bbulkow's Profile

Title Last Reply

Startup Sells "Prime" Reservations (Table8)

Have you people tried to "grease a host" recently? You talk so flippantly about it. It just doesn't work. A place booked and fully committed a week out simply won't take money to get a table. I've actually tried a couple of times in the last 12 months, just for fun. They won't do it for $100, not the places I tried.

Places are popular partially because of the price. It's a little weird, but why doesn't SBP raise prices? Their prices are very reasonable - because they'd like to be seen as a value, so they're leaving money on the table, as long as they can make a profit at their current price structure, they might be better off not raising prices. Raise prices, the word is out you're expensive, demand falls off too much, and you're in trouble. Saison had to raise its prices very slowly. Some places have done weekend pricing vs weekday (Atellier Crenn needs this, they have same-day during the week but weekends are booked 2-3 months in advance).

I know exactly why I want a reservation when I go out - because I don't want to be fogging around looking for my backup place, especially with guests in tow. When I'm out by myself - whatever, I can eat down the street.

So you have last minute guests. You _really_ want a reservation. You're going to pay $100/pp anyway, say, for a 4 top. You can't get into any of the restaurants that allow you to be a really cool host.

Would I pay an extra $50? To be sure of my reservation so I can tell my guests where to meet me?

ABSOLUTELY.

Is the restaurant list right or wrong? Hard to say, doesn't look good to me. Are there other reasons they'd fail? Sure. But morality --- really? We're going to debate morality in a city where you can spend $500/pp for dinner, with homeless people around?

Apr 15, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area
1

Namu Gaji - SF

More specific: they had an orange wine that, from the name of it, was a collaboration between Namu Gaji chefs / owners, and a winery. I do not remember the winery, varietal, year (was young).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orange_wine

Apr 15, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

Namu Gaji - SF

I did not find the prices here to be far out of whack, because at the end of the night - having had 2 drinks per person including their custom orange wine (a great pairing with the hard hitting and salty food style), I think I ended up with $100 --- $50/pp. For the quality and highly interesting food, that's about what I expect to pay.

Re: tacos, when I first got tacos from tacolicious (palo alto) my GF scoffed. $5 for a taco? This was slightly bigger than El Gruellense, but the EG tacos are $1.25. Then we went one night, at about 11pm, had a pleasant experience with drinks and a fun bartender, and her mood softened considerably.

Apr 14, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

Namu Gaji - SF

So I finally got to NG and had the okonomiyaki, now I can opine.

I liked the dish, but it's not Kansai okonomiyaki. When the dish was presented, they said "the brother's personal take on okonomiyaki", which is more than fair.

It's presented in a stone bowl, like other korean dishes, which is very non-Kansai (where you might eat OY directly off the griddle). I missed the crispness of the bottom of the dish, which of course grew stronger as the bottom crisped because of the stone. In fact, the next day, cold out of the fridge, the structure of the dish was delightful.

Overall, NG seemed to have a lot of salt. a LOT. I've never said that about anyplace, and we almost returned a dish because of the salt content. The OY was also very salty, and a bit unbalanced, because of the kimchee. My perfect OY has a bit more crunch and a bit more starch.

That all being said, as this was presented as _their take_ on OY, not something "authentic" (OY is a bizarre dish to talk about "authenticity", as it was Okanawan to begin with, if I remember my history correctly), the dish had to be taken on its own terms to a great extent.

In that regard, it was a successful dish, very bold, interesting set of textures, with a good blend of flavors. The OY sauce was particularly delightful, as well as the bonito flakes. I rather wish GF didn't hate mayo so much, maybe the balance would have been regained by a little kewpie.

Apr 14, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area
1

coffee and/or breakfast near San Mateo / Foster City

For future reference, I very much like the breakfast and press coffee at the Sofitel in Redwood Shores. For general coffee action in San Mateo downtown, I like 3B's and Kaffeehaus. Both are long on atmosphere and short on actual coffee quality.

Apr 12, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area
1

Where to get Japanese omakase?

A better, and arguably more authentic omakase experience is a place that does _only_ omakase. In those places, the chef doesn't have to acquire and maintain popular fish, just the ones that he will serve in omakase. The other authentic omakase is when you talk to the itame and get to know him, and he gets to know your taste. You will start getting a true experience after a couple of visits.

I have a place in tokyo (not sushi) where they've made for me a couple of courses of different ways of preparing the same dish, and asked me what I liked about the different preps, so they can cook perfectly for me the next time I come - but, as an obligation, I must no longer be polite with them. Being polite is easier, that's why it's my obligation to them.

Any omakase only places in houston?

Apr 07, 2014
bbulkow in Houston

san jose recommendations

Thanks for the writeup. I'm glad you tried the train to MV, and you did well to pick Bushedo - one great thing about MV is the generally high quality. You'll never forget your first okonomyaki!

B2 serves Verve, a local roast out of santa cruz. Verve does a solid blend, but, most importantly, offers a lot of training to the shops that brew it. Although I like a few other coffees better, FourBarrel, Barefoot, Verve is very nice, and it sounds like B2 is doing a good job.

Apr 07, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

Atelier Crenn , a truly magical experience [San Francisco]

If you can, call and get on the wait list, which you can do a few weeks in advance, if you can be flexible in the last few days. Also, mid-week there are spots. If you require saturday and a confirmed reservation at prime-time, you'll just have to keep calling.

Apr 07, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

New Xi'an/Shaanxi restaurant Terra Cotta Warrior on Judah St. [San Francisco]

oh dear, I love me a roujiamo. These little burgers - sometimes better in spicy pork flavor - are all over beijing, too.

Mar 28, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

san jose recommendations

Pickins are very slim. Set your expectations on the lower side. All the interesting food is a drive - like the amazing Milpitas Square mall. There is actually a light rail near there, but it's an annoying dark walk (if you do go, check out Anjappar Chetinad, QQ Noodle)

Let me tell you up-front that yelp is particularly useless in San Jose. The locals are an ill-bred lot, and vote highly for mediocre food.

As you're from the DC area, you won't be impressed by our vietnamese. Vung Tau is the old standby.

You might be impressed by a good taco, but I don't know where to send you downtown.

For modern food, I will recommend First to Market even though I haven't been there yet (open 5 weeks). The restaurants in this space are usually good.

Arcadia is the usual high end deal, a michael minna thing - I haven't bothered to go, I've been to MM places before. Same with Grill on the Square. A passable restaurant steak, nothing more. A "default" near the convention center is Il Forniao. The food is on the good side of edible, it's a sprawling place inside so there's always a seat, and it's right there.

Back-a-yard (new outpost of a Menlo Park hole in the wall) is on the far side of "town" from you but worth a walk. I actually like the jerk salmon better than the chicken, the taste sinks in better.

I have been going recently to Cafe Stritch. The burgers are very good (1/2 bacon ground in), the drinks are stiff and cheap (try the spiked horchata and the old fashioned), and the live music (mostly jazz) can be exceptional.

San Pedro marketplace is a reasonable place to follow your nose. I haven't had any revelations there, but it's a hip little alcove.

For fun atmosphere, drop in to the lounge at the Hotel DeAnza. The food is edible, the drinks are slightly better, but jazz in the 100 year old room is worth poking one's head in.

Another old favorite is Original Joe's. It really is one of those Original places, always has liver on the menu, but I honestly haven't been there in 20 years so can't recommend it.

If you want to make a journey, catch the light rail to Mountain View (end of the line). There's a very pleasant "train town" with lots of possible eats - everything from a michelin-star tasting menu at Chez TJ, passable modern food at Scratch, interesting Indian at Sakoon, great burgers and hyper german beer at Beirhaus, solid american and a very cutting edge beer list at Stein's, several solid ramen shops (most rave for maru ichi), a very good sushi joint at Sushi Tomi (friday night when the fish flown from Tsukiji is great), a kaiseki-ish japanese at Nami Nami, actual good coffee at Red Rock (hit the single origin bar). But it's a hike. I don't know if Caltrain's better, or the light rail, for both the station in MV is right at the beginning of the pleasant pedestrian area. (the light rail takes 40 minutes each way, if you get to the caltrain station it'll take 20 - but caltrain runs less frequently. Consider getting a CityBikeShare to transport yourself around the downtown core - like to the station).

Let me add one more. If you get on the light rail going the other way, to Campbell, you'll get another (smaller) train town. My favorite eats (again, right near the station) are at Liquid Bread, you can search for comments. Across the street is a worthy german place (that I don't like but some do), and there's Blue Line Pizza, an outpost of Little Star in SF (which you can also search for). Campbell isn't quite as "happening" as MV, but it's closer (30 minutes ride) and still pretty pleasant.

Mar 28, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

Just spent a week in the Bay Area (didn't consult here beforehand (gasp!))...here's what I found

Thanks for checking in!

Cooking Papa is the kind of restaurant you'd get recommended to if you checked in with us. In San Mateo proper, I always think of Japanese - it's a great cluster - and chinese second and some other reasonable places.

Scott's MV - I've eaten there twice and never liked the place particularly. I thought the seafood was average, and at least they got out of the way of the fish, didn't overcook, and had decent ingredients --- sounds like attributes you appreciate. Scott's did not come up on a discussion of peninsula fish places "to take a non fish eater". I've had very good luck with Scratch's fish specials.

You would have been steered generally away from Straits. The original in SF was pretty good albeit not fully loved, and the outposts have been generally disliked.

The only place in the south bay people are talking about re: BBQ is Smoking Pig in San Jose - just get the brisket, though, it's not really a ribs place.

Mar 26, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

Cheese stores in South Bay (and 680 corridor)

I haven't had Rocamadour, but agree it's a might fine goat cheese.

Mar 21, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

Cheese stores in South Bay (and 680 corridor)

They looked to be sitting there a while.

How did you like the ones you had?

Mar 21, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

Cheese stores in South Bay (and 680 corridor)

On the shelf marked "Epoisses" there is (or were last week) a really fine artesinal cheese from vermont that looks like a little brain, in a wood box. I happen to have this exact cheese in vermont and it's excellent. Sorry that I've forgot the name. They seem to not have added any Epoisses for a while, I keep checking too.

Mar 20, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

san mateo and south

+1 on bay 223 for brunch. The only problem I've had there is sometimes the staff presses the coffee too early. This is one of my hidden spots for morning business meetings, easy freeway access, quiet, good coffee.

For me san mateo means japanese. What a great hotspot of places. Besides the usual places, I keep coming back to Yakko because I like me a good yakitori, and even though it's only average there, the atmosphere is excellent (maybe I saw one non-japanese there once).

Mar 20, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

san mateo and south

Here are some of our everyday favorites:

Cafe Barrone. For a casual place, everything really clicks. Often get the pasta or the short ribs.

Med Wraps - once you try the falafel and/or schwarma there, you'll be spoiled for FDI (except as a treat).If you like coffee, pop into Zombie Runner next door.

Gravity - we like this because it's reasonable on the late side, and we often eat at 9pm. Pasta's good, burger's good, wine list always has something amusing.

Broadway Masala - this place is getting more and more packed, because it's the only decent indian place north of Amber. Amber's pretty good, too.

Mayfield Bakery - I think Mayfield's at the level of a lot of the good midgrade places in SF. They do complexity well - had a very nice fennel / cheese / tapanade salad recently - and the appetizer list is solid.

Mar 20, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

Molecular Gastronomy Restaurants deserving of Time and Money?

.

Mar 17, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

SF-area restaurant critics: Validators vs Discoverers

This posting and topic has almost nothing to do with the bay area.

The business of reviewing requires balancing the amount of money made per article with the number of restaurants visited. While this seems obvious, the reality is that a professional can't simply eat all the restaurants, and must listen to friends, surf review sites. When I was writing, I'd always be asking friends about standouts in their area. Then I'd so a single visit, and see if I could craft a story arc around the experience.

Which brings us to the "restaurant review" in which 650 words is dedicated to a single restaurant and only 50 a year can be published. This form requires covering only restaurants where you have a strong opinion or position to write. This is simply from the perspective of the newspaper, which requires a number of viewers per dollars spent per review. In my opinion, simply describing the restaurant and food is not enough, I believe J Gold is a case in point. His ledes are exceptional.

I found that a board like CH could be a good feeder for article ideas, because enough people ate enough smaller and more unusual restaurants. I find more recently repeats of the same topics and same restaurants.

I find myself bored by the classic format, and found (in the SJ Metro) a willingness to step outside formula. Regrettably, support from the paper itself was poor ( I look at the poor editing and fact checking of those pieces and cringe ), as well as pay that didn't cover expenses. Lack of investment - non-monetary investment of training and mentor ship - would go a long way.

To discuss more would become a topic of the newspaper and media business, beyond the topic of this board.

I expect this topic and my response to be moderated pretty quickly, so anyone who wants to discuss can reach my via personal mail.

Mar 16, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area
1

Business Dinner near Ritz Carlton [San Francisco]

Gitane and Sons and Daughters are two commonly recommended places within walking distance. Gitane should meet spec for fun, reasonably loud but not too much, interesting. I haven't been to S&D.

There is a large hill surrounding the Ritz, so walking to any restaurant will be reasonable, and walking back will be more difficult.

If you expand to "5 minute cab ride" you'll get a much larger selection.

Mar 10, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

What's up with Nopa? [San Francisco]

When you call them, ask which days have a waiting list that are likely to get satisfied. If you're on the waiting list, you can still accept-or-reject and bump your other choice --- assuming you're within the reasonable cancellation window.

Mar 10, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

Where does the meat come from?

I think there are two possible movements.

One is for humane treatment of animals. That would include very specific limits for all kinds of things - how long they're penned, how big the pens are, any number of things. The way to test the market is to draw up those standards, and see if * people care, and * meat suppliers can live with it. I think there have been attempted at this, I think they have failed (in that I can't remember any).

This will have less traction than organic in produce, because humane treatment doesn't change the meat on my table, in an easy-to-prove chemical sense. Organic works because "I don't want to eat pesticide". I think it'll be a struggle to get this across to people but --- prove me wrong!

The second effort would be a certification standard that does immediately impact what hits my plate - antibiotics and growth hormone and what-have-you. That had fairly immediate traction in milk. If there are effects in the meat supply around various non-animal additives, I think getting a certification standard that gets that out of the meat supply could work pretty well and be adopted quickly.

This is all my opinion and has very little to do with chow, but arguably this topic should be moved somewhere else.

Mar 08, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area
2

Where does the meat come from?

I just read that article. That's not what it said. It said that a majority of restaurants (66%) were willing to share the sourcing of their meat. The author claims that most of those who did share "showed reluctance". I would be reluctant to share any information like that if a reporter asked me about a business I owned - any part of it. But share they did.

RL did not contradict the article. He stated that restaurants who use good meat are proud of it and state it. He did not say the number of those restaurants.

Most restaurants don't state that they use organic, and don't state the sourcing of their vegetables. I would suspect the same experiment around vegetables - asking sourcing, not organic vs non-organic - would lead to a very similar result.

I think you are confusing the organic movement - which does NOT including sourcing information - with a potential higher-end certification of meat. That's much easier than identifying all meat sourcing, and I haven't yet seen any traction behind a labeling of "better meat" other than the current USDA grades. Might happen, just haven't seen it yet.

Mar 08, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

Dinner in DT Burlingame or San Mateo on someone else's expense account

Another problem about Sushi Sam - I don't think they take reservations, and at 7:30 they have a serious wait.

Mar 07, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

Sunday night dinner: Sons and Daughters vs AQ or Commonwealth [San Francisco]

My personal experience on a Friday was 5:00 would have been fine, we were aggressive in arriving at 4:30, got the 4th spot in line, and thus easily in the 1st seating, and at the counter which only seats 5 couples (and they only seat 2's, there is a slightly different counter where they seat 1's). By 5:00 there were a lot of folks in line (30?), but I suspect a lot of those people got 1st seating. By 5:15 there was a humongous line so long I couldn't see the end of it - and I wasn't ready to risk my spot to find out how long :-) At 6:00, when we were seated, a guy came in, and got a slot on the late side - like 9:15 or something - they would call him on his cell phone and he would take a cab over - they don't keep people waiting on the curb forever.

There's a couple of interesting bars about two blocks south, one a block north. Nothing _right_ there.

The wait passed quickly. Other folks in line were in a fun atmosphere, we made friends with the people ahead of and behind us, one of who was a retired physics perfesser (like my GF's dad), one who was a local chef (some restaurants we knew, mostly doing private catering on the peninsula). The time passed quickly.

Yes, I think it's a fine point - this is "chef driven" not "single ingredient driven". In this way the menu is actually misleading - it just lists ingredients but doesn't list the style of food. It is very focused on combinations, like buckwheat pancakes (which have an interesting and specific flavor) with a variety of toppings, and it's about the opposition and how to build a combined dish that comes together.

Given that lofty goal, I thought they did OK at it. By OK I mean I'd eat there regularly if it wasn't crowded, and I'd drag my friends there. I didn't get my face blown off by any of the dishes - I did at Crenn, several dishes brought me to tears. It would easily be up there with some of my other favorite no-reservation places like Zare@Flytrap. And, the price was REALLY reasonable - we got STUFFED for less than $50/pp out-the-door-with-1.5-wines each. And, I loved being at the counter and watching the chef work - one dish where he was clearly thinking about this dish during the day, and put it together as we were sitting, then took them out of the oven and tasted it, liked it, and I got to talk to him about the dish, what he was trying to do, get a sample, grab one of the dishes. NICE, and why it's worth sitting at the counter - VERY personal service.

But as it is, it's a hassle and a half, still, which takes it off both the recommend list and the going list. It's CERTAINLY worth going to once. And it's fun. Whether it hits the "one of 3 meals in SF bar" .... mebby. Depends on you.

Mar 07, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

Sunday night dinner: Sons and Daughters vs AQ or Commonwealth [San Francisco]

I am also puzzled by "gets away from ingredient-focused cuisine". If it's not about ingredients it's about ... recipe / fusion ? technique? Presentation? Poetry :-) ?

Mar 07, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

Dressing to eat out in SF?

There is no expectation of privacy in a cafe, restaurant, etc. It's a public place. You can't invade what doesn't exist.

https://ssd.eff.org/your-computer/gov...

Public places. It may sound obvious, but you have little to no privacy when you are in public. When you are in a public place — whether walking down the sidewalk, shopping in a store, sitting in a restaurant or in the park — your actions, movements, and conversations are knowingly exposed to the public.

Mar 06, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

Dinner in DT Burlingame or San Mateo on someone else's expense account

Viogner is a bit stuffy. 231 Ellsworth, I had one decent meal there about 7 years ago. I think y*lp is likely very wrong about Ellsworth, but I don't have recent info.

How about San Mateo Prime ? Steak is ready for expense account.

I love Sushi Sam's, but it is Formica tables. It's still great, especially if you dog the white board.

All Spice ?

Mar 06, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

Friends are here from Brooklyn

Doppo, Piazzolo, Juhu Beach, Plum, Hawker Fare, Enquentro, A Cote, Hopscotch, Ramen Shop, Duende.

Brooklyn is so ACHINGLY trendy that unless these are previous-generation folks, I wouldn't take them to a place like Bocanova that's kind of glitzy.

If you're going to go asian, I'd go way downmarket (and tasty) like Pyung Chang.

Mar 06, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

Dressing to eat out in SF?

Agreed. High quality designer brands, yes, pressed, no.

Mar 06, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

Late night around Union Square [San Francisco]

How late is the kitchen open?

Mar 06, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area