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Toronto 'hound needs restaurant suggestions

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I will be visiting SF with culinarily sophisticated but ravenous teenage chowpuppy and would be grateful for recs.
We will be staying near Nob Hill but will drive or take transit as necessary.

We eat everything but would be particularily interested in roast chicken, fish/seafood, Dim Sum, Korean and Mexican or anything you consider a "don't miss"! We don't need white linen and hole in the wall mom and pop places can be great.

Your help will be sincerely appreciated and we will try to give feedback.

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  1. One thing you might want to do is search "toronto" on this board -- several of your compatriots have posted on this board in the last year or so, both asking similar questions and posting back. That might give you a good idea of what's "don't miss" from the point of view of someone familiar with the Toronto food scene.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      Thanks Ruth, I would not have thought of that!

      1. re: sumdumgoy

        Of course then I did a search and got sucked into the epic hungryabby post with 348 replies!

    2. Here are my recs for each:
      -Roasted Chicken: Zuni Cafe is the obvious choice as it is the specialty at one of SF's most renown restaurants. Another suggestion would be the Peruvian rotisserie chicken at Inka's in the Mission.
      -Fish/Seafood: Cioppino (local seafood stew specialty) at SF's oldest restaurant, Tadich Grill. TG also has the added bonus of serving the City's best sour dough.
      -Dim Sum: Lot's of different ways to go here. Yang Sing is a safe albeit a pricey choice for neophytes.
      -Korean: My standby for Korean BBQ is Brother's. You can grill your own meat over hardwood charcoal at the table (preferred), or have the kitchen prepare it for you.
      -Mexican: Poc Chuc is awesome for Mayan earthy stew dishes and hand-made tortillas. There are also hundreds of taquarias throughout the City serving SF style burritos and tacos. La Taquaria in the Mission is my fave.

      You may also want to consider Vietnamese and Burmese, which are a couple of cuisines that SF is doing particularly well these days. If you haven't tried it before, Vietnamese roasted crab over garlic noodle should not be missed.

      -----
      Zuni Cafe
      1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

      Tadich Grill
      240 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

      Inkas Restaurant
      3299 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

      Poc Chuc
      2886 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

      8 Replies
      1. re: Civil Bear

        Thank you Bear, I really appreciate your taking the time.

        It sounds as though Zuni is still on top of its game and I may have to take it in again. I've had Zuni's chicken twice (last 16 years ago), and I do a chicken with bread salad fairly frequently, altering the salad between one like Zuni's with currants and pine nuts and one more Italian with tomato, onion and cucumber. Inka's sounds interesting.

        Cioppino at Tadich sounds like winner and is attractive as we are generally a bit fish and seafood starved in Toronto and particularly this type of dish.

        As far as Dim Sum is concerned, we are very spoiled so I would only be interested in over the top good and would be annoyed by expensive or pretentious. It is not widely known how good the Dim Sum is in Toronto, but much more knowledgeable hounds than me believe Toronto to be second only to HK.

        Poc Chuc is an intriguing suggestion and may go to the top of the list and I would be indebted to know which Vietnamese resto does a good crab over garlic noodles.

        I am beginning to think I should say to hell with Zuni and Dim Sum. Poc Chuc, Tadich and your Vietnamese and Burmese suggestions are getting me warmed up for adventure.

        Thanks again CB.

        Also thanks to Robert below. If the soft tofu soup is pork broth based and kicked up with gochujang as I suspect, I may never leave SF.

        -----
        Zuni Cafe
        1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

        Inkas Restaurant
        3299 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

        Poc Chuc
        2886 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

        1. re: sumdumgoy

          I travel to the Toronto area (Markham, really) quite regularly for work and agree that Dim Sum, and Chinese food there in general is superior to anything you can find in the Bay Area (never had XLB here as good as what I've had there).

          If you're tired of Zuni roast chicken, you may want to check out Limon Rotiserrie in the Mission. Poc Chuc is nice and definitely unique though I gotta admit it's not my favorite (prob cause they don't serve alcohol). Can't go wrong with any of the taquerias in the Mission. If you want more of a sit-down experience with good margaritas I like Maya and Tres Agaves in SOMA.

          For upscale Vietnamese, Slanted Door is the standard, love their cellophane noodles with crab as well as their shaking beef. For Burmese, I've never been there but many of my friends swear by Burma Superstar.

          Hope you have a great trip!

          -----
          Slanted Door
          Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

          Tres Agaves Restaurant
          130 Townsend St, San Francisco, CA 94107

          Zuni Cafe
          1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

          Poc Chuc
          2886 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

          Burma Superstar
          4721 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA

          1. re: arlenemae

            The best Burmese food I've had is at Burmese Kitchen, the cooking's on a higher level than Burma Superstar's. I haven't tried Little Yangon yet, some people say it's even better.

            -----
            Larkin Express Burmese Kitchen
            452 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94102

            Little Yangon
            6318 Mission St, Daly City, CA 94014

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              After reading all of these comments, I really want to go to Little Yangoon. Maybe someone should plan a Chowhound expedition?

          2. re: sumdumgoy

            I agree with Robert below that although Burma Superstar is more popular with the masses, the hole-in-the wall Burmese Kitchen is better. The dish to order at both places is the tea leaf salad, but if you end up at BSS I highly recommend the samosa soup. Better still is Little Yangon, but it is in nearby Daly City and I am hesitant to recommend it because it is always empty when I visit and I don't have a clue how they stay in business.

            For Vietnamese, Slanted Door for high end dining, but you can get similar quality at Bodego Bistro for less (I don't think they have crab though). My favorite Vietnamese crab dish is the Black Pepper Crab version over garlic noodles at PPQ Dungeness Island located on Clement out in the avenues.

            -----
            Slanted Door
            Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

            Little Yangon
            6318 Mission St, Daly City, CA 94014

            1. re: sumdumgoy

              As a former Vancouverite, I'd be curious to hear how Toronto dim sum stacks up against Vancouver. But in general, I've not heard anything about dim sum in SF.

              1. re: SouthToTheLeft

                As a former Torontonian (still visit regularly), I think Vancouver's dim sum is better than Toronto. Toronto's dim sum is better than San Francisco (and the south bay).

                1. re: gnomatic

                  I still ache in my stomach for Sun Sui Wah ... Sunday mornings there were perhaps my favorite Vancouver tradition.

          3. Second on Zuni's chicken.

            My Tofu House for Korean soft tofu soup.

            -----
            Zuni Cafe
            1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

            My Tofu House
            4627 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94118

            1. Hi - skip the dim sum.

              The problem when you make a list of things you like is you won't get recommendations for some of the categories we do well right now. People will answer within category, which is a start.

              You should strongly consider what locals enjoy the most, which is "new american" or what we used to call California cuisine. Places like Canteen, Plum, Commonweath, Wayfare, Towne Hall, Nopa, Commis, plenty others. Italian places like Delfina (light, ingrediant-driven northern italian). We've had some decent regional chinese places open, one beijing, one hakka. Shanghai chinese is fairly strong. There are a number of interesting ice cream places.

              The best fish I've had in san francisco is not at a "fish place" but at regular good restaurants which have local, line caught that day fish. And knowing what's in season.

              The cuisines you're talking about are mostly static and show very little change and improvement recently.

              -----
              Delfina Restaurant
              3621 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

              Nopa
              560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

              Commis
              3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

              4 Replies
              1. re: bbulkow

                Thanks bbulkow, you make a very good point. The intention of my list is to provide a starting point and to elicit the opinions of generous CHers, and believe me, I have not been disappointed!

                I am going to forget about dim sum.

                It sounds as though there are a few good takes on roast or rotisserie chicken, but likely something other than Zuni.

                I am intrigued by Poc Chuc - we are starved for good Mex at home.

                I know nothing about Burmese but will research it today.

                Cioppino at Tadich is on the list.

                I am guessing that the Vietnamese spectrum in SF is much wider and more refined than what is available at home. Our Bun and Pho places are "cheap and cheerful" but not terribly sophisticated so higher end Vietnamese is alluring.

                In the interest of fiscal prudence I will do some menu hopping with the "new American" list you have provided as well as Delfina. I failed to mention in my OP that my teenage son is a 6'6", 300+ lb football player who likes high quality chow and lots of it!

                Between feedings you will find us on the "Gelato Trail".

                Thank you all very much for your kind advice!

                -----
                Zuni Cafe
                1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                Delfina Restaurant
                3621 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                Poc Chuc
                2886 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                1. re: sumdumgoy

                  Ah! Now you're narrowing it down a bit - you're aiming for a particular place on the price-performance curve.

                  I recommend you try Slanted Door, despite the nay-sayers. It's a gorgeous room, very good food, and out-of-towners love it more than locals - but don't let that put you off. Consider that your touristy, view, white-tablecloth splurge (it's fairly reasonable compared to some places).

                  Some of our best bang/buck is Little Star, although - to my lips - not quite chow-worthy, more of a great neighborhood spot. Commis will not be enough food at a good price point. Canteen might be an interesting choice. Delfina is a little dainty, but might hit a good price point. There's a sardinian place, La Ciccia, that people love.

                  If you don't have Hakka in your nabe, you might want to check that thread.
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/702167

                  For bang/buck it's really hard to beat Korean. Those little panchan are AYCE, within reason. I've never really liked the SF places, and it's very easy to bart over to Oakland and hit Oghane, which is a good combination of tasty and accessible (easy to read and choose menu). Oghane is near the much beloved Lush gelato, making an excellent two-for. Note lush closes far too early for its own good.

                  You need a fruitvale taco crawl. Your football player will be able to eat enough to keep it interesting.
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/728770
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/379279
                  there is an epic crawl thread from 2004 that I'm not finding at the moment.

                  You can possibly consider a mission crawl, too. For those not 6'6", eat only one or two tacos at each joint. There are probably 20 taquerias worth trying in the mission.

                  -----
                  Slanted Door
                  Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

                  La Ciccia
                  291 30th Street, San Francisco, CA 94131

                  Delfina Restaurant
                  3621 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                  Commis
                  3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

                  1. re: bbulkow

                    Hey sumdum, fellow Canuck here (albeit from the Left Coast) who used to live in TO and visits SF twice a year. How's the Thai in the Big Smoke these days? If lacking, you may want to check out Lers Ros. I loved the appetizers there.

                    I am a big fan of anything Leary in SF -- Canteen has been mentioned by the local Hounds and I concur wholeheartedly. Not a bad choice for breakfast on the weekend either but it is very small so call or book on OT early. It has the advantage of being within walking distance of Nob Hill as well.

                    I also have to say hey to La Ciccia for hearty, family style Sardinian cooking. No one leaves there hungry. And plus one for the roast chicken at Inka's slathered with the awesome yellow sauce. Drool.

                    I used to be Burmese Kitchen all the way but based on our last visit in November, I'd be leaning to returning to Mandalay or heading out to try Little Yangon in Daly City. Denis at BK seemed to have dumbed things down a wee bit on all the dishes we had but especially the tea leaf salad which was heretofore my gold standard. Still very good and so reasonable though. Bit of a grotty neighbourhood but not really any worse that Shuter :-).

                    Have a great time and do tell us all about where you go -- I'm already planning my spring trip!

                  2. re: sumdumgoy

                    Not sure if you are planning to explore outside the city, but if you are going to be in/near the south Bay, head down to San Jose for Vietnamese food. (Vung Tau for higher end, Pho Kim Long)..but in general, Vietnamese food is better then Toronto...much fresher, variety, more authentic south Vietnamese (in the opinion of a Torontonian friend, who is Vietnamese Canadian).

                    Also, Malaysian & Singaporean (Layang Layang, Banana Leaf) food are better in the bay area.

                    -----
                    Banana Leaf Restaurant
                    182 Ranch Dr, Milpitas, CA 95035

                2. I'm also a Toronto native and now Montreal transplant, and was in SF last week. I wanted to eat somewhere/something that I could not eat back in the northern cities and ended up at Burma Superstar in the Richmond District (a small and fun ethnic smorgasboard of a neighbourhood). Never having tried Burmese food--don't know of any in Toronto, and am quite certain of its nonexistence in Montreal--I really enjoyed all the dishes we shared:

                  Tea Leaf Salad: Greens, seeds, carrots (I think there were carrots) in a tangy dressing
                  Samusa Soup: Coconut milk and curry infused with bits of falafels
                  Nan Gyi: Stir-fried rice noodles in yellow curry with chicken
                  Tofu Vegetable Kebat: Slightly sweet stir-fried tofu and vegetables
                  Coconut Rice
                  Tea: I think it was called Golden Monkey--a dark, smooth and slightly bitter concoction

                  The damage was about $56 before tax and that interesting addition called "SF Health Fee", and all three of us were nicely stuffed with leftovers.

                  Ambience and decor is nothing fancy as it's a casual and cozy space. I would highly recommend other Torontonians and Canucks to venture to this place.

                  The address listed for Burma Superstar on the map is incorrect or of an Oakland location, so here's the SF location:
                  309 Clement Street, San Francisco, CA 94118
                  +1 415-387-2147 ‎
                  burmasuperstar.com

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: looosia

                    Burmese food is absolutely unique, and I've only encountered it in SF. Unfortunately, Burma Superstar is not the best iteration that I've tried in SF. For your next visit, I'd suggest checking out Burmese Kitchen on Larkin. Far better prices, and far more flavor.

                    -----
                    Burma Superstar
                    4721 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA

                    1. re: looosia

                      There are branches of Burma Superstar in Oakland and Alameda. I liked them both better than the original, thought Alameda was the best of the three.

                      -----
                      Burma Superstar Restaurant
                      309 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118

                    2. San Francisco is an amazing city to explore in terms of cuisine, but of course there are lots of pitfalls to avoid, and everyone is going to have a different opinion about which those are.

                      In general, I've found Korean food in SF to be pretty disappointing, at least in comparison with LA. But I second (and third) the other posters' reference of Burmese food, something I had not tried outside of SF. My favorite by leaps and bounds is Burmese Kitchen on Larkin. I recommend the fried pea salad, it's unlike anything I've had before and extremely good.

                      I've also had a fantastic meal on Commonwealth on Mission, but some people on the boards have found the restaurant controversial. That being said, I think it is at the forefront of SF cuisine. Lots of local ingredients with some pretty wacky presentation. Very interesting. The same people that run Commonwealth also run Mission Chinese Food, which is just a few doors up. It is some of the best Chinese food I've had, including having lived in China. Oddly, they share a kitchen and a restaurant with a typical mom and pop Chinese place, so it has a very interesting atmosphere.

                      If you ask 100 San Franciscans their favorite taco place, I'd be willing to bet you'd get near on 100 different responses. This city loves their tacos, but they tend to congregate in the Mission.

                      Another option to consider are food trucks and other food events, which are extremely San Franciscan. I've had some amazing meals at the SF Underground market (www.foragesf.com), which may or may not be on when you're here. Lots of crazily creative food. Chairman Bao is also very popular, but there are tons of other food trucks/food experiences. As an example, you could hunt down Casey's Pizza (which is very, very good) and have some amazing margharita or funghi pizza on the side of the street baked out of a tricked out Weber grill. Check @caseyspizza, @kitchensidecar, @sataysfied, or @chairmantruck on Twitter for details and locations.

                      However, my absolute FAVORITE restaurant in all of SF is Frances. It is an absolute must, in my book. They got two Michelin stars in their first year open, but are incredibly warm, friendly, and generous. And the food is simultaneously wholesome and extremely interesting. Try and do everything you can to get a table there, or if not, they have no reservation bar seating that is often available late at night (around 9.30) early in the week, or if you're willing to wait in line right when they open at 5.30.

                      -----
                      The San Franciscan
                      1525 North Main St., Walnut Creek, CA 94596

                      Mission Chinese Food
                      2234 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

                      Chairman Bao
                      San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

                      Casey's Pizza
                      San Francisco, San Francisco, CA