Sixth time charmed: long spring trip report from grayelf (Part II)
Part I (Thurs to Sat) is here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7031...
The Fage yogurt came out again today and then we headed to Hayes Valley to give Mum and Dad a taste of our favourite coffee so far at the Blue Bottle Linden kiosk (gibraltar for me, natch) and to show them True Sake. We then headed up to Alamo Square for one of the most famous views in the area. Next stop was the Mission to try out the food at La Oaxaquena 22128 Mission near 17th which sadly did not measure up. The only really worthy dish was the pupusa platter that Mum ordered, which isn’t even Oaxacan. The tlayuda though enormous was routine with a leathery corn tostada, and the sopes were just sad (that one was my bad as I had read they were not worth ordering). The hot chocolate was large and tasty but the aguas were weak. We didn’t try the chilaquiles which is what we had last time – might considering returning for those but not the rest. Next stop was Mision Dolores for a tour. This place, especially the cemetery, is a bit of an oasis amid the bustle of the Mission.
Then it was back to the hotel for a little rest before meeting Cynsa and her SO at their recent local fave, Jannah 1775 Fulton at Mason (415) 567-4400. We all enjoyed our Mediterranean treats, with great soup, appetizers and mains (there was one I wasn’t in love with as it was quite sweet but others enjoyed it). I was too busy enjoying the excellent company to take pix/notes but do check this place out for reasonable, well-rendered Middle Eastern food (and $2 glasses of the house wines!).
Monday was our Café de la presse breakfast day and we all enjoyed our repasts as usual – I don’t feel a trip to SF is complete without their oeufs benedicte with some Gallic indifference on the side :- ). Dad requested the Conservatory of Flowers next. I forgot it was closed Mondays (doh) so as it was raining and chilly we ended up at the California Academy of Sciences. We all had a blast checking out the rainforest exhibit and aquarium. You would need at least a day to see everything here and we were ready for lunch after a few hours. We decided to walk out to Irving thinking to hit old fave Lime Tree (450 Irving btwn 5th and 6th) but again we were stung by the Monday closure bug. We ended up at Naan’n’Curry for a decent if not earth shattering Indian lunch. Despite a breakdown on the N Judah (we had bad luck with BART this time – the cable cars were out another day too) and a bit of a crazed bus ride back in, we managed to get the Parentals safely onto BART in time (in fact their plane ended up being delayed by rain – what is up with that at SFO??). They had an even better time than expected on their wee jaunt to SF – I wouldn’t be surprised if they planned a return visit soon. After that flurry of activity we were in need of a restorative and found our feet heading toward the Mint Plaza Blue bottle for a ginger lemonade (SO), a New Orleans iced coffee (me) and a cryptic crossword puzzle session.
After much hemming and hawing, we had settled on Range (842 Valencia near 19th 415-282-8283) for our only dinner a deux so after a quick relax at the hotel, we headed back out to the Mission. We were seated in the back room (I think I might request the “belly” area down the middle if we returned, or a corner table in the room we were in). We split a little gem lettuce with fried capers, radishes, parmesan and a roasted garlic vinaigrette $8.75 to start. I had the much-and-deservedly-vaunted oven roasted chicken with brocollini(?) and bread salad $20 while the SO went with the good but unremarkable ravioli with nettles $19. An Evergreen cocktail for me had Plymouth gin, kumquats, sage, st. germain, lemon and was a stellar beverage, not too sweet and very well balanced with a lovely herby note from the sage (I do love me some greenery in my drinks). The SO had a glass of red that I neglected to note the provenance of. Dessert was chocolate soufflé with the tiniest balls of delicious vanilla sorbet ever and a gratis dessert from fellow Vancouverite Lori who had taken our reservation and greeted us at the door. Range struck me as a better-than-average local haunt with excellent cocktails and some standout items. I would return but be sure to order the items they are known for, and I’d likely pass on the desserts which were good but felt overpriced.
Our trusty Fage got us going again on Tuesday morning and thus fortified we set out for Pier 45 and a tour of the Jeremiah O’Brien, the only active Liberty ship in original configuration in the world. I wish we had had time to bring Dad here too as he would have been in his element. This is a fascinating vessel, and the engine room alone is worth the price of admission. We also checked out the Musée Mécanique on this pier which houses dozens of coin operated antique musical instruments and arcade games, all functional. We just had time for a quick tour of the Chinese Historical Society at 965 Clay and then we had a lunch date.
It was with local ’Hound Cynsa, a rematch of our Jai Yun experience in November 2009. The SO was a little concerned that lightning mightn’t strike twice as he had so enjoyed that meal, but he needn’t have worried. Thanks to a discount coupon (yay wolfe) we were able to enjoy the $25 set meal for about the same price as three of us would have paid for the $18, which netted us an abalone and a pork dish extra, both of which were superb. Once again, the cold plate appetizers were the standouts in an excellent lineup. And once again there were no other diners but us. I wish there was a restaurant like this in Vancouver, but I guess Jai Yun is one of a kind.
We walked back up into Chinatown after lunch in search of the fried milk I had read about here from baron45 in January at Sweetheart Café (909 Grant at Washington) but sadly they were out. We consoled ourselves with milk tea and ginger boiled milk (kind of a pudding) at Washington Bakery 733 Washington btwn Grant and Kearney, cleverly missing the freak rainshower that fell while we were inside. This is a great place to take a break with quality offerings in quite a decent setting, very bright inside. The savoury plates that were going by looked more than edible and the place was quite busy for after 3 pm on a Tuesday.
We had so enjoyed our meal at La Ciccia a year before which happened to be with a local ’Hound who was a regular that we thought it would be nice to do it again. We were joined this time by a fourth ’Hound who had never dined there. It is hard to say if we received special treatment because of the company we were keeping but I can say unequivocally that the quality and flavours of this meal even surpassed our last experience here. We had house made head cheese, shaved tuna heart fregola, succulent lamb, outstanding petrale sole, fresh fava beans, and olive oil gelato with bottarga. And some other stuff too – once again a whirl of deliciousness that was distracted me from taking notes. I did manage a few dark pix though.
We had heard from reliable sources that the soft poached egg with brisket was not to be missed at the newish Out the Door in the Fillmore, so off we went after a bit of a lie-in to recover from our debauchery of the night before. This place is beautifully appointed, a bit hipper than we’re used to but the service was lovely. We started with the beignets and Vietnamese coffee, the former tasty (heck, they’re deep fried and they’re doughnuts) but the latter quite disappointing and insipid. The egg platters made up for the coffee though, with the SO going for the ham and eggs, and me taking on the brisket. I loved the tiny spud squares in my dish and the SO sang the praises of his ham (my taste confirmed its goodness). I liked the idea of the tiny baguette-like bun they serve in lieu of toast but it was a bit dry and crumbly for us. All in all, a very nice breakfast option.
We spent the rest of the morning just hanging out, then it was time to head out to the Castro and Chilango for a Mexican meal. Reports of excellent carnitas were not exaggerated and, along with a duo of sopes, made for an excellent final lunch. Note that we did not experience the toughness in the cactus-infused house-made tortillas that others have reporte. We made our way out of town on BART just as a nasty old rainstorm started which delayed our flight also (grrr). We tried a burger at the Burger Joint at SFO which was not quite as good as last time, and so ended our fifth trip to SF. Already planning our eating itinerary for October!
Here are some photos from La Oaxaquena (pupusas, tlayuda), Blue Bottle (lemonade, iced coffee), Range (split salad, chicken, souffle, Evergreen cocktail), Jai Yun (cold apps), and Washington Bakery (milk tea with coconut bun, milk tea with bubbles, ginger "pudding").
291 30th Street, San Francisco, CA 94131
680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111
Blue Bottle Coffee Kiosk
315 Linden St, San Francisco, CA 94102
842 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110
560 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102
Washington Bakery & Restaurant
733 Washington St, San Francisco, CA
Blue Bottle Cafe
66 Mint St, San Francisco, CA 94103
2128 Mission St, San Francisco, CA
1775 Fulton St, San Francisco, CA 94117
Out the Door
2232 Bush Street, San Francisco, CA 94115
235 Church St, San Francisco, CA 94114
I've seen people on the SF Board warning visitors off Mexican if they're coming from somewhere that has good stuff but that's never a problem coming from Van, sadly. I enjoy even the less stellar offerings (like La Oaxaquena this time) in comparison to home...
PS I just noticed I said we had bad luck with BART... should have said Muni, although there was a fire (!) on BART while we were in town it did not affect us!
re: Caitlin McGrath
Thanks, Caitlin. I didn't specify the toppings because I couldn't remember one of them -- I'm pretty sure it was chorizo and spuds but it might have been picadillo. I do recall dithering so long between the two that the waiter (rightly) gave me the dead horse eye :-). Either way it was tasty. I do know the second one was queso de Oaxacan, melty and squeaky.
Grayelf! Nice to hear you were in our town again. I had no idea Out the Door had brunch - is there anything Vietnamese about it at all? Not that those pics don't look scrumptious, no matter what ethnicity those eggs are! Hope your next trip out here includes a good chowdown with a bunch of people. who knows what new delights will open up between now and then!
Out the Door
1 Ferry Bldg Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94111
Hey mariacarmen, I still remember fondly the Chowdown you attended that was held on my last trip http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6662... -- I really wish I could have taken my parents to Inka's as they would love it but not enough time. I would be honoured if the local 'Hounds would consider a Chowdown when I am next in town (October I hope).
There're definitely Vietnamese options (see the brunch menu here for Fillmore location http://www.outthedoors.com/downloads/... ) but if they are all as weak as that coffee... anyway, could be worth a try.
re: Ruth Lafler
Not to turn this into a mutual mushfest but I do feel very welcome, both here on the board and when I visit. SF is in fact the place I met my very first CH in person, which is funny as I hadn't met one from Vancouver yet then!
I think I read more about SF Bay Area dining, here and on other sites/blogs, than I do about Vancouver, so I'll continue to make lists of places new and old to try and if a Chowdown is in the cards, I will be very happy!
the morning delight is brisket and a slow-cooked egg or the soft scramble with chives (I see that the current menu adds dungeness crab to the scrambled egg dish now)
OTD bush st.
2232 Bush Street
San Francisco, CA 94115
Out the Door
2232 Bush Street, San Francisco, CA 94115
Ah, the green tortilla ... one hopes like the blue corn tortilla, this too will pass ... or at best be limited to this one place.
.Seriously, how about someone making some GOOD tortillas instead of mucking around like that.
Tnough are they flour tortillas? Those are pertty bastardized anyway with tomato, spinach, etc. Why not cactus.
Nopales, or cactus, in Mexico are valued for their benefits to one's health. They are even used in liquados in Mexico and ladies who diet eat them religiously. I was in Guadalajara recently and noticed that a local chain of pharmacies now sells tortillas de nopales and the wrapper noted that they are high in fiber. I almost bought some but they just didn't appeal to me. I saw them in SF recently, not at Chilango, but I can't recall where I saw them.
Thanks for the report grayelf. Good to see people reporting back on their experiences.