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chowhound research summons 10,000 grandmothers (long)

s
steve drucker Oct 20, 2000 03:33 PM

We just returned from 4 days in SFO. (With an average of 100 flights a year the last four years, we take a lot of trips.)

This was the first trip where 100% of the restaurant research was done at one site--Chowhound, instead of Zagat and the usual suspect local reviewers and MSN city guides.

As one who prides himself on being able to ferret out decent chow almost anywhere, this trip's results were so fantastic, that I am truly and utterly indebted to everyone who has posted on the SF board.

We broke no new ground, or discovered any new places, with the possible exception of a decent sized daily farmers market at 9th & Market.

Summary:
Dim Sum
At Seafood Harbor in Millbrae, dumplings and taro were very good. The shark's fin soup--a stuffed cabbage sized dumpling filled with flesh and vegetables afloat in an intense triple reduction chicken stock, and some small round meat filled dumplings were both transcendental, and caused the spirits of 10,000 grandmothers to hover around the table.

Breakfast
We got to Doidges, Dotties and Sears. They were all different, and all equally good. Each was good enough, in fact, to demand that they be judged on their own merits, and not in comparison to the others.

Sears is a 63 year old downtown cash-only classic: fresh oj, silver dollar size Swedish pancakes with maple syrup that were very light and bacon and fresh fruit and eggs over easy done perfectly in a pan (not a grill) like God intended. Sears was so good that even I--a hard core home fry partisan--loved the hash browns, darkly browned but totally not greasy.

Dotties was a descendant of hippy breakfasts, but 2 generations removed and pretty nicely done in its daytime busy but nighttime questionable Tenderloin-Red Light district location (Note for other visitors: Dotties is closed Tue-Wed !). Thick slices of chile-cornbread were good, but one of our party didn't like the non-traditional spices (cinammon or other aromatic) in his pancakes.

Doidges was great, sort of restrained upscale yuppy/dot-com food for workout addicts who are dietetically splurging. One thing that threw us at Doidges was that when we showed up Sun morning at 8:45 AM, we were pleasantly but firmly turned away for lack of a reservation--my fault, as I had seen mention here of the necessity of a reservation but suffered an immediate mental dis-connect, not believing that a breakfast place would accept reservations, let alone require them. Luckily, we hung around for 20 minutes or so and wound up with 4 seats at the counter--absolutely the best seats in the house as we watched the whole menu be prepared.

All three places offered egg-whites only or egg-beaters, ranging from $0.75 extra at Doidges to $2.00 at Sears. Figure $15.00 pp with beverage, oj, entree, tax & tip. These are not cheap breakfasts!

This and That in The Mission District:
Anna's Cookies--European butter cookies worth the stop. Note--closed Sun & Mon. Last night when we got home my wife confessed that she prefers Italian style bakery cookies. I agree. But Anna's sure are good.

Bombay Ice Cream--I had dark chocolate. It was a little freezer burnt, not sweet. Deb had fig-very sweet, after requesting the saffron-rose which was too hard too scoop.

Truly Mediterranean
Wonderful. A cobbled together true hole in the wall, but immaculate--even under the tables and into the back room. When you have worked in restaurants, you tend to notice these things. Good pastes--baba ghanouj adn hummes, very good falafel. Didn't try the shawerma.

Fina Estampe
Well, after a 3:00 PM pigout at Truly Mediterranean, it was hard to eat again at 8:00 PM, but we tried. The ceviche mixto at $7.50 was 12 oz of very fresh fish and shellfish, perfectly marinated and garnished with two carefully peeled 1 inch slices of large steamed idaho potato. We ordered several pariheula (shellfish soup), but luckily the waitress forgot it. Another of us had the Picante de Mariscos--a suprisingly well prepared dish of squid, mussels and shrimp in a saffon and sherry sauce--a definite winner. The last dish ordered at the table by our diehard pasta and steak eater was a stir fry of spaghetti and skirt steak, rather forgettable. A carafe of red wine was pretty sweet.

Thank you Melanie Wong for...
Thepin Thai
We dropped our hertz car mid-trip at Van Ness and Pine at the Holiday Inn, then walked downhill to Gough and Fell in the Fillmore area where we ate at Thepin Thai.

Expertly prepared (and not overcooked) squid salad, papaya and tomato salad, and spring rolls. Then excellent clear lemon-grass seafood soup followed by a dry rice noodle saute and very tasty marinated lamb loin.

Everyone said try Dusit, but this was really good well prepared Thai food--different than what we get here in Atlanta in that it was light, delicate and not wok-greasy. If Dusit is that much better than Thepin Thai, we have another reason to anticipate our return trip in February.

Absinthe, the wine bar near Thepin Thai, looked inviting but was closed on Monday. Sigh.

BTW-if you go to eat at Thepin Thai, we learned (too late, alas) that nearby in the area of Steiner and MacAllister are some clusters of old victorian houses referred to as 'the painted ladies' and well worth seeing.

Oh, yeh, Chez Panisse Cafe.

A surprise. Not what I expected at all. I didn't want to go, but my wife insisted.

Professional low-key service. Food almost as good as at our house, conceptually restrained preparations, and superb ingredients. Hallelujah!. If we lived in Berkely we would eat there once a week. Not only a great wine list, but a great beer list too. A gourmet place for people, not gourmands. I was most pleasantly flabbergasted.

There's a little more to report from Sonoma and Napa Valley. That will be on the California Board.

Ciao.

  1. m
    Melanie Wong Oct 21, 2000 02:57 AM

    Good eating, Steve! Didn't waste a single calorie on bad food.

    Thanks for the side-by-side on the breakfast joints. I'm glad you could appreciate each of them in their own special way.

    I'm glad Thepin Thai performed for you. As I said it's been a couple years since I was last there. You really captured the feeling of the food --- yes, it is does have a delicacy and lightness of being that's unusual. I hope you'll have a chance to try the wines at Hayes & Vine and/or Absinthe your next trip.

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