eatzalot's Profile

Title Last Reply

The History Of San Francisco’s Chinatown In 10 Dishes (from Food Republic)

Good stuff! Plenty of research. (Even if the author didn't mention the old opium dens, and _did_ have to drop an early quote with the fad cliché misusage of "epicenter" -- always a little annoying to people unlucky enough to know what the word means.)

But lots of newish restaurants here (2008, 2011) -- the author cited R&G's 1985 opening as if ancient (predating even Anthony Bourdain, no less :-).

Soup, whatever became of the bustling, cart-service dim-sum restaurants of the 1960s and 70s, like Canton Tea House? Are they all gone?

A review: Xanh in Mountain View

Some things not mentioned here yet: Xanh (pronounced like "sun") more fully labels itself elsewhere as "Vietnamese food with modern presentation," giving some idea what to expect.

It originally opened across the street, with both a more conventional restaurant look, and elegant, unusual made-to-order lunches, responsible for the largest number of positive meal experiences I recall at Xanh -- though Xanh dropped that lunch format and moved to a buffet service upon relocating across Castro to the current, custom, high-concept digs. (Buffet lunches are OK, but the old Xanh lunches were much more than OK, thus spoiling Xanh's original lunch customers -- no one I know who recalls them cares much for the lunch buffet in comparison).

Yes, the flashy techno lounge look seems weird to some of us customers. But I recommend exploring the small-plates menu more fully during the happy-hour deal. In particular the "Vietnamese tacos," Jalapeño "popcorn" chicken with crisp fried basil leaves, and "Kobe" and "Buddha" fresh-wrap rolls have gone very well with drinks, in the classic tradition of zakuski. (Never got excited about those "garlic noodles" -- there are many more interesting noodle dishes in others of the 100+ restaurants within easy walk.)

Also Tom -- you seem to eat around this part of the Bay Area -- if you like Phở, do you know about the ("new") Pho To Chau, right around the corner? Small, independent Phở house, new owners 2014 -- good slow-cooked broth, good values, I've mentioned it here before . Focuses just on noodle dishes. Kind of polar opposite Vietnames cuisine compared to Xanh's.

Are there any excellent (and authentic) Italian restaurant in the bay area?

"did you really recommend someone go to buca di beppo"

No, bbulkow -- please read more carefully -- I assess that place much the same as you did.

My point was that no one sane judges a whole region's assorted offerings variously (and ambiguously) labeled "Italian" based on one disappointing meal at one Italian-American place in Burlingame that called itself New-American anyway!

In this thread's context, the more authentic ITALIAN-Italian restaurants are the relevant ones; they certainly exist in the "peninsula and south bay" (I cited three). Avowedly Italian-American restaurants like Buca di Beppo (let alone Ecco, which doesn't even claim to be Italian-American) are off-topic in answering the question of where to find authentic Italian restaurants if you happen to be in the peninsula or s. bay.

Yes, there are probably more of the authentic Italian restaurants in SF, but so what?? Unique restaurants exist all around the Bay Area; the OP asked about the whole Bay Area; if people find themselves in one particular part of it, they'll be most interested in the options there.

Are there any excellent (and authentic) Italian restaurant in the bay area?

"even if they have wood ovens they don't always them hot enough. If A16's Margherita didn't meet your standards, maybe no one will."

tamizahmed, that varies with the restaurant. Down the peninsula at Napoletana Pizzeria (which I've posted about on other threads) the owner/cook is a perfectionist, always checking the brick-oven wall temperatures with an IR spot meter, and refusing to bake pizzas unless it's fully hot. I happen to like Naples style pizzas (I recall Robert posting that it wasn't his preferred style), and after a few dozen visits to Napoletana I had to ration myself to avoid eating there constantly.

SJMercuryNews:'Sunset Magazine to move to Oakland's Jack London Square'

Robert Lauriston (as originally posted): "What was the competition in those days? I think the 40s through the 60s were a culinary dark age hereabouts."

That might be an interesting side topic. Both Bergeron's autobiography cited above and Muscatine portray the size and diversity of SF's restaurant industry of that era.

But the competition of the day (to say nothing of comparing other eras!) isn't the significance of Caen's quip at all. Rather, that a chief pundit of the "City" defers to Oakland for restaurants! In other remarks in the same Bergeron book, Caen told how in 1936 (when he first tried the restaurant, taking a car ferry since there was no bridge yet), he perceived Oakland as a coast of the vague US mainland, from which SF was proudly aloof. "For all we knew, [Oaklanders] painted their bodies blue, lived in caves and subsisted on roots and herbs." In '37, Gertrude Stein had published her famous "no there there" remark about a vanished childhood home (often taken out of context as a put-down of the whole of Oakland). Caen deferring to Oakland for anything was eyebrow-raising.

Comparable things have happened at other times. Recall that around 1980 the "San Francisco" restaurant everyone was talking about was in Berkeley, and again around 2000 the leading restaurant was in Yountville.

SJMercuryNews:'Sunset Magazine to move to Oakland's Jack London Square'

Herb Caen (always giving the location as "sixty-fifth and San Pablo") recorded that he first visited in 1936, returning thereafter "once or twice a week." When Caen first went, it was serving food as well as drinks (he cited "barbecued steaks," Chinese food, and ham and eggs with bananas and pineapple -- a specialty Bergeron's father, Victor senior, had long cooked at home), and yes the name changed in 1937. Nobody seems to've been very attached to the original short-lived name (anyway, the restaurant is rather better known as Trader Vic's :-) so I didn't mention it before. The Bay Bridge made Vic's more accessible to SF and as I mentioned earlier, in 1941 Caen wrote in his SF newspaper column "the best restaurant in San Francisco is in Oakland;" he also maintained that most SF restaurateurs agreed, and ate there themselves.

ISBN 0385031750

SJMercuryNews:'Sunset Magazine to move to Oakland's Jack London Square'

". . . a recognition of the emergence of Oakland as a destination for food lovers and entertainment seekers."

Re-emergence is more like it (though I don't expect much sense of history from US journalists today).

Seven years after V. J. Bergeron Jr. opened what became the original Trader Vic's in Oakland in 1934, no less than Herb Caen quipped that San Francisco's best restaurant "is in Oakland." (Many of Vic's early regular customers -- in that first location in Oakland and not far from JLS -- were SF restaurateurs on their nights off.)

Are there any excellent (and authentic) Italian restaurant in the bay area?

tamizahmed, do you know about Naples-based AVPN (L'Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana)? It exists partly to address cravings like yours. Pizzas per se originated in Naples*. The US variant (which evolved mainly in the Northeast), which is larger and eaten in slices and has different typical toppings, is an ofshoot of the Naples type. AVPN certifies pizzerias worldwide that use true-Naples technique; several operate in the Bay Area . As discussed in a recent thread (on Doppio Zero), AVPN compliance doesn't guarantee quality, but many of these places are very good incl. A16 in SF. Of course for the most Neapolitan experience, you want to order them unsliced and consume with knife and fork.

*There are earlier ancient antecedents outside Naples, some known to pop media today and some not, but pizzas as understood in recent centuries came from Naples, including the popularization of them in the US. Food historian Mariani has pointed out that they were rapidly becoming mainstream in the US right after WW2 even while still a local specialty of Naples unknown in most of the rest of Italy.

Are there any excellent (and authentic) Italian restaurant in the bay area?

So some of that is about disappointment with Yelp comments (I'm with you there!!). I hope you'll try some of the more "Italian" restaurants I named at the start. I thought it strange to (originally) criticize the region's Italian-Italian (or even Anatolian-Italian) offerings wholesale, based on disappointing Italian-American food at Ecco.

Many who post on Yelp (everywhere I've looked in the US) have no awareness of the distinctions between Italian-American and Italian cooking (any more than the distinctions between Americanized Chinese and Chinese cuisines, or how to usefully describe a restaurant to other people).

Are there any excellent (and authentic) Italian restaurant in the bay area?

"especially in the Penninsula/South Bay the quality of Italian is rather poor."

How many experiences did you have at Doppio Zero and Napoletana Pizzeria; what did you try? Those (with separate threads on this board) -- a general Naples restaurant and a Naples-type pizzeria, respectively -- represent the more "Italian" restaurants of the peninsula-to-south-bay of my experience; both are frequented by Italian expats (at Napoletana it's the core customer base). At a place in downtown Willow Glen I had a captivating fresh-pasta dish with creative ragù some time ago, would need to check name.

In this part of the Bay Area, so-called Italian restaurants are strongly heterogeneous: it's crucial to distinguish among three groups:

Authentic trattorie and pizzerie (including those I mentioned above) closely modeled on places in Italy;

Numerous "Italian" restaurants created by cooks from other countries incl. Turkey (Cucina Venti, Vaso Azzuro, La Fontaine in MV; Pompeii in L'Altos; Il Porcino in Fremont; etc.) -- Venti is a franchise out of Siena, required under its Tuscan franchise rules to use Italian ingredients for much of the menu;

Italian-American places (Buca di Beppo, Pezella's Villa Napoli, Frankie Johnny & Luigi, Mario's Italiano, several around downtown SJ).

I've found some very satisfying real-Italian food at the authentic places, and at some with non-Italian but immigrant owners; you can't judge, at all, the range of "Italian" food by the smattering of Italian-American restaurants (a genre outside this thread's scope anyway).

Doppio Zero in Mountain View

That's fair enough as far as it goes, ssfire, but it's just part of the picture.

AVPN requires its affiliates to use certain authentic components and procedures and the restaurant is then subject to surprise compliance inspections. A few years back, one Bay-Area Affiliato (in SF?) lost its certification as a result of such an inspection (substitute ingredients was the issue, if I recall).

All that does not guarantee the final product quality, or pretend to. If you want real perspective on the range of VPN pizza qualities, ask Kostas at Napoletana Pizzeria about his tour of all the Affiliati IN NAPLES, a year or two ago. Some of them he found superb; some very disappointing (even venerable names, coasting on reputation, supported by uncritical tourists likely to eat there only once); others somewhere between. I don't know why we should expect anything different in the Bay Area!

The Beet - So Long Brussel Sprouts and Kale, The Beet Is The New Veg.

Beets are pretty ancient, they come and go in popularity. I think they're best -- most vividly and complexly flavored -- when fresh, and the peel slips off easily enough once cooked.

(Actually, I'm more curious why so many people choose to drop the S from BRUSSELS Sprouts. Do they do the same with the same word in the context of its native country, Belgium? Also in French they're known as Brussels cabbages, which seems more descriptive than "sprouts.")

Unbelievable low price meals back in the 70' early 80's in SF Bay area!

Topic of recent recollections in another thread, starting about here:

Doppio Zero in Mountain View

Napoletana and (IIRC) Terún, and presumably others, display their Affiliato medallion more discreetly, as a wall plaque inside. It is certainly a proud achievement, but I had the impression the DZ people were champing at the bit for theirs ever since opening.

Doppio Zero in Mountain View

Dinner at Doppio after months away; talked to some of its personnel. The place was well filled on a Sunday night. Pizza menu was greatly revised a month ago (around the time of Melanie's report here). Last year I tasted through most of the 10 or so pizza types, but must now return for new ones.

We tried new Fungo pizza ("white" pizza, seasonal wild mushroom mix, thyme, goat cheese, fontina, italian chilies). I didn't savor this combo as much as the now-departed "Alberto" described earlier here, with fresh porcini. The Fungo's current mushroom combo was strongly flavored, and the hot peppers seemed incongruous. (Proprietor said wild-mushroom specialties will continue, specific fungi to vary with seasonal availability).

Other pizza tried (which disappeared faster) was the red-sauced Capricciosa, which has evolved. Unlike some renditions of this everything-but-the-kitchen-sink topping category, this was a light and delicate pizza. Rather than piled up, the artichokes, ham, Italian salami, mushrooms, and olives were scattered lightly -- a taste here, a morsel there. Finished with green basil leaves, it looked like a Margherita.

So far I've tried upwards of 20 DZ pizzas (and 2-3 times that many at its older competitor Napoletana Pizzeria, a mile or two away). Napoletana is operated by a perfectionist, and I've found his pizzas very consistent, with superiorities. Subtler classy dough, fine dark bake, sense of balance -- including in the tomato sauce, which for most pizzas was delicately salted with a little pecorino (not actual salt), letting toppings complete the seasoning. But Napoletana's topping range hews tightly to its proprietor's sense of orthodoxy. Pizzas added to his menu in the years since he opened have tended to use either different combinations of, or subtractions from, existing toppings.

DZ's pizzas have been less fastidious, less consistent within a given type, but the topping range was always much wider -- and is now becoming outright playful. The pizzas have also been noticeably saltier than at Napoletana, even to the crust. One pizza last year was inedibly salty when a salted tomato sauce met Kalamata olives, capers, and anchovies. But DZ now has combos like homemade mozarella, guanciale, spicy sausage, leeks, basil, and -- wait for it -- Jalapeños. Or speck, artichokes, fontina, homemade mozz., olives.

DZ got its AVPN certification from Naples in December .

Are there any excellent (and authentic) Italian restaurant in the bay area?

"restaurants in the bay area that can compare to what I'm eating here?"

No reflection on yanks26dmb but I have some trouble with queries phrased just like that. I'm expressing a very considered position (after trying foods in many overseas lands since 1972).

Some people even play a game of stark comparisons like "NO noodles here compare to what I had in Hong Kong." It's fine to crow about HK's great noodles, but of what value is that to readers seeking food in the SF Bay Area (scope of this board)??

If you _demand_ the great noodles of HK (or authentic specialties of Liguria, or New Orleans, Argentina, Vienna, even Los Angeles) then, logically, go there. Imitators in distant places like the Bay Area usually disappoint, when compared to the original region. (This phenomenon is not limited to the Bay Area.)

Yet there are delightful exceptions, as this thread has brought up. I ate at one last night for the 10th time or so. Newish peninsula Southern-Italian restaurant, Doppio Zero -- opened by a group of Naples expats; also certified 6 months ago by the Naples AVPN pizza organization . Makes rather playful true-Naples pizzas, and lots of other stuff. Wild-mushroom specials vary with what's available. Moderately priced. Italian spoken eagerly, of course (Naples dialect). Ask for Angelo.

That's why I prefer to phrase it more like the thread title here. "Where can I find the best real-Italian cooking in the Bay Area?" And be pleasantly surprised when some of it really sings.

Unbelievable low price meals back in the 70' early 80's in SF Bay area!

Taiwan restaurant in downtown Berkeley (University Ave. a couple of blocks from the university itself) had good lunch specials for $1.76 in the middle 70s, about $2.00 with a decent tip. (The "Taiwan" has figured in some threads here, it lasted a long time but also was one of the new wave of more "Chinese" Chinese restaurants that displaced the ancient chow mein - chop suey genre after the immigration law changed in the 1960s.)

Bertola's in Oakland was a favorite in my family for generations, I think the family-style "Italian" dinner ran around $4 in the middle 70s.

Of course, as RL mentioned, those were different "dollars" -- which is really the main change we're talking about. ("Trader Vic" in his memoir recalled how, as an adolescent budding foodie in the 19-teens, he'd save up his change and take the ferry from Oakland to SF for deviled crab at Bernstein's Fish Grotto.)

Recommendations For San Fran Restos? - bringing my "foodie" son....

SF Bay Area IS traditionally known for seafood. But it's not generic styles familiar elsewhere. It's LOCAL seafood, particularly shellfish. Local crabs and oysters (seasonal), and abalone (which was a native-American staple here, but is almost fished out, and for restaurants today, farmed).

Recommendations For San Fran Restos? - bringing my "foodie" son....

Matt, I think part of the problem here is the bringing of a presupposition that there are 'cuisine-style[s] particularly representative of "San Fransisco." '

SF in recent decades is characterized by restaurants and cooks rather than "representative cuisine-styles." I look at Muscatine's classic "Cook's Tour of San Francisco" from 50 years ago; both the notable restaurants and typical specialties were quite different (EXCEPTING Tadich and Sam's Grill, both seafood places dating from the 1800s).

So what you're seeing instead is a lot of discussion on individual restaurants. At ~49 square miles, SF also isn't very big, compared to some food destinations. In my own experience as a native to the region who has traveled, there also isn't the sort of pervasive, everyday-conversation food obsession among locals that exists in New Orleans, a unique US "food city." We DID have Chinese food here before most of North America ever heard of it (SF even had opium dens in the 1870s -- they prompted the US's first drug laws -- and a population of half a million in 1900, when LA was still a little village) -- but all that is long past, of little help to today's visitor.

'I looked into lots of chowhound discussions on the L.A. board and was taken aback by how often I saw L.A. somewhat disparaged.'

Keep in mind also, the LA one is a particularly "scrappy" board, with different traditions of bluster, trash-talking, etc.

Anyone else getting tired of "new" Craft Beer, Gourmet Burgers & 3rd Wave Coffee joints in Bay Area?

What's really going on in this thread is that a few people clearly don't LIKE some of the honest testimonials, therefore must find ways to explain them away, misinterpret, or try to impose the terms of discussion.

Josh: "I've seen the complaints generalizing about craft beer for a long time" -- but rather than look seriously into what's behind this, dismiss them wholesale as "lazily hyperbolic."

virtualguthrie wrote "tired of the craft beer thing because I don't like most of it" and "Most of the beer centric places are focused on heavy beers and for some reason, light drinkable beers are in the minority." CLEARLY personal views, from some experience -- but in this thread, they MUST be attacked (including Josh's "Perhaps you are somewhat new to beer...").

I report retailers acknowledging that the US craft beer market, taken as a whole, is overcrowded. This immediately brings irrelevant demands for specific labels (as ammunition for more argumentation?) -- though it was an honest report of a GENERAL comment I've heard repeatedly -- and brings weird over-the-top misanalogies. Or, irrelevant assertions about "naysayers."

I don't believe anyone here regrets the diversification of beer styles in general, certainly not I. Why, then, is it forbidden, or unacceptable, to see some of them as unlikely to have staying power? Why must ANY limitation or criticism of that market be rhetorically shouted down?? Do you people work for an industry PR group or something???

Recommendations For San Fran Restos? - bringing my "foodie" son....

Robert, I don't question your accounts of your radio listening habits. The point at hand, though, is that Narsai has always been a SF food personality and spokesman, for half a century. Regardless of which individuals choose to pay attention to him. The OP might even find his info useful. (You can read him online of course, link posted earlier.)

Anyone else getting tired of "new" Craft Beer, Gourmet Burgers & 3rd Wave Coffee joints in Bay Area?

My comment above (answering bbulkow's remarks) faithfully reported a view I've heard from professionals and craft-beer hobbyists -- in terms similar to how they expressed it. I don't know why you don't "get" that, or are so determined to nitpick or denigrate honest reports here. I don't know if you'd do that in person, or facing the individuals I was paraphrasing, once they told you the same thing. But it's a type of online behavior some people exhibit when confronted with true evidence they don't like. It's a behavior that this particular Chowhound topic has really brought out for all to see.

Recommendations For San Fran Restos? - bringing my "foodie" son....

"Jeremiah Tower['s] name appeared in the NY Times 32 times. Narsai David's name appeared once..."

OK, but, um, this thread's about SF dining. Narsai David (a restaurateur, first at the seminal Potluck restaurant, before anyone ever heard of Tower) has remained a San Francisco food journalist ever since. His food and wine tutorials are heard throughout the Bay Area and the OP may even encounter Narsai on 740kHz AM while visiting. Tower, meanwhile, flitted in and out of the region (declaring in the late 90s that he was done with California). If we were talking about celebrity name recognition, he might be relevant, but the subject is Bay-Area food.

Recommendations For San Fran Restos? - bringing my "foodie" son....

FAR too big a topic to distract this thread -- I haven't even read the 3083 threads currently on this board using the characterization "mediocre," link below -- but to be clear, I meant it in the sense not of really bad but undistinguished, unnoteworthy, of quality or value you could easily find in dozens of other US cities.

I wrote that the SF area has both a _tradition_ and an _element_ of such dining, citing dramatic examples of both (industry-wide resistance to identifying frozen ingredients in the 1970s*, criticism of the "Kuletoism" trend a few years ago). Even if the meals aren't per-se "Bad," the history of expense-account focus in mainstream SF restaurants catering to business or tourist dining isn't a new, or generally controversial, topic. Anyone interested enough can find abundant examples, maybe start here on Chowhound:
*Peak of the so-called "Continental" cuisine era, an industry-promoted term of which Trillin famously quipped that the continent in question must be Antarctica, given the preponderance of frozen ingredients. Also the focus of Jim Quinn's Harper's article "Why It Tastes So Bad," later a chapter in "But Never Eat Out on a Saturday Night."

Recommendations For San Fran Restos? - bringing my "foodie" son....

Then for at least 20 years you haven't listened to KCBS!

Sugartoof, Potluck was cited for its _historical_ role, both in "California cuisine" and for the dispersal of Bay-Area avant-garde restaurants outside SF itself, a trend that has continued as I mentioned. Gary then mentioned Hank Rubin's association with it and I added to that Narsai David's. Narsai of course was later in turn known historically for his own eponymous restaurant and since then, on KCBS.

Recommendations For San Fran Restos? - bringing my "foodie" son....

"Narsai David was a really big deal, and strangely forgotten considering he's still around."

sugartoof, I don't know how forgotten Narsai David could be considering he has broadcast regularly on the leading Bay-Area news radio station for decades.

I mentioned the contexts so that a visitor might realize that whatever high points, locals' favorites and fashionable-spots-of-the-month surface here, the SF restaurant industry also has major elements and traditions of "industry" (i.e., successful mediocrity). The alternatives that typically engage both CHers and gastronomic visitors emerge against that backdrop, and contrast with it. (But it isn't always mentioned in the various hyping and promotions of SF as a food city.)

Recommendations For San Fran Restos? - bringing my "foodie" son....

Oh yes, Gary -- The Potluck (Hank Rubin, Narsai David, et al.) is no secret to anyone who knows Bay-Area restaurant history. It prefigured and even staffed several famous institutions. I recall Alice Waters crediting it. A relevant time capsule from Ruth Reichl: http://www.restaurantdiningcritiques....

I'm too young to've dined there, but my brother retains notes from when Rubin visited his elementay school and showed the kids how to cook some interesting stuff (which my bro. promptly repeated at home, to good response). And one of my wine mentors recalled poking through wine bins that had once belonged to Potluck, and seeing the amazing vintages and values (that of course being before later trends like speculative investing and paint-by-numbers wine criticism so distorted the wine market we see today).

Recommendations For San Fran Restos? - bringing my "foodie" son....

"I'm trying to get a sense of what San Francisco is known for in terms of food."

Just a general comment here from a 5th-gen. Bay-Area native. If you delve deep, in knowledgeable sober assessments of the restaurant industry in SF proper (along with some innovation, and a high count of restaurant seats including in many interesting neighborhoods -- all of which are what CHers focus on) in the larger picture, the SF restaurant industry, particularly around the downtown, has a LONG tradition of catering to convention and business diners, who on the average aren't "foodies" but do have money to spend.

In their classic national food critique "The Taste of America," the Hesses cited "Trader" Vic Bergeron for leading the SF restaurant industry's successful crusade AGAINST a proposed ordinance that would have required SF restaurants to identify frozen ingredients, their longtime mainstay. Several years ago at a black-tie SF-chefs cook-off I attended, the organizer (head of a food-and-wine educational organization) raged against a trend he called "Kuletoism," named for an ascendant SF restaurateur: modern expense-account business-dining restaurants on a production-line model, no creativity or real "chef" input but plenty of microwave ovens etc.

With some creative exceptions, innovations in Bay-Area dining in recent decades often began outside SF proper. In the East Bay, first the Potluck then the more famous Chez Panisse drew attention away from SF itself. After the Michelin Guide started rating the region, its first three-star destination restaurants were in the North Bay (French Laundry, then the restaurant at Meadowood).

Not to suggest you can't have a super time staying in the financial district -- the regulars here have already named the essentials. I'm offering some longer-focus perspective on that original question.

[Berkeley] Oscar's out, Sweetgreen in.

Astounding news. This place nourished my youth. It is a deeper Berkeley institution than Chez Panisse (not far away). More on the historical order of Spenger's or Larry Blake's.

Review: San Jose Greek Festival 2015 w/ PICS

Haven't been to it in years, but this festival is a strong local tradition and an intense food experience. Some of the good food has been made by the various poular and famous Greek restaurants in the lower Peninsula and South Bay.