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Aug 25, 2007 12:19 AM

Hungry for SF, coming from LA

Hello, i'd like any recommendations for your all-time SF favorites.

So far I have on my list... (any specific items off the menu?)

Zuni Cafe
Burma Superstar
Chenery Park
Foreign Cinema

I love delicious ethnic foods, comfort foods such as 'delicious burritos' and japanese food.

how is Kappa for japanese food? i like any kind of izakaya.

what is the best place for traditional nigiri sushi/sashimi... daring eater, not into wild rolls. is it Shimo?

in the past, i've eaten at winterland, blue plate, just for you cafe, swan oyster bar, rosamunde's grill, tartine bakery, walzwerk, brain tacos from somewhere... enjoyed them all. thanks in advance, i appreciate it. so does my stomach.

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  1. you have a great list here. at chenery park, make sure to get the mac and cheese, the pork belly appetizer (if they have it) and the warm ginger bread cake for dessert (this is a *must*).

    in my experience, LA has much more traditional, and (as hard as it is for this proud San Franciscan to admit!) better sushi. you may be disappointed if you're seeking comparables here..

    1. I had an outstanding meal at Range last night -- I highly recommend.

      842 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

      2 Replies
      1. re: Husky

        Operalover, god i'm such a sucker for all mac n' cheese... even the kind in the Kraft box ha. but i can always do a little pork belly. can you tell me more about the restaurants i have listed down? thanks!

        Husky, I will check out some reviews on Range. Thanks!

        anymore ideas SF chowhounders?

        1. re: Husky

          I too had a fantastic meal at Range on Thursday night last week. I found their roast chicken with bread salad far, far better than Zuni Cafe's.

          Last time I was at Chenery Park (few months ago)i was very, very disappointed with the food - almost all of it. Very bland flavors. I will not go back.

          I am a huge fan of Foreign Cinema. If you liked Tartine, you'll love Bar Tartine. Bar Crudo is amazing. I also like Cav Wine Bar.

        2. Eatdrink, Keep Kappa. I think you'll like it. Maybe stop by Ino just for the ankimo although the rest of the sushi is well below Sushi Zo. KK tells me Kyo-Ya is on the way up for traditional nigiri and Sebo looks like a top contender too (I can't personally vouch for either). Both are not going to be up to Sushi Zo or Mori level. Kappa at least will be different and the sashimi (no sushi) is great quality.

          Why don't you throw some Italian into the mix? Incanto over Foreign Cinema or Chenery Park? Throw Bar Tartine in there or think about swinging by Koi Palace for dim sum or even dinner. Call to see if they still have live abalone. 3 for $20.

          2 Replies
            1. re: steve h.

              i wouldn't dismiss chenery park. i actually prefer it to Incanto. they're both real neighborhood joints - very warm and lovely, but not with "scenes". i think foreign cinema is overrated. there's a great debate on this board about zuni. many love it dearly. i also find it overrated and disappointing, regularly - so i stopped going. also, just to split hairs, if you do italian, i prefer delfina (get the florentine style tripe - the best i've ever had in the us -and better than much i've had in italy) - but that's anothr raging debate here!

              for Burma Superstar (which is wonderful) see if you can go at off hours. the wait for dinner is astonishingly long. if you don't mind waiting 90-120 minutes, you can provide your cell and just have drinks somewhere. but you might avoid a wait if you go for a late lunch.

              Aziza is great!

          1. Kappa is "Koryori" style Japanese, quite a bit more formal than a izakaya. It's great, but it's the French Laundry of SF Japanese Restaurants (along with Kyo-ya).

            Zuni Cafe, Cherney Park, and Foreign Cinema are all unremarkable. I'd search out something better, if I were visiting SF from LA.

            A few Chowhound favorites to consider includes: Incanto, Bar Crudo, Pesce, Jai Yun, Piperade, and Slanted Door.

            10 Replies
            1. re: Paul H

              Porthos, thank you. I was hoping you would reply to my posting b/c i loved your list of sushi reviews. Happy you enjoy Sushi Zo in LA, it's definitely my favorite... when i have money. I think Kappa will definitely be a keeper.

              Oh yes, i forgot to mention that I'd like to eat in North Beach? any more recs for good fresh pasta and rustic food? By the way, i just looked at Incanto's sample menu... duck fries??? awesome.

              SFoperalover, it will definitely be a close tie between Chenery Park and Incanto. And I can't eat both b/c it'll probably be very rich. Zuni, i love their cookbook, so i'll defintely try it. Is Delfina right next to Tartine Bakery? If so, that place DOES look good.

              I'm worried that I won't be able to eat at Burma Superstar! How far is Burma Superstar from Union Square?

              Paul H, you're right, it is expensive. Why not? Expense account. Thank you for your recommendations. I'm still in a rut between Chenery Park and Incanto.

              1. re: eatdrinknbmerry

                Burma Superstar is about 3 and 1/2 miles from Union Square. For most of us, that's a cab or bus ride. There is no Muni light rail to that part of the city.

                1. re: eatdrinknbmerry

                  Burma Superstar is an easy bus-ride - take the 38L (faster than the regular 38) west and get off at 6th/Kaiser Hospital. Walk two blocks to your right and you are there. It takes about 10 minutes.

                  Concur on what everyone is saying about Kappa. It IS the French Laundry of Japanese food... Took a well-seasoned Urasawa visitor to Kappa and she was blown away. Not as much sushi as Urasawa but she said it was definitely comparable in quality and a much better value than Urasawa.

                  1. re: Carrie 218

                    Thank you Paul H & Carrie. I am very excited to eat.

                    i think i'm going with...

                    bar crudo

                    i'll be in SF again in 2 weeks for the Treasure Island music festival so i can try out new places.

                    1. re: eatdrinknbmerry

                      If you do take KK's suggestion and head down to San Jose for izakaya (Hoshi is good as is Kitsho's cooked menu) try to swing by Pho Kim Long for Vietnamese. Oh, and Kahoo for shio ramen. But I know I'm just making your life harder.

                      Here's my prior post on Pho Kim Long:

                      1. re: Porthos

                        OK, you and KK owe us a full report on Hoshi, please!


                        246 Saratoga Ave, Santa Clara, CA 95050

                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          Hmm, I didn't take any notes from my visit to Hoshi. Everything we ordered was good. If I remember correctly, the yaki onigiri was a good version. The most memorable dish was the whole salt grilled Renko-dai. They also offered other whole grilled fish. Pretty good sake selection. The Kubota Hekiju was refreshing, fragrant, and reasonably priced. $15 for "large glass" that was actually one of those carafes with ice in the middle. It's referred to as the "sister" to the Kubota Manju.

                          The online menu is only a fraction (maybe 1/4) of the extensive in-house menu.

                      2. re: eatdrinknbmerry

                        I really like Chenery Park as a neighborhood spot when I need a nice dinner after work., heavy on the comfort food and wonderful folks who know my needs and quirks.....and particularly for their southern influenced dishes and great drinks, but if I were coming from LA I'd choose Incanto over Chenery Park, *unless* drinks were a very important part of the mix since Incanto is wine and beer only (even then, the cocktails at Aziza will satisfy that urge if you have it). However, if it were one italian meal only, and coming from LA, I'd choose La Ciccia over either one of them...

                        1. re: susancinsf

                          I second everything susancinsf says....I, too, adore Chenery Park, it's one of the very few spots in town where my wife and I are regulars at this point....but if I were coming from out of town, I'd go with Incanto as well because the possibility of a more transcendent meal exists there. CP is great at what they do and they provide the whole package for a diner (good to very good food, great cocktails, decent wine selection, wonderful service, excellent value, etc) but with only a few exceptions, the food isn't going to blow anyone's mind. That's not a knock...sometimes you just want a really well prepared steak or a good bowl of crab soup of some sort.

                  2. re: Paul H

                    Paul H for president.

                    Thanks for the Bar Crudo rec. I was looking for sushi in SF, but I think this place satiates my desire for raw fish. Everything we had was great. I love that ROBUST seafood chowder w/ apple smoked bacon. My god, i'm glad i only had 5 sips of it b/c it was more than enough.

                    SF chowhounders are 2 for 2 w/ recs.... Aziza manana!

                  3. While I've never had sushi in LA at the great places Porthos has mentioned, I believe it when he and everyone else says that pretty much any "best" nigiri sushi place in SF is nothing compared to LA.

                    But even with that in mind, do drop by Ino Sushi in SF sometime. It's a great authentic neighborhood bar, mom and pop operation, though not necessarily the best atmosphere. Inoue-san's ankimo receipe is definitely one of the best preps around. He may not excel at everything but the traditional small touches that he does makes the experience more enjoyable, such as toasting a nori sheet to make it more crispy for that handroll or cut roll/ traditional style makimono; more crunch per bite. Nothing is worse than a soggy norimaki that too many places are guilty of (yes even Kaygetsu at the bar, what a waste of imported "Ariake nori"). Also nigiri is served directly on the counter (it's immaculately clean), not on a geta, or stoneware. A lot of these little things add up in my book.

                    Kyo Ya is on my to-eat list someday, but I'm told they are not open on weekends. Sushi fish selection is rather small there apparently. This might also be the "best" city option for kaiseki.

                    No good izakaya's in SF, for the real deal and fusion-esque places, drive 40 mins to the South Bay, like Sunnyvale, Santa Clara. i.e. Tanto (Sunnyvale location remodelling right now), Gochi, Saizo, Hoshi etc.

                    12 Replies
                    1. re: K K

                      KK, to further explain. I lived in Los Angeles for 12 years and now have lived across the street from Japantown in SF for 2 years and I still feel that the Japanese food (in general) and the nigiri (specifically) in Los Angeles -- or, I should say, Gardena -- is superior.

                      Plainly put, Gardena as being home to the corporate offices of Hyndai, Mitsubishi, Toyota, etc, simply hosts a larger Japanese community which supports a larger, more close-nit community. San Francisco's Japanese community is, in general, more sparsely located and Japantown itself is owned by Koreans. I believe that diversity makes the quality of SF's Japanese food suffer in its quality and authenticity.

                      To this day, if asked to name my favorite Japanese restaurants, with the exception of Kappa in San Francisco, the rest are all located in Gardena.

                      1. re: Carrie 218

                        I hear you loud and clear, and have similar sentiments (and oddly enough coincidental geographical locations) on Taiwanese food in SF vs southern Bay Area vs Southern Cal.

                        But if you have a car and are willing to drive well past San Mateo, as far as San Jose, there are better options for other Japanese fare.

                        If kusaya, kinmedai nitsuke (kama nikomi), sazae no tsuboyaki, aji no nambanzuke, honmaguro no kabutoyaki, tonbi, etc mean anything to you, head to Hoshi :-).

                        1. re: K K

                          i'm not sure it's all due to population density. the community in SF is mainly a mix of old time nikkei and young-ish student-age nihonjin. gardena, on the other hand, is a mix of old time nikkei and salarymen + their families. also, regarding the "close-knit" comment (and this is purely anecdotal), nihonjin and nikkei communities rarely mix together.

                          if you want "authentic" food of a certain type, i'd say that most of the nikkei community (excepting the shin-issei and shin-nisei) wouldn't be able to help you out much. ignoring the fact that even modern kaiseki cuisine didn't start to take shape 'til the early part the of the 20th century, the multi-generational japanese american families of today immigrated during the 1890s - 1920s, were from the kansai region, and weren't of the economic class that had access to what's recognized as washoku today.

                          basically, japanese professionals (their salaries and discerning tastes) are what make possible "authentic" japanese restaurants of a "superior" quality. anywhere else, you mostly get home-style food cooked with varying degrees of skill.

                          and not to be nitpicky, but hyundai is a korean company.

                          one more thing... kappa and kyo-ya being the "French Laundry of SF Japanese Restaurants" is a really depressing statement.

                          1. re: K K

                            waitaminit... honmaguro kabutoyaki? like... the ENTIRE head? does he pull out the eyes for a separate dish? if it's the whole head, would i have to sign over my firstborn for a chance at it? how does he get the smell of kusaya out of his restaurant? could i get the kabutoyaki without having to smell any kusaya?

                            oh, so very exciting.

                            1. re: uchinanchu

                              What a superb writeup of the Japanese communities and their backgrounds/ histories/cultural differences!

                              Here's a picture I found on your grilled samurai helmet


                              I'm told it's around $26 to $28.

                              You're SOL (no pun intended) if someone nearby orders kusaya.

                              1. re: K K

                                odd... that doesn't quite look like hon maguro. is it half the head? or a baby one? honmaguro usually looks like this...


                                1. re: uchinanchu

                                  You got me there. I suppose the ol' flickr pic must be a meiji or hotaru. If Hoshi had the one in your pic, it would cost way more.

                          2. re: Carrie 218

                            I refer to this phenomenon as the population-density-turnover-quality factor (PDTQ). Population density drives demand/turnover which supports freshness and quality.

                            You see this with many/any foods. In SF, good taquerias are highly supported and produce high turn over of product. Conversely, BBQ in SF suffers from the reverse.

                            1. re: ML8000

                              Some would question how "good" the taquerias are in SF. . .

                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                In fact, I do all the time! :-) There are a few good ones...but much better taqueria fare to be had in the South Bay....(or overall, in Oakland for that matter).

                                Heading down to LA via 101 Friday and looking forward to a taco stop in Salinas, or King City, or both!

                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                  Indeed, some will question anything...and they'll have a point. Any way, the few I go to have the high turn over keeps things fresh, like Cancun. Conversely, La Cumbre has lagged and stuff sit and it becomes a vicious cycle.

                              2. re: Carrie 218

                                Have you tried the Japanese restaurants in the South Bay (San Jose, Santa Clara, Cupertino, etc.)? That would be the "Gardena" of the SF Bay Area. San Jose's Japantown is actually home to a Japanese community.