The trip to California was truly wonderful. In addition to completing the marathon that I’ve been writing about for months, I had great coffee and many other fine meals.

On Saturday, the day before the marathon, the goal was to not to do too much. So we just walked to Chinatown, a few short blocks from where we stayed: The Grand Hyatt in Union Square, The Grand Hyatt for lunch. We chose a second floor, dim sum restaurant: Kan’s Restaurant Kan’s Restaurant. The food was mediocre, but the service was better than most restaurants in NYC’s Chinatown. Some of the food was cold and some was too oily, but a few shrimp dishes were good. and our specially-ordered Chinese broccoli was perfect. The crystal shrimp dumplings and the shrimp wrapped in the flat white noodle both had great shrimp wrapped in so-so skin.

After the marathon, Lon asked the concierge for a restaurant recommendation. The concierge was everything except helpful. So we wandered around Union Square, until we found El Sotano, a great Mexican bar/restaurant, up a steep hill, near our hotel El Sotano. We were in love after just the chips and salsa. The salsa was homemade and had a rich (almost French-buttery-sauce) texture and good spice. Then came our entrees: Lon had the Green Monster Enchilada, two enchiladas filled with grilled chicken breast and covered in a citrus-flavored salsa verde and served with a side of seasoned black beans and rice. I had the Chile Relleno, a large poblano pepper filled with white cheese, battered, and deep fried. It was served aside refried pinto beans and rice.

Aside from loving the food, we were so impressed with the one women show. The hostess/waitress/bartender was tending over several customers flawlessly. She was seating people, taking orders, bussing tables, working the bar, taking payments, etc. all by herself, and at full speed. I guess that’s why this place was half full, even at 3pm.

French Vietnamese
For the last few days, we stayed at our friends’ (Kristine and Vinnie) place. When we arrived Monday evening, Kristine set out a great cheese and fruit plate for us. SF does have amazing strawberries and tomatoes. The cheese selection included a buttery Pecorino that Vinnie liked, a subtley-flavored Roquefort, and a locally-produced triple creme that Kris’ mom had recommended from Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company.

After some chatting, we headed out for a nearby dinner at Tao Cafe, a French Vietnamese place Tao Cafe. The complimentary pickled vegetables were nicely presented and very tasty. We chose to eat family style, so that we could try several dishes. The pho did not have the standard rare beef slices I love, but still offered a nice flavor, which we all enjoyed. Second we shared a perfectly prepared Lemongrass-crusted bass fillet, topped with a light coconut-sauce, and served aside carmelized plantain. It was a bit small for us to share, but Lon, in particular, loved this dish. Kris even sampled it, even though she doesn’t care much for bass.

Our next two dishes were both from the “Oodles of Noodles” menu section: Sauteed, Minced Beef, which was Kris’ favorite dish and Vietnamese Confit of Duck Leg, which was Vin’s favorite dish. Both plates were licked clean. It was relatively inexpensive, and an enjoyable experience with great friends.

SF is famous for its Fisherman’s Wharf, the west coast equivalent of NY’s South Street Seaport. A tourist trap by any other name is still a tourist trap, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find good eats.

Just off the main strip (Jefferson Street), there’s a great row of fish stands along Taylor Street Fish Stands on Taylor, where you can buy fresh shellfish. Some of these stands include Guardino’s, The Crab Station, Sabella & La Torre, and Nicks. While we didn’t try all of them, they are all the same formula: street stand with great, simple, cooked seafood: plain, in salads, or in sandwiches, backed by a larger sit-down restaurant. Since we were meeting my friend Anna for lunch, we picked one at random and just tried a small cup of crab meat, served with cocktail sauce and a lemon wedge. Nothing beats really fresh shellfish in my book. I would eat shellfish every day if I lived near this source.

Also situated on Fisherman’s Wharf is one location of the famous Boudin Bakery Boudin Bakery at Fishermans Wharf, known for their San Francisco Sourdough. Lon had told me that I must try the Boudin Sourdough Bread Bowl, which he had years ago so I did. The New England Clam Chowder was very good, but the sourdough was phenomenal! Anna’s French Onion Soup looked really good and she liked it. But the real winner, surprisingly, was Lon’s Cioppino. It was hands down the best either of us had ever tasted. The super large crab half was delicious; all of the seafood (calamari, mussels, fish, and shrimp) was perfectly cooked; and the flavors sank in to each piece. The bowl really put the Wild Salmon Cioppino to shame.

Also, while in the area, we walked over to Ghiradelli Square. I didn’t feel like there was that much to see in the area. Sure there is a Ghiradelli Cafe and some other shops, but nothing too fabulous, as Lon says, “To make the stairs worthwhile”. There is a new wine (and some gourmet foods) store called Cellar 360 that is designed nicely. And the
re is some construction happening in the area: they are currently putting up new condos for those chocolate lovers who’d like to live in “Cocoa Towers”.

posted by jessica at 05:46 PM Filed under Restaurants, Travel. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.