Pizza Hut

My friend Sarah and I made a date to see the latest Harry Potter and eat Pizza Hut.  We decided to go to the IMAX 3-D show because it was at the right time; I don’t know if you know about this “Harry Potter” thing, but the movies tend to be pretty long and if we went to a 7:30 showing by the time we got back to my crib it’d be a little late for a big pizza dinner.  Anyway, the movie was pretty good, I’m not a big fan of that series but the films are generally entertaining, as this one was, and I enjoy 3-D and IMAX, so I was pleased.  Even though I found it pretty weird that these kids are always like “man, I’m really bummed that my friends are always dying and that our entire way of life is being threatened and we are in constant peril and I need to depart on a really dangerous and possibly deadly quest, but do you think that so and so likes me, is it ok if we snog in front of her brother?”  I think I’d mostly be focused on everyone I know not getting destroyed and worry about the courting after I have that squared away. 

Anyway, we called ahead to Pizza Hut while we walked home from the movie.  We had, sadly, been unable to find any good coupons so we decided to order simply; a one topping (pepperoni) medium pizza.  The total was 16 bucks, we were picking it up so we didn’t have to tip a delivery driver (Sarah’s idea, she is a genius.  Seriously, we couldn’t spare it, IMAX movies are insanely expensive).  Our pizza was ready when we got to the little shop (it is a takeout and delivery only spot) and we paid and I asked if they had ranch dressing.  I would have told Sarah to ask for some when she called in our order, but I didn’t see any salads on their online menu so I wasn’t sure if they would have any dressings.  So really I was asking if they had it, not if they would give me some.  Still, they handed over a little sealed tub to me and then paused awkwardly.  “We usually charge for that,” the guy behind the counter said.  I was struck dumb for a moment because I had totally expected to pay for it, usually places like Pizza Hut are not giving anything away, but the way they said “sure!” and handed the dressing over made it seem like it was complimentary.  It was weird, and I said “oh, ok,” and was reaching into my pocket when the guy said “oh, it’s ok, we just usually charge for it.”  So Sarah and I left and were weirded out.  Thanks dude, you made me feel like a criminal. 

Whatever, it was totally worth it because the ranch dressing was delicious and totally enhanced the already delicious Pizza Hut crust.  Yeah, that’s right, I fucking love Pizza Hut pizza.  Say what you want about my taste, I don’t care, it’s good.  I’m not saying if you gave me the choice between, say Pauline’s or Pizzeria Delfina and the Hut I wouldn’t go for the more white table cloth joints, but still.  Pizza Hut has a tangy sauce, a pleasantly toasty cheese and the crust is the bomb.  In the past I remember it (the crust) tasting almost deep fried, but this time the crust was not quite so intense, but still delightfully greasy.  Sarah and I ate the whole pizza, and fast.  One of the coupons that came on our box was for this amazing deal, which we will be feasting on while watching America’s Next Top Model some time in the near future: 2 medium 2 topping pizzas, 10 breadsticks and 5 hershey’s chocolate dippers (whatever those are).  The price for this banquet?  $21.99.  I know!  It’s insane.  You could get one medium pizza for 16 dollars or you could get your monthly allowance of carbs (not to mention saturated fat, yum) for 6 bucks more.  Insane.

Pizza Hut

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Red Crawfish

The Red Crawfish sign confuses me.  I don’t understand how they chose which letters would be red and which would be black.  It doesn’t really matter, I just thought I’d mention it.  So, Red Crawfish!  It is right next door to Bodega Bistro.  I can’t remember if it was just a regular Vietnamese restaurant before they went all Bayou, I didn’t notice them until they changed their signage to advertise their buy 2 get 1 free special.  That’s buy 2 pounds of crawfish, get 1 pound free.  That’s what Steve and I got the first time we went there.  The crawfish came to our table in a big plastic bag; they were steaming hot and difficult to crack open.  We finally got shucking technique down but not without a good deal of hurting.  We both agreed the crawfish weren’t worth the work.  We wrote off Red Crawfish.  Then, I started reading reviews in the local papers.  And they were unequivocal RAVES.  People LOVED this place.  I’ve seen a lot of small neighborhood places like Red Crawfish open that I thought were really great that didn’t get covered in the media like this, so I figured maybe I’d gotten it wrong.  Steve was intrigued by shell on shrimp and garlic noodles and was game to give it another try. 

Things were different.  First off, the place was hopping.  We got one of the last tables that wasn’t reserved.  The menu was different as well,

Generally the same cuisine, but with a few additions.  We were planning on getting just shrimp, but we decided to go wild and get the Combo Special, which had crawfish, mussels and clams as well as shrimp.  We also ordered salt and pepper squid to start and garlic noodle to sop up the liquid from our seafood.  And of course, a tsing tao.

Because that’s how I roll.

Our squid came out first:

I love love love squid.   I love the texture, I love the taste, I like it fried, I like it braised, I like it raw.  I just really really like it.  It’s hard to disappoint me when it come to squid, I’m not picky about it, but I know when it’s good as opposed to OK and this squid was AMAXING.  That’s right, so amazing I had to spell it with an X.  Excellent crispy stuff, excellent tender squid.  It was accompanied by a  sauce that I was scared of at first glance (I thought it was going to be syrupy), but turned out to be well balanced between sweet salty and spicy.  Mmmm, it makes my mouth water to think of it. 

So we’re getting excited now, we’re thinking, maybe we got this place wrong, maybe it’s the best restaurant we’d unfortuitously written off, it’s jampacked full of people and it smells terrific, we’re filled with anticipation, we’re tying on our bibs…

Here it comes, this time we get a bowl instead of a plastic bag, which is heartening.  There’s a nice garlicky aroma wafting towards me, the dish looks impressive, I’m excited to try sucking the brains (or whatever) out of the shrimp heads.  I eat a clam; it’s good, well cooked and juicy.  I eat a mussel; it’s good, usually I don’t care too much for mussels but I can deal when they are prepared properly like this one was.  Finally I go for the hard stuff.  (FYI, that corn is for Steve, I do not eat that shit on the cob.) 

Thank goodness I’m wearing a bib.   Unpleasantly flavored blood colored stuff sprays all over the place as I wrestle with a crawfish.  I wasn’t sure if you were supposed to eat it…I think probably some people do, so I wanted to try it…I found it gross.  I finally tugged the single tiny morsel of meat this crawfish possessed out of its tail…wow.  So underwhelming.  Possibly even less enjoyable than on my first visit.  Next I tried the shrimp.  In my past experiences with whole shell on shrimp I’ve been successful in ripping the little legs off then pulling off the rest of the shell like a wee skeletal bathrobe.  These shrimp weren’t making it so easy on me.  The legs were not coming off clean and the shells were sticking to the flesh.  There was another thick, dark liquid coming from somewhere.  I finally got a clean bite and it was totally not worth my labor.  The flesh had an odd cornstarch like texture on the outside, and was extremely bland throughout.  I tried sucking…something out of the shrimp head but all I got was the sensation of trying to use a straw with a hole in it and a faint bitter taste.  Ugh.  I guess I made a mistake. 

I tried to make things better with the provided salt and pepper and lime wedges, but nothing doing.  I enjoyed the mussels and clams, but the strong garlic flavor started to get funky after a while.  Also not helping were the garlic noodles, which were gummy and an odd attempt at Vietnamese-Italian fusion, as they were topped with parmesan cheese.  Steve liked them and I might have enjoyed them too if I wasn’t already experiencing garlic overload, code red.

The aftermath.  It’s not pretty, is it?  I’m not averse to getting my hands dirty (I love BBQ ribs!) but this was a little ridiculous.  At the end of the day, I have to accept that this (this being steamed tiny crustaceans) is just not my thing.  I’m glad the place is doing well, I’m all for a diverse selection of restaurants, and I hope they stay open, but if they do it won’t be because of my patronage.  Sure, I was pretty impressed with their squid and have heard that some of their other Vietnamese dishes are tasty.  I just can’t imagine being that close to Bodega Bistro and choosing Red Crawfish instead.  Bodega Bistro is the superior restaurant on all fronts; food, service and ambiance.  So, that’s strike two Red Crawfish. 

Red Crawfish

611 Larkin

http://redcrawfishsf.com

Little Delhi

Here we are, another Sunday night, I’m home alone, too lazy to cook, or even to leave my house.  You know what that means; delivery!  I don’t know what I’d do without delivery.  Probably be healthier..but not happier!  I mean, I guess it’s not very environmentally conscious, especially considering that most of the restaurants I order from are easy walking distance from my house…okay, I need to stop thinking of negatives!  I want to enjoy the (increasingly rare) treat that is ordering in.  So, I decided Indian sounded good, and Little Delhi has pretty good reviews on grubhub.com, and they offer online ordering, which is awesome because I don’t like to use the phone.  Really. 

Delivery was pretty quick, and I was enamored with the way they wrote the names of the dishes on the packaging;

This is the papri chaat ($3.99), and this is what it looked like when I opened up the clamshell container;

Holy crap!  I had never heard of this before I ordered it, but now that I’ve had it I’m wondering why I don’t eat it every single day.  The description is so unassuming; homemade chips, potatoes, garbanzo beans, yogurt and chutney.  I thought it would be like papadums with dipping sauces.  It turned out to be more like Indian nachos.  The combo of chutney and yogurt was the perfect blend of creamy and tangy.  The chips (I think they must have been some sort of fried dough) were totally crispy on the outside but nicely chewy and soft on the inside.  The garbanzo beans were the only component of this dish that were not working, the daal like beans had a flavor reminiscent of a rubber band and because of that I would be discouraged from ordering other garbanzo bean dishes from Little Delhi in the future.  Luckily, what with all the amazing flavors zinging about in my mouth, it was easy to excuse this error.  I gobbled this up FAST and was really sad when it was all gone.  Like, I’ll have to get two orders next time.

I was excited about the tomato soup ($2.99) I ordered because I love soup, and I was even more excited when I opened it up and saw a half of a lemon floating in the container.

Yum.  I was a little disappointed because the description of this soup mentioned coriander and cumin but I detected neither of those flavors.  It tasted like tomato soup with lemon in it, which is wonderful, but not what I expected.  I was able to put away the slight disappointment I had over the lack of spices because of the texture of the soup.  It was astoundingly velvety, unlike any tomato soup I’ve had before.  I surmised that it must have contained a ton of butter, though I didn’t detect any dairy flavor so I could be wrong (though, as you can see in the photo, the surface of the soup is shimmering the way butter can make things shimmer), in which case I am dying to know how they achieved the effect!  Or whatever, they can keep it a secret, just send me more soup!

Sorry for the quality of the photo, but hey, if there’s one thing we all know, it’s that Indian food is often not pretty.  Doesn’t mean it’s not delicious.  I mean, in this case it did, but it doesn’t always.  This is the saag paneer ($7.99), spinach with cubes of fresh cheese, one of my favorite Indian dishes.  Little Delhi let me down a little with their version, though that statement comes with a caveat.  The spinach wasn’t bad, just bland, and I believe that comes partially from my choice of spiciness.  I was excited that they offer to cook your dish to your preferred level of heat, and since I wasn’t feeling like suffering heart burn all night I choose the mildest level.  Next time I would certainly choose at least the medium heat, if not a higher level.  And I would be willing to try the saag paneer again, it wasn’t gross, the cheese was a little firmer than I prefer, but it was pretty good.  I also ordered the Little Delhi special bread ($3.50), which was the big disappointment of the meal.  The menu promises a naan stuffed with chicken, onions and cottage cheese, but I found the stuffing to be indeterminate, I couldn’t tell what the heck it was, by sight or by taste.  The naan was pretty soggy but too dry at the same time.  I’ve had few successes with stuffed naan and fewer with delivered naan.  I think it might be time to give up trying.

Rice ($2.00) was fine.  I’m used to the “plain” rice at Indian restaurants being saffron flavored but this one was really just plain basmati rice.  They do offer a saffron scented rice that’s not a biryani, but it also contains peas and fried onions, which I wasn’t in the mood for, and it costs twice as much as the “plain” rice, which already seemed a little pricey to me (though you do get a gigantic container of rice). 

I am really anxious to order from Little Delhi again, if only for the Papri Chaat.  I’m sure I will be some Sunday night not too far in the future.  A night when I’m not scared of a little spice.  And not in the mood for garbanzo beans.

Little Delhi

83 Eddy St

http://www.littledelhisf.com/

Original Perfect Hamburger

Sorry it’s been so long between posts.  I have been a busy busy bee!  And now I am so behind on restaurants!  It seems like I’ve been out millions of times since I went to farm:table.  So I guess I better hop to it, eh?

Steve and I slept in late one Sunday and I suggested we go out for some breakfast to get our strength up.  I knew Steve wanted to go to Perfect Hamburger, we’d thought about going another time but had not been brave enough.  I was still a little skeeved out by the thought of actually eating there, so I said “why don’t we walk by Dottie’s, see how the line is, and if it’s too crazy we’ll do Perfect Hamburger.”  I don’t know how I could have thought that that plan might work out in my favor.  Of course the line at Dottie’s was off the fucking hook.  I am a little concerned about having to eat at Dottie’s, anyone have any suggestions about their off time?  I will go crazy if I have to wait on that line.  So, back to the story, we made our way to Original Perfect Hamburger.

The outside was scary as ever.  They have the weird raw meat looking hamburger photos in the windows and the promise of Chinese AND American food.  I have found that to never be a good combo outside of Chinatown.  When we went inside things were a bit better.  At first…

This place is full of retro kitsch goodness.  If we were rating restaurants on decor alone, Perfect Hamburger would be my new favorite spot.  Everything in there looks to be about a million years old.   I doubt much has changed since the grand opening, save for the addition of the paper plates.  I was cheered considerably by the atmosphere, and by the menu.

Shit was cheap.  And you could get pancakes with a scoop of ice cream!  Insanity.  I decided ice cream was a little too much for my first meal of the day, but I definitely wanted pancakes.  I ordered two with scrambled eggs and sausage.  The waiter/owner asked if I wanted cheese on my eggs.  What?!?  I don’t think I’ve ever been offered gratis cheese on my scrambled eggs in a restaurant.  Of course I wanted cheese!  Steve ordered a mushroom cheeseburger and a strawberry milkshake.  I was super stoked and my feelings about this meal had shifted.  I was encouraged and optimistic.  Steve’s milkshake came;

More positivity.  It was rich and sweet but not overly syrupy sweet like a McDonald’s milkshake.  This was a bona fide ice cream milk shake.  Very creamy with bits of strawberry flesh and seeds.  I was a little weirded out that it came in one of those plastic cups with the pebbly texture, but whatever.  We watched the wife/co-owner work the griddle and soon enough Steve’s burger arrived.

It looked promising.  Lots of vibrant veggies, nicely toasted bun.  Smallish patty but it smelled good.  Then came my pancakes.

Looks pretty right?  So everything looks good, let’s get down to the nitty gritty:  how’s it taste?

Eh.  It was all right.  My pancakes weren’t too heavy and were cooked correctly, no wet spots, no spots where the batter wasn’t mixed well enough.  They were served with butter instead of margarine, which is always appreciated.  I had to ask for syrup 2 or 3 times and they seemed to have only one bottle, which seemed weird for a spot that devotes a lot of its menu to breakfast.  So the pancakes were fine, but after eating about half of my first one I found myself wishing I had ordered hashbrowns instead.  My eggs with cheese were a real bust, they were a sort of mini American cheese omelet, but the cheese was oddly watery and very cheap tasting.  The sausage was perfectly standard cheap diner sausage.  Satisfying.  Steve’s burger was pretty standard as well.  Nothing to write home about, but not a total loss either.  The worst thing about Perfect Hamburger, and why I wouldn’t want to return, is the service.  Usually I am really forgiving when it comes to service issues at restaurants; I’m not a demanding diner and I don’t want to browbeat someone because my food’s not letter perfect, but Perfect Hamburger was a little too much for me.  There was the aforementioned syrup issue, and I had the same issue trying to get milk for my coffee (which, by the way, was some of the worst coffee I’ve ever had, beaten probably only by the gas station coffee I got in Santa Cruz).  When the waitress/wife/co-owner brought me my mug she asked if I needed cream, I answered yes and she nodded and walked away.  She passed by our table a couple times, taking the orders from the table behind us, but I never got my cream.  I had to ask twice more.  I can forgive even these sorts of things, but the proprietors have to be nice, or at least benign.  The people here were pretty offputting, very gruff, obviously disinterested in their customers, upselling…when you ask for water they ask if you want bottled water, which is really strange in a place like this.  It took me a second to piece together that they are probably usually frequented by tourists from the many hotels nearby and that’s why they offer the bottled stuff, but I was taken aback.  It kind of takes away from what I’m looking for in a greasy spoon.

So, unless unstoppable forces compel me, I will not be going back to Original Perfect Hamburger.  No, the Chinese food portion of the menu does not entice me.

At least it was cheap.

Original Perfect Hamburger

601 Geary

Their Yelp Page

farm:table

 I wanted to go back to farm:table a second time before I wrote this post, but I also wanted to get a post up without any more waiting.  I’ll try to go back soon and then I will update.  I feel like this is necessary because I don’t think I got the whole experience on my visit.  I didn’t even get any photos of the food or the interior!  I went around 10 am on a Saturday morning.  farm:table is TINY.  I’d heard that it is really small, but I wasn’t prepared for just how small it is.  The customer area is maybe 8′ by 8′ and most of that is taken up by a square wood table that is surrounded by benches.   Each side of the table can fit two people comfortably, three if you are with your best friends and don’t mind rubbing thighs.  The morning I was there I thought it was busy because there were six people at the table already.  It turns out it was actually quiet that day; when I walked by the next week people seemed to be spilling out the window it was so packed. 

farm:table has a daily changing breakfast and lunch menu (you can get updates on their twitter feed) and I was tempted to try their bread pudding or their hard boiled egg sandwich of the day, but I was deterred by the communal seating situation.  It’s one this for me to sit and eat a muffin and have a coffee while sitting with my face just four feet from a stranger’s, but another thing entirely to try to eat a meal with a fork and knife and all.  This is probably just me, but I’d be way too self conscious.  I ordered what seemed to be the house special drink, the tendernob, and a buckwheat banana cake thing.  The girls running the counter were super super sweet, and they did an amazing job with my drink.  I didn’t catch all the components, but it was espresso, steamed milk and something else in a tiny glass cup, maybe four ounces?  Anyway, it was the most velvety steamed milk I have ever had.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had drink with hot milk because most places can’t make it for shit.  This froth redeemed my faith in humanity.  I think you could have put any sludge in that milk and I would have been okay with it, but of course they had a pretty lovely espresso too, very mellow with a definite floral end note.  It was the perfect sip for a chilly San Francisco morning. 

The little cake was slightly disappointing.  The banana flavor was good, and it was moist on the outside, but the interior was dry.  It was sticking to the inside of my mouth in a most unpleasant way.  Even if it had been the best breakfast bread ever, I probably wouldn’t have been able to enjoy it fully because I just felt too awkward sitting at the communal table.  I was all alone and hadn’t brought any activities with me, everyone else at the table was either there with friends or had a paper or book to read.  I was just sitting there, eating my food, trying not to look at people…it’s just not my thing.  I know plenty of people love this kind of seating, but I can’t get down with it, certainly not when I’m alone.  As I left, I noticed two outside tables that I wish I’d seen on my way in.  I would have been so much happier out there, even though it was pretty breezy. 

I’d really like to try farm:table again, their menus always sound super delicious and I want to try their drip coffee and for sure the latte.  If I can’t round up any dining companions, or if the people are packed in like sardines I guess I’ll have to inquire about their to go options.

farm:table

754 Post St

http://www.farmtablesf.com/

PS – If anyone can tell me exactly what’s in the tendernob, I’d be much obliged.