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San Francisco trip report

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MarkC Aug 20, 2011 07:53 AM

Just finished our trip. Had a great time but it was COLD. Mark Twain wasn't exaggerating.

Likes

Shanghai House - Good food at cheap, Chinatown prices (though it isn't in Chinatown). The XLB wasn't much, but loved the lion head meatballs, walnut prawns, and tea-smoked duck (lots of bones and fat, but also delicious, smoky meat).

Medjool - The food here's pretty darned good. Loved the zhoug marinated shrimp and the short ribs. Interesting, reasonably-priced wine list (try the Lebanese cabernet). Great jazz on tuesday night. The out of the way location and lounge-y atmosphere probably keeps it off people's radar screen, but definitely a worthy consideration if you're in the area.

Izakaya Sozai - Small, noisy place with great food. Mostly Japanese clientele, not too many haoles. Spicy tuna and miso cod were standouts. Monkfish liver pate was a bit too weird tasting. I'm not a ramen expert, but really enjoyed it - the bacon, egg, and black pepper reminded me strangely of spaghetti carbonara.

Greenburger - Good burgers and fries in a pleasant, laid-back part of town. Fifteen bucks for a burger and a soda was a bit startling, but maybe I'm living in a time warp.

Smitten Ice Cream - Definitely a fun stop, and a good excuse to visit Hayes Valley area. My mint chip was bursting with fresh mint flavor, while the chocolate was a bit muted. Skip the boring cone, which costs extra, and go for a cup. The toppings also seemed like gilding the lily. I'm just waiting for Williams Sonoma to come out with a home liquid nitrogen ice cream maker.

Disappointments

Z&Y - after the rave reviews this place gets on chowhound, I was disappointed. Admittedly, the style is not what Americans typically think of as Szechuan (i.e. kung pao), but is rather a kind of raw, rustic village cooking (I'm guessing). That being said, some of the dishes were just plain bad. I liked the claypot eggplant and chicken with explosive chiles. On the other hand, the cumin lamb was made with cheap, fatty meat and reminded me of a bad schwarma. Didn't like the silky tofu in hot oil, which was, well, a big lump of soft tofu swimming in a pool of hot oil. Can't say I wasn't warned, but thought there would be a bit more to it. The tan tan noodles were a big zip. In any event, don't go unless you can really stand up to the heat. I like spicy food, and spent the entire evening wiping my nose and eyes. If you're a visitor with one Chinese restaurant to dine at, I'm not sure I'd make this the one.

Tony's Pizza Napoletana - This place is WAY overrated. In my opinion, an underachieving cult of personality restaurant. Or one that tries to do too much, and ends up not quite succeeding at anything. We had the New York pizza, which was OK, although the feta cheese added a weird, unwanted note. The second pizza was some All-American pizza with mushrooms which the waitress pushed on us, and was almost completely lacking in flavor. My wife said it was like Pizza Hut. Of course, we were unworthy to sample the godlike margherita pizza, which had sold out hours before. I realize that this is a brilliant tactic to stampede the herd in for lunch, but it's annoying to think that you're children of a lesser god if you come for dinner.

Those seeking pizza nirvana can probably do better than this place.

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Medjool
2522 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

Shanghai House
3641 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA 94121

Tony's Pizza Napoletana
1570 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94133

Smitten Ice Cream
Octavia Blvd Linden St, San Francisco, CA 94102

Greenburger's
518 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117

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  1. j
    jman1 RE: MarkC Aug 20, 2011 11:46 AM

    Nice to hear a trip report; including the highlights and lowlights.

    Interesting to read that you visited Shanghai House as it's one of the places that I like. While that area is not Chinatown, it should be noted that many Chinese in SF now live in the Western neighborhoods (the Sunset and the Richmond). Do you have Shanghai restaurants back home?

    As you've discovered, Tony's is an odd place. I like the intensity of most of the staff, but I find myself mostly visiting the "slice house" next door (no feta). I'm from NY and still appreciate the unique opportunity to get an expensive NY slice in SF. If you knew how bad most NY style pizza in SF was, you might raise your opinion of Tony's. That said, if you are not craving a NY slice for nostalgia, you might be less impressed. My thoughts on the other styles vary (I too have never scored the special margherita). However, I enjoy their more traditional, simpler pizzas; they don't match the other SF places for creativity. On our first visit, the weirdly effusive waitress was nice enough to dispel any notion we might have had (we didn't) from ordering an "American" pizza; she came out and said those where not good and to order from another section. Sorry you received opposite advice. Not the best in SF, but the only place for certain styles and good if different people in the group want different styles.

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    Shanghai House
    3641 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA 94121

    1 Reply
    1. re: jman1
      j
      jman1 RE: jman1 Aug 20, 2011 04:24 PM

      Odd, I thought I edited the (no feta) comment after the word slice, not door. Weird.

    2. mariacarmen RE: MarkC Aug 20, 2011 03:56 PM

      thanks for reporting back. I've never heard of your likes! shows me i've still always got more to try in this City.

      too bad about your experience with Tony's, tho. I find it excellent, but I've been lucky enough to have the margherita a couple of times (lunch and dinner). Next to Delfina Pizza, it's probably my favorite pizza in the City now. I probably wouldn't have ordered the All-American.

      i don't think Medjool is considered to be in an out of the way spot - it's the Mission, which is very popular and heavily trafficked. most people are put off because of the scene at Medjool (trash with money to spend) at night. i live around the corner so i see it every weekend. i've heard a couple people say the food is ok, so i've been curious. did

      I'm also a huge fan of Z&Y, and i like spicy food. i actually don't find their food all that spicy. just delicious and always something i've never had before.

      do you normally like monkfish liver (ankimo), and was it just weird at izakaya? i think i'd like that bacon egg ramen too....

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

      1 Reply
      1. re: mariacarmen
        m
        MarkC RE: mariacarmen Aug 20, 2011 07:01 PM

        I think you need to distinguish the rooftop nightclub at Medjool from the restaurant. The latter is definitely not a trashy crowd, and the tuesday night jazz was a pleasure.

        I'd never had monkfish liver pate before, so I can't answer. I'm a pretty adventurous eater, but this was just a little too weird tasting to be enjoyable.

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        Medjool
        2522 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

      2. b
        bigwheel042 RE: MarkC Aug 20, 2011 04:32 PM

        The "rustic village cooking" of Chengdu and Chongqing (combined population: >40 million) is a lot closer to the food served at Z&Y than it is to a typical Americanized "Szechuan" restaurant like most of the ones found in New York.

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