Thursday, October 4, 2012

Soup Freaks

Oh. My. God.  Hangover Soup!

If you're hung over, sick, tired, stressed, cold, or otherwise in the mood for a spicy soup, then WOW do I have the place for you.

Soup Freaks on Mission (at 3rd) is a cavernous place that I've often walked by but never visited.  It seemed far too large for a soup and sandwich place, and in the evenings without a lunch crowd I found this place really hard to understand.

But at lunch on a weekday, it makes total sense.  Even more so after trying this soup.

They start with a big wedge of white or wheat bread, add a layer of generous chunks of roasted (Rosie!) chicken, and ladle in chicken broth from their chicken/matzoh soup.  After adding red onion and cilantro, they lace the broth with a giant dollop of Sriracha.

I'll definitely be back for another round!

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Sentinel

When I'm not sure where to go for lunch, I usually set out for a wander, and end up wandering right to the Sentinel, on New Montgomery.  Though it's a short sandwich menu, it's filled with quality ingredients and thoughtful flavor profiles. I always think of these delicious sandos when I need nourishment for the mind.

On Friday I tried what may be my favorite Sentinel selection yet:  chicken salad.  This version had big chunks of white meat, tossed in a bit of mayo, with roasted pumpkin seeds and a slight suggestion of apricot.  I haven't seen this on the menu before but I certainly hope I see it again!

Speaking of which, it's lunchtime, and it might be time for another wander...

Friday, September 7, 2012

Soup Junkie

Yesterday was a bit cold and gloomy in the Financial District, and I've been fighting the flu, so it seemed like the perfect day to try out Soup Junkie, a little walk-up on Market at Fremont that serves a couple Vietnamese soups, sandwiches, and the ever-tempting Dynamo Donuts.

I had to try the bun rieu, their #1 soup on the menu and the most-hyped.  A crab and tomato broth, with plentiful noodles, several pieces of crab omelette, and a couple meatballs besides.

I loved how they served it in thoughtful to-go packaging, with chopsticks, a disposable soup spoon, and the broth set aside to pour over the noodles at your destination.  My coworker ordered the beef pho, and the beef was thinly sliced and just slightly undercooked, to finish with the hot broth.

This was a hearty portion of soup and quite filling.  And while I normally prioritize the main ingredients, in this case I actually most enjoyed the broth, which carried the tang of tomatoes and the depth of crab flavor, but was impressively balanced and not too rich.

I'm totally into this place; I almost can't wait for another gloomy day to go back!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Saigon Sandwich

I finally made it to Saigon Sandwich, the place that sets the standard for banh mi in the city. I had never found it that convenient to get to the Tenderloin for lunch.  But yesterday, with the luck of a metered spot right out front, I finally got to try the sandwich I've heard so much about.

As soon as I walked up to the door, they called out for my order.  No time to weigh your options at this rapid-fire operation.  I ordered the roast pork (although next time I will get "fanci pork and pate") and watched the three-woman team work smoothly, one slicing the freshly baked French bread, one assembling sandwiches, and the other on register duty and general crowd control.

Toasted bread, that delivers a crispy bite but doesn't cut your mouth.  A slather of mayo.  Flavorful, non gristly roasted pork.  Pickled veg (carrots, jalapeno, and green pepper) and a pile of fresh cilantro.  All the makings of a delicious banh mi, but especially at $3.50 a sandwich.  I think I'll be eating in the 'Loin more often!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

1833 in Monterey

If you're in the Monterey area, 1833 is an absolute win for cocktails and appetizers.

In a restored old adobe house (curiously from the 1840s), the bar and lounge space take over the rooms of the lower level while diners eat in one of the various small rooms upstairs.  We had intended to go only for a cocktail before another dinner reservation, and wound up canceling to stay and continue tasting from the fantastic menu.

In the library room downstairs, we perused a long list of spirits and carefully crafted cocktails offering a nod to the pharmacy that resided in the building in the 1840s.  We chose drinks called Penicillin #1 (scotch, honey, lime, ginger, and a bourbon floater) and Penicillin #2 (tequila, agave nectar, ginger, soda, and a mezcal floater), both garnished with candied ginger and both balanced and delicious.  We also ordered bacon cheddar biscuits for a nibble, served with maple chili butter and a dish of sea salt.  When we closed the bar tab, the check was delivered in an antique canvas-bound book, whose pages we signed with a healthy flourish.

Instead of leaving, then, we requested a table upstairs and wound up in a stylish booth near a fireplace.  We shared an array of starters, including crispy pork trotters, hamachi with pickled jalapeno and avocado, and a stunning English pea soup. Although we tried a couple of main plates that were totally decent, they were not worth choosing over the widely pleasing appetizers we enjoyed.  I would absolutely go back, for cocktails, shared plates, and the chic ambiance old town Monterey has been missing.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Xiao Long Bao

Vegetarian dumpling (left); pork xiao long bao (right)
My must-have food in Hong Kong was xiao long bao, the Shanghai-style soup dumpling.  I could not get enough of these delicate mouthfuls of chewy wrapper, minced meat, and a dose of broth sealed inside, dipped in a mixture of soy sauce, vinegar, and fresh ginger.  I know I am late to the party in enjoying these, but I promise to make up for lost time. Where do you all love in San Francisco for xiao long bao?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Private Kitchens in Hong Kong

An interesting counterpoint to Hong Kong's ostentatious fine dining scene is that of the private kitchen.  These speakeasy-like restaurants are a hidden haven for some of the city's finest and most innovative food.

Lafe and I were able to join friends at one of three tables in a private kitchen called Yin Yang, tucked away in a small corner of the Wan Chai district on Hong Kong Island.  Over several hours we enjoyed tastes of about fifteen dishes from a fixed menu, that started in a very experimental, modern way and progressed to more rustic mains.  Some of the highlights included:

  • Pressed tofu with tomato pulp
  • Hard boiled organic egg with farmed fresh coriander
  • Organic carrot prepared to the consistency of a slice of cheese
  • Grilled calamari with peanuts and chiles
  • Chicken prepared in a komodo oven, accompanied by bits of crispy chicken skin
  • Roasted red pig
  • Iron pot fried rice
  • Water spinach sauteed with garlic
  • Carrot and lemongrass sorbet
This kitchen definitely offered up a yin/yang balance of experiment and tradition, of urban and rustic, that in a way anchor the extreme cosmopolitan nature of Hong Kong to its cultural roots.