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Jul 7, 2010 12:03 AM

Heaven's Dog - UGH

I love last-minute restaurant jaunts with my buddy, Lisa. We have such similar palates and usually are always hungry for the same type of food. It is especially more fun when it is a last-minute decision and no reservations are made and we just figure out what is in the neighborhood. Today, for example, I was working at the library when she texted and we decided to find a place to eat. Both of us had been curious about Charles Pham’s Heaven’s Dog and were very surprised, when we arrived at 6:15, to find the place practically empty. Except for two people at the bar, we literally had our choice of seats in the restaurant. Stylistically, it is a pretty establishment, but I have to admit that I find the dog paintings slightly ominous, distracting, and unpleasant.

We decided to start light and order more as our hunger dictated. Both of us loving egg-white cocktails, we wanted to start with their two choices; the Gin Fizz Tropical with Plymouth gin, Small Hand Foods pineapple gum, orgeat, lime, egg white, mint, and soda and the Bumble Bee Cocktail with Appeltons V/X rum, Smith and Cross rum, lime, honey, and egg white. Food-wise, only a few dishes were to start the meal; Marinated Eggplant with soy, toasted garlic and pine nuts, Braised Pork Belly in clam shell bun, and Blue Crab Meat with sweet corn and scallions.

The eggplant arrived first and was decent enough — tender and made that much more interesting because of the pine nuts. We were more than three-quarters the way finished with the eggplant when the pork belly buns arrived. Frankly, after the superlatively tender pork belly bun I experienced in Austin from a trailer just a few weeks ago, what I was eating this evening was sadly disappointing. Here the bun was gummy and overwhelming in size to the pork belly, which was sadly lacking in enough sauce to do the composition justice.

While we were lamenting the mediocrity of our first two dishes, the cocktails arrived. Yep – what should have come out first didn’t arrive at our table until we were more than half-way done with our meal. But to their credit, the cocktails were outstanding and would be worthy of a trip, regardless of the food.

The main entrée arrived, described as Blue Crab Meat, sweet corn, and scallions. We debated a bit with the waitress about an accompaniment and she suggested brown rice. Much to our chagrin, we again had our hopes dashed. For starters, the brown rice was incredibly mushy. Lisa commented if we both hadn’t already served half of what was brought out and topped it with the entrée, she would have returned it. We did mention it to the waitress who offered a replacement, but we were too far gone with the dish anyway. Of that accord, the Blue Crab Meat dish was sorely lacking enough crab to be noticeable and what was there was too muddled and similar to the sweetness of the way-too-ample corn. There simply was not enough contrasting flavors with sweet crab and sweet corn and scallions which seemed more of a garnish than a flavor component.

Debating a dessert, we opted to head to Thermidor instead and was terribly sorry we didn’t eat our entire meal over there.

Pictures on Feast:

Heaven's Dog
1148 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

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  1. Same experience I've had in the past - mediocore food, excellent cocktails, slow service.

    1. I think the trick to Heaven's Dog is to not be in a hurry, to have moderate expectations of the food, and to order simple dishes.

      I don't order Blue Crab anywhere on the west coast, and certainly wouldn't order it at HD. I rather liked the beef satay-ish skewers, the shumai were decent, the XLB were fair, the ants climb the tree had a nice char. I would call the food "good but not worth a trip", but the casual relaxed atmosphere and excellent cocktails pushed it into the positive zone - but you have to be in the mood for that.

      But I didn't get mushy rice! I hate mushy rice.

      Heaven's Dog
      1148 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

      4 Replies
      1. re: bbulkow

        Moderate expectations at those prices?

        1. re: Brioche57

          Amen - there are way too many places in this city that offer exceptional food at lower prices. Moderate expectations for moderate prices, maybe. And I went in with NO expectations other than it had been recommended lately on this board.

          1. re: CarrieWas218

            We ate and drank there for about 3 hours and spent I think $60/pp *with tax and 20% party-of-six tip*. While I don't call that cheap I thought it a decent value for the entire experience, with food as the low point, atmosphere strong, and drinks superlative. We were looking for a very light, fun dinner with good drinks. And the thai basil ice cream was quite good.

            HD just scratched an itch that night, like SD does sometimes. Don't want to do french/italian/californian. Want a drink. Want nice. Don't want to go somewhere mobbed with a line to get in (that's where SD fails for me)

            It also seems that I had much better food that y'all did. It was not "ug" for us. The entire table was oooh and aaaahs, I was more like "decent!". We did not order rice.

            1. re: bbulkow

              Agreed. I love the cocktails, not the food, except for a few dishes. Right when it opened it was a good place to meet a friend to chat over a cocktail and share a dish.

              Now they've limited the happy hour menu to a few drinks and the dishes I liked to eat at the bar (I liked the dan dan mien) have been relegated to the late night menu, I rarely stop by.