ninh, Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous, Boccalone (San Francisco: Day Six) and Wrap-up!

I was also underwhelmed by the flavours I tried at Mr&Mrs. It seems like a nice neighbourhood option but not really a destination.

Craftsman and Wolves, Happy Moose Juice, Xanath, Zen Yai, Smitten, Tosca, State Bird (San Francisco: Day Four)

The financiers are the best thing I've had at C&W (and pretty affordable considering how filling they are). I have been underwhelmed by some of the other choices, including the brownies, which are decent, but ought to be superb given the reputation of the place.

Paris resto advice, this one hopefully w/ helpful info too. Would love your views!

The bar at Le Richer is small and doesn't overlook anything interesting. Try for a table.

I had the same experience with the Septime website that you did. I would also suggest moving Clamato up in your tier structure.

Jun 08, 2014
Prabhakar Ragde in France

Paris trip in progress: Clamato, La Cantine du Troquet Dupleix, Philou, Le Servan, West Country Girl, Pierre Sang Boyer

And Parigi doesn't make fun of you? Not fair.

Jun 01, 2014
Prabhakar Ragde in France

Moving to SF - Critique my list of neighborhood must-trys?

I found the Balompie Cafe in Bernal Heights a little disappointing; haven't been to the one in the Mission. Another place along these lines is San Jalisco, where the food is better.

Moving to SF - Critique my list of neighborhood must-trys?

The sushi is nothing special at Eiji (I have not tried the fresh tofu). What is nice is the atmosphere. It feels like a small place in Japan. I haven't found any midrange in the Castro worth recommending. Contigo in Noe Valley has not been mentioned on this thread; nice tapas.

The El Gallo Giro taco truck has been mentioned but I want to second it. And, since you will be living in SF, nearby is La Palma Mexicatessen, with amazing carnitas, pretty good mole verde, good black beans, and very good fresh tortillas (quite a variety also). Nopalito (which I really like) is in your nabe, and there's a second one in the Inner Sunset which is good to know about if, for example, you're in Golden Gate Park and get hungry.

If you like beer, Toronado is the place to sip something nice while you eat your Rosamunde takeaway (I'm told Toronado leases the space to Rosamunde, and the Tuesday burger is a lease clause), and Healthy Spirits has quite a nice bottle selection (store, not bar). If you like Motorino, in addition to the previously named Pizzeria Delfina, you might try Ragazza on Divisadero, which is not quite as good but more convenient to you and easier to get into. Also in this area is Bar Crudo, with a decent happy hour menu.

Paris trip in progress: Clamato, La Cantine du Troquet Dupleix, Philou, Le Servan, West Country Girl, Pierre Sang Boyer

Of the ones we ate at? Pierre Sang Boyer, Le Servan, Will, Le Richer, Clamato.

May 31, 2014
Prabhakar Ragde in France

What good Paris restaurants don't take reservations? Please add to:

I think Le Comptoir du Relais is no-rez 12-18 weekdays and 12-20 weekends.

May 20, 2014
Prabhakar Ragde in France

What good Paris restaurants don't take reservations? Please add to:

No, I am not sure. I just read this information in several places. Maybe you are special!

May 20, 2014
Prabhakar Ragde in France

What good Paris restaurants don't take reservations? Please add to:

Le Richer. The three Cantines (de la Troquet/Dupleix, and de la Cigale).

Paris By Mouth recently published a list which, without their saying so, included places that did take reservations but usually had some space for walk-ins. Annoying.

May 20, 2014
Prabhakar Ragde in France

Paris trip in progress 3: Le Dauphin, Cartouche Café, Le 6 Paul Bert, Haï Kaï, Le Richer again

Not really in progress anymore; I am posting this from Amsterdam (where I am surviving on Indonesian takeout and the last of the kouglhof from Vandermeersch), but I thought I'd keep the titles consistent. Every meal was reserved either the same day or the day before, except Cartouche Café which was a walk-in, and the no-rez places, which we tried to get to before 20h00. Food photos on my Twitter feed (@plragde) if you scroll back enough.

Wednesday lunch at Le Dauphin. It was a cool, overcast day, about 17C, and the glass front was open, which kept the noise down to tolerable. The place is cold, cold, cold. Marble on the walls and tables, backless stools, no place to hang coats or bags. Service would be cold if it weren't so fast (two people working the whole place including the bar). 23E menu with two choices of entrée and dessert, no choice of plat (also two à la carte dishes at about 26E). We had both appetizers, tempura de seiche and échine de porc, coques, small portions but well done. The main was onglet de boeuf, artichauts, pleurotes. This suffered from comparison with Pirouette; the meat portion was slightly larger but chewier (how I remember onglet from the old days) and the oyster mushrooms were raw. The dish looked very pretty but was assembled at the last minute rather than integrated. Desserts were better: a "tarte au citron meringuée" which was a mono-feuille topped with marble-sized blobs of lemon and meringue alternating (I saw something similar at Pâtisserie Cyril Lignac), and a "siphon chocolat" which I ordered blind, half expecting a chocolate soda, but it turned out to be a light, warm mousseline that had been put through a whipped cream canister. The Côtes-du-Rhône out of a giant labelled bottle was surprisingly good. Food was also good but not up to the standard I expected, given the pedigree, and atmosphere was repellent. I'm not sorry I went, but I don't understand why anyone goes back.

Thursday lunch at Cartouche Café. It's in Bercy proper, a bit off the southern end of the park. We were walking in the area, and I knew this was the second place of Rodolphe Paquin. Plus we had not had a meal in a proper bistro (as opposed to a néo-bistrot). The 18E menu offered two choices of each course (the à la carte selections on the ardoise were tempting!). We both went for the éffiloche de raie au lait coco et citron vert, which came in a small glass with a twist of cucumber on the top and oiled roquette on the bottom. This was light and refreshing on a sunny day, though I did have to pick a few rods of translucent cartilage out. We had one each of the mains (swapped plates halfway through), saucisse au couteau à la moutarde de l'ancienne (with potato purée) and steack haché d'agneau à l'origan (a loosely-formed patty, with ratatouille), and converged again on the dessert, a clafoutis aux cerises. Classic meal, though not heavy, and a nice atmosphere as the locals cleared out and friends of the server came in for a mid-afternoon meal. A good address to have if one is in the area.

Le 6 Paul Bert handed us a 12h15 reservation for Friday lunch, no choice. The 19E menu (no à la carte) had two choices for each course (plus a cheese option, and a couple of "apéro" dishes for sharing). We had one each of the first two courses (again with plate-swapping). Mulet juste tranché, cerises, estragon was served raw, in a lovely presentation, and tasted as good as it looked. Gnocchi farcis au foie de lapin et sauge was my first time having "stuffed" gnocchi. It is hard enough to get this dish right without tinkering with it, and I was surprised to find that the texture was perfect and the filling well-balanced. Mains were seiche braisée et riz safrané (cuttlefish was a touch overcooked but tasted nice) and paleron de boeuf, courgettes, grenailles et aillet confit. Once again, good presentation, good flavour. For dessert, we both went for "canoli au café, fraises et mascarpone", which turned out to be a crispy sugar tuile rolled around a light whipped filling, with strawberry sorbet as well as compote. I also had a really smooth glass of Minervois (which, in my previous experience, can be a bit bumpy), which put me in such a good mood that I ordered another. Service was, shall we say, reserved, but attentive, especially given that the place was full when we left. Highly recommended.

Saturday lunch at Haï Kaï. No menu, so it cost a bit more than I expected. We had the table closest to the kitchen, though I tried not to spend too much time with my chair turned, observing. A woman chef! And an awkward triangular space that they salvaged by having an open bar (that is, no counter or stools, just a wall of bottles). Three entreés at 12-14E, three plats at 19-30E, two cheeses, two desserts. We both had exactly the same thing, so no plate-swapping this time. Starter was joue de lotte de Bretagne, crème de Kiri (yeah, I raised an eyebrow, but it worked, especially with the unidentified green adornment, which I recognized as samphire, salicorne in French). Main was merlan de ligne, rhubarbe (as a purée), aspèrges blanches (some propping up the fish architecturally, more in a plate on the side), miellat du maquis. I had a glass of white Gaillac (which I'd never had, though I've had reds many times). We skipped dessert (a tartelette "façon Tatin" and tiramisu) in favour of stopping at La Bague de Kenza on our way back to the apartment. At Pirouette I said the formule made me want to try the regular menu; at Haï Kaï it was the other way around, as the food was good but overpriced compared to what we'd had earlier. Still, a nice relaxed atmosphere, and lots of promise.

Saturday dinner we returned to Le Richer, because it was the free night for museums and we needed to eat early. The menu had not changed much from a week earlier, but we ordered as differently as we could. I had pigeon rôti, cuisse confite (there was liver involved in this), royale d'artichauts, and some sort of cheese (firm, yellow, in thin slices a half-inch square) that was not described on the menu. Desserts were ganache chocolat au lait, sorbet pomme, guimauve jasmin, and riz au lait, sorbet passion, kiwi, granola. I like their habit of bringing the bottles of the wines available by the glass to the table.

Now I shall pour myself a glass of pastis from the bottle of Ricard I took with me. Thank you again, regulars of Chowhound, for helping in my research. Your habit of long meandering threads does not aid efficiency, but I really enjoyed some of your conversations. I will eavesdrop when I miss Paris, which will be often, I suspect.

May 20, 2014
Prabhakar Ragde in France

Paris trip in progress 2: Le BAT, Le Richer, Buvette, Will, Pirouette, La Cantine de la Cigale

We're staying in the 11e. My earlier report had a few more places closer to our apartment.

May 15, 2014
Prabhakar Ragde in France

Paris trip in progress 2: Le BAT, Le Richer, Buvette, Will, Pirouette, La Cantine de la Cigale

I was addressing you! You said I ate at weird hours. For the no-res places, it appears that the choice is to be seated among other Anglos, or wait among the French for the Anglos to vacate their tables...

May 14, 2014
Prabhakar Ragde in France

Paris trip in progress 2: Le BAT, Le Richer, Buvette, Will, Pirouette, La Cantine de la Cigale

Friday dinner at Le BAT. Pace Parigi, if you show up between 19h00 and 20h00, there is a "happy tapas" deal of one tapa and one glass of wine (one choice of red or white) for 9E, which is a pretty good deal. There were a few people inside but more outside. On the scale of things, if I am going to sit on the boulevard Montmartre on a cold, occasionally rainy day, I expect to be paid for my trouble, not the other way around. Anyway. The interior is quite nice, though I expect it is noisy when full. We ordered three tapas and two glasses of Sables Fauves. Salade de poulpe et coques was light on the poulpe (I saw another plate go by that was better, so maybe we should have sat at the kitchen bar to kibitz) but had a light, fresh flavour. Tartare de boeuf came wrapped in cecina (air-dried beef), sitting on a bed of crème d'artichaut (which thankfully did not interfere with the wine) and garnished with mandolined shavings of raw asparagus. Our third was a small piece of rascasse grillée with a vinaigrette mangue-lime. That was enough, and quite a lovely meal for a pretty low price.

Saturday dinner was at Le Richer. We arrived at eight and got the last table for two; those after us waited, crammed by the door or outside in the rain. (Two of them were the same Americans who had sat next to us at Pierre Sang Boyer.) We skipped entrées, and had as mains gigot d'agneau rôti (three thin slices), ail des ours (pureed and spread in a bright circle), carrotes au pain d'épices, salsifis, and cabillaud roti, orange et soja, épinards which came bathed in a citrus foam. Very nice. The dessert that beckoned to both of us was "comme un macaron", with the cookie halves on top of dollops of almond cream among strawberries macerated with tarragon, vanilla ice cream, and swirls of caramel beurre de sel underneath. A glass of Chinon (the server brought three bottles to the table for me to look at) rounded out the meal. Youthful atmosphere (I'm assuming the '80's pop was ironic), good hubbub in the room.

Sunday dinner at Buvette. Again, we arrived at eight, and got the last table; English was being spoken all around us when we arrived, though when we left at ten, it was mostly French, and no one was waiting by then. There were four specials, which didn't appeal to us (and dwindled to three and then two while we ate), so we ordered off the printed menu. Aspèrges blanches with hollandaise were not as fat as we'd seen in the market (which is good as far as I'm concerned) and had a nice flavour. Brandade de morue, made with house-salted cod, failed to impress, and the addition of chopped leeks did not help. Coq au vin is a dish I have not had in a French restaurant in ages, and this small cocotte had the flavour I remember (though no lardons, and coarsely-chopped white onions instead of pearl onions). Tarte Tatin was less sweet than usual (good) but also had less caramel flavour than I would like, and the crust was a bit leathery (ie it had been inverted some time ago). Mousse au chocolat, another classic, was really well done, and a generous serving (which I was glad that I was sharing). Service was rushed (there was one person working most of the place, occasionally two) and it took something like half an hour to get our cheque, for no good reason. Tables were tiny, which was good, because I had to lean over and place my mouth next to the ear of my companion (and vice-versa) to carry on a conversation. So, a mixed bag. I suspect I would recommend this only to people not comfortable with interacting in tourist French.

Monday lunch at Will (though they are closed Sunday and for Monday dinner, curiously). Room is sparingly designed and pleasant, service is friendly. The formule at 19E allows one to sample small portions of two entrées from the carte plus a plat du jour which is not on it. The entrées focus on the raw. Saumon saisi au sel came with thin slices of two kinds of radish and small cubes of mango. Carpaccio de maigre had some sort of citrus dressing, a ginger vinaigrette, and sprigs of basil. Hamachi came layered with grapefruit sections and a citrus reduction. Tartare de boeuf, the least successful of a spectacular lot, was dusted with gomashio and garnished with shreds of green mango. The plat du jour that day was a magret de canard. I confess to not caring much for duck breast, preferring the leg and thigh (which I have an unnatural fondness for), but this changed my mind. It was perfectly tender, including the surrounding fat, and came with a bowl of ethereal creamy purée de pommes de terre. All that for 19E each. We split one dessert, a panna cotta infused with Thai basil, topped with small cubes of roasted pineapple and a scoop of mango sorbet, all covered with a translucent sugar tuile, for another 9E. This one hit it out of the park, and I would recommend it to anyone.

Tuesday lunch at Pirouette. Well-designed space, friendly and efficient service. The 18E formule had no choice on the entrée, which was an effiloché de paleron de boeuf, soaked in jus and flavoured with soy, with radishes and grilled onions. There were two plats du jour, and each ordered one. The mains were about half the size of the portions we saw at tables that ordered off the carte. Merlu sauvage rôti came with small grilled fennel, large capers, and beurre à l'orange. Onglet de boeuf (requested à point, three small chunks cooked just right) came with small potatoes. I had a glass of the featured wine, a Rasteau, which went well with the food. While at Will we felt we were getting a representative look at the carte, here we felt we were missing out by not ordering à la carte, which would have cost us two to three times as much (still, if I were to go back, this is what I would do). The desserts did not inspire us, so we went off to Sadaharu Aoki and picked up a few items to eat in the apartment.

We were going to eat in for dinner on Tuesday, but our late-afternoon nap stretched a little too late, so we went up to La Cantine de la Cigale. Most of the outdoor tables were full (see comments above on le BAT, really, I find this behaviour in this area inexplicable) and the interior was almost empty. The atmosphere inside was not as convivial as at Troquet Dupleix, and the menu less inspiring. We opted to nibble on three entrées: oreilles de cochon grillée, couteaux, and tartare de boeuf with a soft-cooked egg. All were decent but not really inspiring; the pichet of Côteaux d'Aix rosé was a good accompaniment. Seems like it is worth the long trip to the south.

Other food notes: the kouglhof at Vandermeersch out on avenue Daumesnil is quite amazing, almost a different beast from the one I had from Stohrer in '96, which was harder, less redolent of orange, and more dusted with powdered sugar. This one, on the other hand, cost me more than many of my meals above, though it did last through several very indulgent breakfasts. And Sunday lunch, choice of locals in their neighbourhood, reminded me that there is still terrible food to be had in this town, even though I knew that much better food was steps away...

One more report to come.

May 14, 2014
Prabhakar Ragde in France