A couple of weeks ago, Violet (one of our Food Adventurers) was hosting a party. While there, I ran into her good friend and acquaintance of mine, Richie of Hapa Ramen. Richie used cook at Nopa until about a year ago when he quit to start his own pop-up, Hapa Ramen. I’ve been meaning to check it out ever since but haven’t gotten a chance to because the hours are so limited. I was lamenting this fact to Richie when he informed me that he would be doing a pop-up at Bar Tartine on the 20th and the 27th of December: Mondays! FAT is on Mondays! I knew what I had to do. I rounded up the troops and made a reservation, eager to finally try the transcendent ramen that I’d often heard Violet raving about.
I was not disappointed. And it wasn’t just ramen, either. We started out by ordering every appetizer: Brussels sprouts, which were roasted in oil, salt, and vinegar (?) and were so delicate and crispy and rich that I couldn’t stop eating them. Some of the most amazing fried chicken I’ve ever had: every so crispy on the outside and fall-off-the-bone moist on the inside, resting in a pool of sweet/citrusy/spicy sauce. Dates stuffed with cheese curds and (pickled?) lemon zest, on a bed of clover greens with a light lemony dressing. Pig’s head. Pig’s head? Yes. I’ll admit, it wasn’t my favorite item but I liked it a lot more than I expected (I don’t do well with unusual meats). The flavor was great, even if the texture wasn’t my bag.
There was no question which ramen we would get. Eight Big Daddy Ramen Bowls, please. In addition to fabulously rich and nuanced broth and a towering nest of perfectly chewy handmade noodles, each bowl contained: a beautiful slow-cooked farm egg with a gooey, rich, deep yellow-orange yolk; balls of breaded and fried chicken breast meat; seaweed; kale (or was it chard? or some other deep green leafy veggie?); incredibly flavorful delicata squash; and a chunk of melt-in-your-mouth slow-cooked pork belly. Oh, the pork belly. I could write songs about the pork belly. I tried to finish my bowl, but the portions were so generous that in the end I was defeated. My mouth wanted more but my stomach protested.
But somehow, as is always the case, I had room for dessert. There were two options: sesame seed fudge with a black & white sesame cracker and whipped cream, and a brown rice pudding with ginger (?), coconut milk, and orange peel preserves. We got both, of course. I tried the fudge first. It was dense and chocolatey, enriched with the earthy sweetness of the sesame seeds. It reminded me a lot of halva, a Middle Eastern sesame seed dessert. The sesame seed cracker it came with was slightly sweet and ever so slightly salted, and its crunchiness offset the smooth denseness of the fudge nicely. Next I tried the rice pudding. I should’ve tried the pudding first. The richness of the chocolate and sesame seeds in the fudge was so overpowering that I could barely taste the delicate orange, ginger, and spice flavors in the rice pudding. I felt the pudding was good but could’ve been a little sweeter, a little saltier, a little creamier. What can I say? I’m a sucker for ultra-rich desserts. I was sold on the fudge.
All in all, a truly wonderful meal. Richie puts a lot of time and effort into perfecting his recipes and sourcing the best ingredients, and it shows in how wonderfully satisfying and delicious his food is.No comments
Where do I even start? Food Adventure Team 2.0: Return of the FATtening was truly epic.
We began at Mission Chinese Food, an offshoot of the much storied and sadly no longer with us Mission Street Food. Let me tell you, this was some damn fine Chinese food, the best Chinese food I’ve ever had. I have no clue if it was authentic but you know what? I really don’t give a shit. It was wonderful food and that’s all that matters.
Because we were a large party, we got the prix fixe menu at the very affordable $25 per person. Plate after plate of wondrous delight was brought out to to us in rapid fire succession. The squeals from our table were plentiful, and Doomy went into a meat fugue before long. Let me tell you about the meat. Here’s a little secret I’ve been harboring: I’ve never been very excited about pork belly. I know, I know. It turns out I’d just never had it prepared correctly. Mission Chinese Food does it right. Their Slow Cooked Char Siu Pork Belly (tea smoked egg, ginger scallion, rolled noodles, cucumber) is one of the most divine things I’ve ever had the pleasure of consuming. Its caramelized, slightly crisp exterior stuck to my teeth as I bit into the lighter-than-air layer of fat that burst with flavor in my mouth. The beef cheeks were equally tantalizing. We were brought both the Braised Mongolian Beef Cheek (onions, hot peppers, bean sprouts) and the Broccoli Beef (stir fried gai lan, braised beef cheek, oyster, smoked oyster sauce). I believe we deemed it “meat butter”: the most pillowy, tender, fatty beef that you’ve ever devoured. The vegetables were nothing to shake a stick at either; they were all perfectly cooked and seasoned.
We were also brought a variety of nibbles to start, the Tiger Salad (xi’an herbs and lettuces, red perilla, roasted seaweed, turnip vinegar; pictured below), Ma Po Tofu (ground kurobuta pork shoulder, beech mushroom, szechuan peppercorn, flaming chili oil), Thrice Cooked Bacon (rice cakes, bitter melon, tofu skin, scallion, black bean, chili oil), Taiwanese Eggplant (3 types of garlic, hot basil), 7 Chicken Wings with Explosive Chili Pepper, and Lung Shan’s Vegan Delight (shiitake and oyster mushroom dumplings in miso soup). It was truly a feast to behold.
And yet, when we had paid the bill we were still hungry for something a little sweet. Laurie suggested Xanath for its amazing vanilla ice cream, so after thanking Chef Danny Bowien, we headed south toward the ice cream shop. As luck would have it, Nosh This was set up for the evening on the corner of 20th and Valencia. At first all we saw was a sign that said “BACON CRACK!” — we knew whatever was happening had to be good. Sure enough, Bacon Crack lives up to its name as chef Kai Kronfield delivers up a delectable concoction of butter toffee studded with chunks of bacon and covered in chocolate. Yes, it really is as amazing as it sounds.
He also had Irish Coffee On A Sticks: homemade Jameson marshmallow with a cube of Bailey’s Irish Cream/Ritual Coffee fudge. Lordy. And in case you weren’t in the mood for sweets he was serving up some steamy meat-only Texas chili laced with chocolate. Mmmm.
After we finished our sweet ‘n’ salty treats, we continued on our journey for ice cream. A short half-block later we were there. Xanath is a unique ice cream shop. Their front window is decorated with towers of vanilla beans, and they hand out whole vanilla beans as samples to draw in customers. They have multiple kinds of vanilla ice cream (Madagascar Vanilla, Tahitian Vanilla, Mexican Vanilla) as well as a number of flavors like Pumpkin Pie, Saffron Ginger, and Salted Caramel.
Wanting to appreciate their vanilla ice cream in all its subtle simplicity, I opted for the Mexican Vanilla. I was not disappointed. This is the most vanilla vanilla ice cream you’ll ever taste. It tastes real. It tastes floral, fruity, rich, complex. You will never go back to normal store-bought vanilla ice cream once you’ve tried some of Xanath’s. You might not even go back to chocolate.
Our rowdy little group took over the shop and shared a multitude of flavors before heading back out into the winter chill, full of so much good food that we didn’t know what to do with ourselves.No comments
After a lengthy hiatus, FAT has returned! Spurred by an urgent email from Doomy (aka Josh S.), we’ll be returning to the streets of SF, on the prowl for culinary adventures. Maybe we’ll even write about them!No comments
As you may have gathered, there was a period of time where I got lazy about writing reviews for FAT. This is unfortunate because Borobudur was an experience that deserves many words. Sadly, the details have been lost to the sands of time, so I will have to leave you with that which stuck out in my mind: A fish, served whole, including eyeballs. Incredibly strange desserts. One was a crepe of sorts, containing chocolate sprinkles and cheddar cheese. Another was a drink filled with flavored ice, tapioca, strange stuff that resembled green silly string, and of course the ever-present sprinkles. I remember the food to be overwhelmingly unusual, but also quite good. I would definitely go back for a repeat experience.
(Written December 6, 2010.)No comments
Is it wrong to posthumously review a restaurant? Unfortunately, Baghdad Nights is now closed, but the writing was on the wall. When we went a year and a half ago, the place was completely empty except for our group. It made me sad to see their business so slow, because the food was quite delicious! I remember devouring platters of hummus. I remember marveling at the strange presentation of food: towering cylinders of phyllo encasing moist savory/sweet meats, surrounded by a pool of tasty sauce. RIP, Baghdad Nights!
(Written December 6, 2010.)No comments
My two-years-too-late assessment of Tselogs is: YUM. Tselogs was my first exposure to Filipino food. Being a lover of all things meaty and greasy, Tselogs made me very, very happy. Tselogs is located just outside of San Francisco in Daly City. According to Wikipedia, “35.4% of Daly City residents are of Filipino descent, the highest concentration of Filipino/Filipino Americans of any mid-sized city in North America”. We figured it would be a good place to check out the cuisine. We were not disappointed. My personal favorite was the sisig: a sizzling platter of meat, accompanied by a sunny side up egg and a dome of rice. Stirred together, it becomes a wonderfully gooey, rich, savory dish that satisfies even the most demanding appetite.
(Written December 6, 2010.)No comments
Time for another sad case of the missing review. The good news is, Assab is so fantastic that I’ve gone back numerous times in the past few years. It’s Ed’s and my go-to Eritrean restaurant in San Francisco. We’ve introduced many people to it and everyone concurs: Assab is the bomb! My favorite dish is shiro – “medium-mild seasoned ground chickpeas cooked with onions, tomatoes, and light pepper”. It’s wonderfully creamy and flavorful. For two people we generally order one meat combo and one veggie combo, substituting either the zucchini or the okra with shiro. We always waddle away stuffed to the gills and very happy! The proprietors of this place are delightful and the service is impeccable. I highly recommend Assab!
(Written December 6, 2010.)No comments
When I saw that this restaurant serves Indian Pizza, I was all over it. I’d heard of this phenomenon, but never actually partaken in it. Zante came highly recommended, so I looked forward to Wednesday night.
I was not disappointed. We started with two “Assorted appetizers” — each order consisted of one veggie and one meat samosa, two chicken pakoras, and two lamb (?) pakoras. And of course they came with various chutneys including the ever-present mint chutney. I must say, the appetizers were great. Bold spices, delicious meat, tender chicken. Greasy of course, but most deep fried things are.
For pizza, we ordered the extra large “Best Indian Pizza,” which has basically everything on it. It was enormous! The first thing I noticed was the overwhelming abundance of garlic. Do NOT get this pizza if you don’t like garlic! It was delicious, though. The pizza had basically everything on it. Cauliflower, shrimp, chicken, lamb, mozzarella, their special sauce (garlic), etc. It was all slathered on top of what was basically a giant naan. The naan was perfectly crisp on the bottom, and deliciously soft around the edges, as naan should be. Naan makes a perfect pizza crust, it turns out. Highly recommend dipping it in mint chutney, too.
While the pizza in general was quite tasty, I did wish that the toppings had been chopped less finely. I don’t really know what all I was eating; because everything was chopped so finely it kind of turned into mush. Delicious mush, but a more varied texture would’ve made me happier.
I also got a mango lassi, which was the brightest shade of orange I’ve ever seen on a lassi. It looked like pureed carrots! It was nice and creamy and had decent mango flavors, but it was overly sweet. Like sweet tea sweet. I prefer a bit of tartness in a lassi. Not bad though.
Conclusion: Tasty, would definitely go again– or at least order from them, since they offer free delivery to the whole city! There are things I wished they did differently, but the price (SO CHEAP) and the novelty make up for it in the end. And, pizza aside, their regular North Indian food was pretty awesome.No comments