Los Planes - Excelsior - Report [San Francisco]
Pane and I had an early dinner this evening at Los Planes - this place seems to be very popular and the food was good.
We each had a pupusa w/ chicharron, beans and cheese. They were good - freshly fried and served hot and crispy, these are some of the best pupusas I've had in San Francisco, though I thought there wasn't enough filling (or perhaps the filling didn't have enough flavor.) I would be curious to try plain cheese pupusas, which I tend to like better. The curtido and the tomato sauce served w/ pupusas were fine, and I liked how they gave us large portions (way more than enough) of both.
We shared one tamal de elote, which was excellent. Served already out of its husk along w/ some sour cream. I added a bit of sugar and it was delicious. The tamal was very moist, and just straightforward good flavor.
We also shared a main dish of pacaya rellena - mainly because we hadn't seen this on many menus before. I am currently trying to figure out what pacaya actually is, and it's one of the least googleable things I've eaten in a long time! As far as I can tell, there's not even a wikipedia article, and many people seem to be confused about what part of the plant is eaten. I think my best answer came from a Chef to Chef conversation from 2004 found here:
So I guess it's the edible shoot/bud of the pacaya palm tree. Anyway, the pacaya was stuffed w/ cheese and fried, then served topped w/ tomato sauce along w/ rice, beans and tortillas. The pacaya itself was very interesting! It has a bitter taste which I enjoyed, but the texture and appearance was somewhat like a cross between squid and eggplant. The whole dish reminded me somewhat of eggplant parmesan and overall I liked it- the rice and beans were good too, though nothing special.
Total bill for all of this, plus two small agua frescas de tamarindo, was $19.50 before tip.
Definitely worth checking out, and it was fun to get a better glimpse of this neighborhood. Lots of good potential chow exploration is possible nearby! For example, the Salvadoran bakery next door seemed extremely popular and it smelled great. Maybe next time I'll stop there too.
Los Planes De Renderos Restaurant
12 Persia Ave, San Francisco, CA 94112
Yep, I noticed on the bus ride over that the last three or four blocks before Los Planes were stacked with Salvadoran groceries, bakeries and restaurants. Maybe they should rename this corridor Little El Salvador?
Anyhow, I came upon this place because a Salvadoran cab driver recommended it to me--he said most Salvadoran places in SF had Mexican or Central American cooks; only at Los Planes did the food taste distinctly Salvadoran to him. Both times I've gone business has been bustling and the food lived up to the cabbie's hype.
Last time I tried the Salvadoran specialties plate, which included an excellent chicken tamal. The elote tamal was even better: with a punch of sweet corn flavor, it tasted like July. Dave recommended adding a bit of sugar to the sour cream, and that heightened the fresh, sweet corn flavor.
Pupusa was great, though, like Dave, I wanted more filling.
I cracked up at the description of the pacaya "appearance was somewhat like a cross between a squid and an eggplant"--but it's so true! Long ribbons of spongy, bitter vegetable were joined at a central point, like the legs of an octopus. The preparation was like East Coast parmesan at a red sauce joint: mixed with cheese, breaded, fried, and then doused with a piquant tomato sauce.
Also, I thought the tamarindo was good. Not too sweet. A lady next to us ordered a soup that looked interesting--I would definitely want to try soups when I return.
You guys rock! Pane, I assume you mean the three of four blocks of Mission north of Persia. I nosed around that area a couple of years ago when my wife was eyeing a restaurant for sale near Mission and Russia and it looked ready for an ethnic restuarant explosion. Mission south of Persia has some interesting stuff going on as well, like Kadok's House of Mami and Siao Pao (Filpino-Chinese) which I keep meaning to try.
Now where'd I put my Indiana Jones hat?
re: Xiao Yang
Yep, north of Persia. I looked in at the Salvadoran bakery next door to Los Planes; while the sugary smell was appealing to my bottomless stomach, the look of the pastries was not. It might be that I'm just more into French/Italian bakery treats than South/Central American or Mexican.
I also wanted to check out the Manila Oriental Market; of course, Dave had already been there dozens of times and recommended specific products.
For some reason, your Taxi Cab report didn't link to Places, so here's a link to that report
Let Your Taxi Driver Tip You
I finally woke up and realized I did eat at Los Planos a few years ago. At that time the Bay Guardian called it the most authentic Salvadoran place in the city.
Though my memory is different about it, looking at my notes I liked the atoll shuco (dirty atol) a purple corn atoll. Served in a dried melon half or gourd, it is taro colored with a yellow corn swirl on top. There are black beans in the bottom. It has the sourish taste of sorrel.
Skip the orchata which just tasted like the water brown rice was cooked in. Also skip the pastels, these are leaden. A thick corn exterior wrapped around a ground beef interior and deep fried.
Just around the corner I had my first Salvadoran pastel at Los Guanacos which was one of the most memorable things I've ever eaten. They also have a great drink out of dragon fruit called chan. I see checking yelp they are still open. My old report
At that time I was doing a pupusa crawl to try to understand what made a good pupusa ... I pretty much burnt myself out on pupusas ... Los Planes didn't do that great probably because of the curtido and stingy filling ... but I'm not Salvadoran, so what do I know. My own thought about pupusas is that the less time from grill to mouth ... the better. I've seen frozen pupusas in Mexican markets and I just can't imagine they would be any good.
Los Guanacos Restaurant
4479 Mission St, San Francisco, CA
I'll have to see if I can pry some more info from my Guatamalan relatives about pacaya. Someone's mom was visiting a few years ago and when they turned up a jar of the stuff, everyone got excited. She took it back with her so I never tried it. I was getting familiar with flor de izote at the time which also got everyone all excited. It was fine, but I think it is an aquired taste.
Anyway since then, I always notice bottles of paycaya in Mexcan markets.It doesn't seem like all that rare of an item at the local markets. It does look like the tenticles of a squid. Here's a not great picture of Goya ...
Dave, I have been getting my pupusas from the Pupuseria on Persia for years (always for take-out, but one can also eat inside ... although it's just a hole in the wall) ... and they are delicious! That is ALL I have ordered from them, so I can't speak for the other items on their menu, but the pupusas are really good.
I didn't realize it was called "Los Planes de Renderos" ... it's listed as "Pupuseria" on the phone book. :-)
Yes, it seems like pupusas are their specialty - I got a peek into the kitchen and saw a huge pile of masa waiting to be made into pupusas. The downstairs only has two small tables, but upstairs there are about 10 tables in a dining area. We sat upstairs, by the window, which was nice.