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Dec 14, 2008 08:07 AM

SF: Royal Market Rules The Richmond – Great produce, fresh sturgeon and warm just-baked black bread.

This mid-sized market on Geary flat-out has the best produce that I have seen for that size market. The prices are terrific.

A bin of excellent Satsuma tangerines were 2 lbs for $1. Everything there was very fresh and the prices not that inexpensive on other items were very good and well below supermarket prices.

They also have a butcher counter. They will even cook the marinated meat items such as luleh kebab.

The fish counter had whole bodies of fresh sturgeon ready to be cut into steaks. They looked stellar and buttery. As Melanie mentioned in the post linked below, on her visit they had live crayfish … from Armenia. On my visit the crayfish were displayed in the seafood counter but they had departed this world.

This is an Armenian-Russian market as Melanie reported. There are also lots of Middle Eastern and Eastern European items. It is a bright, well-kept market unlike so many of the Eastern European markets on Geary.

There is a full-service deli with hot and cold items. An on-site bakery makes bread, piroshki, pastries and other baked goods. The only items they don’t make are the Russian cream cakes in the first bakery case.

They have a large liquor selection behind the bakery cases with lots of vodka. There were some Georgian wines scattered about the store. They had some bottles of Kvass I’ve not seen before. This is a fizzy drink made from fermented bread and can taste like a lovely fizzy apple soda or the drink from hell. You have to watch the brand.

There is a dairy filled with Eastern European cheeses, yogurt etc. The freezer is filled with various dumplings.

I was very sleepy on my visit so I just did a quick walk around and the only things that stick in my mind grocery-wise were the Angelo Pardini sardines (one of my favorites) and the Russian mayo. It would be fun to explore as there are some not so usual suspects

Most of the cold cuts run towards Saag or Bobak, but there were other unusual sausages. There was a smoked fish counter. Too tired to be sure if I liked the fish or not, but I remember lots of whole smoked fish.

In front, next to the case of the Russian cakes, were the pastries made in-house. Not much that looked familiar to me.

But I was really after the bread which I heard they baked in house. Wooden racks in the back corner held three types of bread. I bought a loaf of black bread which they ran through the slicer (thank you very much). When I brought it to the cash register, I was given another plastic bag and the bag with the bread was opened because I was told it was hot from the oven and let it cool a while.

Of course I had to eat a piece immediately. I liked the thin chewy crust a lot. This bread seemed to have some baking soda in it and it was different from most I’ve tried. The taste was neutral and I'm thinking it will be good in sandwiches with hearty cold cuts. They had a plate of samples.

The deli counter had about a dozen bowls of salads and spreads. There was a section for hot foods, but I was there before that opened. There were only some soups and a roast chicken from the day before.

I bought some lovely roasted baked baby eggplant, with a mousse-like filling of ground nuts and it was topped with four fresh pomegranate seed. The flavors were subtle and there was lots of oil in this. I liked it.

The star was the Armenian pizza (lamajoon) ... two soft, pillowy pitas thinly spread with an excellent pungent garlic thin mix. It looked just like the picture in this recipe which says ground lamb … but mine didn’t have a lamb taste to it. I definately will buy this again on the next visit

The baked piroshki came in either cabbage or beef. They were shaped like fat hot dog rolls. The ground beef was slightly peppery. I’m not a big piroshki fan … I keep searching for one to win me over (I like Crixa the best). While I probably wouldn’t buy another beef, I’d give the cabbage a try next time.

They had some lovely looking pickles, but I didn’t want to buy a quart deli container.

The end counters of the grocery aisles had Middle Eastern flat breads and some cakes I’ve never seen before.

The only down points … the music and the limited English. It was loud and odd … some sort of 80’s disco music. That made it difficult to talk to the staff. I never did learn what were the other types of bread. I couldn't clearly hear what was being said in broken English with that music going. Not loud enough to bother me shopping, just trying to talk.

I asked if this had anything to do with the Royal Market in Fremont. It doesn’t.

I can hardly wait to go back and explore more of this market.

Previous posts

Live Armenian Crayfish at Royal Market (SF)

Royal Market & Bakery - New Eastern European?

Royal Market & Bakery
5335 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA

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  1. The way the fish monger displays those giant sturgeon is really striking, isn't it?

    1. I was in the neighborhood last night and managed to dash in before 9pm for a quick look before they shut the doors.

      I bought some Mashti Malone bastani (persian ice cream) and a spinach bourek, $2.50. Had the bourek, heated in the toaster oven, this morning for breakfast --- like the pastry very much and the thin layer of hot chili flakes under the spinach filling. I'd get this again.

      Now, in the unusual category, there was a whole roast suckling pig on top of the deli case waiting for the customer to pick it up. This was a real suckling pig, meaning it was small enough to fit in a turkey roasting pan. I found out that the price is $150 and the pig weighs about 20 pounds.

      Then even farther out there: a whole smoked CROCODILE. It was quite attractive, not that big, less than 4' from nose to tip of tail. Most of the hide had been stripped off exposing the meat except along the spine and on the head. It was standing on its feet. It's from "Africa", and I neglected to ask how much. The counter guy said that it would be a nice addition to the Christmas or New Year's table.

      Googling at home, apparently South Africa exports them.
      Has anyone tried smoked crocodile?

      1 Reply
      1. re: Melanie Wong

        So ... what sort of wine would you suggest with smoked croc? Now I know what to finally bring to the Chowhound picnic.

        This blog says it tastes like chicken

        For leftovers ...
        Smoked crocodile with spinach, red onion marmalade and samosa wafer

        Seems like smoked croc is indeed sold in Armenia these days ...

        "Bananas used to be considered almost an exotic fruit because they were so rarely available in Armenia. Now, shoppers who can afford the prices can get not only a variety of bananas (and occasionally even plantains), but South America-imported mango ($5.40 each), avocado ($3.55), guava ($5.80). The dog toothpaste, by the way, costs about $10 and comes in bacon flavor, sold at the same SAS that offered smoked crocodile for about $200. "

        That might give a price point.


        "The $250 SAS crocodile is likely to not only be smoked, but completely
        dried before it leaves its shelf. (Employees of the shop say they have
        heard that crocodile tastes like chicken.) But in any case capital
        shoppers are interested to learn that not only can crocodile eat homo
        sapiens, but vice versa."