Monday, February 25, 2013

San Francisco: Balompie Cafe

MM (aka Homeskillet) was visiting from Chicago, so of course we had to spend a day in SF with her.  Our mini Chitown reunion (with the addition of TT and my sister) started at Tartine.  After that we killed some time at a coffee shop, before finally meandering to Balompie Cafe to meet up with MM's college friends for dinner:  

Balompie Cafe was super packed:

We had a huge party (9 people!), but luckily things worked out.

TT, VT, my sister, and I sat across from each other, so we decided to split everything.

We started with a glass of horchata:

Not even close to the best horchata I've ever had.  Meh.

In the interest of trying something new, we ordered fried sweet corn tamales with sour cream:

Sweet and simple.

We also ordered the pasteles de pollo:

Which were corn pies filled with chicken:

Both the corn tamales and the corn pies were just okay, but the star of the meal were without a doubt the pupusas.  

Half of what makes the pupusas great are the salsa and the pickled veggies that go on top:

We got 3 kinds of pupusas:

The Salvadoran veggies with cheese, the shrimp with cheese, and the ground pork with jalapenos and cheese.

Here's what the perfect bite looks like:

Pupusas, my friends, are magical.  Skip everything else.  Order at least 2 per person.  Trust me.

I want to shout it from the rooftops: I LOVE PUPUSAS!

PS. I miss you, Homeskillet.

Balompie Cafe
3349 18th St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 648-9199

Monday, February 18, 2013

San Francisco: Eggettes

After the subpar dinner at Thanh Long, we wanted some ice cream to bring up our mood.  We walked into Polly Ann, but surprisingly weren't feeling it, so we headed next door to Eggettes instead:

It was pretty quiet inside:

We originally wanted some mo mo cha cha, a Chinese coconut soup with sago...but they ran out.  Wut.

Disappointed for the second time that night, we tried to fill the mo mo cha cha shaped holes in our heart with eggettes:

And rice rolls:

It just wasn't the same.  We ate both the eggettes and the rice rolls without much enthusiasm.

I think Thanh Long sucked all the joy out of our night.  Never underestimate the power of one bad meal.  It can really screw with your appreciation for the rest of the day.

Sorry, Eggettes.  It wasn't you.  It's me.  Or actually, it was Thang Long.

3136 Noriega St
San Francisco, CA 94122
(415) 681-8818

Sunday, February 17, 2013

San Francisco: Thanh Long

I'd been curious about Vietnamese style crabs for a while. AF, TT, and I finally made our way to Thanh Long to see what all the fuss was about:

Our first impression of the restaurant could be summed up in one word: fancy.  There's valet service outside, the bar was pretty snazzy, and all the waitstaff were dressed up.

We started with Thanh Long mussels as an appetizer:

The mussels were broiled with Asian pesto and rested on crostini.  It's kinda awkward to eat crostini with the mussels still in the shell.  Okay, so maybe I'm super lazy, but the extra step seems rather unnecessary to me.  The Asian pesto could have been very good, except that it was way too salty.

There are two dishes that Thanh Long is known for.  One is the garlic noodles:

I guess the noodles were good, but they were also very underwhelming.  There's nothing in the noodles besides the "special" garlic sauce.  Not. Impressed.  It tasted like something you could make at home out of an instant noodle bag.

The other dish that Thanh Long is known for is its crab.  There are 3 types: drunken, roasted, and tamarind.  Our server recommended the roasted crab, so that's what we got:

Like the noodles, the crab was pretty meh.  It was good, but nowhere near mind-blowing.  The crab was on the small side too.

Before we'd even finished eating, AF and TT were on their phones looking up potential second dinners.  We joked about getting burgers afterwards...expect we weren't really kidding.

Don't see what all the fuss is about.  Sorry, Thanh Long.  We left feeling completely dissatisfied and also kinda...angry.  Like we'd been lied to and cheated out of a good meal.

Thanh Long
4101 Judah St
San Francisco, CA 94122
(415) 665-1146

San Francisco: The Ice Cream Bar

We passed by The Ice Cream Bar after dinner at Cha Cha Cha, but were way too full (and cold) to even think about ice cream.  Instead, we returned the next day after breakfast at Art's Cafe:

There's nothing wrong with ice cream in the morning.

Especially when it comes from a swanky soda fountain:

We ogled over over all the ice cream flavors:

There were some pretty interesting flavors like fromage blanc and carrot cake.

Ultimately, we decided on a slice of the ice cream cake of the week:

Chocolate cake layers with peppermint ice cream and if my memory serves, coffee ice cream in-between.

We also got the caramel apple float:

Housemade green apple soda with citric acid and topped with caramelized honey ice cream.  Tasted like autumn.

Out of curiosity, we also ordered The Passion Project, which was heavily recommended by the soda jerk:

The description was too interesting to pass up: house-blended chai tea tincture, turbinado syrup, cream, lactart, soda, and tobacco aromatic.

Tobacco aromatic?  Heck, we couldn't identify any of the ingredients on the list except for the cream and soda.  Turbinado?  Tincture?  Lactart?  What the hell?  This place requires a dictionary to really know what you're ordering.

The Passion Project tasted licorice-y and made us feel like we should have been wearing smoking jackets.

The Ice Cream Bar is definitely not your average ice cream joint.  Kids are certainly welcome, but The Ice Cream Bar is designed for adults in mind, if the alcoholic fountain sodas menu is anything to go by.

As a bonus, we got to observe an engagement photo shoot while we were there.

...Awkward.  Nothing's more cringe-worthy than watching a couple pretend to laugh and kiss lovingly.

We wanted to yell at them when they ordered a milkshake as a prop but barely touched it.  What a waste!

The Ice Cream Bar
815 Cole St
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 742-4932

Friday, February 15, 2013

San Francisco: Art's Cafe

AF heard about a Korean diner, so of course we had to check it out. When we got to Art's Cafe for brunch, there was already a small line outside:

We didn't understand why until we peeked inside and saw that the entire restaurant consisted of the kitchen...and a counter:

Which was super cool because you could see everything that went on in the kitchen.  It's a tight squeeze back there, but the staff made it work. I especially loved watching the owner and his wife, a cute Korean couple, man the grill and pass plates around like no big deal.

The 3 of us decided to split everything.  That's what I love about eating with my girls.  There's no need to ask, sharing goes without saying.

Two of our entrees came with toast:

Sometimes, there's nothing better than a warm piece of buttered toast with jam.  Yum.

Since it was a Korean diner, we figured we should try something purely Korean, so we went with the bulgogi daily special:

It was kind of just meh. My old roommate made better bulgogi at home. The kimchi was also kind of bland.

The pancakes, however, were much more impressive:

Not only were the pancakes super fluffy, the top on also looked like a stingray.  Which just about made my day.

The hashbrown sandwich was a new thing for me:

Instead of hash browns on the side, the hash browns were flattened into a sheet and folded over spinach, onions, mushrooms, and hot sausage:

Hellooooo hashbrown sandwich.  Thank you for coming into my life.

The omelete looked plain at first glance:

But it was stuffed with tofu, kimchi, sausage, and gochujang:

Love the homey feel of Art's Cafe.  Everything tastes like it came from your mom's stove top...that is, if your mom is a Korean ahjumma.

I never thought I would say this, but skip the purely Korean dishes and go straight for the fusion stuff.  Ack...I don't even know who I am anymore.

A tip for all of you who want to check out Art's Cafe: go early, bring cash, and leave the entourage at home!

Art's Cafe
747 Irving St
San Francisco, CA 94122
(415) 665-7440

Sunday, February 10, 2013

San Francisco: Cha Cha Cha

TT and I left poor AF waiting on a Friday night because TT's car, fondly dubbed "Janky" by moi, wouldn't start.  Thank goodness Janky let us know it wasn't feeling well while we were still in TT's garage.  I wouldn't even know what to do if Janky had given out on us on the road.  

Two buses and a brisk walk later, we got to Cha Cha Cha:

The place was crammed full of people even at such a late hour:

Since she didn't have to drive, TT insisted on getting a pitcher of sangria:

Alcohol isn't really my thing (greatest understatement of the century), but I do love chips and salsa.  Especially when it's complimentary:

I also love LOVE love bread:

And free bread trumps all.  Doubly so when paired with butter.

We started with the ceviche:

Tiny scallops, shrimp, and calamari soaked in spicy lime-serrano chili vinaigrette.  It was pretty good, but I still prefer ceviche made with fish.

The fried new potatoes with chila pasilla aioli was a definite homerun for me:

As was the cajun shrimp:

Forget the shrimp, it's all about the spicy cream sauce.  We kept asking for bread refills because we couldn't stop sopping up the crack sauce.

The whole reason why we went to Cha Cha Cha was because TT had a craving for paella:

Cha Cha Cha's seafood paella comes with mussels, mixed fish, shrimp, calamari, chicken, andouille sausage, and bay scallops.  Not the best paella I've ever had, but pretty darn good.

All in all, a great night.  Long wait, cramped dining (I think I could have elbowed the woman at the table next to us if I really wanted to give her a surprise), but good food and friendly service.  I probably wouldn't go back any time soon, but I wouldn't mind taking some cajun shrimp and fried new potatoes to go.

Cha Cha Cha
1801 Haight St
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 386-7670

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Oakland: Legendary Palace

I dragged my parents to Oakland with me to attend my swear-in ceremony.  To be honest, the ceremony itself was rather anti-climatic and over before I knew it.  What I was most looking forward to wasn't exactly the moment I would officially become a lawyer, but instead...lunch.

My dad wasn't too impressed by my first choice, which was a grungy hole-in-the-wall.  That's why we ended up at Legendary Palace for dim sum:

The place was crammed full with elderly Chinese people:

Always a good sign in my book.

As usual, we piled on the typical dim sum goodies.  Nothing new or fancy necessary.

My favorite is still pan-fried chive dumplings:

Though I do have a soft spot for xian shui jiao

Steamed dumplings are a little lower on my personal dim sum totem pole:

Meatballs and tofu are probably somewhere near the bottom:

My parents can't go without phoenix claws:

Shrimp dumplings are kind of neutral territory.  I doubt anyone has any strong feelings about them:

Whereas most people love shrimp rice noodle rolls:

And shao mai:

More steamed dumplings to act as stomach filler:

If you're looking for decent dim sum in Oakland, Legendary Palace is a good bet.  It's not the best in the Bay Area, but it'll do.

In other news...I'm a lawyer now!

Legendary Palace
708 Franklin St
Oakland, CA 94607
(510) 663-9188
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