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Chowdown Report: Penang Garden (San Francisco Chinatown)

Thanks to HyperB for suggesting this and to Vincent for the sake!

Maybe we are just too far from SE Asia...but I keep getting disappointed when I try to pretend I am in Singapore or KL. The old Straits on Geary, before they tried to go big time, was pretty darn good with excellent rendang, a memorable black pepper mussels, etc. I want to try the new Lime Tree as I have good memories of the little place on Irving, but haven't been there in a while. We have gone to Banana Island a few times over on Lake Merced Blvd and with careful menu selection have felt like returning. Their rendang is OK, the rotis are good, though the dipping sauce is milder than at Penang Garden, and they have a killer desert selection of rotis, best filled with fresh mango and covered with a bit of chocolate sauce and whipped cream... Best of all it is a happy place, generally filled with lots of Asian families and fun to go to.

So, how does Penang Garden fare. Atmosphere, service etc., not that warm and fun. Some of the dishes pretty good. I liked the Roti Canaiand Roti Murtabak, dipping sauce as it was quite spicy. The rotis are well done and fresh. I am confused about murtabaks as we had an incredible very Indian style version at Zam Zam in Singapore and I don't remember how Murtabaks are in KL, but frankly I wouldn't bother with them again at Penang Garden -- though others may enjoy them. I am just spoiled by Zam Zam.

The chile crab (2nd picture) is another dish worth talking about. I think the sauce is pretty close to Singapore chile crab, but, of course, as klyeoh and others on the Singapore threads will freely admit, our crabs are way better than the Sri Lankan things they get. klyeoh can comment if the pictured amount of sauce seems correct. Note the little fried breads, a correct accompaniment. So, this is a reasonable place to sample the, perhaps overrated, Singapore chile crab.

We didn't understand why the waiter strongly discouraged us from the black pepper preparation of crab that we were headed for. That can be a most interesting dish - and as I mentioned the black pepper mussels at Straits were a triumph.

Two big fails for us:

the chicken and rice (Hainese Chicken), a favorite dish of my SO who gave thumbs down on this (she likes Kin Khao's version). We ordered the dark meat version. I normally prefer dark meat, but at the famous Singapore stalls, the revelation was how much taste and juiciness there was in the white meat. The rice at Penang Garden was OK, but didn't sing.

the beef rendang was nothing short of a disaster. The meat pieces were often tough. The sauce was lacking in the many dimensions of even mediocre renderings (Banana Island).

I was most happy to find a curry laksa as I haven't found this in the Bay Area outside of the Singapore Airlines lounge at SFO. It was good, but I can't compare to the legendary laksa in Singapore as we never got to Katong Rd. There is another kind of laksa, Assam Laksa which has sardines in it and a more sour soup (tamarind and pineapple). This is what you get for laksa at Banana Island. I found the Penang Garden version to be far superior.

Other dishes: oyster pancakes could have used more oyster; the noodle dish didn't convince me of its value; the vegetables with lots of shrimp paste in a Nonya style were good, but not to everyone's taste; not sure what was the Thai style in the salty pork leg. Finally the durian pancake was filled with probably a canned durian custard...

In sum, might be worth returning if in the hood and desperate for laksa or a roti canai and if you want to sample a chile crab.

Chowdown Report: Tai Wu (Millbrae)

Not on the dim sum menu, but it appears to be on the regular menu (and pink take out menu) and available at lunch.

Chowdown Report: Tai Wu (Millbrae)

Thanks Hyperb. for firing up this flash chowdown. It is nice to find a little competition with Koi Palace which is really very good and where the lines (none at 11:30 Saturday) are tolerable. The third floor was filled up and is where the carts roam.

I will add a few pix to the collection and a few comments embellishing Hyperbowlers.

The suckling pig was extraordinary. Best I've seen around here. A very thin crispy skin made me believe this was really a suckling pig.

Another best I've had was the Durian Puff (last photo). There was real Durian fruit (not some custard that a Durian might have walked by) in the excellent pastry. The combination was balanced and perfect --- if you like Durian as I do.

There is some originality in the offerings - maybe not quite as much as at Koi, but indicating, along with the general high quality that there is a real chef in charge of the kitchen. Examples:

Japanese Style Turnip Cake -- with a wasabi mayo really worked well.

XLB with Thai style Tom Yum Gong soup inside. Very interesting variant. Little changes like this make going to dim sum fun and not just the same old, same old. I disagree with Hyper on this one -- I had no trouble upending the little cups and getting a whole XLB into my gullet. Best to wait for the XLB to cool down a little before trying this.

A little lotus root and shrimp patty was also unusual and well executed - see first picture.

I also thought the shrimp rice noodle (freshly made) and the chow chiu dumpling (one of the best around) were excellent.

Misses were the chicken wings - really poor, not crisp, no flavor worth the calories - and the taro root dumpling was rather average, probably not fresh from the frier.

All in all this is fine place to go, near a BART stop, near the airport, price point about where Koi Palace is - more than the dives, much less (and better!!!!) than Yank Sing and the new super pricey places in the CIty.

Lunch between San Jose and L.A.

Jocko's in Nipomo if you are going down 101 and can handle a big steak at lunch. Recommend the Spence steak.

Nothing I know of that is special on i5.

Burmese Kitchen closing, another victim of the out-of-control hi-tech economy. [San Francisco]

I have been trying to hold my tongue, but the original post and this thread has strongly offended me. It does not belong on Chowhound, is totally off topic, and should have been removed long ago. The only thing the tech economy has to do with restaurants is that it has supported many new restaurants, some good, some bad. Let's focus on identifying good places to eat.

Moderators, please remove this thread.

A "special" dinner in SFBA -- your thoughts much appreciated

Benu's Corey Lee has opened Monsieur Benjamin a French bistro place. It may be just what you are looking for and you have a prayer of getting a reservation.

I was a real fan of the a la carte menu at Benu on weekdays, as I am tired of long tasting menus, the details of which I can't remember the next day. (Benu's was my favorite tasting menu, better for me than Coi or Manresa, but I don't do them anymore.)

Monsieur Benjamin did well for us last week. The quail stuffed with sausage was excellent and the lobster meat sauced pasta was also fine. A desert Gateau Marjolaine brought back 30+ yr old memories of a Biscuit Marjolaine in Ammerschwihr (Alsace) where I startled/pleased the waiter by ordering seconds and thirds. Monsieur Benjamin seemed to be as close to something you might find in Paris these days as any place in the Bay Area.

First courses (oeufs a la mayonnaise and a liver mousse with potato gauffrettes) did not amaze. We will go back to try some other items that looked good on nearby tables including a pork rib and leg of lamb. The wine list also seemed very reasonable to me (more like a true French restaurant that wants to earn its money from the food rather than price gouging on wines.)

Chowdown Report: SF Excelsior Food Crawl Part I (Aug 2014)

Darn the spelling corrector... nut mon = nuk mon , of course.

Chowdown Report: SF Excelsior Food Crawl Part I (Aug 2014)

At Kadok’s of San Francisco: Shanghai Lumpia was nice and not greasy; the Tokwa't Baboy (fried pork belly and fried tofu) was really quite good, particularly with the banana ketchup from the Philippines (although a bit too aged in the bottle...).

Los Planes De Renderos has very nice, relatively light and thin, pupusas. We had two versions, with different cheeses, one with a regional spice like cilantro (someone else has to remember the name). This is a clearly the go-to El Salvadorean place in this area. Popular and crowded. With lots of interesting items. I most loved, best of the day , the stuffed plantain croquettes (pictured above). The Salvadorean slaw that comes with the pupusas was fresh and typical, apparently, with an abundance of Mexican oregano (which I find overwhelms the slaw).

The mini BBQ pork buns at Hong Kong Bakery would rank high in a competition.

All in all this is a fun neighborhood to explore and we enjoyed the excellent guidance from a local who was with us.

Some other places on the long list had previously been tried and reported on, but not dined at this time -- they are worth including on a visit to the Excelsior: Maneelap Srimongkoun Restaurant (Laotian), Dark Horse Inn, Sungari Dumpling (Chinese dumplings and Dongbei cuisine), Doctor's Lounge, and Beijing.

Be sure to read soupçon's posting in the other thread.

Chowdown Report: SF Excelsior Food Crawl Part I (Aug 2014)

I thought Ty Sandwich's banh mi had some very good aspects: good crisped bread, excellent teriyaki-style chicken thigh meat, excellent roast pork. But the dressing was not very intense, I did not detect any nut mon fish sauce and maybe no mayo. The veggies were wet so the whole thing came out a bit too juicy without have any real flavor other than the meats.

Chowdown Report: SF Excelsior Food Crawl Part I (Aug 2014)

Here is the information the crawlers had with them, listing the known restaurants in the area. Note that we went to some not on this list.

Here's a SF Chronicle article re the Excelsior:

http://www.sfgate.com/politics/joegar...

Search for Excelsior on Chowhound:

http://www.chow.com/search?q=excelsio...

Here is a map of the area showing known restaurants (Blue indicates places not known to have been sampled by any of us):

https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edi...

Here is the list with what we know, websites, opening times:

Pan Lido (mexican bakery, grab to eat stuff later) morning t0 6PM

Tortas Boos Voni (Mexico City tortas, chilaquiles) 9AM-9PM

Batter Up (locally recommended, they have stuff like deep fried snickers, corn dogs, etc.) noon-6PM https://www.grubhub.com/sf/batter-up/

Hood grub (current restaurant at Broken Record; Sunday 11am – 11pm) http://www.hoodgrubsf.com http://sf.eater.com/archives/2014/01/...

Maneelap Srimongkoun Restaurant (Laotian) Sun lunch 1-3 dinner 5-10 http://www.maneelapsrimongkoun.com http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9312...

Doctor's Lounge 8AM-2AM (Brunch to 2PM) http://doctorsloungesf.com
{Centrally located near Safeway and a good place to meet after the crawl.

)

Los Planes de Renderos (pupusas) probably CLOSED Sunday

Hilda's (Filipino bakery) 9AM-5PM

Kadok's (Filipino, recommended lechon or Tikwat baboy) 11AM-530PM https://www.grubhub.com/sf/kadoks--fi...

Sungari Dumpling (Chinese dumplings and Dongbei cuisine) 11AM-930PM http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/982662

Dark Horse Inn 1 - 9 PM) http://www.darkhorsesf.com/visit.html

Phillies, Sunday 11am to 8pm http://www.philliessf.com/
Kuta Bistro, Sunday 5pm to 11pm http://kutabistrosf.com/

Pho Nice, 11am to 9:30pm, Hanoi style pho bac! https://www.facebook.com/phonicesf

Pupuseria Metapan, 10am to 3am, not only corn but rice flour pupusas! more comida salvadoreña https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pupuse...

Taqueria Reina's 11AM-1030PM

El Porteño/Chifa Peruano 11:30a-10p http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4281...
Ann's Doughnut & Sandwich Shop https://www.flickr.com/photos/anomalo...

Rincon Latino Sunday 9am to 10pm http://rinconlatinosf.com/about.html new owners in 2012 expanded menu http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3106...

Calabria Brothers Deli http://calabriabrosdeli.com CLOSED Sunday

Naples Pizzarella 11AM-11PM http://naplespizzarellasf.com

Beijing Restaurant 11AM-930PM http://www.beijingsanfrancisco.com

New Royal Bakery 9AM-830PM

Food crawl in Excelsior District this Sunday - all are invited

I will post a complete list on the other (post-crawl) thread.

Food crawl in Excelsior District this Sunday - all are invited

A few weeks ago Melanie organized a small Chow dinner at Dark House Inn based on her (and others’) sense that some, particularly many of the new, places in the Mission and elsewhere in SF are getting too pricey and (IMO) formulaic. The Excelsior area is often described as the way the Mission used to be.  See

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/984709

At that dinner, the idea came up to do a daytime food crawl of the area. So, we have planned a crawl, which will take place this Sunday August 24th. We will meet between 11:45 AM and 12 noon at the Safeway (parking lot near store entrance), 4950 Mission, which is about half way between Persia and Geneva, two concentrations of the area’s interesting places to eat.

Depending on how many people come, the plan is to divide up into groups of 4 - 6 going to about 3 known places each (from the list below). It is also hoped that the group(s) may serendipitously try other places they come across. I would guess that this will involve about a mile or 2 of walking.

So we know who is coming it is useful if you RSVP to

excelsiorcrawl@icloud.com

If you send email to that address I can send you a longer message with a list of the candidate restaurants, a link to a map, etc.

Okonomiyaki: SFBA Dish of the Month August 2014

Saw okonomiyaki at SF Street Food Fest at Namu Street Food. Had only $11.60 so could only afford chicken version as beef was $12. Dry chicken. Pancake with kimchee similar but inferior to Namu Gaji. No surprise as same people. So I am still looking for a Japanese style version.

Hakka Restaurant or other choice for chinese banquet meal? [San Francisco]

I've done a 1 table family banquet at Hakka ordering some of the advanced order items, e.g. Stuffed chicken or duck. It was very successful.

Also was there two weeks ago with a party of 3 and it was as excellent as usual. Maybe the best Chinese in the City these days.

Okonomiyaki: SFBA Dish of the Month August 2014

Looks like oknomiyaki will be available in significant quantities this weekend atthe SF Street Food Festival:
https://twitter.com/stonesthrowsf/sta...

Okonomiyaki: SFBA Dish of the Month August 2014

Saw a very similar oknomiyaki selection at Majikku Ramen, next to 99 Ranch, Skyline Plaza, Daly City, but didn't have a chance to try.

Santa Barbara Uni @ Tenroku Sushi in San Francisco Japantown

Yes. Tried it a few days ago. Excellent deal and good fresh uni. Maybe as many as 8 unis in the small wooden tray.

After a movie (the Chef, meh..) we looked in at Tenruko space where the well thought of Maki used to be. The uni deal pulled us in rather than heading down to the boat sushi place. Dishes here are on a conveyor belt. All in all the sushi was ok, though generally limited variety. Chefs were willing to make things fresh. Prices quite low for sushi. Better than boat place, but that's not saying much.

Probably I am not fussy enough about sushi. Like oysters and wine and dim sum, I find sometimes lower prices allows for more enjoyment in a more relaxed atmosphere than super pricey, super high quality followed by a monstrous bill. Anathema.

San Francisco Chowdown Report: Dark Horse Inn and Six Foot 20 in the Excelsior District

Now that I managed to upload pictures with much difficulty, some comments..

Dark Horse chefs like to smoke things (so do I) and they do it with considerable creativity. The delish deviled eggs were smoky. The chicken in the chicken and Brie sandwich was also smoked, a breast that was tasty an not dried out. Quite impressive for a sandwich that is usually quite boring. I also always avoid Reubens, but I ended gobbling up half of my SO's pastrami reuben. The bartender said it was his favorite and it was really good. Not sure if pastrami is normally acceptable in a Reuben, but who cares.

The other appetizers: fried pickle and jalapeño slices was well done, and the spring rolls were totally unusual, interesting, fresh and very tasty. Sopaipillas came with a perfect caramel sauce and could be addictive. The Sunday special, seared tuna and wasabi rice, was not up to the rest of the regular menu items.

Another addictive item is the Umami Poblano Fries at the Sunday pop up Six Foot 20 at the heritage Doctor's Lounge.

San Francisco Chowdown Report: Dark Horse Inn and Six Foot 20 in the Excelsior District

Pop up at Doctor's

San Francisco Chowdown Report: Dark Horse Inn and Six Foot 20 in the Excelsior District

Trouble posting multiple images so will try one at a time.

San Francisco Chowdown Report: Dark Horse Inn and Six Foot 20 in the Excelsior District

Let me add a few pix to Melanie's: The two appetizers at Dark Horse and the tacos and the addictive Umami Poblano Fries (a bit hard to photograph in the dark lighting).

Smokestack BBQ [San Francisco]

Next time will give the chopped pork a shot. There was starting to be a line and I didn't want to bother the server to get a taste -- and it wouldn't have been fair after having filled up on the brisket.

What I was trying to say in my post was that the brisket we had was so incredibly good that I couldn't imagine anything else being worth cutting down on a brisket order.

Last night, I did hear from someone else who had tried the brisket shortly after the place opened that theirs was very dry, and some comments on this thread seem to indicate that has happened. All the pieces I saw, cut from different briskets, looked just perfect to me. So, I wonder what might have gone on. All I can say is when the brisket is good at Smokestack it is incredible.

Okonomiyaki: SFBA Dish of the Month August 2014

Namu Gaji (Corner of Dolores and 18th St) introduced me to Okonomiyaki and it is the only one I have had (so far). So, I can't say how authentic it is, but it is so good that it has kept us coming back to Namu Gaji many times. From what I learned in an earlier thread, this appears to be a dish that straddles the straits between SW Japan (Nagasaki) and Korea.

The dish is not easy to describe. Namu Gaji's version comes in a very hot cast iron pan and is kind of a pancake with some oysters, kim chee, sprouts and I am not sure what else in it. On top are bonito flakes that persist in wiggling around sensuously, driven by the heat, for most of the time you are consuming the Oknomiyaki. At the end you get to scrape up the caramelized bits. Whole thing is delicious.

One Namu Gaji Okonomiyaki is just fine for 2. We usually get there early enough (before 630) to order the "happy hour" Korean Beef tacos. With the pickles that is a fine meal polished off next door, if the lines are not too long, with a salted caramel and honey lavender cone at BiRite.

Namu Gaji has lots of other very interesting items, including their Wednesday night KFC (Korean Fried Chicken), an interesting cured salmon and beans salad, a mushroom thingie, ... I was less impressed with the hamburger which is not up to Mission Bowling, for example.

Eating in Season: Squash Blossoms

I don't often get to try these fried flowers in restaurants as they are a home cooking thing we do (now using a zucchini plant that even grows in a pot the City). With a light spicy batter, and some flowers with small baby squashes still attached, (and a couple of margaritas) this is a summer delight. I have stuffed them with things like boursin, but it it is best and lightest unstuffed (IMO).

Another squash flower opportunity is the wonderful Crema de Flores de Calabaza, a soup, which if I recall correctly one can get at Rick Bayless's Frontera Grill or Toplobompo in Chicago for which he has a recipe in his book, Mexican Kitchen. Has anyone seen this in a restaurant in the Bay Area. It is classic Mexican and delicious and light?

As I noted in another thread, something quite similar and excellent is served these days at Smokestack in Dogpatch, called Creamed Squash, but without flowers.

Smokestack BBQ [San Francisco]

Brisket needs to be moist (euphemism for fatty), otherwise it is dry. We had the best brisket I have ever had outside of Texas. Smoky and delicious. Needs none of the sauces, and so tasty that sauce is inappropriate. Reminded of Louie Mueller's in Taylor, TX and that's the highest praise I could give. The crust was amazing! I guess this is Kobe beef brisket done right.

The porchetta was OK, but not nearly as good as Roli Roti. I asked for some of the skin and told it was too tough. At Roli Roti, they chop up the skin, which isn't too tough, and it adds flavor and crunch.

The side of "creamed squash" was delicious. I think the squash was grilled and then cooked in a creamy stock. This is really a soup! Reminded me a bit of the recipe in Rick Bayless, Mexican Kitchen for Crema de Flores de Calabaza, but this had no flowers.

Got a taste of the spicy Thai-ish sausage which was OK. Didn't taste the chopped pork, which looked like it has a chance of being OK -- there is a decent NC style vinegar sauce on the tables.

We will be back and will double up on the brisket!

SFBA Dish of the Month (Aug 2014) - Nominations/Voting

Namu Gaji does an Oknomiyaki we think is excellent.

SF Dish of the Month (July 2014) - Nominations/Voting

Ok, it works. Guess I was just too twitchy and hit the number again...

SF Dish of the Month (July 2014) - Nominations/Voting

I tried that... Next time I will try again.

SF Dish of the Month (July 2014) - Nominations/Voting

How does one rescind a vote (a recommend clicked in error)? That has happened to me. Easy to do when you are really trying to click on the number of votes to see who has voted...

Sam's Chowdermobile in Golden Gate Park

I got them on a bad day also a year ago and haven't been back. I suspect they cook up a big batch in the morning. Lobster has to be cooked fresh or it gets tough.