December 16, 2012

If you're going to San Francisco... Eat Here!

There are countless amazing restaurants in San Francisco,
and although narrowing our selection down to just a few places was difficult,
I couldn't be more pleased with our choices.

Let's start from the beginning, shall we?
Our original plan was to carb load on Italian food as soon as we touched down, at the highly praised Seven Hills restaurant. 
I heard they have the most delicious Ravioli Uovo - full belly farm egg yolk, house made ricotta cheese, spinach, brown butter and white truffle oil.
Unfortunately, those plans quickly fell through after our flight was delayed by five hours.
Damn storm.
We ended up getting to San Francisco around midnight,
and after finding our hotel, checking in, and getting settled,
my hopes of indulging in a great meal that night were zero to none.

Aaaah, but this is why I love the city.
It's like she whispered in my ear,
"chin up, there are plenty of lovely options around here past the late night hour".
Corny, I know,
but after a quick yelp search my hopes were rejuvenated.

We ended up walking a couple of blocks down the street to find a sushi joint known for great food, a live DJ, and late night hours.
You know how we found it?
There was a line out the door!
Mind you, this was around 1 a.m.
We figured, if all these people were waiting, it must be good.
And boy was it worth the wait.
Ryoko's Sushi was just what we needed to kick off the vacation.
After waiting in line for about 20 minutes,
a wait that was alleviated by being served drinks in line and getting to hear the DJ spin,
we were seated in the center of all the action.

We started off with some wakame-su salad,
seaweed and cucumber in light vinaigrette.
This wasn't the typical seaweed salad either,
you know, the green grassy one, which I also love.
No, this was actually seaweed.. like the stuff you find at the bottom of the ocean.
Very flavorful and light.

For sushi, we chose the Pokemon - salmon, mango, avocado and green leaf lettuce, wrapped in soy paper;
the Hot Tail - marinated yellowtail in spicy sauce, shiso, and cucumber;
and the Big Mama - spicy BBQ eel, egg, shiso, cucumber and flying fish roe.
Everything was delicious, but the Pokemon roll was definitely my favorite.
We finished off the night with an order of strawberry mochi balls,
and took a leisurely stroll back to our hotel,
satiated and buzzed.

The next place you have to visit if you're going to San Fran is truly a landmark.
Swan Oyster Depot is so OG* that it doesn't even need a website.
They don't accept credit cards,
and if you really want to eat there, you'll wait in line for a space at the bar just like everyone else.
A bloody beer and some good ol' clam chowder. 

Combination Salad
Combination Oysters
This line was a tad bit longer than the one from the night before.
After about an hour of standing in the rain,
(oh the crazy things we do for some delicious bites),
we were able to grab some seats inside.
I mean, this probably isn't a place you want to bring your first date to,
but it is a place that serves up the some of the freshest seafood I've ever had.
Bonus points if you can chat up the server into giving you free samples of whatever it is he's carving up.
In our case, it was some salmon lox sandwiches and some ripe urchin bits.

On Saturday we had a dinner that topped all dinners!
After some meticulous research, I finally decided that La Folie would be the best place for our date night.
The restaurant has recieved various accolades throughout its lifetime,
including one Michelin star and a spot in the top five ranks on Zagat's list of best restaurants in San Francisco.
A lot to live up to, but La Folie did not dissapoint!
Although the decor wasn't as extravagant as I maybe would have expected,
I appreciated it at the same time.
It's a statement that says "I don't need to put on a show or mask anything up, just put out some extraoridnary dishes".
What I also like about this restaurant is that it offers choices as far as the menu is concerned,
an extravagance that most other restaurants of this stature simply don't bother with.
Diners can choose to have either a 3, 4 or 5 course meal,
or if you want to try all the best that the chef has to offer,
go big and spring for the tasting menu.
After reading that the portions at La Folie are quite generous,
I opted for the three course dinner,
while Erik chose the four course option so he could try out their dessert.
Warm pig feet, sweetbread and lobster terrine, on a lentil salad with bacon and hazelnut vinaigrette.
Triple T Ranch tempura duck egg, on sweetbreads pancake, Frangelico almond pesto, wild mushroom salad, and truffle vinaigrette. 
Lobster and mushroom risotto, with leeks and lobster broth.
Pan roasted Bolinas black cod, with warm broccoli panna cotta, lemon olive oil pearls, and blood orange Beurre fondue.
Roasted Emigh Farms lamb rack, Israeli cous cous gateau, Medjool date and marinated beets
Roti of quail and squab, stuffed with mushrooms, wrapped in crispy potato strings, with truffled jus.
Carrot cake, candied Buddha's hand, Greek yogurt sphere, olive oil gelee, Earl Grey tea ice cream.
Our wine selection for the night was a 2002 Aleph Malbec,
which complimented each course beautifully.
The lamb and the quail courses were by far the favorites of the evening,
but what truly made the experience was not even the culinary creativity,
but all the other details that are so easily lost in the world of American dining.
Each course was presented as a piece of art,
exquisitely decorated with color and flavor.
The staff was so gracious and knowledgeble,
enchanting me with their French accents each time they placed a plate in front of me and went on to describe what I would be enjoying.
The amuse buche servings between each course were the cherry on top.
We sat there for hours, savoring each bite and enjoying each other's company.
It was a perfect evening, and I couldn't ask for anything more.

The last place that I'd like to recommend to you today,
is vastly different from the five star dining establishment described directly above,
yet it too filled our bellies with some tasty meals.
Tea Leaf Salad
Thai Tea makes the world go round!
Garlic Noodles with Duck - flour noodles with fried garlic and scallions
Coconut Rice  - AMAZING
Chili Lamb - with dried and fresh chili, onion and basil
Burma Superstar may have been featured on the Food Network,
however it has earned its loyal followers by offering sublime food and a friendly atmosphere.
We actually came here upon a recommendation from my bestie, who just happens to be a self-proclaimed foodie like myself.

The stakes were raised pretty high,
considering the place has over 3,000 five star reviews on Yelp.
We got to the restaurant about 10 minutes before it opened,
(11 am on a Sunday),
and already there was a crowd of people waiting outside the door.
Once the lights turned on,
we were quickly seated,
given a rundown of the most popular dishes,
and were left to peruse the menu.
Let's see... what can I tell you,
the Tea Leaf Salad was indeed one of the BEST salads I've ever consumed,
and the combination of the lamb with the coconut rice?
Simply divine!!
Definitely worth a visit if you're in town.

*Original Gangsta.. duh.


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