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Boston CH seeks SF advice: Add to: Aziza, For.Cinema, B44....

opinionatedchef Mar 5, 2008 10:53 AM

Disclaimer: As my moniker explains, I am decidedly opinionated about food, but I'm hoping you could still help!.
We come to SF every March and , in between time spent in carmel and elk, we have maybe 4 or 5 dinners in SF area. Would you take a look at my list of good experiences and not good, and if you seem to have my taste, offer away any suggestions you are generous enough to share? I would really appreciate your time:

Positive: Aziza, Foreign Cinema ( we always eat at these two) ;B44, Postrio, Azie,
Cafe Kati, Beetlenut, Yank Sing for dim sum,Sea Salt and Gregoire in Berkeley, Fog City Diner,Cortez, Hog Island Oyster Co., taquerias on mission,Elizabeth Daniel (no more), Chez Nous( no more)

Not positive enough to return:Masa, Michael Mina, la Folie, Quince, Slanted Door, Limon, Plumpjack Cafe, Chez Panisse downstairs, Boulevard,Jardiniere, Buddhukan.

In the past,I have been tempted by what I read of: Farallon,Luca, Coi, Bocadillos,Gary Danko, 5th Floor,MC squared,.A 16, Campton Place, Zuni Cafe, LuLu. O Chame, Oliveto, Furenzu, Zarzuela , Bay Wolf.

In the Napa area, we are huge fans of Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen( and not of Terra.)

To explain further, I am just not interested in 'the best simple roast chicken'(which is why I can't get myself to try Zuni.) I am interested in robust flavors, unusual ingredients and combinations/fusion,particularly Mexican, Spanish and Asian. Boston is Italian saturated so I stay away from Italian if there are other choices. I do like small plates. Every time we have spent the BIG bucks, we have regretted it, so I think we have had our best experiences in more bistro feeling places. We dislike haughty , stiff, over- fussy service and we really enjoy friendly people.

O.K , I'm done!. We arrive in SF this coming Sunday and all our SF area meals will be weekday, not weekend.
I really do appreciate your time on this.Thank you.

  1. Robert Lauriston Mar 5, 2008 11:39 AM

    The Daniel of Elisabeth Daniel is Daniel Patterson, the chef at Coi. That's probably the place in the area for unusual ingredients and combinations.

    The just-opened Orson seems to be more or less in that same vein.

    For small plates, I love À Côté, partly because of their huge and adventurous selection of wine by the glass. The menu's online.

    How about ethnic cuisines you don't have in Boston? Check out this topic for some possibilities:

    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/320429

    Please post on the California board about any good places to eat circa Elk.

    -----
    A Cote
    5478 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

    1 Reply
    1. re: Robert Lauriston
      opinionatedchef Mar 5, 2008 01:33 PM

      hello again, robert. elk food? hahahaha! as far as i know there's nothing worthwhile except The harbor house where we stay. and then in mendocino . but i always post our experiences after our annual trip, so will do again this year. thanks again for your help.

    2. Ruth Lafler Mar 5, 2008 11:51 AM

      From your temptations list, if you do want to go the big bucks route, Fifth Floor has a new chef and a new focus (inspired by Gascony), and early reports have been very positive. Otherwise, Coi seems like the obvious choice. I would say Bay Wolf falls into the Chez Panisse/Zuni category, so maybe not your thing.

      1. z
        zunzie Mar 5, 2008 12:03 PM

        Try rnm...it's wonderful, I think. I've never had a bad meal and the staff is truly excellent.

        A Cote is very fun-- great atmosphere.

        3 Replies
        1. re: zunzie
          opinionatedchef Mar 5, 2008 01:35 PM

          zunzie, what's mm......?

          1. re: opinionatedchef
            Ruth Lafler Mar 5, 2008 02:10 PM

            That first letter is an "r": RNM.

            -----
            RNM Restaurant
            598 Haight Street, San Francisco, CA 94117

            1. re: Ruth Lafler
              Carrie 218 Mar 5, 2008 04:43 PM

              If you go to rnm, definitely order the grilled romaine salad -- consistently a fav! I'm also fond of their roast duck and last week I had a great hunk of veal there as well as a spectacular charcuterie plate.

        2. c
          chazzerking Mar 5, 2008 01:40 PM

          I would second(or at this point, third) the Coi recc. Danko was excellent in the past, but IMO, has slid a little.

          1. rworange Mar 5, 2008 05:06 PM

            You can not miss Ubuntu in Napa ... you ... can .. NOT .. miss ... Ubuntu.

            This is one of the most important restaurants to open in the Bay Area. I have rarely eaten better and had such comfortable wonderful service.

            Even if you think this will not apeal to you ...get over any pre-conceptions. This is just one of the best restaurants in the bay area period.
            http://www.ubuntunapa.com/index_flash...

            I'm not clear if you will be in Napa or just referenced Cindy's as an example. If not ... well, poor you.

            7 Replies
            1. re: rworange
              opinionatedchef Mar 5, 2008 08:58 PM

              rw, we will be in napa 2-3 nights.cindy's backstreet kitchen 1 or 2 dinners; mustards lunch,....
              Auberge de soleil, jeanty, and terra disappointing.. what about martini's or other? th you for your thoughts.

              1. re: opinionatedchef
                Carrie 218 Mar 5, 2008 10:31 PM

                RW's right -- you must go to Ubuntu. I think Martini House is just like all the other haute wine-country establishments and in that regard, not that remarkable. Go to Ubuntu for a lunch and/or a dinner. You will not be disappointed.

                1. re: Carrie 218
                  opinionatedchef Mar 5, 2008 10:42 PM

                  carrie and rw, i made a reserva at ubuntu but they don't even post a menu.
                  plse tell me more about the menu and what you loved. thanks much

                  carrie, you have BEEN to martini house? all the wild mushroom
                  dishes really appeal to me..... And zuzu's menu looks right up my alley....
                  thank you

                  1. re: opinionatedchef
                    rworange Mar 6, 2008 06:40 AM

                    Ubuntu has their menu online

                    If you click on restaurant, at the top of the page next to the words "your restauant" there's a menu link. It is more of a sample They rely on fresh and seasonal. Here's the dinner menu in pdf formant
                    http://www.ubuntunapa.com/images/downloads/Ubuntu-Dinner.pdf

                    Dessert
                    http://www.ubuntunapa.com/images/down...

                    The menu looks sort of simple and not exciting and that unfortuantley put me off from stopping by for a long time ... big mistake.

                    I would order the marcona almonds, lavender sugar, sea salt and then check out the other tables to see what looks appealing. That's what sold me on the beets and the dessert. Actually the dessert of bergomot and white chocolate mousse wasn't even on the lunch menu but it was served at another table. Both dishes were so beautiful and the taste exceeded the looks. I have a reservation with a friend to try the tasting menu at dinner. I'm excited about that.

                    You might stop by the new Oxbow Market (heh, and only two months ago I didn't think I'd recommend it to visitors). It is sort of Ferry Plaza light at this point. Most of the restaurants are fine for locals, but the wine merchant / cheese shop is an excellent place to stop for a drink and snack.

                    1. re: rworange
                      z
                      zenki Mar 6, 2008 10:22 AM

                      I agree about Oxbow. I thought it would be terminally precious but they seem to betrying to get beyond that. Not that precious isn't available. They want to include locals in the produce. We'll see if it works. However, the best thing is a retail outlet for The Fatted Calf! It is not so obvious in terms of location since it is across the parking lot and around a corner from the market, next to Taylor's Refresher. There is a Peruvian Cafe inside that looks good but I haven't tried it.

                      1. re: zenki
                        rworange Mar 6, 2008 01:27 PM

                        It is Venezuelan. I liked it but the consensus on the board seems to be 'eh'.

                    2. re: opinionatedchef
                      Carrie 218 Mar 6, 2008 08:00 AM

                      Opinionated -- I lived and worked in wine country for four years (and was a "professional reviewer" for that area during my tenure). So, yes, I have been there and it is actually ONLY during their Mushroom extravaganza that I really appreciated Martini House. But those items are usually only available for a short time and would be the only reason I would seek out MH. Zuzu was a perennial favorite and I dined there often, especially craving their paella, sautéed chard with pinenuts, and pomegranate-glazed quail (which I think is now off the menu). Zuzu was a fabulous addition to wine country because we were so inundated with Cal-Mediterranean food that having anything remotely different was thrilling and it was one of the first small plates establishments to come to the area.

              2. m
                mc2 Mar 5, 2008 07:24 PM

                If you like robust flavors and unusual ingredients and not the bigbucks, try Burma Superstar and Troya on the same block of Clement, and Helmand Palace on van Ness.

                6 Replies
                1. re: mc2
                  Robert Lauriston Mar 6, 2008 09:14 AM

                  Second all of those. Troya is Turkish (or sort of Cal-Turkish, the way that Aziza is Cal-Moroccan), Helmand is Afghan.

                  Burma Superstar, order the tea leaf salad and the sambusa soup. Some of the Chinese dishes are a lot less interesting.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                    Ruth Lafler Mar 6, 2008 12:04 PM

                    There's a Helmand in the Boston area, though, so it's perhaps not as unique as some of the others.

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler
                      hill food Mar 8, 2008 12:22 AM

                      it's been rumored, esp. after 2001, that many of the Helmands around the US are in fact owned by the same family (and any aspersions are quite unfair). not a chain, just related, delicious and in no way... God why do I bother - still worried the Freedom Fry crowd is out there I guess.

                      1. re: hill food
                        Ruth Lafler Mar 8, 2008 02:30 PM

                        I believe the one in Cambridge and the one in SF are owned by the same family. No aspersions.

                      2. re: Ruth Lafler
                        opinionatedchef Mar 8, 2008 08:28 AM

                        right you are ruth. th you so much for all your help w this trip.

                      3. re: Robert Lauriston
                        opinionatedchef Mar 8, 2008 08:31 AM

                        robert ,mc2 et al re: burma superstar- we are definitely headed there for lunch.
                        how about protein dish recs (in addition to the above 2 recs we will definitely order) ? th you. and any of same for troya plse and th you!.

                    2. w
                      Will Fly for Food Mar 5, 2008 09:10 PM

                      My recommendation is Bar Tartine on Valencia between 16th and 17th. Love that restaurant. Fabulous place, friendly staff, great food. The bakery is still fantastic as well -- 18th and Guerrero. Wish I were there now!

                      1. Dave MP Mar 6, 2008 12:09 PM

                        Hi opinionated, I remember you from the Boston board!

                        Lots of good suggestions so far in this thread - I definitely recommend trying Burmese of some sort.

                        Also, even though you said you are less interested in Italian, I'd add Incanto to your list since it's different than anything in Boston and really good.

                        Sounds like you have lots of options though.

                        Dave MP

                        1. a
                          alag Mar 6, 2008 09:48 PM

                          Lolo- Turkish/Mexican fusion. Fun decor, really great food, and the owners are very personable.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: alag
                            Robert Lauriston Mar 7, 2008 07:43 AM

                            Topic on Loló:

                            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/444530

                          2. opinionatedchef Mar 7, 2008 08:13 PM

                            Well, you great SF CHs you, thank you for being so WICKED helpful(apparently the use of that word gives me away as being from ma.)! Your posts have resulted in my adding ubuntu and zuzu to the napa dinners, and now i want to explore adding lolo and burma superstar , troya or orson. But i can find no website for the first two; do you have any links? Are any of them open for lunch? My look into Coi and A Cote - yielded uninspiring menus(for me, that is). sigh.

                            I'm surprised that not one mention has been made of Cortez. We ate there last yr or the yr before and it was excellent and v innovative.very dark and trendy which is not my thing, but exc for the food. no fans among you?

                            Off topic, but do any of you have fond (or other!) memories of Flying Saucer (the miserably hot garage like space with the demented angry chef and the amazing food)?

                            Also, does anyone know why Chez Nous closed? I was very very surprised to learn of that because it was always busy when we visited.

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: opinionatedchef
                              hill food Mar 8, 2008 12:42 AM

                              where was Flying S - Guerrero, Church or Valencia?

                              and if I'm wrong on that I'll just go to lurking unless architecture is discussed.

                              re RNM: I lived down the block awhile over what had been a prominent neighborhood civil rights church (imagine waking up on a Sunday in 1993 and Eldridge Cleaver and Connie Chung are outside your door...)

                              by then the ground floor had been the Armpit Gallery for a few years but you could see how it would have made a good churchy space..

                              Butoh and B'way show tunes on a Sunday afternoon? I'm not too amazed the food scene has changed.

                              is RNM where Spaghetti Western was?

                              1. re: hill food
                                opinionatedchef Mar 8, 2008 08:23 AM

                                guerrero and 23rd i think.

                              2. re: opinionatedchef
                                Carb Lover Mar 8, 2008 01:56 AM

                                I'm not sure if you can't find websites for Ubuntu and Zuzu or Lolo and Burma Superstar, so I've linked what I could find for all...

                                http://www.ubuntunapa.com/index_flash.html
                                http://www.zuzunapa.com/
                                http://www.burmasuperstar.com/

                                I can't find any website for Lolo, but based on yelp, they are not open for lunch.

                                I don't go to SF as much as I'd like, but here are a few places on my to-try list based on board recs that fit with your stated criteria:

                                Thai House Express: http://www.thhexpress.com/
                                Bodega Bistro: http://www.bodegabistrosf.com/index.htm
                                Laiola: http://www.laiola.com/
                                Tajine: http://www.tajinerestaurant.com/

                                I think you might enjoy Canteen for breakfast or lunch, and I second the rec for Incanto even though it's Italian. Chris Cosentino specializes in offal and salumi, if you're into that sort of thing.

                                http://www.sfcanteen.com/
                                http://www.incanto.biz/

                                And even though I'm not a raw food nut and I don't get the sense that you are either, I've read good things about Cafe Gratitude and think it would be a unique bay area experience.

                                http://www.cafegratitude.com/

                                I personally love Zuni for the whole package, and you don't have to order the chicken to get the Zuni experience. You might consider them for lunch and order some oysters as well as whatever sounds good to you on the menu. The menu might read as "boring" to you, but the clean flavors can be explosive and the exacting execution will be appreciated.

                                I've not eaten at Cortez, but from what I recall of board talk, there have been chef/owner changes and inconsistencies over the past couple of years. Just not a reliably good place in my mind. I'm not familiar w/ Flying Saucer and have no idea why Chez Nous closed. Enjoy your visit!

                                1. re: Carb Lover
                                  opinionatedchef Mar 8, 2008 08:22 AM

                                  hi carb lover- well you are just everywhere, aren't you?!! I am truly a lucky camper with all the helpful links and info you consistently provide.i've printed out all your s cruz posts and of course will be posting all our cal experiences during and after our trip. btw, cortez has a michelin star! and their menu still looks exc so i think it will be v good.

                                2. re: opinionatedchef
                                  Carrie 218 Mar 8, 2008 06:29 AM

                                  Chez Nous was owned and operated by the folks who own Bay Breads. They apparently closed to concentrate more on their baking endeavors. The highly-touted SPQR is in that spot now.

                                  I miss Chez Nous...

                                  Also, Canteen is only open for breakfast on weekends now.

                                  1. re: Carrie 218
                                    opinionatedchef Mar 8, 2008 08:18 AM

                                    carrie- you have been so helpful w/ napa-- th you! you know, the bay breads people are the ones who own cortez! so maybe they wanted to
                                    focus on it and got bored w chez nous? such a loss- that fish soup oh my.
                                    our routine is to pick up our rental car and drive to la boulangerie to stock up before heading to bakery-deficient carmel (except for the monterey whole foods). btw, do try sea salt in berkeley;we'll stop there for lunch on our way up to elk (we take yank sing and gregoire and whole foods foods up to have for lunch during the week!).

                                  2. re: opinionatedchef
                                    Robert Lauriston Mar 8, 2008 08:51 AM

                                    There are links to Ubuntu's and Zuzu's Web sites in their Places entries.

                                    Pascal Rigo sold a couple of his restaurants, he said to focus on his bakeries. Chez Nous's replacement SPQR is even busier.

                                    Cortez has changed a lot in the past year or so. It's like a different restaurant.

                                    -----
                                    Ubuntu Restaurant & Yoga Studio
                                    1140 Main Street, Napa, CA 94558

                                    ZuZu
                                    829 Main St, Napa, CA 94559

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                      opinionatedchef Mar 8, 2008 02:17 PM

                                      robert, i believe cortez is owned by the chez nous bay bread owner.....
                                      plse tell me what you mean; in what way has cortez changed? did you like it before? have you tried it recently? the menu looks exc and they have a michelin star.....
                                      have you tried spqr? thanks you again for all this help. 16 hours and counting!....

                                      1. re: opinionatedchef
                                        Robert Lauriston Mar 8, 2008 04:20 PM

                                        Cortez originally had a spacious lounge-type layout, now it's much more like a regular restaurant. More tables, I think, too. The menu was originally small plates only, now they have full-sized main courses as well.

                                        SPQR's great except for the line. Right up there with Incanto, La Ciccia, and A16.

                                  3. opinionatedchef Mar 10, 2008 11:05 PM

                                    robert ,mc2 et al re: Burma Superstar- we are definitely headed there for lunch.
                                    how about protein dish recs (in addition to the other 2 recs we will definitely order) ?
                                    th you. and any of same for troya plse and th you!.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: opinionatedchef
                                      Robert Lauriston Mar 11, 2008 08:47 AM

                                      Burmese cuisine has few protein-rich dishes, and I haven't had any memorable ones at Burma Superstar. The catfish curry's probably your best bet.

                                      Or go to Troya afterwards. Lots of nice meat dishes to choose from there.

                                      1. re: opinionatedchef
                                        Carrie 218 Mar 11, 2008 09:46 AM

                                        At Burma Super Star, for protein-rich dishes I would heartily recommend the Ginger Salad which is redolent with peanuts and split peas as well as dried shrimp. Pair that the Vegetable Samusa soup; "Even though it’s vegetarian, this remains our most popular soup to both meat eaters and vegetarians alike. Made with samusas broken up with falafels, lentils, cabbage, and onions." This soup blew me away -- the combination of chunks of falafel with the spicy sumusas.

                                        Then move on to Jyet Kauswer (Garlic Noodles with duck or pork) *
                                        Flour Noodles with fried garlic, scallions, and your choice of bbq pork or duck. The pork is astonishingly tender. I've also greatly enjoyed the Sesame Beef
                                        Strips of beef lightly fried with a sweet and tangy sauce topped with sesame seeds paired with coconut rice.

                                        You should have NO problem getting great protein dishes here!

                                        1. re: Carrie 218
                                          Robert Lauriston Mar 11, 2008 09:59 AM

                                          I wouldn't call the ginger salad protein-rich, it's just a tablespoon or two of the nuts and toasted beans, and the beans are more starchy than proteiny. The tea leaf salad is quite similar and more exotic.

                                          The samusa soup is a must, but it's definitely starchy.

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