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Nov 26, 2009 08:20 AM

Fine dining in SF Bay Area: trip report Day 1 and 2 of grayelf's Nov 2009 visit

After another fantastic response to my queries (see this thread, I put together an eating itinerary with a bit of flexibility and a lot of variety for our recent trip to the Bay Area. If I failed to thank any of you, please consider me in your debt – you all rock!

Thursday night our plane was delayed more than an hour from Vancouver and we just had time to make the 7:30 reso at our beloved Canteen. We have dinner here every trip and have yet to be disappointed. Every dish is not a perfect 10 but we enjoy Chef Leary’s approach to food so much that the odd item that does not suit us still gets points for freshness, originality etc.

This trip’s visit saw the decadent brioche disappear posthaste in our bellies, followed by an amuse, then a salt cod app for him and another spectacular salad for me. He loved the cod, me not so much. Matter of taste, though, not prep or presentation, which were both great.

Mains were pork schnitzel for me (the best one I’ve ever had) and tuna for the SO, which was a bit less successful. Of course we finished by sharing a vanilla soufflé. Yeah, only shared ONE, I got overruled. Actually, I agreed before the trip that we were going to try to split things like desserts as it is so easy to overdo it on excellent foodstuffs in your fair burg.

On Friday I had researched a bunch of non-Wharfy places but alas, the weather did not cooperate. We started out at Delise which is a new café at 327 Bay that boasts housemade ice cream and pastries. The couple who own it used to work at Bong Su. They are very nice and working hard to gain momentum but it sounds like tough going right now in a spot that is a bit out of the way. We tried truffle olive shortbread (tasty), jalapeno cheddar muffin (a bit too sweet for me), nutella biscotti (very nice) and snickerdoodles (topnotch, nice chew and not too heavy on the spicing). I also had the yuzu ice cream (ice cream for breakfast!) and it was delicious, smooth and tangy. They were fine with us hanging around and working on our cryptic crosswords while we waited in vain for the rain to stop.

As the rain persisted, we switched gears and decided to head for SOMA to eat at Miss SaiGon. I had heard about this place from a recent Chowdown and being obsessed with bo luc lac or shaking beef, had it on my radar. We took the safe route of ordering the two recommended dishes (also bun cha ha noi) and were very happy. The portions were large and we persuaded them to provide us with extra lettuce to do some wraps. The greens in general were quite excellent so perhaps they have a new supplier? Well sated, we trudged toward the SFMOMA, only to stumble across the Metreon Farmers Market. Needless to say, we nipped in for a look. The Nepalese guy was there flogging his momos (yes, I know that sounds dirty, and I don’t care), which looked very tasty even in our Vietnamese-filled state. There were several other prepared food stands that looked worthy – in fact, there was very little that looked farmers markety with only one produce stand. Not a drawback from a tourist’s point of view – will definitely return to graze on a future trip.

SFMOMA was excellent as usual (our third visit) with the high points being the sculptures on the top floor. And of course the Gibraltar there too! To my mind a Blue Bottle Café in the midst of modern sculpture on a rooftop patio is genius. The MOMA blend they are using is apparently only one bean different from my heretofore favourite Hayes Valley. And I got a kick out of the themed pastries too though I can’t speak for their quality as we didn’t try any – check out the Mondrian cake in the photo.
We deaked straight onto BART to Oakland and the much ballyhooed Commis for our 6:30 reso at the bar. As you may know, it is a $59 three course meal with a choice of one of three items for each course. That worried me a bit as I have some food sensitivities and let’s face it some food dislikes that might in some circles classify me as a picky eater ;-). Not a problem this evening. Other than a tendency to underdo the meats (also the SO’s duck was an inferior piece that was not helped by being too pink and one of my pieces of pork was too raw in the middle – see pic), the food, service and atmosphere were great, down to the purse hook I was offered to secure my bag. I won’t detail the food because others have done so (see and; suffice to say it was worth the trek to darkest Oakland :- ).

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  1. Pix of Blue Bottle in SFMOMA and pork at Commis...

    (above is my schnitzel at Canteen and pix from Delise)

    817 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA 94109

    Miss Saigon Vietnamese Restaurant
    100 6th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

    3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

    DeLise dessert cafe
    327 Bay St, San Francisco, CA 94133

    2 Replies
    1. re: grayelf

      That photo of the shnitzel is mouth-watering. Will have to go soon, thank you!

    2. One of my hawkeyed local Hound pals noticed that I forgot to post the promised pic of underdone pork at Commis so here it is, along with a few more -- the pork belly on the right was perfectly cooked, and the part of the loin that was done tasted marvelous (to be fair, I couldn't have eaten all of both pieces anyway -- too full!)

      The same Hound was hoping for a few more details on the meal, so here goes:
      J had a Fullers London porter and I tried a Kessler Riesling off the wine pairing list ($5 and $12). We started with a Parkerhouse roll and Humboldt butter, followed by a poached hen's egg with onion puree, granola and chives, then the shiso palate cleanser (little shot). I had a warm soup of kabocha squash, lemongrass cream, coriander and quince; J went with the soft farm egg with potato and allium, fermented black garlic and pork jowl. For mains, the roasted Muscovy duck with natural renderings, toasted wheat berries with walnuts and maroon carrots, gourd mustard for him, the slow roasted pork loin and belly with pomegranate juice, creamed escarole and tarragon bread crust (added bonus: fried sunchokes!) for me. Desserts were pumpking custard with pepitas and licorice foam IIRC and cheddar cheesecake with apple rosemary crust, followed by mignardises of absinthe gelee.

      5 Replies
      1. re: grayelf

        So that's the beer and roll, the hen's egg, the soup and the duck above.

        Here we have the pork and a closeup, the cheesecake and the pumpkin custard.

        1. re: grayelf

          And finally the gelees and a blurry shot of the kitchen in action...

          1. re: grayelf

            How could a chef possibly plate and serve that pork? It's raw in the middle.

          2. re: grayelf

            Thank you! The plating looks really nice though I wouldn't have eaten that pork either. Mmmm cheesecake...thanks for taking the time to give me more details!

            1. re: ck1234

              You're welcome, c. Interestingly, the chef appeared to be aware of the underdoneness, as one of the staff asked me if it was okay at his behest. I said it was rarer than I like, but that I wouldn't have eaten all the meat anyway, so it would be silly to make a fuss.