Chowing through SF - an LA Chowhound's food adventure (Lulu Petite, Ideale, Girl/Fig, La Dolce V, R&G Lounge, Dim Sum, Hyde St Bistro, Hog Island)
Thanks to all the suggestions from SF chowhound, we ate well during our stay in SF.
Below are some thoughts on our food journey:
We wanted to eat at Hog Island Oyster company for lunch upon our arrival, but since it's the day before Xmas, the Ferry
Market was completely jammed pack with people, and we only have parking for an hour. So it was a quick detour to Lulu Petite's for sandwiches and quiche. We ordered the warm salmon sandwich, the duck sandwich, and the spinach quiche. The sandwiches are
generally good (albeit pricey). The duck flavor was not as strong as I would like, and I think the bread/spread on the salmon sandwich is a bit salty and I couldn't detect the fennel taste too much. The quiche was really more like a gigantic piece of savory egg custard pie. For those who like the creamliness of egg custard this is a treat, but for others it may be hard to stomach. Fortunately for us we fall into the
former camp, and I would like to know how they bake the quiche so that the crust is crispy but the egg is still wonderfully soft and silky.
While at the Ferry Building we went to Recchiuti Chocolates and got several of their chocolate boxes to be sampled later.
For dinner we dined at Ideale. Husband ordered the fennel and orange salad, gnocchi with meat ragu, and I had the broccoli rabe with occhiete, and my son had his favorite bucatini alla amatriciana. Overall the food was good, but not impressive if one had spent any amount of time
in Italy. The food is still a little bit Americanized, not to the same degree as Romano's Macaroni Grill or Olive Garden, but it's clearly cooked to be more suitable to American tastes. For starters there is just way, way too much sauce on the pasta, and the meat ragu has way too much meat, which overwhelmed the delicate gnocchi. My occhiete has excellent texture, but the rabe mixture isn't powerful enough to stand up to the pasta. My son liked his pasta, but to me the sauce can be less 'hammy' and more smokey. The portion size was also really large. It's hard to finish even just one serving of pasta.
Walking back along Columbus we had to sample some more gelato at Naia (flavors are good, but a bit too icy on texture), plus some great cookies to go at Stella's Patisserie.
We went to Sonoma for the day and had brunch at the Girl and the Fig. We heard a bit about this place, and actually had a jar of the fig caramel sauce bought elsewhere still sitting at the cupboard at home. The food was very reasonably priced, and the service is good, but I think the taste was just fair. I ordered the hanger steak, my husband the duck hash, and my son the croques madame. Out of the lot, I have to say the croques madame was probably the tastiest, but the messiest looking. My steak was tender, and less gamey than I expected out
of hanger steak, but the potato cakes they came with it was the consistency of hockey pucks. I am not sure why they included a
poached egg with the steak. It doesn't seem to go together. The duck hash has very little flavor. Overall the food is pretty ho-hum.
We then went to wine tasting at Benziger and Chateau St Jean. The tour at Benziger was interesting, but I didn't find the wine that special. My husband still managed to buy a couple of bottles. Then we tried to go to Kaz and found them close, so ended up at Chateau St. Jean. My husband did both the regular as well as the reserved tasting. There was some amazing reserved chardonnay there as well as a $90 bottle of merlot that we completely didn't get.
Since most of the vineyard close at 3PM Xmas eve we decided to head back via Sebastopol, so that we can stop by La Dolce V.
We were hungry by then, so had some gelato and hot chocolate. My husband really liked the hot chocolate - rich and a little bit bitter. The gelato were kind of ho-hum. I also go some vanilla-caramel piccolo bars which we sampled on the spot. It was so good I had to go back and get some more. At $56 per pound this was probably one of the more expensive chocolates but it's totally worth it.
For dinner we went to R&G Lounge at Chinatown. It was a spectacular meal. We ordered the special crab with salt & pepper (taste like there's 5 spice powder in it also), and the lamb with XO sauce. Both were delicious, although if I have to nitpick the lamb was a bit too oily (there was an layer of oil at the bottom of the dish). Also since there was only 3 of us the crab is a bit too rich due to its deep fried preparation.
We forced ourselves, but finished every morsel.
Since it's Xmas and everything else was closed we decided to go to Chinatown for takeout dimsum. I don't know of any city where so many take out dim sum places thrived. My mom from NYC still reminenced on the excellent har gow she had there a few years back that we stumbled upon. We went inside You's and had some har gow, lotus wrapped sticky rice, hom siu gok, rice crepe. The rice crepe and sticky rice were the better ones out of the lot, especially with plenty of the sweetened soy sauce, but the rest are unremarkable.
We then went to "Sun Wong Gok" (chinese pronounciation, not sure about English name) on Stockton a block south of You's to get more take outs. The shrimp in the har gow was crunchy and freshy, the dough chewy, but a bit on the thick side. Also got the meat & veggie bun, which has good flavor (but once
again the dough was too thick), and also the 'pancakes' with red beans and egg custard. The pancakes were like mochu that's been flattened and griddled. Have to ask my mom what they are called. But they were just excellent. The two dim sum places combined was like $11 total.
For dinner we walked to Hyde St. Bistro. I made the reservation early December and was totally unaware that they have a special
Xmas menu that was the only thing offered at $75pp. Well, after the 1/2 hour uphill walk we didn't want to go back down with an empty stomach and face the food choices at Fisherman's Wharf, so we splurged. I ordered the foie gras and the seabass with cabbage. My husband ordered the goat cheese/beets and lamb chops. The set menu for kid is crab cake and then followed by a pasta. Overall the food was solid, but I am guessing since most restaurants were closed on Christmas Day they jacked up the price at a premium. From what I seen the place was hopping and I guess there's a big demand for fine dining on Xmas day. Even with a reservation we waited about 15 more minutes from the reserved time to be seated. The dessert was perhaps the weaker part of the whole meal. We ordered 3 types: the creme brulee, the chocolate truffle, and the noel log. The creme brulee was excellent, but the others were worse than a normal bakery. Lasty, a minor nit, but at $75 a plate I expected the butter to be not of the individually foil wrapped variety. On the plus side my husband really enjoyed the mustard coated lamb chops - they were done on the medium rare side (more rare than medium) and it was tender without being too gamey.
Last full day at SF. Early morning start to SF Center for a bit of post holiday shopping. Ended up eating at the food court there at the Thai and Mexican places. Good for mall fare but not exactly great chow. Noticed a chocolate shop with some fairly pricey chocolates there ($75 per pound) - was tempted but didn't buy.
Walked to Leland Tea Company to get some tea there. After the brisk walk in the rain we were hungry upon our arrival and ordered a tea for 2. The sandwiches were OK (standard cold cuts on sweetish honey wheat bread), but the pastries were good. My son particularly loved the madaleines and the chocolate chip scones there. Got another couple of cans of tea to be savored back home (we didn't find a tea shop that we didn't like yet).
Finally, since Ino was closed and we still haven't gotten to Hog Island, we went there for dinner. The food there was so simple, but so amazing. We had 1.5 dozen oysters with sweetwater and Beau something? (can't remember name), as well as the clam chowder and the grilled cheese sandwich. The oysters were really fresh and briney, and the sweetwater looked almost translucent. At first I thought the prices for the clam chowder and the sandwich seems to be a bit outrageous at $14 a piece, but after tasting them I can see why they were so pricey. The chowder was cooked to order, and full of clams. The broth is a thin base of cream, but full of the clammy flavor. The grilled cheese sandwich tasted more like the cheese at a bottom of a good cheese fondue with crispy bread than the run of the mill
sandwich. Overall we think this meal was much better than the previous night's meal at Hyde St Bistro at 1/3 the price.
This time the crowd at Ferry Market thinned out enough for us to explore the rest of the stalls. Went to the famed Cowgirl Creamy and got the parm, the point reyes blue, the cave aged gruyere, and the mt. tam. Haven't tried them yet (hopefully they survived the journey home well).
Also couldn't resist and loaded up with some Lulu Petite condiments and more chocolates from Recchiuti, as the three we sampled from the rust box was very good as was the sea salt caramels and I wanted to try the Burnt Caramel.
Sadly had to drive back home from this culinary adventure. Perhaps just as well as I was in danger of spending my entire paycheck at the various stalls at the Ferry Market. Of course before we leave though we had to stop by Chinatown one last time and get more of the 'pancakes' to go.
re: Melanie Wong
Guess it goes to show you how two people can read completely different things into the same wording. Her husband LIKED the bitter in the hot chocolate, and the OP said the price for the chocolate was "totally worth it". So if she's right about La Dolce V, as you stated above, you'd buy that chocolate twice over at that price?
PastaFace123's earlier post -
Congrats on a very serious chowhoundish visit! Thanks very much for the detailed report.
I agree with your impressions of the Benziger winery. Great tour, not so great wines. I was there a few months ago. No one in my group bought any wines.
Enjoy your Cowgirl Creamery cheeses.
re: Benny Choi
We did for dinner tonight.
Arugula dressed with olive oil and the Lulu Petite Meyer Lemon & Fig balsamic vinegar.
The parm was the hands down favorite. Hubbie liked the cave aged guyere next best but I liked the point reyes blue next best. None of us liked the Mt. Tam much. Too mild - a good triple cream brie is better.