Virgin Visit: San Francisco de-flowered
First, thank you to everyone for the staggering amount of chowing suggestions. I must say that by the S.F. leg of our trip we were actually getting sick of eating but gave it our very best shot regardless. Both of us were still uncomfortably full and in a fog from a one-of-a-kind, sensational never-to-be-repeated 4 1/2 hr. dining extravaganza at The French Laundry two nights prior (a future post).
Highlights: Dim Sum at Ton Kiang. A long wait was abbreviated by our willingness to share a table with a young Dad and his 5 yr. old daughter. He ended up being a soul chowhound (radar must have been up) and we were able to sample more choice goodies. Especially wonderful were the roast duck as also any steamed dumpling. I noticed the lack of greasy smell, taste or mouthfeel of any morsel, unlike our Dim Sum at Yank Sing where steamed items rocked and fried items were almost upalatable and the whole place smelled of deep fryer.
Experienced green tea bubble tea somewhere in Chinatown that was also a bulk candy and dried things store. Interestingly good and fun to drink. For me. My husband wouldn't touch it. Also picked up moon cakes from Eastern bakery. They were delicious but I almost stopped myself from purchasing because the bakery itself was incredibly filthy.
Casual, delicious Italian dinner at Antica (I think in Pacific Hts..) Gorgeous, juicy heirloom tomato salad and the best carpaccio for me, caesar salad and spaghetti di farro a la Bolognese for my husband. I wish we had a place just like this in Cleveland. I also wish we had produce like CA produce, everything is so crisp and flavorful!
A low note was a meal at Straits Cafe on Geary. The restaurant was chokingly hot, the service blew; a first cocktail order arrived mid-second course, the courses seriously lapsed and our server all but disappeared. This wasn't just happening to us. I've never had Singaporean style food before but I thought it would have been spicier and more complex. Everything was kind of flat tasting and sweet. Customers all around us were trying to track down a server to bring chopped chilies or something to spice up the meals so we followed suit. Chilies were only a minor improvement.(Sorry Gary)!
Thanks once more for all the help, we had a ball!
I went to Straits Cafe about a year ago and was equally disappointed, although the service then wasn't as bad as you described. I grew up in Singapore and I did'nt find Straits as amazing as the newspapers and weeklies in SF have described.
If price and value wasn't a factor, Straits is better than most of the Singapore/Malaysian places I've been to in SF. Some of the flavors are right on - the satay there is really good, but for many other dishes, they've toned down the spice and made things a bit too sweet, an example being the rather crucial chilli sauce that came with the chicken rice. There were also little but irritating execution errors like undercooked potatoes in the chicken curry or tough beef rendang that I felt I should not have endured at those prices.
I found Straits a bit pricey for the food. I did the math once and found out that if I were to have Singaporean food for every meal for 2-3 weeks (which is not too hard to do, considering the diversity, of which only a subset is glimpsed here), the price difference between eating in Singapore and eating at Straits Cafe is about the price of a round-trip air ticket to Singapore. *grin*
Also, thanks for your tip on Antica (it's around Russian Hill, a few blocks away from the excellent tapas at Zarzuela) - I've been thinking about going there for a while, and I'll bump it up my list.
Agree on Straits - live somewhat nearby and would always go to Khan Toke instead. A few blocks further west on Geary (yes it's Thai food, but is Straits really Singaporean?) and much better. The green tea you're talking about - is it the tapioca tea??
Seemed like you were outside the regular tourist realm - dont see too many out in the Richmond District. Ton Kiang is my favorite sit-down dim sum (wait withstanding), but for quick bites, there are a couple good takeout dim sum places on Clement Street and You's Dim Sum on Broadway (between Stockton and Grant) is great and cheap - just make sure you point out the freshest pieces!! $5 and you're full.
Hey Heidi -- you don't have to be sorry for not liking Straits. Chris Yeo has not been cooking there for a few years now, so I'm not surprised that the place has gone downhill. Also, service there has been dodgy too.
Limster is right about the satay still being good. I have some of Chris' satay sauce in my freezer, and I'm enjoying that.
Glad to hear you had a good time Heidi. Anything else to share as far as "wine country" dining goes? I'm interested in anything but the French Laundry. Most of the locals I know have bad things to say about the Laundry. No knocks on the food mind you, but the pompous stuffed shirt attitude doesn't fly with the yocals here. I've had difficult reservations before, but Kellers staff set an unprecedented standard for rude with me.
Brandon, I'm sorry to pop your bubble of disappointment in regards to French Laundry. Our treatment was top-notch from start to finish. I should add we knew several employees staging there and Thomas Keller somewhat as well, but everyone that we saw dining was being given equally friendly and doting service too. Our meal was the most spectacular dining EVENT we've ever had (4 1/2 hrs!!!!), and yet I don't think I'd wish to repeat it.Too much of a good thing does exist. We were even encouraged to walk around and stretch during lulls. The tasters were unbelievable. And the agnolotti all but levitated off of our plates. The flavors were so beautiful but what really got me was the texture. The food just felt so good in your mouth. So unbelievably silken and sexy. MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM.
Our only thorn had nothing to do with French Laundry and staff. There was a party of six seated next to us including one particularly loud young woman who kept openly complaining about this and that. About her job, TV, restaurants and finally my husband said " I think they're in restaurants ,too,he (referring to the man next to her)looks familiar". I took a better look and lo and behold, Mr. Bobby Flay was sitting there. Quite low-key and well behaved, but no one stood a chance with this woman! I surmised she was an assistant or P.R. person of sorts. What a bigmouth!
Other Napa and area notables: enjoyed the tour at Schramsburg,very low-key, informative and friendly.By contrast, the tour at Opus was SO contrived and pretensious; I started cracking up when our guide stopped to explain the Opus logo "That is not hair coming out of the tops of their heads, but creative energy from the minds of these geniuses" Come on!!! Where's the wine!! I was looked at like pariah when I enquired about tasting the Overture, "we NEVER have Overture available for tasting" Of course not. Why sell a 40 dollar bottle of wine when we can push a 120 bottle! We loved the Oakville Market and I hope they can keep up with the Dean and De Luca nearby. A good spot for coffee,croissant, breakfasts, sandwiches is Gordons. Seems to be a "locals" haunt. Also Taylor's Refresher, newly reopened take-out window diner-y place across from Merryvale winery. Not just burgers, shakes and fried things;also offering grilled fish tacos, gazpacho, great salads and more. Apparently also a good place to witness car accidents. Three occurred within the half hour we were there.Kind of creepy.I think Napa needs designated drivers. Scary.
I didn't have a chance to eat at Bouchon, but did stop for an aperitif. The Adam Tihany decor is sensational and the plates I saw come out looked great as well as the amply stocked raw bar. I was warned not to go to Tra Vigne by several posters.Well, we were taken there and because of this I won't elaborate, but you all were right!!!