Monday, February 22, 2016

San Francisco: Lychee Cafe

My family's quest for a late lunch after grocery shopping on Irving St brought us to Lychee Cafe:

We were slightly too early for happy hour (2pm-6pm), but we didn't feel like waiting around just for it.  So in we went:

The restaurant was super spacious, with high ceilings and lots of natural light.  Not exactly usual for a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco.

My father always orders seafood pan fried noodles ($5.75) when he sees it on a menu:

My mother, on the other hand, always wants Fujian (or "Fook Kin" as spelled by Lychee Cafe) friend rice ($8.50):

As for me?  I love myself a good baked seafood rice ($6.75):

Yea...that's a lot of noodles and rice.  We should probably pick only one per meal, but we can't help ourselves.

Lychee Cafe has a three dishes plus soup special for $17.95.  You get to choose from a pretty long list.  We were only really interested in two.  One was the deep fried flounder:

The second was the walnut prawns:

Both are dishes you can't really make at home.  We used to order these all the time at the 3-dish-1-soup restaurant by our house before it closed, so it felt really nostalgic get them.

The menu said that a single item cost $6.50, which we thought to be a good deal, so we didn't bother getting a third item.  It wasn't until we got the bill that we learned the $6.50 price only kicks in after you've ordered at least three dishes.  Instead, each came around $10.

Ugh.  That was super annoying, but it took so long for us to finish our meal that we didn't even want to bother arguing.

Everything was slow.  From getting our orders taken to getting the food to getting the bill.  We stopped expecting service and started getting things for ourselves.  Someone from another table even went to refill their own teapot with hot water.

We didn't really have any plans, so we weren't in a hurry.  The table next to us, however, got really fed up and made a bit of a fuss.  We must have been in really good moods that day, because we found the slow service to be almost...endearing.  The servers were so nice that we couldn't get mad.

We even stood around and waited while the lady behind the counter made our $1.50 hot milk teas (that never arrived) to go.  We actually wanted to take the drinks off our bill completely, but the lady was so smiley and apologetic that we couldn't find the heart to tell her to forget it.

If you have a long afternoon with nothing to do and nowhere to go, by all means, meander into Lychee Cafe.  The food is decent and the prices are super affordable.  Just remember, if you do the 3-dish-1-soup deal, order at least three dishes!  And if you go during happy hour, certain dishes are only $2.75.  Say wut?

To sum up our experience at Lychee Cafe, go with low (low, low) expectations and you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Lychee Cafe
2333 Irving St
San Francisco, CA 94122
(415) 681-0488

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

San Francisco: TC Pastry

A while back, my sister posted a gorgeous shot of zhaliang (炸兩) on her Instagram that made me green with envy.  I finally had the chance to see in it in real life when I went up to San Francisco with my parents to visit my sister...and to do some shopping in the small Chinese grocery stores on Irving.

Actually, we went more for the grocery stores than for my sister.  Shhhh...don't tell her I said that.

We literally checked out every single grocery store on that street, comparing prices, and then returning to certain stores for particular items where they were cheapest.  Yeah, we're hardcore Chinese like that.

Only after completing our grocery shopping did we concern ourselves with lunch.  While we were figuring out where to eat, we stopped by TC Pastry for a zhaliang appetizer:

TC Pastry is designed more for take out than eating in:

They offer all sorts of dim sum and rice porridge, but we were there for one thing and one thing only.  Zhaliang ($2.75):

For those of you who don't know what zhaliang is, it's basically a Chinese fried donut wrapped in a rice noodle roll.  It's a satisfying mix of textures for people who enjoy contrasts like that.  What makes TC Pastry's zhaliang extra good is their peanut sauce.  Ugh.  Why is it so good?

Unpretentious and super cheap with big portion sizes, TC Pastry is every Chinese girl's dim sum dream.  I will definitely go back to try their other offerings, but I'll probably end up ordering the zhaliang every time.


TC Pastry
2222 Irving St
San Francisco, CA 94122
(415) 753-1133

Thursday, February 11, 2016

San Francisco: Swich

After Marnee Thai, my sister and I were stuffed.  So stuffed that my stomach was protesting...vehemently. But that didn't stop us from stopping by Switch on our way back to my sister's apartment:

It was cold out, so it wasn't surprising that we were the only ones there:

Swich is known for its ice cream sandwiches ($3.75 each).  You mix and match what cookies you want and then pick what ice cream you want.  We asked if we could try some of the ice cream flavors, but were told that we couldn't because all the ice cream come pre-shaped into blocks to match the square cookies.


Not to be deterred, we constructed a swich with butterscotch cookie on top, coffee ice cream in the middle, and walnut fudge cookie on the bottom:

The thing with ice cream sandwiches is that they're a hot mess to eat.  The one at Swich wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.  And by that I mean the ice cream didn't immediately slide out the back end after the first bite.  Still ended up with sticky fingers though.

While the ice cream was not particularly memorable, the cookies were pretty damn good.  Very chewy, just the way I like them.  I would go back just for the cookies.

I should have stopped there, but when I saw that they had Thai tea pudding ($3.50), I just couldn't resist:

I expected to be blasted with Thai tea flavor, but was disappointed when I barely tasted it at all.  Turns out I couldn't detect the flavor because I tried it immediately after polishing off the ice cream sandwich.  When I finished the pudding the next morning for breakfast, I definitely got the Thai tea.  Oh yea.

The pudding's texture wasn't my favorite, however.  I prefer my puddings creamier and less...jelly-like.

All in all, I would recommend Swich.  I can see it being a nice place to hang with friends or to go on a first date (if it gets awkward, you can always pretend to focus on eating your swich with limited mess).

Not the cheapest of desserts, but that's hipster SF for ya.

2045 Irving St
San Francisco, CA 94122
(415) 592-8091

Saturday, February 6, 2016

San Francisco: Marnee Thai

Back in January, I attended a CLE training in San Francisco to earn some hard-to-get credits.  Since it started at 9 in the morning and I didn't want to wake up at the buttcrack of dawn to catch public transportation from San Jose, I spent the night before at my sister's apartment in the city.

We couldn't decide what we wanted for dinner, so we just started walking down Irving St.  My sister's roommate had ordered some take-out from Marnee Thai:

We accompanied her there and while she was waiting for her order in the back of the restaurant...we decided to sit down and dine in.

For such a small restaurant, there were a lot of tables.  It turns out that I still have some shame left in me.  We were so close to the other parties next to us that I felt too embarrassed to take a photo of the interior.

So let's just skip to the food.

We started out with the coconut hotcakes ($8.75):

The "hotcakes" came in a special kind of skillet.  Our server helped us scoop out the first ones:

No matter how careful we were, we weren't able to get the others out as beautifully as she did.

The glutinous coconut rice cakes were topped with corn, pumpkin, green onion, and coconut cream.  Not quite savory and not quite sweet, we were a little confused as to whether we should have eaten it as an appetizer or saved it for dessert.

I specifically requested the chicken larb salad ($9.50):

Marnee Thai takes the salad part of the larb salad very seriously.  I've never had a larb with so much green in it before.  I could've have definitely eaten that plate alone as a salad.  It certainly tasted healthy.  Healthy and yet very delicious.

And spicy too.  I'm weak sauce, so I asked for rice ($1.50 per order).

My sister ordered the kang keaw (green curry) with beef ($10.95).  I swear I took a picture of it, but I somehow I must have deleted it by accident.  I'm sorry!  I'm an idiot.  I know.  I fail as a food blogger.  You'll just have to trust me when I say that it was yummy.  Besides the beef, it also included eggplant and Thai basil.

Everything at Marnee Thai was very, very good.  It's a cute spot, especially for date night.  The atmosphere is relaxed and intimate.  The service is attentive.  Prices are about what you can expect for a Thai restaurant.

Dining in such close quarters to others has a couple perks as well.  First, you can see what other people ordered.  Second, you can speculate about the life stories of everyone around you.  My sister and I were especially interested in the two Asian women right next to us who practically ordered half of Marnee Thai's menu for a little girl and her mother.

How were they related?  Why did they order so much?

Where can we find some Asian aunties who would feed us that way?

Marnee Thai
2225 Irving St
San Francisco, CA 94122
(415) 665-9500
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