Trying to eat something delicious, each and every day.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Taishan Cafe

Tasty new restaurant alert! That's right, I ate at two good restaurants today. We're eating out more and more as we pack up more of our belongings and eat down more of our fridge and pantry. Today we tried Taishan Cafe on Clement and 12th. We've noticed this place a lot in the past, but never really got curious about it recently. When J realized it might be a great place to eat some regional dishes from his mom's family's region of China, we knew we had to go scope it out for her.

The pig stomach soup with pepper was my favorite dish of the night. You can get this soup at a lot of Chinese places, but Taishan Cafe really kicks the flavor up a notch. The soup, though almost clear, is so gingery and peppery that it's almost spicy, with an undercurrent of herbs that's simultaneously distinctive and subtle. This was the perfect almost-boiling hot soup for a chilly night.

A small plate of chicken's feet was on the house.

A-chai, or Chinese lettuce. This was really good, made with fermented bean curd as well as garlic. See how the broth at the bottom is murky rather than clear? That's some of the fermented bean curd sauce. But buyer beware: Taishan is infamous for overcharging for vegetables! This plate was over $10. And while it was tasty, I probably would not pay for it again; it cost more than anything else we ordered tonight!

Half duck, house special. This tasted of plum sauce and five spice powder. Different, but nice!

Clay pot with pork patty and salted fish. This is the $6.95 "individual" portion. Do not be fooled into getting a larger size! This pot contained enough rice to feed two or three people, but our server insisted that we should upgrade to a "small" pot for $18. I'm so glad we opted for two different individual sized pots instead of one giant one! The pork over rice was very good, and we had fun scraping the burnt rice off the bottom and munching on it.

Since the server insisted that one pot would not be enough for three people, we ordered the lamb pot as well as the pork pot. The lamb is a signature dish, but I didn't find it very exciting. There should have been more sauce, and the meat was not very tender. The flavor was fine, the dish just wasn't as exciting as some of the other things we had.

Taishan is a really great place for cheap eats, seeing how a $6.95 clay pot alone could be dinner for two. Not every dish is a winner, but I think some menu exploration could uncover some real gems. We ended up spending a whopping $44 for three people, with enough leftovers to make lunch tomorrow. We'll definitely be bringing J's mom here next time she visits!

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Taqueria Vallarta

Aha, a photo found on my Blackberry from a few weeks back, taken at my new favorite taco joint in the Mission. The appeal of Taqueria Vallarta lies in the taco assembly area at the front of the store. There's always a person there grilling tortillas and scooping meat fresh off the grill as quick as he/she can. And, depending what day you go, there are half a dozen or a dozen meat choices. So far, the barbacoa (barbeque goat) with chipotle salsa is the best combination.

Two or three tacos is enough for a nice lunch, and after you're handed your plate you can dress the tacos with a choice of three salsas, onions, cilantro, radishes, and limes. At $1.50, nicely sized, and packed full of flavor, these tacos are hard to beat at even twice the price.

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Saturday, December 05, 2009

El Tonayense off trucks. J and I were down near Best Buy again today, and we had to visit one of the most popular taco trucks in SF.

Does anyone know what "Tonayense" means? A quick Google search only turns up references to this San Francisco truck.

We shared a lengua taco, which was tender and delicious with a tangy sauce. Then we headed to Ceramic Tile Design, home to some of the most gorgeous tile displays I've ever seen. After a lot of technical decisions, looking at wall after wall of shiny colors was a real treat.

After we were done at the tile store we wandered back up to Polk Street to find J a barber, and we walked by this uni display at Swan Oyster Depot. It looked positively delicious! Too bad we did not get to stop in.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Best O Burger

Best O Burger! I just like saying the name. J tried the new BOB in his office building the other day and really liked it, so I headed over to the branch on Pine Street today for a taste.

The burger is pretty good! They're going the Angus beef, never frozen route, plus the meat tastes like it's been seasoned. I made the mistake of getting a slider combo so there wasn't much burger, but that's hardly BOB's fault. The up side to getting the slider combo was that I got to try a mini shake, fries, AND onion strings. The combo is a really unbalanced meal. You get an enormous portion of onion strings, a pretty decent side of fries, and the world's tiniest burger. I know it's probably the most cost effective way for BOB to structure their combo, and the allure of two fried sides is strong, but yeesh. Anyway, here are my grades for the sides.

Fries (A+) If you like fries, get to BOB quickly. They fry the fries in rice oil, and the result is super light and crispy, almost to the point of crackling. they reminded me of McDonald's fries back when lard was vogue, except for one big improvement. Even when they cool down, these fries are still crispy! I took the entire bag to go and ate them as I walked home. Half a mile later on what was a pretty cool afternoon and the fries were still making noise as I bit down on them.

Onion strings (A) Not everyone likes onion strings, so if you prefer a big thick onion ring these might not be for you. The batter is crisp and very buttery though, so there's very little fault to find with these in terms of flavor.

Milkshake (A-) It's hard to make a bad shake when you start with Hagen Daaz ice cream. This was good, but a little icy. I like my milkshakes to be almost pure ice cream and milk, not cut with a lot of ice cubes. However, a "lighter" shake was probably a good idea after all the fried sides.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Fried Rice

Sorry, all. I really haven't had time to cook anything interesting or document it in saliva-inducing photographs. But we did have comfort food tonight: fried rice! There's nothing like a slightly greasy bowl of rice to sooth the stomach.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Nothing from Nothing...

A lot of times, a pretty decent dinner can be made from nothing.

This looks like a lovely bowl of noodle soup with vegetables, fish balls, and duck innards. But in truth, it was a desparate attempt on my part to use up every last bit of fresh food in my refrigerator. I think I did okay.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Let's Be Frank

Despite San Francisco's recent cycle of thunderstorms and heat waves, I've been trying to keep in the habit of running outdoors a few times a week. What works best for me is determining how many miles I want to run that day and then finding a tempting destination roughly that distance from my starting point.

Today's winning destination was Let's be Frank on Steiner, roughly 2.5 miles from my apartment. Not only do they have tasty all beef franks, I had a coupon. Two dogs for $6 instead of one for $5! I win. For those who want to give these dogs a try, dogs are $8 for two on Tuesdays. There are a handful of choices: all beef, bratwurst, turkey, spicy Italian, and veg.

I brought a dog home to J. Let's Be Frank serves their extra long dogs with grilled onions and a side of homemade bread and butter pickles. At the condiments stand you can get grainy mustard, relish, and some really tasty saurkraut.


Monday, September 07, 2009

El Super Burrito

El Super Burrito is a fairly large taqueria smack on the corner of Sutter and Polk. I've passed by it almost every week but finally went in today.

J and I shared a shrimp cocktail ($10.99). It's not full of different kinds of seafood like the kinds in East LA, but there were plenty of shrimp in it and the shrimp they used were big and crunchy. The sauce itself was a little on the sweet side, but still pretty good.

I had a carne asada hard taco with rice and beans ($4.50). Pretty standard. Everything could have used a little more spice, but at that price I don't expect anyone to be carefully gauging the herb levels in my food.

J had a lengua (tongue) taco and a tripe taco. I hd a piece of the tongue and it was extremely tender. Again, these were very lightly spiced and could have used more seasoning. They were $2 each, which made me long for the days of $1 taco truck tacos in LA. But still, not bad at all.

We washed everything down with a large cup of cantaloupe agua fresca ($2.50). Nice bright fruit flavor, though I have no guarantee any fresh fruit was used. All in all a decent but not fantastic meal. El Super Burrito is fine, but I think I like the two smaller taquerias closer to our apartment better.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009


Olivos has quickly become one of our favorite neighborhood spots. The restaurant isn't much to speak of, so we usually order take out, but today we headed back there with a camera to make sure Olivos gets its due.

The #1 thing to order there is the menudo. For about $10 you get more than a quart of rich, spiced (but not spicy), thick, slightly sticky soup with large chunks of tripe floating around in it. J likes to order it without the vegetables to make room for any pork hocks or extra offal the kitchen might feel like sparing. The menudo is served with a few lime wedged, chopped cilantro and onions, and two tortillas that you can either rip up and throw in the soup or use to wrap pieces of tripe. I think even people who don't like offal should try this soup. It's really meaty and delicious.

I always order two pupusas. It's hard to resist this much food for under $5. Today I picked cheese and pork pupusas, which are served with a side of Salvadorean cabbage slaw.

Olivos serves a wide array of Mexican food that you can find at Taquerias, but it bills itself as a Salvadorean restaurant and the pupusas are what people seem to go there for. There are other decent Taquerias in the area, so when we go we always get the menudo, pupusas, and get out for about $15 (sometimes with leftovers!). You can see why it's what we eat when we're feeling too lazy to cook.

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Wo's Restaurant

The stars did not align very well tonight, but we ended up having a very satisfactory meal at Wo's Restaurant way out on Judah and 48th (almost to the ocean!). The first restaurant we went to was cash only, and we only had $20. The second one had a wait, and I was starving. So Wo's to the rescue!

I had the slippery beef over rice. Very nicely done, and this enormous portion was only $5.50. I know there's a lot of cheap Chinese food to be had, but Wo's really stood out to me because their food is not greasy. That is incredibly rare for a hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant with rock bottom prices. Usually after eating this kind of meal I expect to feel a little queasy, but it's four hours later and I feel fine--still full, but not stuffed. J had a chicken pho in a nice clear broth, and we shared a plate of piping hot deep fried spring rolls. All for $16! Amazing.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Fly Bar & Restaurant

It's not great food, but it's tasty and cheap!

That's my short review of Fly Bar & Restaurant's happy hour, which runs weekdays (or possibly every day) from 4-7pm. Draft beers are $3 and pizzas are half off. That means each of these pies was $4.50, which was actually on the high end. The two of us ate one and a half and were pretty darn full!

If you end up going, stick with the beers. My cocktail was awful, but our total bill for two drinks and two pizzas was $18 so I think we'll be back. Not so much for the food, but for the fairly fun atmosphere and option of having some carbs with our beer.

And our delicious dessert at home! Berries this week were extra delicious. I'm not kidding; if you see some, buy them!

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Cafe Zitouna

We found a new neighborhood gem tonight. And cheap too! Cafe Zitouna is an unassuming corner cafe, the kind of place that looks like it has a 50/50 chance of either selling burnt coffee and stale pastries or being an ethnic gem. Luckily for us, Zitouna turned out to be the latter.

Not being terribly hungry, we settled for one entree and the hummus with warmed pita bread ($4). The hummus was very creamy, had a nice garlic flavor, and was topped with fragrantly grassy Tunisian olive oil.

Then we shared one of the lamb tajines ($10). The dish was nicely done, but I wouldn't order it again because I just don't like artichoke hearts, green olives, or frozen peas very much (at least not when I'm paying to dine out). The broth of the tajine was really tasty though, and I could have had a bowl of it as a soup. Which reminds me that next time I'd go for a bowl of lentil soup and half a lamb shawarma sandwich, or a cous cous topped with one of several stews. I can't wait to go back and sample more goodies.

The menu shows a nice variety of items (including mint tea and what is rumored to be good coffee) without being dauntingly long, and the service is friendly. One downside of their being devout Muslims is that the restaurant closes at 9:00 p.m. daily so that those who need to can get to prayer. Too bad for us diners, but I admire their commitment.

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Pho Tan Hoa

Friday night = no cooking! Okay, not always, but this Friday night we went to Pho Tan Hoa just a few blocks away because J was craving pho. I rarely crave pho, so I had a bowl of marinated beef and spring rolls over vermicelli and romaine lettuce. It was simultaneously bright and refreshing while great for my intense beef cravings. There's something about red meat and salad that usually hits the spot for me. Vietnamese fish sauce never hurts, either.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Minami Sushi

After about two weeks of saying he had sushi cravings, J finally succumbed and we broke our "no dinners out on weekdays" rule to check out Minami, a bargain sushi dive out on Clement and 20th. Besides a mediocre spider roll, we liked everything else a lot!

My $15.50 chirashi was definitely the winner in terms of beauty and volume. In addition to sashimi, there were a lot of cooked items like shitake mushrooms, stewed daikon, and pickled vegetables mixed into the rice. I think an extra bowl of rice would make this a good meal for two people.

J got the sashimi combo plate, which was a little less at $13.50. He got two or three kinds of sashimi that I didn't get, plus his rice came hot while mine was a little lukewarm.

We also got natto ($3.50) for the first time in a long time. The entire staff seemed very surprised that we wanted it, but it isn't at all as stinky and gross as people make it out to be. It has a dark, roasty, salty flavor. Who doesn't like that?

Maybe it's the texture that everyone finds so gross. The beans are fermented and develop a slimy outer covering. It doesn't taste like anything, and I think it's kind of fun to play with. I will definitely be eating more natto in the future.

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