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Jan 5, 2002 01:54 AM

Tracy Garden Gone

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Tracy Garden in SF, highly respected Singaporean style restaurant known for its roti and sate, closed the end of December. There goes the neighborhood. My friend and I, crestfallen, instead went to Celine restaurant several blocks away on Judah street. Mexican place. Avoid at all costs. Guacamole seemed like it was defrosted, the restaurant ran out of mole on a Friday night, and coleslaw comes as a side.

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  1. Oh no! The pain....will have to start looking all over again for a place with good Singaporean/Malaysian-style satay.

    If anyone encounters a place with great satay along those lines in SF - not Indonesian or Thai - please please please let me know. (The version I had at Singapore Malaysian Restaurant was rather bland, and the sauce wasn't right.) Straits Cafe's satay was actually good, but I am loath to pay for their overpriced food, the rest of which I had some quibbles with.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Limster
      Caitlin McGrath

      Limster, would you mind describing Singaporean/Malaysian-style satay, and how it differs from Indonesian-style?

      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

        The sticks of satay in Singapore/Malaysia are a bit smaller (optimally about 2 inches of deeply marinated chicken, beef or mutton). The thick creamy sauce is a coconut/curry-based, where peanut bits have been cooked in. The sauce is served on the side. Chunks of cucumber and raw onion are also present. Also kuey too paat - rice cakes made in pandan leave shells. In a satay stall run by Chinese, you can find pork versions as well.

        The Indonesian renditions tend to be huge. The sauce is somewhat similar and often poured over the satay prior to serving. In addition or alternatively depending on the place, there might be a dark and syrupy kechap manis sauce over it. Fried shallots are also in abundance. The meats might be marinated a bit differently, but I don't know enough about what's in the marinate.

        I must confess that I've never really delved much into the seasonings and sauces that make up many Singaporean dishes -- kinda like the way I never question the oxygen content in the air - it was so omnipresent that I've always taken it for granted as I was growing up.

        1. re: Limster
          Caitlin McGrath

          Thanks, Limster. I'll try sate at a Malaysian place soon. Of course, I won't know if it's "right," but I'm curious to try the oconut-curry-based peanut sauce vs the Thai style, and I'll be happy if the meat has a "deeply marinated" flavor.

    2. r
      Rochelle McCune

      We should start a "Nasty Mexican Restaurants I wouldn't send my dog to" list.

      Being a lover of Mexican food, whenever I see a new place, I go, hoping it is THE undiscovered gem. I am frequently disappointed. I'll put up with bad service & high prices for really good food. But there is that special category of places serving Mexican food so bad that I feel personally betrayed.

      My nomination - Leticia's on Market Street - very greasy, lots of fried stuff (rancid oil), bad margaritas and a waiter who told me - I kid you not - "All tequila is 100% agave, I know, I'm Mexican." I should have walked out but no, I optimistically stayed and ordered the above super-nasty food.

      11 Replies
      1. re: Rochelle McCune
        Brandon Nelson

        That line is painfully funny...

        Yes all tequilla is aguave, not all tequilla is blue aguave. This reminds me of a time when some silly customer of mine was trying HARD to convince me that salsa verde was green from green chilis and red salsa was red from red chilis. I picked up a tomatilla and asked her if she knew what it was. Her reply "I know what I'm talking about, I'm Spanish." I don't remember what she said next. Mostly because my hysterical tear inducing laughter drowned her out.


        1. re: Brandon Nelson
          Janet A. Zimmerman

          Well, yes, all tequila has to contain some agave (51%) but not all tequila is 100% agave, and as you've pointed out, not all agave is blue agave.

          1. re: Brandon Nelson
            Rochelle McCune

            Someday I want to use the line "Trust me. I know what I'm talking about, I'm white trash."

            Re: tequila. I just wanted to be really, really clear since not everyone is as obsessive about tequila as I am.

            Unless the bottle of says "100% agave", it can be up to 49% CANE sugar syrup. So when you buy or order tequila, you can get 100% Blue Agave, 100% Agave or the cheap stuff with SOME agave in it.

            From Bon Appetit's website (& link below)...

            "Only the best tequilas, the so-called 'premiums' or 'super-premiums,' are made entirely from blue agave. Many ordinary tequilas — inexpensive, primitive, hangover-producing types that are blended into pitchers of margaritas — contain as little as 51 percent blue agave sugar combined with 49 percent fermented and distilled sugar syrup.

            In 1978, the Mexican government established Norma Oficial Mexicana (NOM), a kind of Appellation Contrôllée, to regulate every aspect of tequila. According to its rules, tequilas distilled from 100 percent blue agave must be labeled as such, and premium varieties have to be bottled in Mexico (much of the cheap stuff comes to the United States in tanker trucks and is bottled here.)."


            1. re: Rochelle McCune
              Jackie Avery

              What are some of your favorite tequilas for various purposes- (drinking straight, margaritas, other good mixed drinks...)?

              1. re: Jackie Avery
                Rochelle McCune

                OK - you asked for it.......

                I don't really do "other mixed drinks", mostly because I'm fond of tequila straight or in margaritas and because I'm not fond of super fruity/sweet drinks.

                My favorite brands are Corralejo (current #1-the triple distilled reposado! yummy), Herradura, Patron (got three bottle for xmas) and Chamucos. El Jimador is a good margarita tequila.

                What do I put in margaritas versus a snifter? My husband will drink anything (including a really lovely anejo) in a margarita and I think that is perfectly o.k.. In a properly mixed margarita, the flavor of the tequila will be complimented by the mixer, not obscured.

                That having been said, I generally drink anejos straight. I almost always drink silvers in margaritas. I drink reposados both straight and in margaritas. Frequently, the deciding factor for me is whether the tequila is smoky or fruity. In general, I prefer smoky tequilas straight and fruity tequilas in margaritas. When trying a new tequila, I will often ask to smell it before making the straight/margarita decision. If you shake the bottle, then open it and smell - you will almost always get an extremely accurate sense of what it will taste like and you will definitely know if it is smoky or fruity. I promise.

                A word about drinking tequila in snifters. I love, love to have a back of Sangrita with my straight tequila - that is how they drink it in Mexico (I know, I'm white trash!). Sangrita is a tomato-based concoction similar to Bloody Mary mix. Very few bars in San Francisco serve Sangrita. Its never on the menu or volunteered - you have to ask for it & you'll get respect for ordering it. When I find a bar that does serve it, I know they are serious. There are some who are of the opinion that you should only have Sangrita with reposados but I disagree - I think it can enhance any straight tequila experience. Tommy's Mexican and Maya serve Sangrita. I have my own recipe for Sangrita that I am still working on perfecting.

                If you are just starting to get interested in tequilas, I highly recommend going to Tommy's Mexican in the early afternoon on a Saturday or Sunday (or weekday if you can) when its not busy. Julio (& all the bartenders) really love educating the public about quality tequilas. So go, sit down, tell them you want to learn about tequilas, that you want to smell some sweet, fruity and smoky tequilas; that you want to smell a silver, reposado & anejo. (They don't charge you to smell and you can learn a whole lot.) Take someone with you and order - one of you order straight & the other order margaritas - that way you can taste the difference. They will treat you right, I promise (If they don't - let me know and I will personally kick their asses.)

                When we are in a new bar/restaurant, we make sure they use fresh squeezed lime juice. If they don't, we either drink our tequila straight (or order wine).

                There you go, does that answer your question?

                1. re: Rochelle McCune
                  The Mad Russian (David)

                  Great primer, Rochelle. Let me add a couple more... Don Julio, when it was forced on me by a friend from LA, turned out to be a surprisingly smooth, like a good blended scotch, and very sippable.

                  For margs I discovered that the very ordinary Sauza Conmemorativo is a great cheap buzz inducer. Suspend your disbelief until you try it. This is the stuff in the tall $20 brown bottle. $10 less than my prior favortite, Cazadores, and almost as good, and far better than anything else for the price.

                  You get sangrita with every shot order at Guaymas also, in case you feel like havings yours on the bay on a nice day. Happy tastings!

                  1. re: The Mad Russian (David)

                    OK - you two said all my favs.....Corrallejo, Patron, Cazadores, Herradura Silver......gave me nothing left to say. Way ahead of me.

          2. re: Rochelle McCune

            All hamburgers contain 100% prime beef. I know, I'm a gringo.

            1. re: Rochelle McCune
              Janet A. Zimmerman

              Your post reminded me of the day, years ago, when I stumbled into a place called (I think) the Hot House out in the outer Richmond on Balboa. This place, which I believe no longer exists, served a strange mixture of American-style Mexican and Italian American foods which included marinara sauce on virtually everything. It was the only time I was ever served enchiladas with a side of spaghetti.

              More recently, we decided to try La Rondala on Valencia because we'd heard so many good things about it. The food might be good; I never made it that far. When we walked in, there was a woman at what appeared to be a hostess station who was so involved in something or other that she didn't even make eye contact. She waved vaguely at the interior of the restaurant, which we assumed meant we were supposed to seat ourselves. Another couple had walked in right ahead of us and was doing the same. We passed a couple of empty but un-bussed tables hoping to find something else, but ended up returning to one of them, while the other couple took the other. By this time the ostensible hostess was talking to one of the waitresses, but neither one had acknowledged us yet. A cocktail waitress appeared to ask if we wanted drinks, and we said what we wanted was the table cleaned and some menus. A waitress finally did come to clean the table and I think we also got menus, but nothing else. No place settings, no water, no chips, nothing. We'd about given up hope when we saw a waitress coming with chips and salsa -- turned out she delivered them to the other couple's table. So we left -- and still the hostess, who was by then back at the door, didn't acknowldege us. Elapsed time was at least 20 minutes.

              1. re: Janet A. Zimmerman
                Rochelle McCune

                "we decided to try La Rondala on Valencia because we'd heard so many good things about it."

                From who? Friends or people that secretly hate you? ;>

                When I first moved to the city and was a young nightclub hopper, we would go to La Rondala because it was a good place to go at 2:30am eat to get carbos to soak up the booze before going home and passing out.

                Then I ate there sober. Its average to below average 70's Mexican (read: nothing fresh). Yes, its a scene. Lots of young, stylishly poor hipsters sucking down cheap, semi-decent margaritas and the "its Christmas year 'round" decor is amusing the first time.

                Last year, after they won the Bay Guardian Best Bang for the Buck Margarita award, I took my husband (he had never been there). We waited an hour and a half for a table before we gave up - the only reason we waited that long was 1) we had seats in the bar & at least had chips/salsa & margaritas; 2) I wanted to get the experience over so we would never have to come back.

                It does have a special history though -- in the very back room at the table by the window, in the wee hours of the night/morning a group of very drunk women spontaniously formed a club called the "Drinkin' Dolls" - they terrorized the city, its bars and bartenders and the innocent men that got in their way for years in the mid to late '80s. Every now and then, in that corner of La Rondala, you can hear their ghosts cackling and yelling "Mas Tequila, por favor!!!"

                Yes, I am the lone surviving founding member still in SF. Its very sad.

                1. re: Janet A. Zimmerman

                  I have fond memories of La Rondalla in years past. With its cheap prices, meandering cavernous spaces, large jolly bar, and goofy decor, it was perfect for a group of loud, happy, and slightly sloshed folks to descend upon.

                  I think the place works just fine for what it is, and I look forward to going back, if only just for the deja vu vibes.

                  BTW when one encounters service personnel who are too busy conducting their own social lives to look after the customers, that is a real temper-control challenge of a bummer! And can seriously prejudice one against that establishment, maybe out of proportion to the incident.

              2. This is awful news! Is it really closed for good? Are they re-opening somewhere else? What do we do for satay now?

                2 Replies
                1. re: Pia

                  Gone for good. The owner posted a notice on the door. I also liked the fact that Tracy Garden was located in a peaceful place - away from the chaos and traffic snarls of other commercial neighborhoods.

                  1. re: elise h

                    i too liked its out-of-the-way location.

                    i also liked how hardy anyone was there and we've have the place to ourselves.

                    that seems like a formula that should have meant big profits for the owner.