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Sep 12, 2006 11:08 PM

My Top Ten Bites of the Year – July 2005 to Present

Inspired by Jonathan Kauffman’s column in the East Bay Express, last June I put together my list of the top 10 things I’d tasted for the first time in the past year (July 2004-June 2005). Since a year has passed it’s time to put together a new list. I’d love to see other people’s lists as well. My criteria was:

Had to try this food item for the first time in the past year. It had to be new to me. If it was at a restaurant I’d been to before but I’d never tried this particular item, it passed the test.

Bay Area restaurants only. Yeah, I loved that pizza at that obscure place in Boulder, too, but it’s not going to help anyone on the Bay Area boards.

My Top 10

1) Split Pea Spread. Firefly. (San Francisco)
While my birthday dinner at Firefly was good, but not amazing (GBNA), the freebie split pea spread was amazing. My boyfriend and I pretty much had to tell our server to keep it coming, because we were eatin’ the stuff clear through dessert. I didn’t even know I liked split peas. Their spreads change daily, so hopefully you’ll be able to try this one or an equally good lentil-y spread.

4288 24th St.
San Francisco, CA

2) Chicken Malai Methi Wrap. Amber Café. (Mountain View
)I wasn’t wowed by Amber India, but everything I had in my first visit to Amber Café was stellar. Chief among these was the $6.99 chicken malai methi wrap. I’ve never had anything quite like it before. Sauce + chicken + wrap = perfection.

Amber Cafe
600 W. El Camino Real (near Castro)
Mountain View, CA 94040

Amber Cafe in Mountain View: This Chaat Made the Honor Roll

3) Burger. Bonne Sante (Burlingame
)Full disclosure: I’m just not a burger fan. However, this burger turned my world upside down. It’s cooked perfectly and served with a sun-dried tomato relish that seems to bring out the flavor even more. Not only that but this 8-10 oz. burger only costs $5.45 and can EASILY feed two people, and for an extra 50 cents you can get a big portion of beautiful fries. Miracles do happen.

Bonne Sante
1184 Broadway
Burlingame, CA 94010
(p) 650.342.1529
(f) 650.342.1568
Open daily for lunch; usually closed in the evenings

Best Burgers at Bonne Sante on Broadway in Burlingame: Bountiful Bovine at a Bargain

4) Glazed Doughnut. Rolling Pin Donuts (San Bruno
)What’s so special about a glazed doughnut? Well, you obviously haven’t been to Rolling Pin between 10 and 11:15 at night when they’re hot out of the oven. They just melt in your mouth and don’t taste like pure sugar like Krispy Kreme’s. Doughnuts will never be the same.

Rolling Pin Donuts
429 W. San Bruno Ave. (at Hensley)
San Bruno, CA 94066
(650) 589-9687
Hot Glazed Doughnut Action at Rolling Pin Donuts in San Bruno

5) Aloo Bonda. Annapoorna (San Mateo
)Although the dosas here are excellent, my favorite thing to order here is the $3.99 aloo bonda. It’s a mixture of potatoes, onions, cashews, and spices fried in a greaseless chickpea batter. Served with the house coconut chutney, it’s sensational. I recently tried Dasaprakash’s version and it came nowhere close to the awesomeness that is Annapoorna’s Aloo Bonda.

2299 S El Camino Real
San Mateo 94403

I Claim This Aloo Bonda for, India! – An Awesome Indian Snack at Annapoorna in San Mateo

6) Blacked Ahi Tuna. Gordon Biersch (San Francisco
)Yeah, yeah it’s a chain, but the rare ahi tuna appetizer was damn good with a nice fresh clear taste. It’s served with a drizzle of Cajun remoulade. The portion size isn’t huge for $10.50, but then again it is ahi tuna.

Gordon Biersch
2 Harrison Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
phone: 415-243-8246
other Bay Area locations

7) Specialty Roll Sampler. Unicorn (Berkeley
)I could have sworn this dish was called Horn of Plenty, but that’s something entirely different on their online menu. $9 gets you a platter of six types of spring rolls (Mango Rolls, Unicorn Rolls, Crispy Imperial Rolls, Chao Zhou Rolls, Prawn Spring Rolls, and Crispy Mango Prawns Rolls), each served with its own dipping sauce. It’s fun to try each roll with its distinctive sauce, and the flavors really do meld together well with the assigned sauces. I think our favorite was the Prawn Spring Roll (a coup since the boyfriend had never even tried shellfish until a few months before).

Unicorn Pan Asian Cuisine
2533 Telegraph Avenue (at Blake)
Berkeley, CA 94704

Review of Unicorn - a Vietnamese Restaurant in Berkeley (long

8) Ginger Salad. Straits Café (Burlingame
)We were accidentally brought this $9 dish once and the server told us to keep it, and boy what a happy mistake! This salad is a lovely mixture of tastes and textures with a perfectly light dressing. Although there is an ahi tuna option for more moolah, it doesn’t really add much to the ginger salad experience. The Banana Blossom Salad is also excellent, with a perfect balance of textures (chicken, apple, um, crispy things...).

Straits Cafe
1100 Burlingame Ave (at California)
Burlingame, CA 94010
(650) 373-7883

9) Crispy Steak Taco. Nick’s Crispy Tacos (San Francisco
)I know it’s been around awhile, but I only was able to try their legendary taco this year. A soft taco encases a crispy taco and the whole thing holds good quality steak and a heap of guac and salsa. I’ve been looking for a good taco for a long time. This exceeded good by so, so much. As soon as I tried it I told my friend John that it would make my top 10 list for the year.

Nick’s Crispy Tacos
1500 Broadway
San Francisco, CA 94109-2516
(415) 409-8226

10) Chicken Breast Kebab. Shalizaar (San Mateo)
This one is a little tricky to order. The fine print on the menu says you can specify any meat you’d like with the zeresht polo. We always pay an extra $4.50 for our chicken breast kebab, which is super moist and tender. The boyfriend declared it the best chicken he’s ever had.

120 W. 25th Ave.
San Mateo, CA 94403
(650) 341-2600

Secrets of Ordering off the Menu at Shalizaar – A Guide to Getting the Best Persian Food on the Peninsula (and Perhaps the Bay Area

Honorable Mentions:

-Pad Kee Mao, Yellow Curry Chicken, Spring Rolls. Thai Satay (San Mateo
)-Goat Cheese Cheesecake, Oaxaca Cheese Empanada. Tamal – now closed (San Francisco)
-Cheese and Bean Pupusa. La Michoacana (San Mateo)
-Thai Noodles. Park Chow (San Francisco)
-Naan. Mezbaan (Santa Clara)

Thai Satay in San Mateo Great Curries and Egg Rolls But Don’t Get Busted by the F.B.I.!

SOMA’s Tamal: The Missing E Stands for Empty Restaurant but Amazing Food

La Michoacana in San Mateo - Cheap Greaseless Tasty Pupusa Lunch... Who Could Ask for More?

Naan-Sequitur at Mezbaan Indian Lunch Buffet in Santa Clara (Sorry About the Pun...Jabi Food


My July 2004 – June 2005 List:
My Top Ten Bay Area Bites of the Year - add your own!

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  1. Best of the first-timers this year:

    1. Pasta with Dried Octopus at the Oliveto Seafood Night
    2. Smoked Swordfish at the Oliveto Tomato Night
    3. Turnip Cakes at Soi4
    4. Fava Bean Crostini at Pizza Antica
    5. Bacon, Lettuce & Trout Sandwich at Sea Salt
    6. Fried whole head-on gulf shrimp at Sea Salt
    7. Monkfish liver torchon at Sea Salt
    8. General Zhangfei's Beef at China Village
    9. Pea soup with ricotta sorbet at COI
    10. Carmel Corn Soup at Cyrus

    1. I'll play:

      1. King Crab 2 ways at Koi Palace
      2. Whole dungeness crab soup dumplings at Koi Palace
      3. Braised pork at Incanto
      4. Jerked chicken at Back-a-Yard
      5. Spring Pea Soup at Canteen
      6. Hamachi sashimi with seasoned rice at Redd
      7. Line caught stripped bass with mustard vinegarette at Chez Panisse
      8. Hankerchief pasta with meat ragu at Incanto
      9. Watermelon and heirloom tomato salad with opal basal at Bar Tartine
      10. Rabbit and chanterelle bruschetta at Oliveto

      Honerable mention: bacon at Dittmer's, stuffed quail at Fatted Calf

      10 Replies
      1. re: Porthos

        I started my list in June to follow the continuity of my list from last year that ended in June. Unfortunately, that meant that my jerked chicken/plantain/coconut rice extravaganza from Back-a-Yard missed out by about a week. I'm sure it will make next year's list.

        Thanks for playing!

        1. re: Porthos

          I'm too busy thinking about what to eat next to come up with a list, but king crab two ways at Best Panda was one of the best things I've had this year.

          Also, the canolli at Pizzeria Delfina.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            I wasn't particularly interested in checking out Pizzeria Delfina, but now I'm a little excited by the idea that I could have awesome canoli within walking distance!

            My husband loves canoli. We've haven't found many good canoli here in the Bay Area - Stella will do in a pinch but usually we drive down to Romolo's when he's having a serious craving.

            Can you describe PD's canoli, please?

            1. re: larochelle

              Thin, crisp pastry. Filling is fresh Bellwether Farm ricotta slightly sweetened with chestnut honey and candied fruit.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Actually the filling varies. Monday it had pistachios and was exceptional. I've had it in the past and not liked it much, though, and the shells are thicker/harder than I prefer.

            2. re: Robert Lauriston

              What were the two ways at Best Panda? At Koi Palace, the body was steamed with garlic and a light soy sauce and the legs were lightly fried so the meat was still sweet and succulent.

              1. re: Porthos

                Legs were steamed, split in half, and dressed with oil, minced garlic and scallions, and salt. Very sweet and delicate. Body was deep-fried in chunks and served with a ginger sauce.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  How much did it cost at both Best Panda and Koi? I know it depends on the weight, but I'd appreciate a ballpark figure so I'm not shocked when I do try it. TIA.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Koi version was around $30/lb I think.

              2. Pork belly (Winterland)
                Cauliflower panna cotta (French Laundry)
                Pork & beans (French Laundry)

                1. In chronological order:

                  1) Foie Gras Terrine, Bouchon
                  2) Fried Green Beans, coco500
                  3) Fried Oxtails, Pizzaiolo
                  4) Apple Stuffed Pancake, Canteen
                  5) Fried Chicken with Chili Sauce and Fresh Garbonzos, Pizzaiolo
                  6) Vanilla Soft Serve with Olive Oil and Sea Salt, Picco Pizza
                  7) Red Wattle Pork Belly from the Wood Fire Oven, Pizzaiolo
                  8) Braised Pork Shoulder with Squash Blossoms, Incanto
                  9) Creme Fraiche Panna Cotta, Incanto
                  10) Balsamic Bing Cherry Ice Cream, Sketch
                  11) (couldn't resist) Rabbit Rillettes, Fatted Calf

                  hmmm, fried food, pork, charcut and ice cream. Am I a healthy eater, or what.

                  Of course, this list doesn't include all of the amazing meals Mrs. Mousse prepared last year (I am a lucky man!)

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Morton the Mousse

                    Before anyone rushes off to Pizzaiolo hoping to get those dishes, the menu changes daily. I eat there a couple of times a month and didn't get a chance to order any of those.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Don't rush off to try the bing cherry at Sketch either; it's only available once a year (it takes 12 hours to pit the cherries).

                  2. Ok~I'll list a few
                    1.The red wine risotto @Cyrus
                    2. Kumamoto Oysters with Hog Wash @ Hog Island(Marshall site)
                    3. Pana Cotta @ Cyrus