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Report: Vietnamese Chicken at Cordon Bleu and excellent Pumpkin Pancakes at Nena's

Dave MP Nov 4, 2006 09:50 PM

I went to Cordon Bleu (1574 California St @ Polk) last night for the first time. The place was crowded (standing room only) at 9:30 PM, but luckily we got there just in time for some seats at the counter. I had the plate with chicken, rice, meat sauce and salad, but I substituted an imperial roll for one of my pieces of chicken. The meal was great, generous portion. The chicken was grilled perfectly, really nice flavor...reminded me of something I'd grill myself. Meat sauce was hearty, scooped over lots of rice. My friends and I all thought the food tasted more like food in someone's house than food at a restaurant. We left feeling full and satisfied. It's the type of place I'll return to when I'm feeling homesick for my mom's cooking.

This morning (technically afternoon) I had brunch at Nena's in Bernal Heights. My housemate recommended this place to me, and my other housemate and I went to check it out. I think I have a new favorite breakfast place. The breakfast menu has lots of egg and pancake specials, also Salvadoran breakfasts. Lunch and dinner are also Salvadoran/Mexican/Californian.

My housemate and I both had the special that was on the whiteboard outside: Pumpkin pancakes, two eggs and two strips of bacon for $7.95

The breakfast was awesome. The two pumpkin pancakes filled up an entire plate...they were topped with butter, syrup served on the side in a typical diner-like syrup container. The pumpkin flavor was there, but not overpowering, and the pancakes were fluffy, clearly a good homemade batter. About halfway through the meal, I realized that the pancakes tasted a lot like pancakes I make at home in New England...then I suddenly realized! They had served us real maple syrup! I turned to the waitress and exclaimed happilly...This is real maple syrup! She smiled and said "Mmhmm."

Meanwhile, the eggs over easy were fine, bacon could have been a bit crispier but still was fine...we each got three strips instead of two. Coffee was particularly good (unlimited refills for $1.75). I am still just so happy to be surprised with awesome pancakes and real maple syrup at a Salvadoran/Californian restaurant in San Francisco!

On weekends they serve breakfast all day, I think weekdays too.

It's located on the same block as Zante's and Angkor Borei, at 3459 Mission St. in Bernal Heights.


That's all for now,

Dave MP

  1. Cynsa Mar 12, 2007 09:12 AM

    We had a wonderful breakfast at Nena's yesterday - my pupusas and curtido with rice and beans were soul-satisfying and DH devoured his nova scramble with gusto. Portions are ample. Service was friendly and perfectly timed for a lazy time-change Sunday morning. We'll return with friends in tow.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Cynsa
      dhoffman1421 Jun 29, 2007 02:42 PM

      Nena's is owned by Rudy Granados the owner of JoAnn's cafe in So. City so it's no wonder the Pumpkin Pancakes were good. I was at JoAnns today and found this out when I spoke to Rudy asking him where he'd been. I love JoAnns food so have to try this place out sometime

    2. Atomica Mar 10, 2007 09:38 AM

      We just had a terrible breakfast at Nena's and have forever crossed it off the list. We had pancakes (these tasted terrible, with hints of rancid oil/butter and garlic) and the much-lauded French toast. I thought this was pretty revolting--just sloppy wet/uncooked in the middle, and not much in the way of flavor. The waitress was an extremely sullen teenager who clearly did not want to be there. The food, again, took an eternity to arrive (the number of people waiting for their food before us numbered 3). Their menu states they take credit cards. Except, guess what? They don't. Midway through the meal, I noticed a sign about 30 feet away by the kitchen stating that their credit card machine was out of order. At first, I thought, "Oh crap." Then I remembered seeing the same sign several months ago. So, lack of sufficient cash resulted in an embarrassing situation.

      8 Replies
      1. re: Atomica
        susancinsf Mar 10, 2007 10:17 AM

        Was this on a weekend or a weekday? My experience has been very positive but I thought someone had told me service wasn't as good on weekdays. Not sure why that would be though. As for the food, it has been great whenever I've gone.

        1. re: susancinsf
          Atomica Mar 10, 2007 11:15 AM

          It was this morning (Saturday at approx. 9:30).

          1. re: Atomica
            susancinsf Mar 10, 2007 01:43 PM

            Wow, didn't expect you to say that, given that you posted at 10:38 and said the food took an eternity to arrive....I guess I don't think a breakfast that takes an hour altogether is an eternity, especially on a Saturday, but obviously we all have different standards and preference in that regard.....

            The credit card machine hasn't worked whenever I've been there either, so if anyone else wants to try it, I'd say consider it cash only, regardless of what the menu says.

            1. re: susancinsf
              Atomica Mar 10, 2007 04:28 PM

              I said approximately 9:30. It was probably 9:20. I live a block away, so it took me literally 2 minutes to get home. I'm an extremely fast typist. I posted right when I got home. It took 50 minutes after we ordered to get our food, which in a nearly empty restaurant is too long. It took 10 minutes to taste and assess that it was all really awful. Take casual notice at other places of how long it takes to get breakfast delivered to your table after you order, and I suspect that it will be between 5 and 20 minutes.

              I went to Nena's for lunch with a group of people and got kind of itchy and uncomfortable when everyone at the table started complaining that we hadn't gotten our food after 45 minutes. The restaurant was completely empty. I felt bad for Nena's that day and secretly wished my cohorts would stop complaining.

              I suspect that they do no prep work at all in the kitchen, causing the kitchen to work at a snail's pace. Thank goodness they're not busy, because they couldn't handle it and a lot of customers wouldn't stand for it.

              I need to start another thread on a place we really like, Mission's Kitchen (2738 Mission between 23rd & 24th). Good, cheap, and friendly. And they have some of the best hash browns I've had in SF.

              1. re: Atomica
                Dave MP Mar 10, 2007 09:37 PM

                I'm sorry to hear about that experience at Nena's....sounds like some of the problems you had are normal (no credit card, slow service) but some things you wrote are definitely not normal (sullen attitude, bad food) and likely just a fluke (I hope so anyway!). It might be worth trying one more time before crossing off your list.

                Sounds like there were unusual kitchen problems...which resulted in poorly cooked breakfasts (this has never even remotely happened to me, and I've eaten there a dozen or so times) and poor service.

                Service there is usually very good....sometimes slow, but usually friendly and attentive (coffee served right away, refilled, etc.). I was there two weekends ago and there was a large party (20 people) ahead of us, so food took a little while.

                I think you're right that they do less prep work in the kitchen than other restaurants, because things often take a long time. However, presentation and quality of the food are always so good that it makes up for it. Sounds like someone inexperienced must have been cooking? 50 minutes wait is also definitely too long....it was less than that the day the group of 20 was ahead of us. Something was definitely up on your visit.....I hope it doesn't continue! I might be eating there tomorrow!

                1. re: Dave MP
                  susancinsf Mar 10, 2007 09:41 PM

                  If you do, do report back. I agree that 50 minutes is too long; I've never waited nearly that long. Indeed, don't think I have waited longer than about 20 minutes (which is about my limit before I get restless, especially for breakfast).

                  1. re: susancinsf
                    Dave MP Mar 10, 2007 10:51 PM

                    I'll definitely report on my next visit....maybe tomorrow, otherwise sometime soon.

                    Dave MP

                  2. re: Dave MP
                    Atomica Mar 11, 2007 08:41 AM

                    The real cheerful woman who is usually there wasn't around. There was one cook (a woman) and the FOH was being run by two young girls -- the sullen one was maybe 14 and the other was probably 9 or 10. You should have seen the older girl--I couldn't help but secretly snicker because she so clearly felt put upon working in mom's (auntie's??) restaurant. I'm sure it's a common feeling among teens made to work in the family business.

        2. susancinsf Nov 5, 2006 06:20 PM

          Thanks Dave, for the nudge, as I had been meaning to try out Nena's, which is only a few blocks from home, for some time now. We just got back from breakfast, and I am very pleased to say we think we also just found a new favorite place to go on Sunday morning!

          Decor is very nice; tables are very comfortable. The salsa music was blaring when we walked in, but the server heard us discussing where to sit to be away from the speaker, and immediately turned it down to a pleasant level.

          I had Salvadorean Huevos Rancheros, which basically were eggs perfectly done over easy, covered with a tomato sauce with bits of onion and green pepper and just a slight hint of cinammon; served with a slice of queso fresco and sour cream, both on the side, and casimiento (rice and beans refried together). I also had a side of two corn tortillas, which were very fresh and hot, the size and shape of small pancakes (which is thicker than I prefer, but more typically Salvadorean, I think). Anyway, the dish was very tasty and I will definitely get it again. Cost for the Huevos was $6.95.

          Hubby had the citrus french toast; made from orange bread, and topped with fresh orange slices and fresh strawberries, and served with butter and with more of that real maple syrup (the syrup is in a regular big syrup holder, so you get plenty.) A huge, beautiful portion for $8.25.

          The orange juice was fresh squeezed, and the 'small' portion was $2.50 for a generous serving (A full 8 ounces, I'd guess). I wasn't really surprised to get fresh squeezed at a Salvadorean place, especially given that the syrup is real maple. This place definitely uses quality ingredients.

          Good coffee rounded out the meal, which was about $28 with tax and a very generous tip. The tip was deserved: service was excellent and friendly.

          The place was almost empty while we were there; so no waiting.

          The menu is quite varied, with omelettes, Salvadorean and Mexican dishes, steak and eggs, steel cut oats, and brunch items on the weekend, including eggs benedict and a Joe's special. You could pretty much get any breakfast dish you wanted here, I think. Why someone would wait for a table at Cloe's or Toast when they could have the french toast here is beyond me....

          Hubby wants to come back in the evening to try the rack of lamb: $19.95 with potatoes, veges and choice of small salad or soup...You can also get a hot turkey plate, with mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce, soup or salad, for $14.95.

          Again, thanks!

          4 Replies
          1. re: susancinsf
            Dave MP Nov 5, 2006 06:51 PM

            Glad you liked the breakfast Susan....I'm tempted to go again today! This place *would* have a line out the door if more people knew about it. I will definitely try the french toast soon.

            Dave MP

            1. re: susancinsf
              Atomica Nov 6, 2006 03:54 AM

              Service is usually quite friendly there, in my experience. Did you find that your food came in a timely manner? I've been there when they were empty and the food took forever. Their pupusas are pretty good, I think, but I am not a pupusa expert (curtido is awful, though). I think the breakfasts on their menu err on the side of huge, which I'm not crazy about, but I think they will accommodate any kind of omissions or substitutions.

              1. re: Atomica
                susancinsf Nov 6, 2006 04:23 AM

                Service was quite prompt: we were in and out of there in just under an hour, and much of that time was lingering over coffee refills while going over our sample ballots (I am going out of town this week so voted today at City Hall), after finishing our breakfast.

                The huevos dish wasn't huge, but the french toast certainly was! I really wish I had taken a pic: it really was beautiful with all the strawberries.

                I may try the pupusas one of these times, but with La Santaneca so close, if I went at dinner I'd be more tempted by some of the other dishes...

                1. re: Atomica
                  Dave MP Nov 6, 2006 06:38 AM

                  Service was great on Saturday too, we were also nearly the only ones there. The breakfasts we had were pretty huge, but there were definitely some smaller options on the menu, and I think you're right that they'd be willing to accommodate any substitutions or omissions.

                  I'll probably go back for breakfast next weekend (I was good and ate at home today) and try something else. I'll report back.

              2. p
                P. Punko Nov 5, 2006 03:36 AM

                There was a recent post about Cordon Bleu that was kind of down on it, but I love the place, and I think their Imperial Rolls are some of the best in the Bay Area.

                1. Dave MP Nov 4, 2006 09:55 PM

                  I just found this link to a post about Nena's from July.


                  Also, I just took a look at the online menu, and they mention the real maple syrup right there. I just didn't look closely at the menu today since I ordered a special from the whiteboard.

                  Also, the breakfast menu in the restaurant is different than the online menu. The one in the restaurant has a whole section of Salvdoran breakfasts.

                  Dave MP

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