Thursday, December 30, 2010

San Francisco: Hog Island Oyster Co.

We were really lucky to find parking a few blocks from the Ferry Building (with 45 minutes still on the meter too!). We were a bit early for happy hour at Hog Island, so we browsed around Sur La Table for a while, checking out all the cool kitchen gadgets that you want but don't really need. About 15 minutes before 5:00pm, we headed over to Hog Island. Good thing we did - the line had already started:

The entire restaurant is made up of a large U-shaped counter, some small tables along the two sides, and some outdoor seating looking out over the bay. With the size of the place, it's not a surprise that the line is so long. Once you miss the first wave, you're in for quite a wait:

We weren't crazy enough about oysters to sit outside in the cold, so we chose to wait for a table to open up inside. This meant we had plenty of time to peruse the menu. We skipped straight to the section that pertained to us:

Hog Island has happy hour every Monday and Thursday from 5:00 to 7:00pm. It used to be $1 per oyster, but prices have gone up to $1.25. Oh well, such are the times.

The wait actually wasn't all that bad. Servers came by to take drink orders for those at the front of the line. We didn't end up scoring a counter seat as we wanted, but the window table with the view of the Bay Bridge wasn't so bad.

My sister was particularly interested in the bread:

What I was interested in were the Chelsea gem oysters. We started off with 20:

Luckily, my sister counted them while my friend and I were busy taking pictures. She alerted us to the fact that we were short some oysters. After counting and re-counting to make sure, we all agreed that there were only 18 oysters before us.

We mentioned this to a server and were immediately brought our missing two...and one extra:

Crisis averted.

The oysters were amazingly fresh. They were quite salty and fantastic on their own, but I preferred to squirt lemon on them (3 drops each) and douse them in the vinegary sauce.

We ended up ordering 10 more oysters after the initial 20 (21 if you count the bonus one). To be really full, you'll probably have to order way more than that and perhaps off their regular menu as well. The non-happy hour items are pretty pricey and since we'd eaten so much that day and still had ice cream to look forward to, 31 oysters were enough for the three of us.

Hog Island Oyster
1 Ferry Building #11A
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 391-7117

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

San Francisco: Sabella & La Torre's

After taking a self-guided tour around the base of Coit Tower (the elevator was closed...just our luck), we decided to make use of my Pier 39 parking coupon and get some calamari at the Fisherman's Wharf:

I was surprised by how busy it was on a Thursday:

But I guess half the fun is squeezing around people as you try to figure out which stall to eat from:

I usually go to either Sabella or Nick's Lighthouse, depending on who has the freshest batch of fried calamari, because they both include the tentacles (which I love). I always get my clam chowder bowls at Sabella though:

On this particular day, the calamari looked better at Sabella:

I always get the 2 item combo with fried shrimp and calamari:

The shrimp were fantastic as usual, but the calamari was disappointing. They were soft and not crunchy at all. There were also no tentacles! Ugh...the travesty. The serving size has also halved. They used to use two overlapping paper trays to fit all the food. Not anymore. My friend and my sister commented on how the calamari at Barcode (a pearl tea joint by my house) is far superior.

I always get my clam chowder bread bowls at Sabella because they give you the chunk of bread that they dig out to make the bowl:

Other places only give crackers. Boo. My favorite part is the sourdough bread. I let others drink the soup while I just dip:

This was the first time that we ever finished the entire bread bowl. Usually I get to half before I have to call it quits. But this time...this time my sister persevered. Woot woot!

Overall, I was disappointed by this Fisherman's Wharf run. I always talk about how great the calamari is there and it just didn't deliver this time. And also, the concrete stump we always sit on has been transformed into an advertisement pole! Sigh...I had so many good memories on that stump...

Sabella & La Torre's
2809 Taylor St
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 673-2824

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

San Francisco: Tartine Bakery

My friend took my sister and I out for a San Francisco day. Our whole purpose was to make it to Hog Island's happy hour, so we basically planned the entire trip around that.

Our first stop was Tartine. The line was out the door at 11:00am:

People come from all over to check out Tartine. We made conversation with the lady ahead of us in line and she told us that she'd come from San Mateo specifically for Tartine. She was particularly impressed when we told her that we'd driven from San Jose.

Looking at a menu isn't quite the same as looking into the display cases and actually seeing all the goodies laid out in all their glory:

I'm always tempted by the savory selection, but my sweet tooth always wins out when I visit Tartine:

The interior is small and a bit crowded, but if you're lucky, a table might open up by the time you finish paying at the cashier:

There's also outdoor seating, but we weren't in the mood to brave the chill.

The three of us decided to split 3 pastries. First up was the eclair:

What makes this eclair so awesome is its light cream filling:

As with everything at Tartine, the cream isn't overpoweringly sweet. The lightness of the cream goes perfectly with the richness and slight bitterness of the chocolate topping.

One of my favorites at Tartine is its double pain au chocolat:

The bread is flaky with a touch of savory, while the chocolate is dark and decadent:

My other favorite is the coconut cream tart:

Dark chocolate, burnt caramel, and air-like coconut can life get any better than that?:

I can never finish a tart by myself, so it was good that I had others to help me.

We ordered everything to-go because we thought we wouldn't finish. Yea, right. Soooo not a problem for us.

Next time I go back to Tartine, I'm definitely going to try one of their savory concoctions. All I have to do is work on not being distracted by the tempting array of sweets...

Tartine Bakery
600 Guerrero St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 487-2600

Sunday, December 26, 2010

South Bay: Pho Kim Long

I can't come home to San Jose and not leave without going to Pho Kim Long:

Kim Long is my family's default pho restaurant. It's cheap, the portions are huge, the food is good, and it's close to my house.

My mom likes to get spring rolls wherever she can:

My parents always share a large bowl of pho because they can't finish one by themselves:

Depending on my mood, I usually order pho, dry vermicelli noodles, or chicken over rice. I was in a rice mood:

I love the spicy, sour sauce that come with the chicken. The chicken itself is very juicy and boneless (which is a plus for a lazy person such as myself). The rice plate also comes with a bowl of chicken broth that I like to mix my rice with.

Unfortunately, when things go well with rice, I tend to overeat and end up with a stomachache. Lack of self control can be painful at times, take my word for it.

Pho Kim Long
2082 N Capitol Ave
San Jose, CA 95132
(408) 946-2181

Friday, December 24, 2010

South Bay: Chaat Paradise

In our typical indecisive fashion, it took us a long, long time before we finally all agreed to continue our undergrad roommate reunion in the South Bay. 3 of the girls slept over at my place in San Jose and the next morning we drove out to Mountain View to meet the Berkeley-turned-Stanford member of our group for an early lunch.

At least that was the plan. Our supposedly 25 minute drive turned into an hour long excursion when my friend's TomTom decided to take us on a wild goose chase. When our friend told us that Chaat Paradise specialized in Indian street food, a grassy highway entrance wasn't exactly what we envisioned. Thankfully, we eventually found our way there (albeit 30 minutes late):

The restaurant quickly filled up after we took our seats:

I'm going to come out and say straight up that I have no idea what was in each and every dish that we ordered. All I know is that it all tasted delicious.

First up was the pani poori. Pani apparently means water and poori is this type of hollow fried dough balls:

First you take a poori and gently tap a hole into it with a spoon to create a bowl. Then you fill it with whatever you want (I do a little of everything):

The fillings include potatoes, veggies that I will pretend I didn't see, raw onions, this awesome crunchy stuff, and tamarind sauce. The pani part is the mint water that you pour in at the very end.

Here's the finished product:

You're supposed to pop the entire thing into your mouth.

Next came the dahi bateta poori:

I can't even begin to list what's in this. There's a layer of poori on the bottom, topped by all this fabulousness...sort of like the Indian version of nachos. The tamarind sauce brought a slightly tangy burst to every bite.

The hara bhara bhel, on the other hand, was a bit spicy, but delicious all the same:

These had to be the cutest samosas I've ever seen:

I've never had a samosa I didn't like:

My favorite samosas, however, are still the ones that my friend's mom makes.

We thought we mind need something with a bit more substance, so we ordered some saag paneer:

The hara bhara paratha went perfectly with the creamy spinach and cheese of the saag paneer:

The hara bhara paratha is basically pan fried wheat bread stuffed with cauliflower, potatoes, and spinach:

I knew going in that Chaat Paradise is a vegetarian restaurant and to be honest, I forgot all about it once the food arrived. That's right. I said it. I enjoyed a purely vegetarian meal.


Chaat Paradise
165 E El Camino Real
Mountain View, CA 94040
(650) 965-1111

Berkeley: Nanayiro

On Sunday, my sister and I went up to Berkeley to cheer my ex-roommate on (or more accurately, embarrass her) at her graduation. After the speediest graduation ceremony I've ever sat through (less than an hour?!), we were treated to lunch at Nanayiro.

Nanayiro was our go-to Japanese restaurant back in our undergrad days. It serves decent food and more importantly, it's located right across the street from our apartment. How convenient is that? It did, however, take us a while to figure out the restaurant name as there's no sign outside.

As always, we started off with salad and miso soup:

My sister and I split a roll and an udon. To get maximum sashimi love, we went with the rose garden roll:

It's basically a hamachi and avocado roll wrapped in alternating pieces of salmon and tuna sashimi. So pretty.

Here's the beef udon:

The noodles were Q, so no complaints here.

I just wanted to include a photo of my friend's baked mussels:

They were on FIRE. Crazy cool.

Congratulations to my Korean dongseng on your graduation! And a big thanks to your parents for a fantastic meal.

2399 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA 94701
(510) 704-8224

Thursday, December 23, 2010

South Bay: La Milpa

My parents had a dinner engagement on Saturday, leaving my sister and me to fend for ourselves. Always resourceful, I called up my ahyi and asked if she wanted to grab some dinner. She did.

After some talk about finally driving all the way out to inner Richmond (or Alameda or Oakland...I wasn't picky) for some Burma Superstar, negotiations fell through and we ended up at my second choice, La Milpa. Which was actually my first choice. Burma Superstar was just a bit of wishful thinking, but a person can dream, right?

I have some fond memories of La Milpa, stemming back from my high school days. I remember it getting pretty busy at night, but even I was surprised by the groups of people huddled around the front door and clogging up the waiting area inside. Luckily, I wasn't daunted by the potential wait and within 20-30 min, we were seated.

Free chips abound:

My ahyi ordered the taco salad:

My sister and I decided to split two dishes. I always order the same thing (the chimi with beef), so I let my sister choose this time. She wanted the large burrito:

The large burrito was...large. It was stuffed full with shredded beef, rice, beans, cheese, tomatoes, guacamole, and sour cream:

I'm ashamed to say this, but I was full after eating half of that gargantuan burrito. So full that I couldn't really enjoy our second dish.

We did manage to clear the salad that came with it though:

Oh, my poor neglected chile colorado:

The chile colorado came with a choice of flour or corn tortillas, before I could even open my mouth, the server said "flour" and walked away. Ah well, I didn't mind either way. The beef was heavily flavored and a little bit on the salty side, but it went well with the rice and beans.

We didn't exactly get the most patient server, but it was a pretty busy night and he was a bit of an anomaly. But the food is legit (La Milpa's loyal customer base can attest to that). My favorite dish is still the chimi, so I'll be getting that the next time I go back.

La Milpa
107 N Milpitas Blvd
Milpitas, CA 95035
(408) 945-6540
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