Food Adventure Team

Exploring San Francisco, one restaurant at a time.

Archive for the 'American' Category

FAT hits MUA!

2442a Webster St.
Oakland, CA 94612

Suggested by Morley

In attendance:

Eden G.

A group of 14 FATies hit up Oakland’s amazing MUA restaurant/art space this past Monday.

Every small plate they had was ordered and devoured… table favorites seemed to be the mac n’ cheese, po’ boy, carpaccio, and the grilled cheese.

Highly recommended!

Food Adventure Team goes to MUA!


a few more here.

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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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Honorary Food Adventure: Art’s Crab Shak, Oakland

Art’s Crab Shak

4031 Broadway
Oakland, CA 94611

Suggested by Andy

In attendance:

It just so happened that everyone in attendance at this dinner was a member of FAT, and because it was quite adventurous indeed, we declared the excursion an Honorary Food Adventure.

Art’s Crab Shak is a… fine dining establishment (?) situated on Broadway and 40th St. in Oakland, near where a bunch of us live or have lived. It’s that place you always drive by and say, “What the HECK is Art’s Crab Shak anyway?!” Momentum gathered around this question and finally we found ourselves sitting in a booth around a formica table, calculating which bucket-o-crab was the most cost efficient. On a Monday night, no less; fortunately our blatant flaunting of Anthony Bourdain’s “No seafood on Monday!” edict has not caused us any gastrointestinal distress.

Legend goes, Art’s used to be a steakhouse. It sure looks it. Now it’s an odd combination of dive bar and crab “shak”. Low ceilings, dim lighting, and dated decor add to the ambiance. All beer is bottled (a fine selection of Budweiser, Cornona, and Heineken) and wine is house only. For appetizers, you get a choice between about 10 different deep fried items. Crab comes in one-person, two-person, three-person, and four-person sized buckets (the three-person size, inexplicably, will get you the most bang for your buck). And what a buck it is; this is not a cheap restaurant. A one-person bucket will set you back $27! Don’t be surprised when they hand you the bill before you receive your meal; they expect you to pay for your meal in advance. Makes you wonder about their typical clientele…

The appetizers, eh, they were alright. Bunch of fried stuff. We got the hush puppies, the fried zucchini, and the tequila lime buffalo wings. The buffalo wings were actually quite tasty; crispy on the outside, moist and tender on the inside, flavorful, and not too greasy. They came with a great hot dipping sauce, too. Hush puppies and zucchini came with classic ranch sauce for dipping, and were tasty enough but nothing thrilling. We decided that at Art’s Crab Shak, you really should just go straight for the crab.

The crab, oh glorious crab! Granted, it wasn’t the most amazing crab EVER,but it sure was tasty, and utterly DRENCHED in melted butter, lemon, garlic, and pepper, topped with mushrooms that had been marinated in the same. Completely delicious. It came with sandwich rolls that had been sliced, buttered, and grilled — a basic garlic bread for dipping in the crab butter.

The fun of eating crab is really in the full-body, primal experience of it. We tied on our plastic bibs and dug in, butter spraying every which way, crab claws cracking, our brows furrowed in intense concentration as we struggled to get every last morsel of meat of of the legs of these delicious sea spiders. When it was over (too soon) we were buttered up to our elbows, our grins glistening and stomachs distended. Two wet-wipes apiece were not enough to clean this mess.

Final conclusion: “A totally worthwhile venture; Art’s Crab Shak met our expectations.”

Photo by Ed

More photos by Ed

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131 Gough St.
San Francisco, CA 94102

Suggested by Laurie

In attendance:


I must admit that I was a bit disappointed by the food at this place. I got there a little earlier than the rest of our team, so I had a chance to study the menu a bit. Everything looked absolutely amazing. I had a tough time trying to decide what to get! But, sadly, I felt everything fell a bit flat. It was a similar concept to the previous Food Adventrure — Maverick: fancied up comfort food. But where Maverick was divine, I felt Sauce was merely mediocre. The food was alright for sure, but didn’t exceed a decent home-cooked meal.

To start, we shared the Ham & Cheese Tater Tots. (Smoked Ham Hock & Tillamook Cheddar). Definitely tasty, but nothing terribly special. For one, I couldn’t figure out where the ham came into play. There were no chunks of it, and I didn’t notice a particularly obvious smoked flavor to the tater tots. They were basically deep fried “fingers” of mashed potatoes, served with a dipping sauce that, if I had to guess, I’d say was ketchup + mayo. In all, though, one of my favorite dishes of the evening. That’s because I’m a sucker for any sort of fried potato.

The presentation of everything was nice though. Tracey got the Pan Seared Hanger Steak (Yukon Potato Gratin, Crispy Shallots & Spinach Cremini Mushroom Demi Gloss) and it sure did look tasty. Laurie got the Prosciutto Wrapped Tilapia (Roasted Tomato Risotto, Caramelized Onion& Spinach, Toasted Black Pepper Beurre Blanc), which was my second choice and I ultimately wished I’d gotten because it looked so good. I didn’t try either of the dishes, though, except a bite of Tracey’s mushroom– which tasted like cooked barely-seasoned mushroom in its own juice.

I got the Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf (Individually Roasted Seasoned Ground Beef Wrapped in Apple Wood Smoked Bacon with Truffle Whipped Potato. French Green Beans & Mushrooms). Sounds amazing, right? Well… I was unimpressed. It looked quite nice — a heap of potatoes, bacon-wrapped meatloaf and green beans covered generously in gravy, with two long strips of… yam or sweet potato crisp (?) sticking up out of it. Well, to start, I tasted nothing of truffle in the mashed potatoes. They were perfectly creamy–which isn’t bad but also means there’s not much in the way of textural interest. They tasted pretty good, but honestly I’ve made better mashed ‘taters in my day. It’s hard to screw up mashed potatoes. The meatloaf was particularly disappointing. It was basically a ground beef patty. No seasoning other than salt, no chunks of onions, and it wasn’t even very juicy. Bland bland bland. The green beans were fine and the gravy was alright if not a bit one-dimensional. It seemed the only seasoning they had on hand that night was salt. Boring.

Dessert was good, but only the doughnuts got me super jazzed. We got the Sauce Sampler (Little bit of this and a little bit of that). As we were warned when we ordered, it was an enormous amount of dessert! It had their signature PB&J (Pan Seared Sponge Cake Layered with Homemade Strawberry Preserve and Frangelico Peanut Butter, Vanilla Ice Cream Center), Cinnamon Sugar Doughnuts (Fresh and hot with Vanilla Bourbon Dipping Sauce), Ice Cream Smash (In-House Ice Cream Creations Topped with Chocolate Sauce — that day it was a chocolate ice cream with peanuts, and something else I can’t remember), and Strawberries & Cream (Fresh Strawberries, Brown Sugar and Cream).

The strawberries & cream were really simple: strawberries attractively skewered with their stems which had already been cut off, brown sugar, on a thick pile of whipped cream. Simple and delicious — strawberries and brown sugar is actually something I grew up with. But really, not a dish that’s particularly exciting.

The ice cream smash was good too. It was 3 scoops of ice cream. Yep. Probably about on par with Ben & Jerry’s. Oddly, the ice cream of the day had whole peanuts in it, which gave it a texture I wasn’t terribly fond of. Not that I’d turn my nose up at it! But it certainly wasn’t exciting in the way that, say, the fennel ice cream at Absinthe was.

The PB&J — their signature dessert. Definitely unique! Maybe it’s just that it didn’t include any of my favorite things: chocolate, caramel, toffee– but it didn’t really float my boat. The pan-seared sponge cake was odd. It really did taste like toast. Weird, sponge cake toast. The rest of it, eh, I dunno. Just wasn’t really a fan. Odd, though, because actually peanut butter IS one of my favorite things… but I didn’t even notice it in this dish.

Ok, but the doughnuts… the doughnuts were awesome. Tiny crispy poofs with doughy centers, rolled in cinnamon sugar, with an absolutely delicious vanilla bourbon sauce to dip them in. Yay!

I do have to say that the service and ambiance were great. Not a single complaint there. Everyone was really friendly, and the place had nice decor and perfect lighting for a date or a casual night out with friends. We were supposed to be a party of five, but at the last minute two cancelled, leaving us with only three. The waitress was really cool about that, for which I was grateful.

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(In honor of those two
crazy mavericks
for president!)

3316 17th Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

Suggested by Josh S.

In attendance:


Maverick was brilliant.

When we first sat down, the waitress brought us complimentary tiny cups of house-made apple cider (the non-alcoholic, non-bubbly kind). Very spicy-sweet and tasty! There was also nice crusty bread with butter to nosh on while we waited for our appetizers.

To start, we shared:

  • Roasted Monterrey Sardines (candied meyer lemon, herbs, garlic mayonnaise, toast points, watercress, malt vinaigrette) – I’m not a sardine fan so I wasn’t super thrilled by this one. Too fishy, but I think that’s just how sardines are. I could tell that if you like sardines, this would be a really nice dish.
  • Roasted Persimmon Salad (sugar glazed Fuyu persimmon, spiced pecans, Little Gem lettuce, honey mustard vinaigrette) – I’m not big on persimmons either, but I really liked what they were dressed with, and the spiced pecans were awesome.
  • Fried Stuffed Padron Peppers (goat and cheddar cheese stuffed spicy peppers, smoked tomato relish, savoyed cabbage, creme fraiche vinaigrette) – these were nice and hearty (if not a bit messy). Very tasty, though nothing that made me want to sing to the heavens.

Andy ordered us a bottle of red wine that was quite nice, but I don’t remember what it was. I’m not a wine connoisseur so I won’t pretend to try to review it.

Andy and I got the Grilled Liberty Duck Breast (American Fall “Five Spice” rub, sauteed rapini greens, Sunchoke and potato puree, pomegranate seeds, duck jus). This was absolutely incredible. It was one of the tastiest things I have eaten EVER. Beautifully rare duck meat enveloped in a generously seasoned crust of fat. Sunchoke and potato puree was mindblowingly savory. All flavors worked together amazingly; it was a masterful balance of salty, sweet, umami. And the portion size was so generous that I didn’t mind sharing quite a few bites with my dining partners!

Leah and Laurie got the Southern Fried Chicken (Buttermilk soaked Rocky Jr. free range chicken, collard greens with country ham, mashed sweet potatoes, brown chicken gravy). The skin was beautifully crisp and the inside was wonderfully moist. Some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever had. Didn’t try any of the sides, so I can’t comment on them.

Josh got the Braised Long Ranch Pork Cheeks (Roasted pasilla chilies, butternut squash, Garbanzo beans, sweet cippolini onions, Ancho chili pork jus, lime creme fraiche). It was amazing to watch his head explode as he slowly devoured his meal. Eyes wide with wonder, he offered me a bite. A salty, crispy, fatty miracle.

Cricket and Tracey got the Strawberry Mountain Flat Iron Steak (Oregano and rosemary marinated steak, Brussels sprouts, truffle tater tots, parmesan peppercorn sauce, Maverick steak sauce). I didn’t try it so I can’t comment.

We all shared a couple of orders of Mac n’ Cheese. Pretty tasty, though it wasn’t as super amazing as the rest of the dishes. Luka’s mac n’ cheese is better.

For dessert we shared the Pumpkin Pie (Whipped vanilla creme fraiche, star anise caramel sauce) and the Chocolate Bread Pudding (Bi-Rite’s Malted Vanilla Peanut Brittle Milk Chocolate ice cream, spiced pecans, chocolate sauce). Wow, just wow. Best pumpkin pie I’ve ever had, and that star anise caramel sauce was otherworldly. Bread pudding was not what I would normally expect bread pudding to be like — it had more of muffin-like consistency, rather than chunks of bread soaked in batter. No matter; it was completely delcious.

Service was perfectly acceptable. Waitress mixed up our order a little (didn’t bring one of the sides we ordered, and only brought one bread pudding instead of two– though there was some confusion while we ordered, so it was understandable). It wasn’t a big deal though because we had just the right amount of food as it was. Reservation process was simple and everyone was really nice (you’d be amazed at the number of restaurants that don’t seem to want to help you give them money). Timing of food was impeccable. Ambiance was really nice: Dark, cozy and urban-rustic; modern decor accenting warm dark wood walls.

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