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June 2014 San Francisco Bay Area Restaurant Reviews by ALEDM

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NOTE: we practically always share our meals, typically ordering one starter, one main and one dessert for the two of us. That makes a big difference in the cost of our meals and the expansion of our waistlines. We don’t have the kitchen split the meals because ALE doesn’t eat as much as DM. We just ask for an extra plate and ALE takes what she thinks she should eat. The other thing of note for these restaurant reviews is that we ate mostly ethnic in the bay area.

ALE and DM discussed adding ratings to our restaurant reviews and compromised on the following ratings:
HR: Highly recommended
R: Recommended
NR: Not recommended
A: Awful

Okay, now the reviews:

1. Oakland

1.1. HR: Jong Ga House, 372 Grand Ave, CA 94610, Phone: (510) 444-7658, E-mail: jonggahouse@gmail.com, web: http://www.jonggahouse.com/. We had an absolutely delicious meal and the service was frenetic, fun and attentive. We were served the first of our Ban Chan all by itself: a tasty cold soup with noodles with very good tea. Then 18 Ban Chan dishes were brought that were fabulous. We ordered on grilled mackerel (#33 Go Deung Uh Gui, pan fried and grilled mackerel) for $15.99 that was moist on the inside and crunchy on the outside. The other dish we ordered was a soup (#103 Buh Sut Sun To Fu, spicy or non-spicy (Dimitri had medium spicy) soft tofu soup with assorted mushrooms, egg and chopped beef and seafood) for $12.99. We both were very happy. We had leftovers to take home. At the end of the meal we were brought a sweet rice drink. A great meal with delightful service. We spent $31.59 plus tip.

1.2. HR: We had a very good meal at Soi 4 Bangkok Eatery (5421 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618, tel. 510-655-0889, www.soifour.com). We liked our young woman server very much. We arrived at 5:30 p.m. just when happy hour prices were in going into effect. All appetizers were $6 at that time and wine and beer was ½ price. We were hungry, having had no lunch. We ordered four starters and that was more than enough food. We ordered miang kum: Fresh cut mustard leaf wrap of roasted coconut, prawns, pomelo, herbs, & sweet palm ($6), keow wan: roti Grilled Indian bread, tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, & basil with green curry dipping ($6), kanom pak gard: Sautéed steamed turnip cake with egg, bean sprouts, & chives with Sriracha sauce ($6), plamuk tod: Salt and pepper fried calamari with caramelised onions and carrots ($6). Each dish was full of flavor and had innovative combinations of tastes. It was fusion, which we normally shun, but this was full of excellent combinations. We had one glass of Concho y Torro wine ($4). For dessert, we had one sticky rice with mango but weren't charged for that. We had tea too ($5). It turned out that the tea was green tea, not the delicious Thai tea that we have had before. We talked to our server and asked if we could buy a package of PanThai "Thai Tea Mix" from the restaurant. She said she could not do that but she brought us a small container of the delicious tea to take with us. How wonderful! We spent $43.06 plus tip.

1.3. R: Doukkala, California Moroccan Cuisine, 4905 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, CA 94609, tel. 510-653-8691, http://www.doukkalarestaurant.com/. We had a very good meal with very good service. We ordered too much but there were many dishes we wanted to try. We started with the Moroccan fish stew ($5) that was intensely flavorful. Our server’s assistant forgot to bring us spoons so we had to wait to taste it. We ordered bread ($3) and it came with an herb butter that was delicious. The Matthew Fritz Prime Red (Mendocino) was very good ($25) proving again that if you rely on the restaurant to offer a low priced wine, it will usually be good. With the soup we ordered a side of Merguez sausage. It came with a spicy accompaniment that we think had harissa in it. The sausage was homemade and tasty, although a little dry. For our main, we had a small vegetable tagine ($10 for half portion) and the pastilla ($14). Both were very delicious. Dimitri asked to see the home made baklava and decided not to have it. He said it had too much filling and not enough phyllo. We were very full anyway and we had plenty of leftovers to take home! We spent $71.94 plus tip and were happy and impressed with Eric Lanvert.

1.4. R: Bay Wolf, 3863 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, CA 94611, tel. 510-655-6004, http://www.baywolf.com/. Tim was an excellent server and we enjoyed our meal. While he is a photographer first, his server skills were perfect; he anticipated our needs and he stopped by frequently to check on us. He was actually one of the best servers we’ve ever had; professional, friendly, efficient and good. He brought Acme bread and we liked it. We shared everything as usual. For our wine, we had the house ½ carafe of Chinon Cabernet Franc and we liked it. We had an appetizer of chicken liver flan that was made with green peppercorns. The liver was creamy and delicious and the peppercorns added some crunch and spiciness. For our main, we ordered two dishes: the lamb with the vegetable tian and the zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta. Both dishes were delicious but we couldn’t finish the lamb! For dessert we had the shortcake with Chantilly cream. It was very good too. We were happy and spent $76.30.

1.5. R: Our Chinese seamstress recommended Gourmet Delight Seafood Restaurant, 701 Webster St, Oakland, CA 94607 (b/t 7th St & 8th St in Oakland Chinatown), Phone number (510) 832-7661. It was a great success. We went with 2 other couples and ordered 6 dishes—all of them were very good and large. First the restaurant brought us a large bowl of (complimentary) broth made with root vegetables and meat. It had very good flavor. We ordered the fried oysters to start. There were three (heavily) battered and very large oysters. We cut each one in half and had enough for all of us. We ordered a fish fillets with vegetables, a Szechuan chicken, a crispy prawns with walnuts, a chow fun noodles with seafood and a spinach with scrambled egg. We had enough leftovers to take home. The restaurant served us a sweet tapioca soup/pudding for dessert and that was a hit too. Each couple spent about $25 plus tip. A very good meal at a very good price.

1.6. R: À côté (5478 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618, tel. 510-655-6469) was recommended and it was the first restaurant we tried in our new neighborhood of Oakland. We sat inside and our server, Haley, was good but a little too austere. We shared everything as usual. We drank part of a bottle of Negrette Le Roc La Folle Noir D’Ambal, Fronton Southwestern France 2012 ($32) and it was good. We were brought baguette that we were told was from Acme Bakery. We liked it. We started with the Corn Soup ($8) and it was also good. The next small plate we had was the Duck Liver Crostini with pickled shallots and frilly red mustard greens ($15). This was an excellent concoction—we liked the liver in tiny pieces rather than puréed. The wilted greens were a good accompaniment. For our main, we ordered the Ravioli Primavera with ricotta, fromage blanc, fava beans, asparagus and verde de Taglo chard ($17). It was very good but we could not finish it. We spent $78.48 plus tip.

1.7. R: Our lunch at Phnom Penh Cambodian Restaurant (251 8th St., Oakland, CA 94607, tel. 510-893-3825) was very good. The woman who owns the restaurant was very nice. We had one soup and it was plenty for the 2 of us. It was Samlaw Machhou Phnon-Penh ($9.95) cooked with prawns, pineapple, tomato, lemongrass and tamarind paste. It was very tasty. We had one rice ($2) that was cooked perfectly. That was enough for lunch. We spent $12.59 plus tip.

1.8. R: Hawker Fare, 2300 Webster St., Oakland, CA 94612, tel. 510-832-8896, http://www.hawkerfare.com/. We were seated immediately at 7 p.m. on a Saturday night (which we took as a bad sign). But lines aren’t the best indicator of the food at a restaurant and this time it was no indicator at all. We liked our server, Becca. The noise level was high but didn’t bother us (for some reason). The food came out quickly and we liked that. We ordered too much but everything sounded good. It tasted good too! We started with “’Beer Nuts red peanuts roasted with kaffir lime leaves with chilis and salt’ can be addictive $3”. They were good, not too spicy but had no taste of kaffir lime. The next dish to arrive was “Yum Khai Dao fried egg salad with cilantro, tomatoes, celery and shallots, nam jim--can’t be missed $10” It was very good and we finished it. We had the chicken hearts with basil ($6) that were delicious and we had some to take home. The “24hr Pork Belly Duroc pork “tom kiem” style, five spice and sweet soy broth with fermented mustard greens $11”. This dish was excellent and so were the fermented mustard greens and we had some leftover to take home. The “Kao Mun Gai poached chicken, salted mung bean sauce, fresh cucumber and cilantro over rice with livers $12” was really good as were the chicken livers dipped in the mung bean sauce. We had the special of the day—a coconut rice pudding—that was very good too but we couldn’t finish it. We spent $54.50 plus tip (without wine because the house wine was priced too high, in our opinion).

1.9. R: Bay Fung Tong Seafood Tea House (1916 Franklin St., Oakland, CA 94612, tel. 510-832-3298). This restaurant was recommended by our Chinese seamstress in Oakland, Mimi. We had a delicious lunch of clams in black bean sauce ($9.95) and chow fun noodles ($6.95). We spent $19.84 and were happy. Another day we had lunch and took food home for dinner that night. We wanted something special for lunch that is not on the menu and Henry, our server who speaks very good English, listened to our description and said that they could make it. It turns out it has a name in English and it is Steamed Egg (custard) with Clam. The rendition they made was very good and we were happy to pay $11.50 for it. We also ordered a vegetable dish ($6.75) that came with rice. So our lunch was under $20. For dinner we ordered a crab streamed in ginger and scallion. It was $9.99 a pound and ours was 2 lbs. for $19.98. We also ordered a black mushroom and tofu to go ($7.95) and one steamed rice ($1). Our total was $51.43 for lunch and dinner!

1.10. R: Takara, 5897 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618, tel. 510-601-1424. We had a very good meal. When we see Chawan Musi on a menu for a Japanese restaurant we go to that restaurant and order those delectable steamed egg puddings. At Takara we had two ($3.95; on the menu they were $2.95 each) and they were good but not great. There was too much water and the egg was a little tough; not like a soufflé. We shared one Yosenabe ($17.95) described as assorted seafood, chicken, beef, vegetables and clear noodles. That was good. With our meal we had one large hot sake ($6.95). We spent $35.75 plus tip.

1.11. R: Asmara Restaurant (Eritrean & Ethiopian Cuisine, 5020 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, CA 94609, tel 510-547-5100,http://www.asmararestaurant.com/.We went because the food was rated 26 (out of 30) in the Zagats. We think it was tasty but it would be impossible for us to rate it against other Ethiopian restaurants. We had one 3 types of meat dish combination platter ($12.95) and one 3 vegetable dish combination platter ($12.95). The meats were: Ziggni/Key Watt (strips of marinated beef, cooked in berbere sauce with spice), Doro Watt (hot, spicy tender chicken cooked in berbere sauce served with hard-boiled egg—but we got no hard-boiled egg) and Ye-Beg Alicha (cubes of lamb, stewed with curry and spices). The vegetables were: Temtmo/Yemissir Watt (red lentil stew marinated in berbere sauce and spices), Kik Alicha (yellow split peas in mild yellow sauce) and Ye-Gomen Alicha (mustard greens simmered in Asmara’s special spices). They also gave us a taste of Kinche (cracked wheat porridge) which was kind of rubbery. Each of the dishes were tasty and the Injera bread was good. This is hearty rustic fare and we were stuffed even though we didn’t finish the dishes. We ordered the Tej (honey wine) for $8.50 and it was like a fermented juice drink. For dessert we tried their Ethiopian coffee (not good) and the baklava (too old). We spent $42.75 plus tip.

1.12. R: Peony Seafood Restaurant, 388 9th St., Suite 288 (Pacific Renaissance Center, 2nd fl), Oakland, CA 94607, tel. 510-286-8866. We were very happy with our lunch, even though they have very few carts. We got one porridge with Chinese donut, one Pan Fried Rice noodles with XO Sauce, one Vegetarian roll, one Sweet Tofu, and two tea. Dimitri walked around the restaurant looking at what other people had ordered and we just asked for dishes that looked good and got recommendations from other diners. We spent $28.86 plus tip.

1.13. R: Camino, 3917 Grand Ave, Oakland, California 94610, tel. 510-547-5035, http://www.caminorestaurant.com/. In the NT Times article Mark Bittman talked about Camino restaurant: http://www.caminorestaurant.com/ and it sounded so fabulous we made it our goal to go there. The Zagat rating for the food was 24 (very good to excellent) and we would agree with that (rather than Mark Bittman’s ecstasies). Claudia was our server and she was good but others helped as well. We ordered a bottle of Rafa Bernabé Monastrell Tragolargo, Spain ($32) and it was good. We were served bread that was chewy and satisfying. We wanted to have the sardine and asparagus dish in the citrus “salad” described by Mark Bittman but that was not on the menu that night (the menu changes daily). Instead we had the Wild nettle and herb frittata with carrot salad and salted mullet roe ($12). The frittata was made only with greens, no potatoes that we could taste. It was intensely flavorful. The addition of the mullet roe ratcheted up the flavor a notch or two. The carrots, some uncooked, some grilled on the open fire, were sweet and yummy. We ordered 2 more dishes: the “Fava bean, Belgian endive and new garlic gratin” ($12) that was really crunchy, delicious and made with no cheese. This resulted in a lighter dish lighter not overpowered by a cheese taste or texture. For our main we ordered the “Grilled duck breast kebab and duck leg-brisket kofte kebab with red lentils, artichokes, chiles and grilled flatbread” ($26). We were happy with that dish too. There was plenty of food for the two of us. For dessert we ordered the Tunisian orange cake with dates and yogurt ($9). Dimitri liked it which speaks volumes. We didn’t like the coffee (and we were not charged for it). We spent $99.19 plus tip.

1.14. R: Oliveto, 5655 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618, tel. 510-547-5356,
www.Oliveto.com. The first time we went, we had a delicious meal and our server, Anne, was exceptionally good. We shared everything, as usual. We ordered a Scurati Nero d’Avola Terre Siciliane 2012, Azienda Agricola Ceuso, Trapani, Italy ($37) and liked it. The bread that was brought was very good. We started with the Yellowtail crudo ($13) and thought it was tasty and appropriately spiced. The next appetizer we had was the sardines ($14) that were marinated in house described as follows: “Marinated Monterey Bay sardines with fire-roasted peppers, fried shallots, and French Breakfast radishes.” Yum! For our entrée, we had the Charcoal-grilled pigeon with Chanterelle mushrooms, crispy riso nero, Fontina cheese, and rosemary ($32). It was excellent but we couldn’t finish it! The crispy riso nero was an unique ball of a rice and cheese mixture that was made crispy somehow. We loved the dish. We couldn’t eat any dessert we were so full. We spent $104.64 plus tip. The second time we went to Oliveto, we went for their special “Oceana” menu and were very unhappy with the quality and the quantity of the dishes.

1.14. R: Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe, 1805 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, CA, tel. 510-251-9400, www.iamrudy.com). We had very good server whose name (we think) was Topher. He gave us the history of the name “Rudy’s Can’t Fail Café” and perspective on the neighborhood and on the Fox Theatre next door. He also brought us two salads, one house (regular-sized $6) and one chef (regular-sized $6), and one side of sourdough toast ($2). Rudy’s is named after the bus driver of the punk rock band “Clash”. No matter how outrageous the situation Rudy did not fail to get the bus to the band’s next destination. The owner is a famous band member himself. We had a fine lunch amidst the present day Sunday afternoon version of punkers for $15.26 plus tip.

1.15. NR sort of: We had a nice time at Ikaros (3268 Grand Ave., Oakland, CA 94610, tel. 510-899-4400 www.ikarosgr.com) but Dimitri, the Greek, was under-whelmed by the food and so we cannot recommend it—he has high standards afte rall. You might want to try it notwithstanding. Our server was very good and personable. We started with his favorite soup: avogolemeno ($4.50). He thought it was too thick and not lemony enough. We had an order of tiropita ($7.50) that Dimitri thought was very good. We also started with an order of taramasalata ($7) that we both thought needed more fish roe and less potato. For our main we shared one Gyouvetsi men arni (orzo with lamb shanks) for $23. The order was huge but we thought the two shanks were over cooked and a little dry. With our meal we had ½ liter of house wine. We had one baklava for dessert that Dimitri didn’t like. We spent $76.85 plus tip.

1.16. NR: We were disappointed in Restaurant Chu, 5362 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618, tel. 510-601-8818. The woman hostess didn’t say hello; she just scowled and brought us to a table. (When she brought us our check, she didn’t say thank you or anything for that matter.) We arrived during their happy hour tapas special price menu (until 7 p.m.) so we ordered off of the discounted menu. We ordered the “Smoked Salmon Onion Pancake” ($8) with hoisin, chili and cilantro. The combination sounded good, was innovative, but really didn’t work. Additionally, we waited a very long time for that dish to arrive. It looked like everyone else (who arrived after us) was served first. The next dish, when it arrived, was the best: “Ants Climb Trees Glass Noodles with pork ($13) with mung bean thread, minced pork, garlic, ginger, chili bean sauce”. It was a tasty and nicely textured dish. The ants refer to the tiny pieces of pork that cling to the mung bean thread “trees”. The third dish was “Stuffed Bitter Melon and Black Bean Sauce with tofu, mushrooms, garlic, onions” ($11). The tofu stuffing and the sauce were very good. The bitter melon was too tough to cut without having a knife and it was, well, too bitter so we thought it may not have been cooked enough. Our server and the helper were friendly and good but it got busy and our server didn’t have time to stop by. We ordered rice ($3) and Japanese Genmai tea ($4) that tasted of toasted rice and was good. There was nothing on the dessert menu we wanted. We spent $40.88 plus tip.

1.17. NR: At Noodle Theory (6099 Claremont Ave., Oakland, CA 94618, tel. 510-595-6988, www.noodletheory.com), we were not happy with our meal. It is not our kind of place. The kitchen was very noisy and the small children next to us were too. Our server was good. We were brought edamame with a plum sauce drizzled on top and sprinkled with sesame seeds; we like when restaurants bring a little something to start. They were good and so was the sauce. Unfortunately both of our main courses seemed to have the same sauce and it was too over-whelming. We started with the Chinese Five Spice Sweet Potato Fries, with a Thai Green Curry Aioli ($7). They looked good but were not crispy (even though we sent them back for more cooking). We didn’t eat many of them. Dimitri had the Sautéed Spicy Thai Basil Beef with Fresh Flat Rice Noodles ($13) for his main course and didn’t finish it. Audre had the Tofu and Veggie Garlic Noodles ($9) and didn’t finish hers either. We spent $49.05 plus tip and would not recommend the place.

1.18. NR: We went to Ramen Shop (5812 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618, tel 510-788-6370, http://www.ramenshop.com/) because it was recommended. We were under-whelmed and we had to wait almost 30 minutes for an uncomfortable high table with hard chairs. Dimitri had the Ramen Veggie shoyu (Meyer Lemon ramen with salt-cured egg, tomato confit, maitake and king oyster mushrooms, roasted broccoli and mizuna ($15). He thought it was okay. Audre had the Little Gem salad with edamame, shiso, anise hyssop, beets, cucumbers, pickled red onions, and garlic miso crème fraîche ($12). It was small for $12 and Audre did not taste any anise hyssop or miso in the crème fraîche. We spent $39.24 plus tip and would not recommend the place.

1.19. NR: We had an okay meal at Wood Tavern (6317 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618, tel. 510-654-6607, web: www.woodtavern.net) but would not recommend it and we don’t understand why so many people suggested we go there. It was very crowded and very noisy, even with its high ceilings. The tables were small and close together; we talked to our neighbors. That was fun. We ordered 2 appetizers, one main and shared everything. We had a ½ bottle of Honig Sauvignon Blanc that was good (it cost $22 Oakland and at the last place where we ordered it, Cambria I think, it had been $18). Unfortunately it was served warm and there were no ice buckets used in the restaurant. The bread was good and one kind had nuts in it. One of our appetizers was the vegetables fritto misto ($10) and for our taste they were too heavily battered, eliminating the taste of the zucchini flower or fennel, for instance. The other was a dollop of chicken liver pate ($5) that came with a date jam, mustard, cornichon and toasted baguette. That was a very tasty dish and well presented. Our main was the halibut with mashed potatoes, morel mushrooms. Dimitri didn’t like the crust on the fish and it was overcooked. We didn’t think the morels had any taste. Katrina was a good server and knowledgeable but so busy that we were left unattended at times.There was no dessert that we wanted. We spent $71.94 plus tip.

2. San Francisco

2.1. HR: Waterbar, 399 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94105, tel. (415) 284-9922, web: http://www.waterbarsf.com/#home. We had a great lunch with $1 oysters (specially priced) at Waterbar. Larissa was a professional, attentive and personable server. There were 4 of us and we shared everything, sitting in front of the beautiful view of the Bay Bridge. We started with 24 medium oysters ($25.20)—tasty and large enough—that were priced specially for their happy hour. We were served Acme Bread and liked it, as usual. Then we had one order of soft shell crab ($20), one order of cockels ($16), one order of the ribeye steak ($18) and one side salad ($6). Everything was delicious and we enjoyed ourselves immensely. For dessert we shared one bread pudding ($10) and it too was very good. We had 4 coffees ($15) and with that Larissa served us 4 dessert chocolates that were excellent. We were very happy. The bill for the 4 of us was $128.03 plus tip.

2.2. R: E & O Asian Kitchen, 314 Sutter St., SF, CA 94108, tel. 415-693-0303, www.eosanfrancisco.com. We had a very good lunch during “Dine About Town” at a price of $18.95. Our server, Maria, was very good and helpful. From the Dine About Town special menu we chose the Butternut Squash Dumplings in Thai red curry with lemongrass sauce and basil oil. There were 6 dumplings and they were delicious, as was the sauce. The second course we chose was Drunken Noodles (Pad Keg Mao) broad noodles, ground pork, Chinese broccoli and basil. Another excellent dish. For an extra $5 we had the warm ginger cookies too. We were very happy and spent $21.23 plus tip (we were not charged for the cookies, evidently).

2.3. R: Shanghai Dumpling King, 3319 Balboa St., San Francisco, CA 94121, tel. 415-387-2088. We had a very good dinner. Because the neighboring table was friendly and very generous, we got to taste many additional dishes that they ordered and shared. Of course we had the Shanghai soup dumplings and they were good, although they did not have enough soup inside, in our opinion (10 for $5.95). The Fish Head Casserole ($10.95) was very good and huge. The Spicy Ma Po Tofu ($7.50) was good but totally vegetarian with no option to choose pork in it. We also tasted the Sesame Rice Dumplings (4 for $3.25) which were good but too squishy. This restaurant is famous for its Sugar Egg Puffs (3 for $3.25). They were indeed airy and delicious. Our neighboring table gave us so much food that the $30 we spent (cash, no credit cards) would not be representative of what a meal with everything we tasted would cost!

2.4. R: R & G Lounge (631 Kearny St., San Francisco, CA 94108, tel. 415-982-7877, www.rnglounge.com). We had a wonderful Cantonese meal and were very happy. We shared three dishes, all of them very good. We had the Steamed Clams with Eggs ($18) that we loved when we had it in Hong Kong. It was a very good rendition and R & G. We had Three Treasures with Black Bean Sauce ($15) described as bean curd, eggplant, hot peppers with shrimp meat in black bean sauce. The flavors were delicious as were the bean curd and eggplant tastes. The third dish we ordered was the Roasted Squab for $16 (described as whole squab roasted to a golden brown crispy skin, served with seasonings on the side). The squab was crispy and succulent and we loved it. We spent $57.10 plus tip and were very satisfied. For dessert, Dimitri found a perfect sesame ball at a local bakery for $1.

2.5. R: Tony's Pizza Napoletana, 1570 Stockton St., San Francisco, CA 94133, tel. 415-835-9888, web: http://www.tonyspizzanapoletana.com/. We had a wonderful experience sitting at the bar under the watchful gaze and generous hospitality of Robvell Smith (whose card names him Bartender Extraordinaire). During our City Guides tour by Gloria Lenhart called Tastes and Tales of North Beach, she told us about Tony Gemignani and that he won the World Pizza Championship 11 times. We generally have pizza only once a year and we have already had our 2014 pizza. In any event, we decided to go to Tony’s for pizza after our tour. The wait for a table would have been ½ hour but there were empty seats at the bar so we sat there. The bartender, Robvell Smith, was great and great to us. While we were waiting for our pizza (which took a long time—almost an hour), he had the kitchen bring us a complimentary order of meatballs which were very good. We ordered the award winning Pizza Margherita ($19). While waiting our neighboring couple at the bar offered us a taste of their New York pizza. That was the one that we almost ordered because it had all kinds of sausage and pepperoni on it. It was very good and we liked the thin crust. When our pizza arrived and we tasted it, the taste was very good but the crust was a bit spongy. You order pizza at Tony’s by crust and then by toppings. Now we know what crust we like, we will order better next time. We spent $21.42 plus tip for Robvell.

2.6. R: Starbelly (3583 16th St., San Francisco, CA 94111, tel. 415-252-7500, www.starbellysf.com) was recommended when we were on the SF City Guides tour of Castro. Our server, Darcie, was good. We had one sweet corn soup ($9) and one steak salad ($13). There was so much meat on the salad that we had 4 pieces to take home! The soup was good and very filling. We had Darcie bring us some bread and she did (without charging). We spent $24.64 plus tip.

2.7. R: House of Banquet, 939 Clement St., San Francisco, CA 94118, tel. 415-221-9888, www.HouseofBanquet.com. It was recommended for dim sum and we liked everything. The service was okay. When we arrived the carts were scarce but they appeared and we had new and interesting dishes. There was no sweet tofu. We spent $27.25 plus tip.

2.8. R: King of Thai Noodle, Fisherman's Wharf, 2800 Leavenworth St. at Jefferson St., San Francisco, CA 94133, tel. 415-346-9555, www.kingofthaifishermanswharf.com. This restaurant had been recommended (in another location). We came upon it along Fisherman’s Wharf when we were looking (but did not find) fresh crab, steamed at the moment (not steamed in the morning and put on ice and steamed to heat it up after one orders it). We had One Pad Kee Mao stir fry of flat rice noodles with meat and vegetables $8.95 and one Papaya Salad $8.95. We also had one tea. We spent $21.42 plus tip and were happy.

2.9. R sort of: Brindisi Cucina Di Ma, 98 Belden Pl., SF, CA 94104, tel. 415-593-800. We went for the Dine About Town lunch for $18.95. We had the Tagliatelle with boar and the roasted chicken. The tagliatelle was good and had lots of boar. The roasted chicken was on the dry side. Dimitri liked the potatoes. Our server, Cathryn was good.

2.10. R sort of: New Hong Kong Lounge, 5322 Geary Blvd., San Francisco, CA 94121, tel. 415-668-8836, www.HongKongLounge.com. We had one delicious lobster in steamed rice noodle ($28) and one golden fried baby fish ($10). We liked the lobster but not the fish—too doughy. Our server didn’t get our order right and it took forever to get our food. Other than that we would recommend it.

2.11. NR: Yank Sing, 101 Spear St., Rincon Center, San Francisco, CA 94105, tel. 415-781-1111, www.yanksing.com. This place is recommended for the best dim sum in San Francisco. Phooey. Its dim sum is predictable and not especially tasty. There are so many better Chinese restaurants in San Francisco (and Oakland) that serve better tasting and more innovative dim sum at a much cheaper price that we cannot recommend Yank Sing. We spent $52.93 plus tip for five dishes.

2.12. NR: Paprika has a very limited menu (3324 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110 (b/t Bartlett St & Osage St in Mission) , Phone number (415) 375-1477). We shared one appetizer of sausage and it was enough for the 4 of us and not great. We didn’t like the goulash. They have only 3 choices and we had two of them. The one with the orange colored sauce was marginally better. The gnocchi were good. We spent three months in Budapest in 1992 and this food didn’t make the grade. Each couple, with 2 beers and 2 wines, spent $50 plus tip.

2.13. NR: Soi Gow, 1319 9th Ave., San Francisco, CA 94122, tel. 415-564-7722 web: www.soigowthai.com. We had one Yen Ta Fo Noodle Soup ($7.95) with flat noodles and shrimp, calamari, sliced fish cake, fish balls, white mushrooms and spinach in a chicken broth with red bean sauce. It was a weird color and seemed to us to be more Chinese than Thai. The other dish we ordered was the soup, Tom Kah with tofu ($4), described as having in it coconut milk with lemongrass, galangal, mushrooms and lime juice but there wasn’t any lemongrass or galangal. We spent $13 plus tip.

2.14. NR: Golden Gate Dim Sum Seafood Restaurant, 1829 Clement St., SF, CA 94121, tel. 415-666-3883. We were under-whelmed. Ordering dim sum off of a menu is difficult for us. We had the chicken feet in a very good juice called “Crude Drugs Chicken Feet” ($5.50). We also had the “Pan Fried Chives Dumpling” ($3.25) and they weren’t special. The third dish we had was the “Salt & Pepper Squid Silk” ($5.50) that was good. We also ordered on congee to go for breakfast the next day. The congee was delicious. We wouldn’t go back or recommend this place; it didn’t have the seafood dim sum we were hoping for. It seemed as if it was the place for Chinese construction workers who knew what they wanted to eat. We spent $29 plus tip.

3. Berkeley

3.1. HR: Rangoon Super Stars, 2826 Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94705, 510-647-9744, e-mail: info@rangoonSuperStars.com, web: http://rangoonsuperstars.com/home.html. It was a delicious meal. The restaurant was in a section of Berkeley that was without power. We sat with the only light coming in from outside. The kitchen meanwhile was working with flashlights. Even so the meal was very good. We had one Tea Leaf Salad ($11), tossed at the table that we really liked. It was described as “This salad is a popular traditional treat unique to Burma. A mix of Burmese tea leaves, fried garlic, peanuts, sesame seeds, lettuce, tomato and dried shrimp.” We had one “Fiery Pork Tofu ($14) described as “Tossed Pork with tofu, string beans, bell pepper, mixed with sweet & spicy sauce.” Another yummy dish. The third dish we had was Garlic Shrimp and Eggplant ($15) described as “Sautéed shrimp and eggplant served with garlic and scallions in a sweet chili sauce.” Also very tasty and good. Our fourth dish was “Egg and Okra Curry” ($11) described as “Red Burmese curry prepared with tomatoes, fried hardboiled egg and okra.” Excellent! The four of us enjoyed the meal very much. Each couple spent $40, including tip.

3.2. R: Spoon, 933 Ashby Ave., Berkeley, CA 94710, tel. 510-704-9555, Web:
www.spoon.com. It’s small and got very crowded. We ordered the steamed egg soufflé ($4) that we thought might be like the steamed egg we used to eat in Hong Kong.
It was not; it was bland. We ordered one Dolsot Bibimbop ($13) that was delicious. The seaweed noodle salad ($9) was very good. The kimchi pancake ($7) was good but we had ordered too much and couldn’t finish it. We ordered one drink called Jobs Tears ($3.50) and we didn’t think it was particularly good or interesting. The chairs were very uncomfortable. There are so many outstanding restaurants around we probably will not return. We spent $39.79 plus tip.

3.3. R sort of: Flavors of India, 3211 College Ave., Berkeley, CA 94705, tel. 510658-3461. It’s a tiny place that is very basic. Dimitri had a set lunch called Baingan Bharta (eggplant and a garbonzo bean dal with rice and naan) for $7.99 and he was happy with the tastes and the quantity. Audre asked for a small cup of soup of yellow lentils. She was charged $8.99. That was beyond way too expensive for that. Dimitri had a salty lassi ($3) and that was good too. We spent $21.80 and thought that was ridiculously expensive for what we had.

3.4. R sort of: We were disappointed in Cha-am Thai Restaurant (1543 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709 (510) 848-9664, http://www.chaamberkeley.com/). We thought it was going to be special with unusual dishes. It was same ‘o, same ‘o. We shared everything and ordered 3 dishes. The first one was the Tom Ka Kalay soup ($6). It was described as coconut milk soup of prawns, scallops, galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime, chili, onion, cilantro and mushrooms. We couldn’t taste any galanga, lemongrass or kaffir lime and that was disappointing. Our next dishes were Pad Prik Tofu ($8.50) described as sautéed fried tofu with garlic chili, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, fungus, sweet basil and vegetables. It included all of the ingredients described but was kind of bland and uninteresting. Our third dish was Pla Tien Cha-am ($14) a whole fried pompano tossed in a spicy tamarind sauce with onion, bell pepper, ginger and mushrooms. The fish had really crispy skin, was sweet and nicely cooked. The sauce was really delicious and the vegetables were prolific and very good. This was a very good dish but didn’t make up for the others. We had one order of good sticky rice ($1.50) and one hot Thai tea ($1.50) that was tasty with free refills (we really liked the Thai tea and later learned that we could buy it in a Chinese market). We spent $34.88 plus tip.

3.5. NR: Meritage, Claremont Hotel & Club, 41 Tunnel Rd., Berkeley, CA 94705, tel. 510-549-8510. We went for breakfast and neither Dimitri nor Audre liked the servers. The room was nice with a nice view. The food was disappointing. Audre had the Eggs Benedict ($18). There were 2 eggs on one English muffin with a little bit of Hollandaise sauce and one dry-ish piece of Canadian bacon. Audre had asked for the eggs to be soft and they were okay but not the way she likes them. They came with a salad and no bread basket. Dimitri had the omelet with goat cheese, mushrooms and bacon ($17). He liked it. His eggs came with fresh fruit and a salad. He had asked for potato croquettes instead of the salad and was told that they would be $6 extra. Dimitri got his 2 croquettes when he asked where they were (and wasn’t charged for them). He was brought uninteresting toast and had to ask for butter (which came with some Dickinson’s marmalade that he liked). We had two coffees ($4 x 2) with many refills. The breakfast cost $46.87 plus tip which was ridiculously expensive under any circumstances but especially for what we got.

4. Alameda

4.1. R: Troy, 2318-A Central Ave, Alameda, CA 94501 (b/t Park St & Oak St), tel. (510) 522-2800, web: troygreek.com. We were biking in Alameda when we happended upon Troy for lunch. Dimitri, the Greek, was very happy with the food. We had 2 falafel (very good) and at $1 each, well priced. We had one avgolemono soup ($3.95) that Dimitri liked very much. We had one small Greek salad ($3.95) that was also good. Dimitri liked their home made Baklava ($2.50) and Greek coffee. We spent $13.52 and we were happy. We later learned that there was a Troy on College, right near our house.

5. Tiberon

5.1. R: Sam's Anchor Cafe, 27 Main St., Tiberon, CA 94920. tel. 415-435-4527, http://www.samscafe.com/. Sam’s was highly recommended for the place to go for a crab sandwich after biking over the Golden Gate Bridge. That we did and we enjoyed it. We had one crab sandwich with dill dressing on sliced sourdough, served with crispy French fries ($20) and one linguine with Manila clams in white wine, butter and garlic ($21). Both dishes were very good although the crab sandwich had too much of a creamy taste for Audre. The juice that the clams were in was delicious and the clams themselves were tender and tasty. We each had a glass of Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand ($9 x 2) and we liked that. For dessert we had an apple galette that Dimitri liked very much—the crust was crisp ($7) and coffee ($3). We spent $74.85 plus tip and would recommend it.

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  1. Good reviews, some I agree with some not. I too am picky about Greek food. Have you been to Kokkari yet? It's great for a special occasion, I have been meaning to go back since I haven't been back in over a year.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Ridge

      A plate of Kokkari's fried smelts and a couple drinks would do it.

    2. Thanks for posting your summarized reviews, interesting reading! Like ridge, some we'd agree with, some we wouldn't. But I'm glad someone besides us found Oliveto's Oceanic dinner disappointing. Their 2013 Whole Hog was superb, but everything we've had before or since has been ruined by excessive, erratic salting - to the point where the last time, the food was inedible and we sent dishes back. When you send back two out of three different entrees...for that price level, not a good sign. I think Chef Jonah Rhodehamel is a genius but whoever is garde manger is letting the line cooks do some serious damage to the chef's concepts. Oakland now has three good Italian places: Lungomare, Centouno, and Desco, but our pick would be Trabocco/Alameda. We're salt cod lovers, and that salt cod with crispy polenta is wowie!

      Interesting that you liked Asmara. We have not been back in years, after many years of excellent food the owners changed (or the cooks did) and one night we got what was basically all stir-fried food, with tough chewy meats. Not a single dish had been braised as it was supposed to be. Wonder if they have different cooks now? Cafe Eritrea, Cafe Colucci, and Enssaro are good with fewer flaws than some of the others we've tried in Oakland/Berkeley.

      Many people go to Meritage for brunch; we preferred dinner. Josh Thomsen was a genius but he left for NYC. Chef de Cuisine Scott Quinn, we don't have much love for and will not go back. One great dish, three bad ones; one of those "let's toss in the kitchen sink" chefs (yes, I blame Food Network for this kind of thinking).

      We like Noodle Theory for lunch, not dinner. Too small and cramped for comfort but okay for good fresh noodles. Have not tried the ones you did. We like the Hot/Sour Shrimp and the Spicy Pork noodles. Another is the Duck Curry but it is extraordinarily rich, almost too much so: pure coconut cream, not coco milk. Their dumplings are handmade, with thin skins and tasty stuffings--pork more reliable than the shrimp which can sometimes have too much greens. We split on the goat cheese wontons, I liked (not loved) them; spouse didn't.

      Bowl'd BBQ is larger and we think a little better than Spoon (same owners): 4869 Telegraph Ave., Oakland/Temescal.

      (YMMV; we are not price-sensitive diners, btw.)

      1. Thanks for the reviews! Good to have a perspective from such experienced world travelers. I just took a look at your blog and am now dying of envy for your lifestyle.

        1. Just found this post via search, since I was wondering if anyone had been to Phnom Penh House recently. Sounds like it might be worth a try.

          Anyone been to the branch on MacArthur recently?

          1. If you really liked the Pan Tai Thai iced tea mix, you can get it online: http://www.amazon.com/Pantai-Norasing... or maybe take a look at an Asian store specializing in Thai food while you are traveling. That is where I get ours in Vancouver!

            I'm always interested to hear dim sum reports from visitors to SFBA. I love carts too but can now order reasonably well from menus. I've yet to try Yank Sing (my SO's been to the other branch and enjoyed it), and I know there is a trick to ordering to keep the costs down. $10 a dish for dim sum is high for me!

            Kind of amazing that the kitchen at Rangoon Superstars kept running even in a blackout. That is the advantage of gas stoves :-). We really enjoyed our meal there but the lights were on.