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5-night visit to SF - some ideas, but need help refining them!

We (my husband and I) are going to be visiting San Francisco in September from London. I've been a few times before, usually while working (I write about wine and food, so SF is a great jumping-off point for wine country - especially given that I'm based in London, so have to fly in from overseas). My husband has never been to California (I know - shocking omission...)

We're going to be staying just off Market Street, more or less around the Civic Centre area.

We arrive mid-afternoon, so I thought it would be great to give our jet-lagged tastebuds a bit of a jolt with some flavoursome south-east Asian food. We're thinking either Kin Khao or Slanted Door. Can anyone give me a steer towards one or the other? Or is there anywhere else kind of in our area (not keen on travelling too far on our first night) that would be even better?

I've managed to score a booking at State Bird one night, so that just leaves three dinners to book. Although I know SF does great Italian food, so does London - so I'm more keen to experience something else (ditto for French bistro cuisine).

I loved Nopa last time I was in town, and am thinking of going there again, but have also heard good things about Rich Table. Is it worth going to both? (Other contenders in this league - according to my research, anyway - are Zuni Cafe and Frances...)

And where else should I be looking given that Nopa really hit the sweet spot for me in terms of atmosphere, price, food style? Is Nopalito as good as its sister restaurant? Is there some great sushi to be had in SF?

Oh - and where would you go for casual (lightish) lunches?

Looking forward to reading your ideas!

Natasha

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  1. For the first night SE Asian hit, you might want to consider Lers Ros (http://www.lersros.com/), my favorite thai in the area.
    I would also consider the other thing we do significantly better than you can find in London, Mexican. Either a mission street burrito, or one of the upscale Mexican restaurants (my favorite is Comal in Berkeley, an easy BART ride).
    I'd also suggest looking around Oakland (also easy by BART), where you'll find an explosion of new, exciting restaurants.

    10 Replies
    1. re: kungful

      Second the Mexican suggestion, since Wahaca is shameful. Tamarindo in downtown Oakland, and Nido in Jack London Square (also Oakland) are excellent choices in addition to Comal.

      Also, I know you guys get a lot of curries, but I think South Indian cuisine is harder to find in London. You might enjoy a lunch at Dosa (two locations, Valencia in the Mission, and on Fillmore just by Japantown).

      I'd recommend doing a straight up California cuisine place too. Central Kitchen in the Mission is a personal favorite. Commis serves beautiful california style tasting menus and is an excellent value (Piedmont Ave in Oakland).

      Have you been eating much izakaya? This is something we're doing well these days. Nojo springs to mind as a potential lunch place (and is near where you're staying), Ippuku in Berkeley would also be a good choice (lots of commentary on here).

      This might strike you as a silly suggestion, but maybe it would be good for lunch, head for an Off The Grid (food truck gatherings) that has Chairman Bao (Taiwanese-ish, get the pork belly) and Sanguchon (Peruvian, get the pan con chicharron) available, to see what all the fuss is about.

      1. re: Torina

        London has had food vans since 2009 if not earlier.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          I didn't see any in March or May when I was there, apart from at Borough Market on a Saturday. I'm sure a function of where I was staying. Also thought the offerings here might be a bit different. The Peruvian chiccharon sandwich from Sanguchon is really great.

          1. re: Torina

            I've rarely seen a food truck around the Bay Area except when I went looking for them.

        2. re: Torina

          I would agree with Central Kitchen. I would also add SPQR as an alternative to Rich Table or Nopa (skip the pasta if you want to avoid "Italian" and focus on the primi which are more California-influenced.) I stopped going to Maruya after a particularly lackadaisical meal there and have been going to Kusakabe instead for sushi (or Saru for a more casual a la carte meal).

          1. re: barleywino

            SPQR's menu hardly looks Italian at all at this point. More Cal-French-Japanese. The name hasn't made much sense since Accarrino took over and replaced the Roman influences with French, but now it's really incongruous.

            http://www.spqrsf.com/menus/

            Kusakabe: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/975975

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Agreed. PS to Natasha: you won't find anything in the style of Nobu London around here, if that's what you're looking for, unless you splurge for something like Saison

              1. re: barleywino

                Hi,

                Definitely NOT interested in a Nobu. I'm looking for very SF experiences rather than international ones... Very intrigued by many of the suggestions so far. One question - are all the good Mexican places in Oakland, or are there good places in town too? (Love the idea of Mexican - something we do particularly badly here in the UK...)

                1. re: NatashaH

                  I suggest you have your Mexican meals when you're in Healdsburg instead of SF. Much better choices in Sonoma County ... I'll add some suggestions to your earlier query later.

                  1. re: NatashaH

                    I think the SF counterparts of the East Bay's Comal, Nido, Tamarindo, and Tacubaya include Nopalito, Padrecito, Mamacita, Rancho Gordo, Lolo, La Urbana, and Tacolicious, though I haven't been to any of the latter to compare. These are all more or less neo-Cal-Mexican.

                    For old-school Mexican, I recommend the taco al pastor at Taqueria San Jose at 24th and Mission. A taco is such a light lunch that it would leave room for trying the nearby bakeries or ice cream parlors.

                    The pupusas at La Santaneca in the next block are also great. Ask for extra curtido. Embarrassingly cheap.

        3. To me, Nopa was sort of a younger, hipper knockoff of Zuni, which is open all day so an option for lunch.

          Maruya's a contender for best sushi:

          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/925136

          1. We would be interested your comparison of Sweetings to Tadich Grill or Sam's.

            1 Reply
            1. re: BoneAppetite

              All of the places mentioned in the opening post use the best ingredients available and sustainable meat and seafood. Tadich and Sam's don't, they're mainstream in their sourcing.