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Weirdest/Most Interesting Dishes in San Francisco

So far, I have eaten at some relatively interesting things in San Francisco; beef tendon salad at Incanto, skewered chicken hearts and skin at Nojo, cauliflower panna cotta, monkfish foie, etc.

What am I missing though? Certainly doesn't have to be offal (and in most cases I'd prefer it weren't) but does have to be weird, interesting, and/or totally unique.

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  1. I love the sea urchin presentation at Anchor & Hope; in full, spindly shell with crab beurre blanc. Lovely...

    1 Reply
    1. re: CarrieWas218

      See? You get me. This is going on the top of my list.

    2. Coconut kale sorbet at Scream in Oakland. It's more coconut than kale, but it's a pretty green color. They also had pomegranate with Szechuan peppercorn.

      Judahlicious has a hemp pesto served on raw shaved noodles of zucchini.

      Try Filipino food, or pick up banana ketchup in any Asian grocery.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Windy

        I hadn't even heard of this. Amazing looking menu. I'm going to have to get a try of the saffron almond too.

      2. What about chicken feet (feng zhao)? You can find them at any dim sum place.

        Ippuku has a raw chicken and egg dish that is really good. They also have nankotsu (chicken breast cartilage).

        Blood sausage from fatted cafe.

        2 Replies
        1. re: JonDough

          Not a huge chicken foot fan. Raw chicken dish though? How is it?

          With things like raw (whatever) or escargot or anything else mildly uncomfortable I'll definitely try it, but the flavor has to be bang-on for me to get over my natural inclination to be ick'ed out.

          1. re: Porktooth

            I really liked it - a lot more than I thought I would. You can see pictures of it on yelp. Ippuku might be the only place in the Bay Area where you can get a raw chicken dish so it is worth a try. Let me know what you think if you try it.

        2. Old Mandarin Islamic serves "lamb eggs," which is sort of like Rocky Mountain oysters, done shabu shabu style.

          It's interesting, but it's not especially delicious. It tastes like unmolested offal. Not something i'd order again, although Old Mandarin Islamic is worth visiting for its more pedestrian foods as well.

          8 Replies
          1. re: dunstable

            This sounds like a trip I need to take. Thank you for the recommendation!

            1. re: Porktooth

              Maybe the extremely hot pepper dish at Old Mandarin would qualify as unusual enough for the OP.

              1. re: grayelf

                Extremely Hot Pepper is pretty strange if you think of it as a dish, but not that odd if you think of it as a spicy condiment.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  It is presented as a dish, though, not as a condiment, IIRC, so I thought it might interest the OP. I certainly ate (and thoroughly enjoyed) it as a dish when we went there for a chowdown.

                  1. re: grayelf

                    I am always down with extremely hot [insert pretty much anything here].

                    1. re: grayelf

                      Torshee is definitely a condiment, but it's listed as a dish on Maykadeh's menu. $6 gets you enough for a table of 12 (which isn't unusual there).

              2. re: dunstable

                The lamb testicles are not a dish but one of the numerous things you can get with the Peking-style hot pot. I haven't encountered the dipping sauce that comes with it elsewhere. Get the optional leek flower sauce as well, and the tong ho.

                The testicles need to be simmered in the broth for a while.

                1. re: dunstable

                  Taiwanese bubble tea shops usually have desserts made with frog ovarian fat aka snow jelly.

                  Incanto and Oliveto have made gelato with bacon or pork blood for their nose to tail / whole hog dinners.

                  Incanto has made candied cockscombs, which you could mistake for Gummi candy.

                2. Howsabout jellyfish salad.
                  Lots of Chinese places offer this cold dish
                  However, the stuff practically has no taste - it basically picks up flavorings from the dressing (easy on the ick factor...)

                  1. There are a few threads about insects on here that you might want to look for.

                    If sweet is acceptable for "weird," I like their more "traditional" shakes well enough, but Ice Cream Bar has many out there non-alcoholic drinks:

                    "House-blended chai tea tincture, turbinado syrup, cream, lactart, soda, tobacco aromatic"


                    1. There are several Chinese restaurants that have this, but my favorite version is at Hakka in the Outer Richmond: pumpkin strips w/ salted egg.

                      I had never had anything like it before this year.


                      1. Another dish that comes to mind is the octopus tiradito at Loló in the Mission. See description and photo here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8775...

                        1. The sardine chip at RichTable was very good, and while neither ingredient is weird, it is an unusual preparation -- a thin potato slice, with a sardine "woven" between some slits in the potato, then deep-fried. It's salty and crispy, and completely delicious.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: waldrons

                            RichTable is on my top ten Hit List in SF. You just moved it up to Top 5.

                          2. I think La Mar serves Cuy Frito or deep fried guinea pig.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: ML8000

                              A few years ago La Mar had a one-time special of organic cuy served Peking-duck style. It's not on the regular menu.

                            2. Maybe check out some chinese restos to see if they serve fried fish bones.
                              Said like that, it doesn't sound appetizing, but its pretty good: Theres a restaurant in Montreal that served me doré (walleye) cooked 3 ways. They first filleted the fish and made 2 dishes out of the flesh (a steamed fish dish and a fried fish dish). The third dish was the skeleton of the fish deep fried until crispy enough to eat.
                              Unusual (for me) and tasty to boot.

                              1. Old Jerusalem's Molukhia is a lamb soup made with Jew's mallow, I haven't seen that elsewhere. It might be an occasional special rather than on the daily menu.

                                Pupusa places usually have loroco as a filling. This is a green vegetable common in El Salvador.

                                Malaysian and Indonesian places sometimes have kangkung (water spinach, water morning glory), I've seen it occasionally elsewhere.

                                Under the old owners Z & Y Garden used to have some unusual Yunnan dishes such as dragon palm vegetable and an obscure variety of mushroom, but I don't see them on the current menu.

                                1. Yucatecan places sometimes have pavo en relleno negro aka chilmole, turkey in a sauce made with chile ashes and lots of other things.

                                  I haven't been for a while, but Mochica's halibut tiraditos used to be fantastic: halibut sashimi covered with aji amarillo sauce.

                                  Perbacco's salsiccia cruda di Bra (Bra-style raw sausage) is sort of like steak tartare only made with veal and pork.

                                  La Ciccia's spaghetti alla bottarga.

                                  Incanto's spaghettini with cured tuna heart.

                                  Prahok, ahmohk, stewed ground pork at Angkor-Borei.

                                  1 Reply