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One Dinner in SF - Where and Why?

This board has always had a poor opinion about Gary Danko. Poor enough that I've never been there.

about 10 hours ago
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

to chez panisse or to not chez panisse, that is the question

The problem with this "it's awesome" attitude is setting expectations that you will get WOW dishes. Honestly, with places like Commis and Saison as "normal", you will NOT get wow dishes like you will at those places.

Saison, for example, has gone FAR past chez panisse at this point, but ... at a price. Saison also does simple dishes (flight of fishes) very well. CP is reasonably priced, OTOH, and you don't have to sit through a million courses.

My first visits to CP were 1990, and I keep eating there every few years. I've never taken to downstairs, not exactly "stuffy" but, well, kind of stuffy. I like upstairs, but the first time I had a great sorrel soup was downstairs, I remember that like yesterday. And the first zinfandel ice cream (upstairs). And the first great miyagis I ever had (upstairs). I had one epic three-restaurant night with CP upstairs in the middle.

By the standards of today's jaded diners, you can argue that CP can't hold up if you only have a few meals in the bay area. No matter what you like, there's a restaurant that will serve better. That's valid, although for pure california cuisine, in unalloyed form, I don't know where else that's better.

I still enjoy eating at CP, don't get me wrong, but if you set the expectation of "amazing" -- people who dine at AC or Saison or similar will be disappointed. You just don't get "wow" at every dish, and, these days, you might not get "wow" at _any_ dish, depending on your background.

I think the "I want more taste/flavor" comment from down-thread is also justified, but a little misleading. It's a restaurant that moderates in terms of salt and bright pepper flavors. They don't use Yuzu to punch-up everything. It's more like a string quartet than a symphony (or a punk band). You have to close your eyes and "think" / listen / feel whatever that muscle is. That's when the tastes and complexity and subtlety of CP come out, and it's worth it.

For those who say "I could make this at home", maybe you could. MAYBE. It could also be that you're missing some of the fine points of taste & technique. (Hey, I could cut up raw fish at home, what's up with Sashimi?). What's really, likely true is you'd prefer something punchier, "louder", or more complex, with more ingredients, and thus you should go elsewhere. That's cool.

about 17 hours ago
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area
2

to chez panisse or to not chez panisse, that is the question

I post constantly that SF is not great for seafood. It's an artifact of how steeply the sea floor descends at that point, the water temperature, etc. There are a number of threads about what fish are in season when, so you can find what's local and good, it's just not what tourists expect.

The best semi-tourist excursion for fish lovers is to drive down the coast to Half Moon Bay, which has an actual working commercial fishery, walk on the docks and see what the boats are selling, and eat at one of the restaurants like Ketch Joanne or the Princeton window. That's a fun day with great eats.

Just be sure to buy the kind of fish the boats are selling that day. I went down on the second week of crab season and sat next to people ordering shrimp exclusively, which isn't part of our fishery. Insane.

about 17 hours ago
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

Minsk

any updates? I am pretty hungry !

Jul 24, 2014
bbulkow in Europe

French Laundry solo?

When I explained myself, AC put me on a waiting list, told me which days were likely to have me seated, and it worked great. Also, that night, I did see a solo diner. It was a japanese guy who was painstakingly photographing every dish.

Jul 24, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

Not Dim Sum brunch after getting off plane

You just said "parking" not "parking lot". No places in SF have a parking "lot".

Given your constraints, hit a diner in millbrea, SouthSF, etc.

Here are the places I drive past or see listed on Yelp in that area, none of which I've been to (I hit chinese when going to or from the airport)

Jack's San Bruno
Country Cottage SSF
JoAnn's
Millbrea Pancake House
Cable Car Cafe
Gunter's
Produce Alley
Ed's Diner
Big Joe's Broiler
Millbrea Pancake House

(remember, rental car is north of the airport, so Millbrea is going slightly the wrong way, so I've biased north of the airport)

What's tasty around there?

Jul 23, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

Not Dim Sum brunch after getting off plane

It seemed that RL answered that a bit with your other thread.

Driving to pt richmond is, depending on the day, about an hour and goes through a variety of towns (between south sf, sf, emeryville, berkeley, el cerrito). Would you like to eat sooner, or later, do you really want just straight-up american?

Brunch places tend to be in neighborhoods. Neighborhoods tend to not at the freeway, and tend to have bad parking. If you're not crowd adverse and you're willing to pay for parking, hit on of the parking lots along the waterfront and go to the ferry building.

From RL's list, I would send you to The Ramp. It's by the water, not just on an anonymous street, it's near the freeway. Although I don't eat a lot of brunch and when I do it's not straight-up american.

If it's a saturday or sunday, you might consider Delancy Street or Red's Java. The parking along there is usually freed up and it's beautiful.

Jul 22, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

Reverse osmosis, Ionized or... tap water ?

I have one interesting data point.

I have been making cheese recently, and upped my home pH measuring technology.

I have found that my (generally) HetchHetchy sourced water was significantly high in PH for several months. Some days (close to weeks), it was out of spec (above ph 9). It seems to have sorted itself out now. It was a little crazy to know the Ph limit was 9 and seeing continual 9.5 to 9.9 readings. What does "limit" mean when what's coming out of the tap is out of spec?

Carefully reading my water report, there's lots of discussion of averages, very little about sampling periods, and very little clear statement of what happens when your water goes out of spec (alert? note in the newspaper?).

I think anyone would find the discussion of water monitoring in WV after their water contamination discouraging, or anyone in upstate new york in the fracking areas. There's a lot of gaps in the system - from compounds not tested, to long test periods.

That being said, I've never seen credible, actionable flourine studies (quoted one is not), and I drink my tap water without concern.

Jul 21, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

Homemade Frozen Dumpling close to Palo Alto?

The place that I used to use changed hands, I won't say they have them without checking myself - and the website is no help. Sorry.

Jul 21, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

Yoshi's San Francisco to close on Fillmore Street

Not just Yoshi's, San Jose Rep lost its way amid spending on a huge fancy building.
http://www.mercurynews.com/entertainm...

Jul 19, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

No reservations/single dining [San Francisco]

My experience 1.5 years ago is everyone comes in as a couple, and the bar is arranged that way, except for a few single seats at the end of the bar, which means a true single diner would get seated easily. I don't know if that system survived the remodel, maybe someone else can say.

Jul 19, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

No reservations/single dining [San Francisco]

Trou Normand switches from full menu to charcutrie at some point, probably 10pm.

PS. check out the new black rock arts installation at Pier 14, should go fully up by about july 22, be up for over a year.

Jul 19, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

Replacements for retired favorites?

I love the way you said "some confusion". That's "looking for the tastiest food"... some people would have screamed and stomped their feet at having the wrong food brought!

Jul 17, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

Homemade Frozen Dumpling close to Palo Alto?

Are you only looking for chinese? And what about small-restaurant-made? There are places in San Mateo where the restaurant makes a few extra and has them in bags.

Jul 17, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

Oren's Hummus Shop in Mountain View

I guess we still have the Alibi, which seems to change names every 5 or so years, near the ECR / Shoreline corner.

What's the deal with the Eagle's Club? Does one really have to be a member?

Jul 16, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

authentic chinese restaurant with good ambience for a first date?

Yang's defines the entire dish, though. There can be only one that is the standard bearer. Just like St Viateur defines the montreal bagel.

I would be happy with a SJB as good as the several I sampled in San Gabriel Valley.

Jul 16, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

Oren's Hummus Shop in Mountain View

Good to hear that Mervyn's Lounge is still open. I was one of the locals affected by the rumors.

I liked that you could order at Chef Liu's, and eat at Mervyn's, at least, I did it once and no one bothered me. There was a synergy between the kind of chinese food they made, and the dive bar. The menu size at Chef Liu was a serious problem. I did like how they gave everyone forks and seemed delighted if you had good chop stick technique. Quaint.

And, yes, I'm well aware that Moffitt NAS and Alameda NAS - thus my comment - good to remind others. Where else would pilots go - the sprawl that ended its days as St James Infirmary? The Wagon Wheel? Or was it really the sailors at Alameda who drank, not the airmen?

Jul 16, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

Oren's Hummus Shop in Mountain View

Cafe Baklava's short stint seemed almost fore-ordaned. I bet he had a stiff rent. The space is a little cursed in location, and too narrow to hold enough tables on moderately busy days. For the style of Baklava, too close to Evvia (I know they're barely the same genre, but I bet they competed).

The subsequent Rangoon Ruby is competing with Jing Jing and China Delight, which makes it seem a super star, because Mandrin Gourmet (the best chinese in PA) flies under everyone's radar (except the informed chowhounds).

Figo has been re-signed with Rangoon-something, but I don't remember if it's Ruby or Rangoon Star as there is in Oakland/Berkeley. Also haven't checked if the Rangood Ruby is moving out (moving into old Figo).

Otherwise, not much happening in PA.

Jul 15, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

Oren's Hummus Shop in Mountain View

I will miss Chef Liu. I know the food is arguably not that great, but a few specialties like pork-and-tofu always got to me - nice touch with vinegar, good dumplings (post Yulong, now post Liu, only Fu Lam Mum has dumplings, at least they serve dim sum full time).

Great to hear about Mervyn's. Beloved doesn't begin to tell the tale. I was told by a dive-bar loving friend, mentioned it to two friends --- we've been waiting for news. I'll still be skeptical that they kept the feel until I'm actually in there. It's the only place that has reminded me of the Alameda "base bars", the places near the naval station.

Jul 15, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

San Carlos: Johnston’s Salt Box

Can't believe I'm the first on this one.

In San Carlos, on the south end of Laurel, life gets less traveled and more neighborhood-y, which is saying something for san carlos. The San Carlos scene always seemed a bit mixed, maybe not quite Troubled, with some fun stand-outs (I mentioned the Desi Chinese place, Limon is nice, Town is a bit boysterous, Speederia has its fans, Noelani's gets regular visits from us, Refuge is kind of great but noisy, there's now a Blue Line outpost to even things out, a french casual place the GF likes). Few real standouts, I rarely go there.

Among all of those, add a neighborhood place firing on all cylinders. A stylish place - Salt Box being the architecture, not the table-top artifact - the no-reservations place has a simple menu of about 5 mains (pasta, steak, burger, fish, chicken - LITERALLY), a few salads, and a rather impressive wine list. The place is designed as a "bring everyone" place, baby friendly, an upscale kids menu (mac & cheese, chicken fingers), dog friendly, but with solid food. Local, well cooked, "californian", casual-style.

I had a nice little plate of castrovalva olives. They were out of a Pey rose, showing some real local wine interest, most of the wines were regions like Santa Ynez, Paso Robles, Santa Cruz, sonoma, none of the old war-horses. Beer also, a mixed list but pleasant (Linden St, Speakeasy, something else bay-area-brewed).

The burger was very solid. House pickled toppings. Very juicy, made of non-chuck (short rib? something?), interesting taste to the meat.

Compared to the "casual meet a friend" places like Crepevine, which is a Sysco-ish operation, this is a real locally sourced place.

This place will not blow you away. It's not a destination. But if you're local and just overlooked it, or you need to meet a friend or have brunch, I would recommend this over anywhere north of RWC and south of San Mateo - and arguably nowhere even in those two is as causal & tasty. Closes at 9 except sunday dinner, open for brunch & lunch, likely does a killer lunch & brunch business.

The place has been running 3 months, and has had a very solid following already, according to the staff. It's not loud, and the food really is the new-standard-american. The food will make you smile and you'll walk out with a sense of quiet satisfaction.

In related news: about 4 storefronts south, same side of the street, is a BBQ joint that was always retro-stylishly appointed, but had weird hours (never tried it, stopped by 3 times). The bar-guy I talked to said The Office bought it, and it'll be opening this week. When I drove past, I saw it was called 3 Pigs. The Office is OK but nothing special, hopefully quality BBQ lights a fire under them. [ The office also did some remodelling, with the external fire pits now an enclosed space, and I think they did away with the bocce. Food is the same. It's on about 1% rotation.]

Jul 15, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

Oren's Hummus Shop in Mountain View

PA is especially short on the kind of casual venue as Oren's, which blends a decent but casual atmosphere (unlike Gyros Gyros, Cafe 220), healthy menu choices, and moderately late dining (11pm). Steam has a number of these characteristics, Sprout (- late night), Tacolicious (12 midnight), these places are all doing well in PA.

Cafe Baklava didn't last long in PA. Med Wraps failed (now Steam). The three existing Med places in PA must have cheaper rents locked in, none has particularly good atmosphere or food (some have their bright spots), I certainly prefer MV for this genre, and Oren's will have steeper competition.

I think Oren's competition will split more on upscale-casual than genre, thus compete with Buffalo Burger, maybe Park Balluci, the place next to Nami Nami, Doppio Zero, even Scratch, and we'll see how the Chef Lui remodel ends up.

Jul 15, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

South Bay Burritos

Mexican taqueria with a Salvadorian specialty board. More visits will show which is stronger.

By "atmosphere" I mean the place is run down and fairly dirty. Kind of like the older La Bamba, a step down from Los Altos.

Jul 15, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

Oren's Hummus Shop in Mountain View

I think I've had the hummus at Med Grill House (which I'm a fan of), Baklava (which I'm a fan of, and did make an incursion into PA), and Gyros house, and none of them are in the Israeli style.

It actually wasn't clear to me, after just eating at Oren's, what Israeli style hummus is, then I went to Tel Aviv for a few days, ate more than a few hummus plates at midnight, and it's clear, but hard to describe. Denser, finer grained, a certain kind of fresh taste in the beans, bread straight out of the oven.

Oren's has it, the other places don't. ( And there is a lot of good med eats on Castro ) That israeli style becomes more than a little addictive and one can even get nostalgic about it.

The right thing is just get a bowl of the hummus. Period. Maybe with the extra chickpeas.

Everything else at Oren's is fairly generic pan-mediterranean, in my opinion. People go to Oren's PA and most seem the need to order something _with_ their hummus, which is unnecessary, and doesn't play to their strengths. I believe the restaurant added a lot of the skewers and whatnot after they realized people wanted to order that kind of thing.

Jul 15, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

South Bay Burritos

The Middlefield ex-Gemelos still has a lot of the "soul" of the old one. I preferred the real Gemelos, but it's still worth tasting.

Jul 14, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

South Bay Burritos

Adding to the taqueria lore, I ran into Rincon Saboroso today, just happening to be hungry in the neighborhood. In MV near Bamboo Garden, previously reported.

Recap: in the greater rengsdorff area, we lost the old La Bamba and La Costena (moved to other side of town), we still have La Bamba y Caramba, and Los Altos as the Authentic Stuff on this MV / PA seam.

I was rather impressed by a quick few tacos at Rincon Saboroso. The meats were strong in taste, they were served promptly, price was normal (1.75 is actually a little high), and there was a La Victoria orange sauce that was pretty good. I didn't really love my stops at Los Altos, and I always get the quesadillas at LByC not tacos (and they're very good), this one gets added to rotation.

Strong salvadorian list. Looking forward to the Papusas.

Nice atmosphere, lots of mexican workers from the construction project across the street, and by nice I mean friendly and slightly run down in that very mexican way.

Jul 14, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

World Cup 2014 Viewing and Eats

I ended up at Stein's, standing on the sidewalk. They have a HUGE TV. Other places that were rocking were Agave, the two irish bars, Tied house, buffalo siders. Maybe others.

I guess the next few world cups won't be as salubrious regarding time zones.

Jul 13, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

Some new things in downtown San Jose

Finally did.

The cocktails are quite good. There's a fairly large selection of barrel aged stuff. I wouldn't put PP in the same range as the best of SF or the East Bay, but it's close, and very good. For some reason they like mixing with Tequila a lot.

The food is also quite nice. I was taken by the "fried chicken and waffles sliders" , which was actually a large plate. The rest of the food was good.

However, the atmosphere there is peculiar. There's a large empty space in the middle, and drinks and food service only at the bar.

Compared to Stritch and Blackbird, Blackbird's a great middle-road. The cocktails (and food) are better at PP, but the atmosphere's better at Blackbird. Stritch has music and cheaper cocktails, and the food is less evolved (burgers), but quite good as well.

3 decent choices.

PP is right near Original Gravity and Nemea, both of which look quite good too. Guess I have to get me to San Jose more.

[ GF likes Psycho Doughnuts, so we saw a movie at the Camera 3. On the way out they had only a few doughnuts. Thus, just because they close at midnight doesn't mean they have any doughtnuts at midnight. ]

Jul 13, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

World Cup 2014 Viewing and Eats

I was trying to remember if they have tv's. if they don't, there are at least a few places with in a short walk, like quinto sol and city pub, that do

Jul 13, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

Menlo Park - Jonathan's Fish and Chips - Sweet tea, Southern cornmeal-crusted catfish and deep-fried corn on the cob?

It's a description of the feel of the place. Black culture exists, and to not name it, erases it.

Jul 12, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area

Short day trip suggestions [San Francisco]

Although I am a fan of dogpatch and some BBQ at Smokestack is not to be missed, and Chinatown is still fun and City Guides is good, I would strongly recommend (coming from palo alto) a trip to the beach. CalTrain to 4th&T, N judah out to the beach.

Where to eat.

There is nowhere right at the beach (except the beach chalet, stick to the burgers), except the widely loved Outerlands is a few blocks in.

Which means you're getting on and off the N judah, which gives you lots of options, and you can stroll along some of those areas. Walking from around 19th to Cole Valley is a fine thing if you're up for it. Some places it's better to walk up Judah, some Irving.

A few places that pop up close to the N:
Izakaya Sozai
San Tung
Social Kitchen

Jul 12, 2014
bbulkow in San Francisco Bay Area