Food Adventure Team

Exploring San Francisco, one restaurant at a time.

Archive for December, 2010

Hapa Ramen

Hapa Ramen
Pop-up at Bar Tartine
561 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
Usual hours and locations:
Ferry Building Farmer’s Market,
10am to 2pm, Tuesdays and
Off the Grid in Fort Mason,
5pm to 9pm, Fridays

Suggested by Heather

In attendance:

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.

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Mission Chinese Food, Nosh This, and Xanath

Mission Chinese Food
Lung Shan Restaurant
2234 Mission St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
Suggested by Doomy

Nosh This
20th and Valencia
Monday and Friday evenings
San Francisco, CA

951 Valencia St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
Suggested by Laurie

In attendance:

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.

Tiger Salad at Mission Chinese Food
Tiger Salad at Mission Chinese Food

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.

Bacon crack

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.

Nosh This

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.

Tower of vanilla beans
More vanilla beans than I ever expect to see in my life

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.

Mexican Vanilla Ice Cream

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.

Laurie eats his pumpkin pie ice cream

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Reed and Arlen

Arlette and Doomy

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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!

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