Category Archives: California

Final Food Adventures in San Francisco

As it turns out, I ended up postponing my food exploration to non-touristy areas in San Francisco to my last few weeks in the Bay Area. After my finals, I got the chance to explore some Vietnamese / Thai food in Tenderloin as well as some popular eateries at Richmond / Sunset.

I have always heard things about Tenderloin – about how I should avoid accidentally walking into Tenderloin, especially in the evenings, because of safety reasons. After finding out that Little Saigon was in Tenderloin, I simply thought to myself that I had to check out this place at least once. I have also never had banh mi before so I thought, why not? My friend and I went to Saigon Sandwich, a small place where you can supposedly find the best banh mi in San Francisco.

Roast Pork Banh Mi @ Saigon Sandwich, Tenderloin, SF

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This is evidently a go-to lunch place for a lot of people working in the area. I’m not surprised, considering how you only need to spend $3.75 to fill yourself up – a steal in the city. My friend and I shared a roast pork banh mi and it was really delicious. I liked the baguette, the crunchy carrots and not to mention their sauce! Unfortunately, our eating experience was interrupted by a scary looking homeless person who kept knocking on the glass window we were sitting by. He was quite relentless and I was honestly scared but after awhile he left to bother some other customers waiting in line…

We then hopped to a Thai restaurant that Felicia absolutely loves called Zen Yai Thai. She had been evangelizing their mini boat noodles and after trying them, I don’t blame here for it. Their tom yum broth was pretty amazing and I also really enjoyed the broth in the our second boat noodle, which supposedly is made from curdled blood.

Tom Yum Boat Noodle @ Zen Yai Thai, Tenderloin, SF

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Beef (or Pork?) Boat Noodle @ Zen Yai Thai, Tenderloin, SF

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Excellent broth and noodles for $2.50 each and as Felicia recommended, get many different combos of boat noodles to share with your friends.

I got to try more Chinese food in the Richmond and Sunset area – more notably, Shanghai Dumpling King and San Tung Chicken Restaurant. Shanghai Dumpling King is kind of known for their xiao long baos (soup dumplings) but unfortunately it fell short of my expectations. I was initially a little put off by how red and raw the meat filling looked but it ended up tasting fine. However, I thought it didn’t have very much soup at all. Perhaps I was unlucky enough to get a mediocre batch of xiao long baos.

San Tung  Chicken Restaurant, on the contrary, lived up to my expectations. My friends and I had their shrimp and leek dumplings, sauteed Chinese long beans, and of course, their popular dry fried chicken wings. All of them were really great but too bad I was too hungry to even remember to take pictures before we devoured the food.

 

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Burma Superstar

It was only during my last few weeks in the Bay Area that I got to explore Inner Richmond in San Francisco. Under many friends’ recommendations, I grabbed my birthday dinner at Burma Superstar! This birthday girl was fortunate because she was seated immediately but shortly after, a line developed outside the restaurant’s entrance. Tip: Go on a weekday before 6PM to beat the crowd.

The items on the menu weren’t any surprise to me because I have dined at a Burma Superstar in Oakland as well as a similar establishment in Berkeley called Rangoon Super Stars, both located along Telegraph Ave. I absolutely enjoyed the salads at both establishments and since my friends claimed that the ones here were better, I ended up ordering the same things.

Rainbow Salad

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Tea Leaf Salad

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The Rainbow Salad consists of 22 food ingredients including fresh noodles, papaya, crispy wonton skins and tofu. The Tea Leaf Salad, as its name implies, has tea leafs in it and the flavor definitely stands out in a good way. I believe it was featured in the Food Network too. As you can probably tell from the pictures, they are more interesting and flavorful than your average spinach or kale salad. Personally, I preferred the Rainbow Salad but they were both excellent dishes. I would definitely recommend these dishes to anyone who hasn’t tried them before. Their coconut rice is pretty good too and it basically reminded me of the rice in nasi lemak in Brunei.

I asked the servers if they had any special treats for birthday girls and they brought out two scoops of lychee sorbet with a lit candle on top, yay! And as if that amount of sugar wasn’t enough for the day, I walked over to Schubert’s Bakery to get myself a slice of their popular Swedish Princess.

Beautiful cakes at Schubert’s Bakery

Schubert

No pictures of the actual slice that I got but the Swedish Princess is basically a layered cake with raspberry and custard filling, topped with icing that looked like fondant. It was definitely one of the best mousse cakes I have had but I still have a soft spot for the cakes at Masse’s Pastries in Berkeley.

The World’s My Oyster

More like oyster’s my world.

On our way for a fabulous ladies day out at Napa Valley, a friend suggested we made a stop at Hog Island Oyster for lunch. After Hog Island Oyster, there’s no way I can be satisfied with oysters served at hotel buffets anymore – both a blessing and a curse.

Raw Oysters including Hog Island Kumamoto

Fresh Oysters

 

Baked Oysters
Baked Oysters

The oysters are incredibly fresh and heavenly, both the raw and baked. I particularly liked the ones baked with delightfully sinful amount of butter and herbs. Their clam chowder is pretty different from your average chowder in that its consistency is more like that of  thin soup. Still pretty darn good though!

Clam ChowderClam Chowder

Protein Style

I don’t always eat burgers – in fact, it’s a rare occurence – but when I do, it’s got to be In N Out.

To those who don’t know, In N Out has a secret menu with some popular items like their Animal Fries (fries topped with their famous sauce and grilled onions) and the Protein Style. Protein Style is basically their burger but wrapped with lettuce leaves instead of the regular burger bun. I got it –

In N Out

 

– and I love it.

The cooked beef patty juxtaposed with the light, fresh lettuce is just heaven in my mouth.

Blue Bottle Baby

Blue Bottle coffee, the beloved baby of many caffeine lovers in San Francisco. After receiving multiple shocked responses from friends who found out I hadn’t tried this famed coffee after nearly four years in the area, I decided that this day had to happen.

New Orleans Iced Coffee @ Blue Bottle, SOMA
New Orleans Iced Coffee

My verdict? I don’t think I’m enough of a coffee connoisseur to appreciate Blue Bottle. My heart has been captured by Philz Coffee – by the refreshing iced mint mojito and the smooth mocha tesora – now and possibly forever.

SF Japantown: Japanese Crepes

When in San Francisco’s Japantown, you have to get yourself a Japanese crepe with gelato if you haven’t already.  The question is, Sophie’s Crepe or Belly Good Cafe?

Green Tea Gelato Crepe @ Sophie’s Crepe, Japantown SF

Honestly, I don’t know. I had gelato crepes from both at too far apart times to be able to recall and compare. All I remember is that they were both different in some aspects but I walked out of the plaza both times an extremely satisfied person. All I can offer are some tips:

Tip One: Save enough space in your stomach for the crepe. Eating a whole crepe after downing an entire bowl of ramen was not a good idea.

Tip Two: Belly Good Cafe makes super kawaii faces on top of the gelato if you consider that a plus (I did!).

Tip Three: Green tea gelato, always.

It still remains one of my big regrets for not having more of these delectable crepes before leaving NorCal so please have them on behalf of me if you can.

Little Eataly

During my family’s visit to the San Francisco Bay Area for my graduation, I decided to take them on a tour around Little Italy in San Francisco so they could have a taste of Italian food that was more authentic than what we could find in our hometown. We stumbled upon Firenze by Night, which turned out to be popular among patrons who approve of the dishes’ authenticity.

A lot of Yelp reviewers rave about their gnocchi which I did not end up ordering because I generally find gnocchi too starchy. Instead, I ordered the Pappardelle ala Toscana which a lot of people reviewed very favourably too. It is basically very wide pasta noodles in rabbit sauce, definitely a deviation from the likes of Chicken Marsala or Frutti di Mare that I frequently order at Italian restaurants. Rabbit sauce sounded interesting to me so I went with it.

Pappardelle ala Toscana @ Firenze by Night, Little Italy SF

Pappardelle Toscana

It was quite a simple dish but not the pasta-I-can-cook-myself kind of simplicity. It was literally fresh egg pasta. And sauce. With bits of rabbit meat. It was a good dish but not overwhelmingly amazing like what I was led to believe. Perhaps my taste in Italian food is less authentic and more American than I thought. I also had a taste of the other dishes that my family ordered which had seafood and I have to say that Firenze by Night does its seafood well. The seafood linguini that my mother ordered as well as the seafood entree my father got were tres fresh and delicious.

Seafood Linguini @ Firenze by Night, Little Italy SF

Overall, Excellent service and better than your average Italian restaurant. However, I would like to believe that there are better Italian restaurants in the same price range somewhere in Little Italy or the city. My family and I actually preferred our experience at Scoma’s Restaurant in Fisherman’s Wharf despite the heftier bill (old post here).

As for desserts, we undoubtedly went for gelato. I took my family to Gelataria Naia, a chain that was very popular among my friends before the branch in Berkeley closed down. Somehow, the gelato fell short of what I remembered it to be and I found myself favouring Almare Gelato in Berkeley. Yay to locally owned stores!

Oodles of Noodles

 I am absolutely a fan of noodles and there are days when I crave saucy, thick Asian noodles that aren’t like your greasy chow mein take out. One of the places in Berkeley that I know has pretty good noodles is Noodle Theory.

Upon stepping in, you’ll realize that this establishment caters to a different kind of crowd that you typically see in restaurants close to college – more mature, professional adults and more non-Asians than you would expect from an Asian noodle restaurant. This is probably because the food here errs on the side of fusion more than authentic Asian.

Pan Seared Duck Breast over Noodle in Spicy Red Curry

If there is one thing that Noodle Theory does pretty well, it is the sauces and soup that come with the noodles. My friend ordered a bowl of thick noodles with kimchi sauce – the special of the day – and I thought it was really good. I actually liked it more than my pan seared duck noodle in thai red curry, which after a while felt too rich. I’ve also had their other food items like spicy pork ramen in peanut lime broth – great, flavourful broth but a-okay ramen noodle. I guess I had expected the Japanese type of noodle instead of the ones that come out of a Korean ramen packet.

Despite my dissatisfaction with the ramen noodle, I do like the sauces and broth in this place and I have made multiple visits to this place to experiment with the different items in their menu. This is the place to go if you are craving noodles but fancy something different and more upscale than your typical Thai or Chinese restaurant, and also if you are feeling a little more generous with your money.

Munch Time with Munchery

 It was within the walls of my department’s computer lab that my friend discovered the existence of Munchery, another food made order and deliver company that was gaining popularity in the Bay Area. After trying it once, he has pretty much been evangelizing this company and convinced me to give it a shot.

My first impression of Munchery was that it targets customers who are too busy to cook but want an healthier alternative to regular restaurant food. Most items on the menu seem to have good balance of protein, carbs and vegetables. It also caters to people who are particular about their food being organic or wheat-free and all that jazz. Another one of their selling points is how exotic and clean the items in the menu looked, ranging from things like Peruvian chicken soup to Chashu ramen.

Munchery

Under my friend’s recommendation, I got the pollo cubano and I was pretty impressed. The chicken was oh so juicy and tender, and the sauce it was doused in was delicious and foreign to my palate in a good way. It made me felt like I was discovering a taste from a different part of the world and I think that was probably the kind of cultural experience that Munchery wanted to deliver with its food. However, the chicken was lined with a lot more fat than I expected (which probably made it taste so good) for a company that seems to give off the impression of serving healthy food.

Having tried it once, it made sense to me  why Munchery and other similar companies have been getting good reception in the area. That happened to be the only time I ordered from Munchery because I was not quite willing to pay full price for their food (I got a discount the first time). If cost isn’t a deterrent and you are itching to try some of their exotic selections, I’d say why not 🙂

Koja Kitchen

 In between juggling schoolwork and having a blast in my final semester in college, I decided to take a break from my food blogging activities. Blogging may have been on a hiatus but the food explorations did not! A mere five minute walk from my apartment can take me to restaurant-flanked Telegraph Ave. In the last semester, many Berkeley students were excited about the opening of Koja Kitchen on this street.

Koja Kitchen which was initially a food truck that would often make appearances at the weekly Off the Grid. It was actually one of the few food trucks that I genuinely enjoyed and thought was decent worth for money. So you can imagine my friends and my joy when we found out that we no longer have to track the truck’s schedule and location for a bite of their juicy koja sandwiches.

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The first time I had the koja sandwich, I fell in love with the novelty of Korean fusion food and the rice buns (and enjoyed it more than ramen burgers). Most friends prefer the pork koja sandwich but my personal favourite is the chicken koja which was juicy, slightly spicy and sweet all in one.

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Unfortunately one koja sandwich will probably not fill you up so the kamikaze fries are a popular accompaniment to the sandwiches. They are basically french fries topped with beef bulgogi and sauce. I think they are alright but some people seem to love these fries.

I was quite surprised that I didn’t make more visits to Koja Kitchen throughout the semester. Perhaps the fact that it was no longer a commodity of limited availability didn’t make it seem all that hot to me anymore. However, I would recommend anyone in Berkeley who hasn’t had this before to  give it a shot!