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May 9, 2000 11:38 AM

Two Oldies

  • j

I lived in Berkeley how knows god long ago, and I'm wondering if the following two hotspots are still there:

1) Sam Wo in Chinatown. Was the ultimate dump; no windows; broken airconditioning; and rude waiters; but in spite of that (prolly BECAUSE of that) it had cult-like status with the college crowd.

2) Plearn in Berkeley. Superpopular Thai joint. It was my first Thai food, so I can't speak as to the quality, but the wait on Sundays was like 2 to 3 hours.

I did a "find" on both of these on this board, but get no hits on either, so I assume they're both long gone...(?)...

Hey, while we're at it, is Cafe Roma still there??

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  1. Plearn is still there. About 10 years ago, Cafe Roma changed ownership, and name went too. I don't remember the new one--Cafe -----. Last I recall,it looked/felt/tasted about the same asalways.

    1. Hi Julie,

      Yes, Sam Wo in SF is still around. I remember pointing it out and sharing its reputation with Jimmy Leff when we dashed through Chinatown 3 years ago. Not having eaten there myself since high school/college (Cal '77) when the infamous Edsel Fong was still around, I tried it again not too long ago. The dining room (remember, kitchen is at street level with a dumb waiter to bring dishes to the upstairs dining room) was filthy, the waitress was indifferent even through I was the only patron, and the food was cheap but awful. The skin had been removed from the roast duck congee --- I mean, what's Cantonese bbq duck without the skin! The waitress tried to tell me that it was healthier this way without the fat.

      I was disappointed to see that some of the signature dishes, like the raw fish salad (yu sang) are no longer on the menu. This is a dish that had disappeared from many Cantonese restaurants but is coming back in the form of seared ahi tuna. I hope someone will make it again in the classic style.

      Sorry I can't encourage you to rekindle those old memories at Sam Wo. The most interesting part remains walking through the hubub of the kitchen to get to a table. Best to just do this and not try to eat here. There are so many other dives in Chinatown where you can get a great bowl of noodles or rice plate and change back from a fiver that I'd rather suggest.

      - melanie

      6 Replies
      1. re: melanie wong

        Melanie, great to see you posting. For those reading along, Melanie is a food/wine expert from SF...she's studying for her master of wine degree--mostly, I suspect, so she can be MW MW.

        Her greatest Chowhound distinction thus far has been the discovery of the wondrous dim sum at Seafood Harbor restaurant in Millbrae, right near the SF airport (see link below for more info).



        1. re: Jim Leff

          Hi Jimmy,

          I'm sitting here at my parents house with my bro who lives in Millbrae. He says nothing new to report dim sum-wise in the area at the moment.

          I was in France in march on the wine and food trails in Burgundy and Alsace.

          - m

          1. re: melanie

            You may be the person to ask about this.
            I am looking for an artsian cheese tour of France with a group of people who REALLY know their stuff.
            Do you know of such a group offering tours ?
            I would LOVE to join up for a few weeks with some folks who are offering tours of artisian cheese makers all over France or even Italy.
            I've been looking for years and have never found such a group.
            Do you know of any such thing ?
            Or...can you point me in the right direction to find them ?

            1. re: DAC

              Sorry for late reply. An tour of artisan cheese producers is a great theme for a tour. One of the drawbacks though is that I believe the EU regs for farmhouse cheeses limits tours/visitors. When I was in Chablis I stopped in Epoisse on my way back to the Cote de Nuits hoping for a tour at Berthaud. Not open on Monday during the off-season, but peeking into the reception area, it looked mostly like a sales room. You might want to inquire with David Mitchel, Wine & Dine Tours, 707-963-8930 (feel free to use my name). He's the former chef at Auberge de Soleil, a wine lover, and has been organizing culinary tours to Italy ---maybe he'll take up your cause. The other suggestion I'd make is to get tight with your fine cheese purveyor and tag along on the next European junket. Maybe the gals at Cowgirl Creamery (who have ties to London's Neal's Yard) or someone like Paul Ferrari, CEO of AG Ferrari who makes frequent buying trips to Italy can help you out, or at least suggest an itinerary for you.

                1. re: DAC

                  Don't know if you're local, but the American Cheese Society's annual convention will be in Sonoma County in August. Plenty of wonderful farmhouse cheeses made in this country. Info on their website.