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May 11, 2014 06:46 AM

Report on stuff I did... passing the time in SF

I'm in the airport, so I figure I'd be mildly productive.

day 1: had some pizza close to the hostel, not particularly great... maybe I should've just grabbed some touristy seafood when I was at the wharf. Good coffee at blue bottle, as ubiquitous as they seem now.

Benu, food was very good, a couple of amuses didn't have much impact but being Chinese I didn't think the Chinese influenced dishes were gimmicky or contrived. I liked the white chocolate yuba dessert, the bread/bamboo fungus soup in particular though savoury courses were all tasty. Service was... servicable.

day 2: ate at Tartine, had a good lemon cream tart, thought their almond croissants were huge and okay, I like a flakier/butterier and little more tender croissant... didn't find out I could have some of their bread toasted in the morning until I already stuffed my face. Left my hostel downtown at 4, hoping to have 30+ minutes to walk around Los Gatos, one Caltrain, LRT, and community bus later I'm speed walking to Manresa with 5 mins to spare for a 7 pm reso.. go figure. Despite what I read, I liked the service at Manresa, friendly and formal enough. Lots of children (for a 2 michelin resto). Alas, food was mildly disappointing, few dishes (mostly sauces and broths) on the salty side, even though a couple were my favourites (diced big fin squid with preserved plum, carrot with sprouted lentil and onion broth). I cook for a living so I have a fairly high salt tolerance. As for the rest, can't say if it's a seasonal ingredient thing (lots of mint, one lovage heavy dish, favas, asparagus, rhubarb, etc.), but there were few dishes and amuses I wanted more of after I cleared my plate... desserts and bread service were the same way. Have to admit I liked the food at Benu a lot more. Utmost respect still, but sad.

day 3: speed crammed some tacos at the taqueria in mission, one with steam tables so it was serviceable, rushed to grab the ferry and bus out to Napa, stumbled upon Kellerland/Yountville had a decent macaron then managed to grab a table at Bouchon. Good, solid bistro fare, had some chilled seafood, decent bread, good steak frite (though a bit rare and over rested) and OK lemon tart, filling could be smoother and more velvety... in Vancouver I am partial to lemon tarts at a place called Thierry so I use that as a benchmark.

yesterday: hoofed it to little yangon, first time with Burmese so not an expert. Tried this salad of sliced raw onion and a thick shrimp based sauce, very unique and didnt think I'd like it but I did, sauce mutes the raw onions. Also first time I got the 'you no like' speech, especially since I'm not Burmese but I'm at least east asian. Also had the pork curry and tea leaf rice, quite different, glad I tried them. Swung over to porcellino, polished off 2/3rds of a porchetta plate, very tasty, well seasoned and moist, wished there was crackling. Huge portions and fairly low price. Service style is strange, like being at a bar and holding my credit card like I had a tab going. Stumbled by a bookstore where david lebovitz was signing books, pretty cool. Tried looking for spqr but I found state bird provisions instead. Wait for a solo was only 20 minutes and I wasn't particularly hungry so it was fine. Good food, tried the sweetbreads (liked), pork belly with grapefruit and viet vinaigrette not on menu (liked more), chawanmushi and guinea fowl dumpling (both OK). Good atmosphere, had a good time, and cooks were good enough to be fairly sociable.

thanks everyone for the recommendations, I enjoyed myself, had some good food and walked up a lot of hills.

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  1. Thanks! Out of curiosity, what day were you at Manresa? By trial and error I've found I like Weds & Thurs a lot more than I like friday / saturday.

    Too bad you didn't get to Crenn, I think that's the place you would have really liked.

    1 Reply
    1. re: bbulkow

      I was at Manresa on Thursday. The dining room was fairly empty when I got there but filled up halfway through.

      I thought about Crenn but for better or worse I just wanted to experience Manresa.

    2. Impressive mastery of public transit there.

      Porcellino's bar-style pay first or run a tab is largely responsible for the low prices. A similar main course at Incanto would have cost ~50% more.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Understood about the new 'incanto' pricing and style. Unfortunately their menu also got truncated in the process too (guess it helps with volume and costs and difficulty of service)

        1. re: Blueicus

          The menu is radically simplified though they still have Incanto-style offal specials on the chalkboard.

          I imagine Cosentino's other place will give him a stage for his wilder side, given that the LLC name is Cockscomb.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Ah, he's opening another place. Interesting. I'll swing by there when I'm back next. I know it costs money but I really think they should eventually renovate porcellino to give the place a better flow and structure. Right now it feels a little confused

            1. re: Blueicus

              Given them a few months. They've only been operating with the new model for a few weeks and judging from the help-wanted ads they're shorthanded.

      2. Staying at a hostel and taking public transportation from SF to Manresa and to Bouchon, that's foodie dedication!

        Probably earned you the karma to get a seat at State Bird Provisions in 20 minutes.