Katana-Ya

A few weeks ago San Francisco was colder than it had been in some time.  The frigid temperatures lasted about a week and a half, and right around that time I was reading about Katana-Ya everywhere.  Everyone wanted to proclaim it their favorite ramen place in San Francisco.  I already love ramen but with the cold I couldn’t stop thinking about Katana-Ya; what could be more perfect on a wintry day than a hot bowl of noodle soup?  So I thought about it and thought about it and then it got warmer and I still hadn’t gone for ramen.  When I was meeting my friends Jessie and Justin for lunch it was still on my mind, so I suggested we go there, even though my enthusiasm had waned a bit as I traded my wool coat in for a light flannel shirt.

It did end up being pretty chilly that day, though not terribly so.  The cold was probably amplified by the fact that we waited outside the restaurant for nearly an hour.  Katana-Ya is pretty tiny and I guess they have more seating for parties of two than for parties of three.  We were the second party of three on the waiting sheet and there must have been at least four or five couples who were seated before the group of three ahead of us got in.  So I guess expect a wait, especially if you’re more than two people strong.  The time went by fairly quickly because I had good company; so lucky me. 

We finally made it in!  I don’t know how well you can tell from this picture, but it’s a small place.  We were seated right near the door, and that wall with the clock is the back of the dining room.  I didn’t get a good sense of exactly how many seats there were, but I’d be surprised if there were more than 30.

The menu was pretty extensive, but I knew that I wanted ramen.  I was originally considering the kimchee ramen, but I’d been pretty kimchi crazy around that time.  I had made a big jar of the stuff and was stuffing my face with tons of it everyday.  I figured I’d have a bit of a change of pace and go with the green onion ramen. 

It was pretty good.  I kind of wished that I’d ordered something more exciting, but there was some liveliness from bamboo shoots and pork.  You choose between three broths with your ramen, and I went with the salt on Justin’s recommendation.  It was good, pretty salty (duh), but next time I’d probably go for the miso broth.  I like that little bit of sweetness.   As for the noodles, they were pretty near perfect.  Tender but not soft, very fresh with a nice wheaty flavor.  I’m looking forward to eating them again. 

Justin had the chicken curry, which came with miso soup.  It smelled really good and made me kind of jealous. 

Jessie said he was going to be boring and get the same thing he always gets; udon with tempura.  Sorry for the kind of crudz picture, it looks good though, right?  I just ate like 6 potstickers and those noodles are still making me kinda hungry.  Sorry, just being real with y’all. 

So, Katana-Ya has a lot of strikes against it, I can’t lie.  It’s tiny, you might have a long wait to get in, they have banquettes which I hate hate hate.  I just despise that long bench with at least one too many tables stretched along it.  Katana-Ya is the kind of place that makes me worried about how big my ass is, because I’m pretty sure it’s too big and will be knocking the donburi off the table next to me into someone’s lap when I squeeze between tables to leave.  So there’s that.  Still, the food is pretty darn good, and that can’t be denied.  So the next time the cold snap hits San Francisco, chances are good you’ll find me at some off hour (2:45 PM maybe?) slurping up noodles at Katana-Ya.

Katana-Ya

430 Geary

Their Yelp Page

Delany’s

Before my breakfast at Delany’s I knew it just as “that place that NEVER has any people in it.  EVER.”  Steve swore up and down that it was perpetually empty, and I believed him because the few times I noticed it as I walked by it was vacant.  We wondered when it would close and how it was still open.  I have to admit, we weren’t too nice about it.  Probably we were a little cruel.  And you’d think that by now I’d have learned not to judge. 

Delany’s was nice inside, though spare.  Until you looked up.

Then it was pretty festive.  It was bright with sunlight, which I like, especially at breakfast time.  We were the only people in the restaurant when we sat down.  A group of three frat-esque guys came in after we’d been there about 20 minutes.  Here’s the thing about Delany’s:  we waited for our food for a long long long time.  We had the time, but if you’re looking for a quick in and out bite, this is not the place for you.  Luckily the coffee was good.

The reason for the long wait for our food may have been because we ordered off the menu of Bolivian specials.  They had some tasty sounding omelets and scrambles at very reasonable prices, but the Bolivian specials were too exciting to pass up, even though they were twice the price of anything on the normal breakfast menu.

I was tempted by the Asado Especial, but I figured I didn’t need to eat rice AND french fries.  So I went with the equally enticingly described Silpancho. 

Steve ordered the Morcilla.

I am a pretty adventurous eater, but one of the things I get a little weird about it blood sausage.  I was surprised when I really enjoyed the Morcilla; it was super rich and creamy, with warm spices like cinammon and cumin.  It was delicious smeared on the french fries, which were golden and crisp on the outside and moist on the inside.  The salad was lovely as well, fresh and brightly dressed with a simple vinagrette.  We were both surprised by the salad, we didn’t expect such fresh greens at a place that seemed to have no customers. 

Steve’s meal looked pretty, but I think it was my dish that really impressed us with its presentation.  It certainly wasn’t what you’d expect at a restaurant that’s empty all the time.  It made me feel kind of bad that these people are putting so much work and thought into their cooking without much reward.  Still, the silpancho didn’t quite live up to its looks.  I enjoyed it, the beef was tender and flavorful, the eggs were perfectly cooked and the potatoes were light.  The little scoop of salsa that topped it was a bit bland, and I really wished that I’d had a lemon wedge or something acid to balance out the richness of the egg and beef and the blandness of the rice.  I was offered tabasco, which added a bit of heat but just wasn’t the right flavor.  So, not a perfect dish, but easily fixed. 

Delany’s is a tiny operation.  When I was there I saw three people; a waitress/chef, a teenager who helped a bit with waiting tables but mostly looked at a laptop at a back table, and another chef that I only glimpsed in the kitchen.  I’m pretty certain they were the only folks working there.  While Steve and I were waiting for our food, we could hear chopping and pounding and sizzling coming from the kitchen.  I think Delany’s could be doing a lot more business, they aren’t in the greatest location, but they are just a few doors down from the behemoth that is Brenda’s.  I’d think that they could be taking more of that overflow.  I think the main problem is that they aren’t advertising their Bolivian food.  There aren’t too many places in San Francisco serving Bolivian food and it seems to be a pretty interesting cuisine.  If they made that more of a focus of their outside presentation,  I think they could draw more people in.  I could be totally off base though; for all I know Delany’s is super busy during weekday lunches.  Several people on Yelp mentioned that they have live music on weekend nights.  I’d be interested to see that.  I’m also interested to come back and try the American/Italian food on their dinner menu, as well as more Bolivian food.  So, I hope they stay open for a while.

Cool Pink Floyd poster.

Delany’s

710 Polk St

Their Yelp Page

What A Grind

I pretty much need to have coffee in the morning.  This isn’t really a problem on work days, there are a gazillion and one starbucks and peets and donut shops within walking distance of my office, and I keep a french press at my desk.  The weekend is when this can get tricky.  Usually I just order a cup at whichever restaurant I eat breakfast/brunch/lunch (depending on how late I sleep).  There are some days though where various elements conspire to make it difficult for me to caffeinate myself, and then I get a little, shall we say, grumpy.  I was having one of those mornings the other day, when Steve and I were going out of town for some reason or other.  We were going to be riding our bikes down to the BART station.  In the old days, before bikes, we would have walked down to the station and I would have picked up a coffee somewhere along the way.  This was no longer an option, so I needed to figure something else out.  I had grown a bit tired with my usual coffee spot, the gelato place about a block from my house.  Their americanos were nice, but the service could be slow, and I needed food with my coffee.  That’s my other problem, I can’t drink coffee on an empty stomach.  They have some middling pastries at the gelato place, and they make crepes and bagels, but as I mentioned, the wait can be painfully long.  I didn’t have a lot of time because I had to eat and finish my coffee before we had to leave in about 30 minutes.  I decided to head down the hill to the next closest coffee shop, What A Grind.

I’m friendly with two of my fellow tenants in my apartment building, and one of them told me a few months ago that What A Grind has the best coffee in San Francisco.  I was pretty skeptical about that; I’d waited at the bus stop in front of the cafe almost everyday for 2 years and I saw the volume of business they were doing.  If this place really had the best coffee in San Francisco some hipster would have found it out and it would have grungy kids queuing down the block.  Mostly the customers are burnouts and old Chinese guys from the neighborhood.  The place definitely inspires a fierce loyalty among some, I saw the same faces there the Sunday I stopped by that I’d been seeing every weekday morning for so long. 

I went inside and ordered a regular coffee and an everything bagel with ham, cheese and egg.  The interior was not at all what I expected, it was much brighter and filled with odd knick-knacks and framed photos.  There was a life size painting of Marilyn Monroe on one wall.  The small dining area, off to the right of the small entryway room that housed the counter and the kitchen, was homey with mismatched chairs and tables and potted plants.  I watched as Sam, the proprietor, who I recognized from my bus stop days, put my bagel on the toaster and sliced pressed ham on a meat slicer.  My breakfast sandwich was about 4 bucks, which is just a little cheaper than the non-breakfast sandwiches they offer.  They also have some deli salads that didn’t look bad at all.  I’m thinking this could be a decent place for a quick, cheap lunch.

That is, if my bagel is any indication.  I was put off a bit by the amount of liquid that came off the bagel, I’m not sure why it was so wet.  I mean, I guess it must be from the ham but it was a serious amount of juice.  It did not seem proportional to the amount of filling.  Beyond that initial weirdness, it was a pretty good breakfast sandwich.  The egg was fine for microwave cooked egg, the ham was standard, pretty salty but good.  The cheese was American, but I’m ok with that on a hot sandwich because American cheese has a pretty superior melt-ability.  The bagel was toasted enough that there was a crackly crust on the cut sides and the outside.  When I have a toasted bagel I want a well toasted bagel.  If I were to grab breakfast at What a Grind again, I’d probably get a bagel with cream cheese or tomato or something, because those bagels are pretty cheap at $1.50 and, though I found my sandwich quite satisfying, it probably wasn’t $4 worth of satisfying. 

Oh, and the coffee?  Not the best in San Francisco, sorry.  I knew you were hoping I’d be the hipster who discovered the diamond in the rough, but it’s not to be.  It was pretty good though.

What A Grind

881 Post Street

www.whatagrindcafe.com

Oh, something really cool about this place is that it’s in the same building as the apartment that Dashiell Hammett lived in while he was writing The Maltese Falcon, among other stories.  There’s a plaque on the wall near the gated entrance where you can read a bit more about it.  Neat, huh?  You can also check out this site for a photo tour of the building and apartment.

Tommy’s Joynt

I think Tommy’s Joynt would be a good place for a first date.  You can be kind of intimate if you sit in one of the high walled booths, but not feel too secluded because of the constant chatter of the place and the TVs and all.  All the kitschy decorations, the old beer advertisements and other bric-a-brac, would make for good conversation starters.  And if you’re really shy it would be the perfect place to bring a bunch of your friends to make it a less stressful group date. 

Or maybe I’m crazy.  I was just thinking after my last visit that it was kind of a romantic place.  I find it very easy to get caught up in a conversation and just forget that you’re in a room full of other people.  Maybe it’s because you order your food at the counter and then carry it to your table yourself so you don’t get interrupted by a waiter.  I know I’ve said before I don’t like places where you order at the counter, but Tommy’s is an exception.  Usually the line is long enough that you have plenty of time to peruse the menu, and it’s nice to be able to look at your food before you order (as well as watch it be carved up after).

Tommy’s is a hof brau.  They have various steam table dishes to choose from, some, like the turkey sloppy joe and the spaghetti and meatballs they have nearly everyday, some, like the turkey enchilada are occasionally available.  They also have about 6 meats available everyday that you can have as a dinner plate or a sandwich, as well as daily specials.

I L-O-V-E Tommy’s a lot, I’ve been coming here for years and it’s almost always really hard for me to decide what to order because they have so many good things to eat.  I’m a big fan of the sausage sandwich and the turkey sloppy joe (which is the best deal on the menu).  This particular day though I went in with a clear idea of what I wanted.  For some reason (I think I’d seen a Campbell’s soup ad or something) I had a craving for a real holiday meal, turkey, stuffing, all that.  So I ordered the turkey dinner plate.  The dinner plates usually come with mashed potatoes or veggies and beans or a salad.  I figured I’d order green beans and salad and get a side of stuffing.  I really lucked out though, because it turns out the turkey plate comes with potatoes and stuffing AND salad.  Wow.  I hit the jackpot.

It’s not too much to look at (it’s pretty dark in Tommy’s, especially in the little nook past the bar where we were sitting, so the pictures are a bit wonky) but it tasted pretty good.  The turkey was moist and full of flavor.  The mashed potatoes and gravy were pretty standard, though not bad, but the stuffing is what really does it for me.  It looks like a big pile of dun-colored mush, and that’s pretty much what it feels like when you first put it in your mouth.  I think it has a great flavor though, umami all the way, and some turkey bits in there give it some texture. 

This is my 3 bean salad covered with pickles.  They have a pickle barrel near the cash register and you can take all the pickles you want.  I usually take approximately half a pound.  Most of their salads are delicious, but I favor the three bean salad.  The beans stay pretty toothsome, not all mushy and slimy, and there’s a nice acid bite from vinegar and onions to balance out the creaminess and saltiness of the beans.  After I finished my turkey and stuffing I was way too full to finish the salad, or my mashed potatoes, or my sourdough roll.

Sorry for this incredibly crappy picture.  This is Steve’s turkey enchilada, which seems to be a Saturday special.  Steve orders it whenever we come to Tommy’s on a Saturday.  It’s pretty good.  It reminds me of the enchiladas my dad made when I was growing up in that it is similarly cooked casserole style, is fairly inauthentic and tastes strongly of chili powder.  I like it, though I wish the tortilla was not so soggy, it seems to just disintegrate.  It’s not offensive, and the flavors are still good, and it is stuffed with tons of yummy shredded turkey.

Tommy’s is kind of half restaurant, half bar.  They have a large selection of beers and liquors, and a pretty interesting specialty cocktail list, especially the section that focuses on hot drinks.  I thought I got a picture of my beer, but I guess I forgot.  I believe I ordered the Croatian beer (the bottled beer list is separated by Country of origin) called Karlovacko.  It was pretty good, though I’d recommend the Baltika beers from Russia. 

I think Tommy’s Joynt is pretty great.  It’s comfortable, the food is good and cheap and you can linger as long as you like.  I know it has its detractors (hi Dad) but I’m not prepared to chalk up my fondness for it to good memories.  If you try it for yourself, I’d love to hear which side you fall on.

Tommy’s Joynt

1101 Geary Blvd at Van Ness

www.tommysjoynt.com

Hai Ky Mi Gia

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned here before that I love soup.  Soup is my favorite thing to eat.  So Hai Ky Mi Gia is something of a Mecca for me.  A menu devoted 100% to soup…it’s like something out of a dream…

I know I’m a dilettante, I’m not interested in trying to make myself sound like I’m not.  Therefore, I’m not going to try to explain why the sign says “CHINESE CUISINE” but all the menu items are in Vietnamese.  I turned to Yelp because I’ve found that it can be helpful in these kinds of quandaries, often somebody knows the proprietors or someone recognizes their native cuisine and writes a review explaining the food in response to the multitudes of ignoramuses spouting nonsense in their reviews.  I didn’t find anything on Yelp but I also couldn’t get through the first page for this place.  Hopefully I’ll come off better in this post than the folks on Yelp.  Can I just say though, you don’t have “MSG poisoning” after your Chinese/Vietnamese/Japanese/Whatever meal.  You’re sleepy and thirsty afterwards?  Sounds like you just ate a shit-ton of salty carbs.  Which is generally what you do at these types of restaurants.  And if you want to get mad at me about it, you can read about MSG here, on wikipedia, which I believe goes straight from God’s lips to HTML.

Ok, ok sorry, that was pretty uncalled for.  Back to the business at hand.

The restaurant is rather small, with two narrow rooms crammed with tables.  There are a few two or four tops, but many of the seats are at long cafeteria style communal tables.  I’ve never eaten here and felt overly crowded or too close to my fellow diners.  They do a good job of spacing you out.  It has the kind of ambience that I like; cluttered and homey, but clean, lots of clatter and chatter, but not so much that you can’t have a conversation.  I know a lot of people don’t go for this, but it makes me feel comfortable.  Also, it’s warm and a little humid inside, which was certainly nice when I was there right in the middle of San Francisco’s cold snap. 

Hot tea is complimentary, but we also ordered coffees.  I got mine hot, Steve got iced.  I guess I never get hot coffee because I was totally flummoxed by the thermos of hot water that came with mine.  I was like, what do I do with this, dilute my coffee with it after it’s brewed?  Steve said I should pour it through the grounds again.  I ended up doing a combination of both.  I ended up with a good, very strong cup.

I was intrigued by #21 on the menu, Mi Sa Te, Satay Beef Egg noodle soup.  I had no idea what it was, I figured peanut sauce would factor in there somewhere.  When I ordered the waitress explained to me what it was without my asking, which was nice of her, even though I do like a surprise.

She described it as having some peanut sauce, and a little spicy.  I didn’t find it spicy at all, but that’s okay, that’s why they have sriracha on every table.  There was more than some peanut sauce, I had a bowl full of a thick peanut soup with slices of beef and some noodles floating around.  My first thought was of the peanut butter soups I’ve been served as dessert at Chinese restaurants and how Steve and I kid each other about them because we don’t especially care for them.  Luckily this was dissimilar to dessert soup in pretty much every respect.  I looooooved this dish.  First of all, I really liked that they put all the veggies and herbs in there for me, I love that stuff but if it comes to me on the side I am often too lazy/gluttonous to add it before I scarf my soup down.  I really enjoyed the green crunch in my muddy soup.  The peanut broth had a perfect balance of sweet and savory, and the thick grainy texture sounds unpleasant but was very nice and really familiar in a way I can’t quite place.  And when it started to get a little overwhelming, I had a bowl of clear broth on the side.  I was so glad I decided to try something new with this dish.  It’s one of my new favorite things, and I can’t wait to start trying to replicate it at home.

This is Steve’s boring old standard, #27, Mi Ga Dai, shredded free range chicken egg noodle soup.  This is before he added enough chili sauce to turn the whole thing a fiery red.  Not so boring after all I guess.  I kid though, Steve likes chicken soup, and I can’t argue with that.  They do it well at Hai Ky Mi Gia.  Steve and I both got hooked on this chili sauce they had on our table that I don’t remember from previous visits.  It was thicker than sriracha, and not as spicy or fruity, it was a lot saltier.  It was in an unmarked squeeze bottle, so I guess I can just hope it’s on my table again next time I’m there.  I probably ended up with about half the squeeze bottle in my bowl, it was a nice accompaniment to the peanuts. 

Hai Ky Mi Gia is exactly the kind of restaurant I like.  I really wish that I could convince everyone to go, but I know that it is exactly the type of restaurant that a lot of people hate.  The service is pleasant but brisk.  The food is delicious but simple.  The atmosphere is nil.  It’s in the dreaded Tenderloin.  Honestly, I can’t suggest that you make a special trip here if you don’t live in the neighborhood.  If you live in San Francisco, chances are you have a great noodle soup place not 10 minutes walk from your house, and that’s part of the joy of a place like this.  Wake up on Saturday morning, roll out of bed and pull on some clothes and in less than 15 minutes you’ve got your face in a steaming bowl of soup.  It doesn’t get much better than that. 

Hai Ky Mi Gia

707 Ellis

Their Yelp Page

Mel’s Drive-In

My visit to Mel’s Drive-In was pretty useful in that it reminded me why I don’t go to Mel’s Drive-Ins anymore.  I’ve been delaying this post because I kind of hate Mel’s.  The food is mediocre and overpriced.  Anyway, I’m getting a little ahead of myself.  I was optimistic when Sarah and I walked in to the restaurant.

It was pretty festive.  Lights and decorations and all that are my favorite thing about the Holidays.  Everything else…not so much.  Well, holiday cocktails,  I like those.  The actual Holidays though, those I could take or leave. 

Mel’s was pretty empty when we got there.  It’s one of those places that is depressing when you’re there alone.  It’s so big, there are lots of booths and tiny jukeboxes at every table…this is a place that is supposed to be full of groups of young people scrounging for change to pay for their fries and families of tourists with screaming babies.  That’s the Mel’s I remember from my youth.  When we were about finished with our meal a group of about 6 or 7 kids came in, but they only depressed me more.  They looked like babies to me, but the odds are they were 18, 19 or 20.  One of them was wearing a Furby backpack.  They caused me to reflect on my past in a severely unpleasant way. 

I don’t want to depress you, and I don’t want you to think I was crying into my curly fries the whole time I was there.  It’s not like that.  Sarah and I were having a pretty good time.  We had a laugh over the food prices;

It’s weird how they end in such unround numbers.  There’s nothing for $3.99, it’s $3.41, or $10.24.  Also, I’ve never really understood why Mel’s puts those mini menus inside of their larger menus.  It makes everything more difficult to read. 

Is it stupid to say that I only just read Fast Food Nation, even though it’s been nearly a decade since it was published?  Well, I can’t help it, and I can’t help that that book put me off ground beef for about a week.  A week which I happened to be smack in the middle of when I went to Mel’s.  That’s how I ended up with the No-Name chicken sandwich

Which turned out to be a very dry chicken breast with gloopy “swiss” cheese melted on top.  It wasn’t worth the 10 whatever bucks I paid for it, but it didn’t make me puke or anything.  The curly fries were exceptional.  Very very crispy.  If I ever go to Mel’s again I’m not even going to try to have a semblance of a real meal.  It’s going to be french fries and ice cream all the way (probably in the form wet fries, which are fries with gravy, and a milkshake, probably coffee).  If I were smart or clever, I would have ordered a grilled cheese like Sarah did

It’s really really hard to fuck up a grilled cheese sandwich.

So, what it boils down to is, if you find yourself at Mel’s diner, I suggest you get fries and dessert.  Ice cream is good, pie could also be ok.  A better suggestion though; don’t go to Mel’s.

Mel’s Drive-In

1050 Van Ness Ave

Honey Honey Cafe & Crepery

I went to crepe places a lot when I first moved to San Francisco.  I’d go to Crepevine with friends from school or take my family to Squat and Gobble for breakfast when they came to visit.  Creperies were very popular among white college students, I think because they were just different enough from the norm to feel slightly sophisticated and grown up but were not too far removed from familiar American diner food.  I can’t deny that I enjoyed plenty of meals at creperies, but after a while I stopped frequenting the establishments.  This was in part due to boredom, in part to a growing adventurous streak and in part to the realization that I could get better food at cheaper prices if I was willing to think a little outside the box.  Anyway, all this chatter is to set up that I had never visited Honey Honey Cafe & Crepery until a couple weeks ago.  I had taken note of it because it is on my route to work, it has a large pillar in front of the door with a simple face carved in it, and because of the name; I like to think it is named after the ABBA song.  The day I finally decided to go I was taking a couple friends, Erin and Austin (pretty NSFW), to a late lunch before going to the movies.  It happened to be the same day that I went to Moulin for breakfast, and the six cups of coffee I’d drunk there had me craving more.  I figured a crepery would be a safe bet for good coffee, and my friends and I would all be able to easily find something we wanted to eat (in my experience crepery menus are fairly extensive). 

Like many other crepe places, Honey Honey is counter service, which is not my favorite thing in the world.  I always feel uncomfortable standing in front of the cashier staring at the big menu board (especially when the menu is so large) when I know the cashier just wants me to get the heck out of his/her face.  Especially at a time like when we were there, when the place was nearly empty.  I guess not having printed menus keeps costs down?  Anyway, we ordered and gathered our drinks and picked a table by the windows. 

Here’s Austin’s water.  They have a neat thing they do with the water, they have two (or three, I can’t remember and I really wish I’d taken a photo) vintage-ey looking glass water coolers, one with orange slices and one with lemon slices (and maybe another one, I can’t recall).  Pretty fancy.  I don’t know which water Austin got, I got the orange slice water, it was very refreshing.

My coffee and Erin’s iced chai.  The coffee delivered on my expectations for pretty good stuff and I was happy to find my caffeine craving gone after only one cup.  The chai was unsuprisingly creamy and sweet with the flavor of honey and fragrant spices.  Well, let’s say “comfortingly” instead of “unsurprisingly” shall we?  Doesn’t that sound nicer?

Here’s Austin’s blintz.  We were all rather taken aback when it arrived, I don’t think anyone was expecting this kind of presentation.  I didn’t try it, but when I asked Austin if it tasted as good as it looked he said no.  Because how could it?  It was tasty, but the appearance of the plate trumped everything else.

Erin and I both ordered crepes.  Erin got her Miami Heat crepe with potatoes.  She said the crepe was nicely spicy.  I wish I’d tried it because it sounds like a pretty delicious combination; cheddar, avocado, chicken, scallions and spicy hot sauce.  These days, I love anything with scallions.  I tried her potatoes and they were chewy-crispy and well salted.  I could get in a lot of trouble with potatoes like those.  I got fruit with my North Beach crepe.  After I placed my order I had a bit of a WTF moment, if you will.  It was kind of a weird thing for me to order, a crepe covered with hollandaise sauce?  But I ended up enjoying it just fine, the crepe itself was good, not extraordinary but good, the chicken was tender and all the vegetables (onion, spinach and mushroom) were well cooked.  The hollandaise sauce didn’t taste exactly as I remember hollandaise tasting, this sauce was slightly cheesy, but I still liked it.  I was worried that with the swiss cheese inside it would be too cheesy, but I guess there’s practically no such thing.  I love cheese.

I had a nice time at Honey Honey, mostly because I was with a couple of good friends, but also because it was familiar.  It looked and tasted a lot like every other crepe restaurant I’ve been to in San Francisco.  It’s not a bad thing.  It’s also not something I feel a need to experience on a regular basis.  If I were a person who didn’t go to work at 9am every weekday morning and I lived within a block of the place I could see myself hanging out here in the late morning or late afternoon.  As I’m not, and I don’t, and there are better breakfast and burger and sandwich places closer to me, I’ll probably only be back when I get a mad crepe craving.  Who knows, it could happen.  Though their draft beer prices aren’t bad, and you know that can tempt a girl…

A quick word about the neighborhood; this is one of the nicest parts of the Tenderloin.  It is kind of a stretch to call this the Tenderloin, I’d say.  The streets are clean and there are grand buildings all around, hotels or the homes of exclusive clubs and societies.  I was really tickled by a review I saw when I was checking Honey Honey’s yelp page last night; this particular reviewer said, although he thought the cafe was worthy of 4 out of 5 stars, he wouldn’t visit at night because “sketcherloin is not somewhere one should visit once the sun goes down.”  HILARIOUS.  He also said he wouldn’t because they’re probably not open, though their yelp page clearly states they’re open til 10pm.  People.  You have nothing to fear at Post and Taylor after dark, unless you are scared of douchebags who frequent bars like the Owl Tree or people walking home from shopping trips. 

Honey Honey Cafe & Crepery

559 Post St

http://www.honeyhoneycafeandcrepery.com

Moulin

As I was reminiscing on my visit to Moulin, trying to come up with something witty and interesting to say about it, I started to ruminate on this blog as a whole, and what my brain spit out after all this work is that I think if you were to sum up Goldentooth in two words, they would be “pleasantly surprised.”  In the cases of most of the restaurants I’ve visited for the blog that I hadn’t frequented before I was apprehensive and/or pre-convinced that they would suck.  But again and again my assumptions are coming back to bite me in the backside when I am served another delicious meal.  This all occurred to me especially with Moulin because I went there with the lowest of expectations. 

I had actually been planning to go to Brenda’s because it was a rare weekday off for me and I thought that the wait would be less on a late Monday morning.  Turns out I was wrong, as usual.  Moulin was a third choice after I decided I didn’t have time to walk the extra couple blocks it would take to check out the line at Dottie’s.  I’ve been aware of Moulin for some time, I’ve passed by hundreds of times and I’ve heard people talk about it like they used to go there and it was good, but they stopped going.  It is kind of weird that I’d never been there, considering that I live barely 4 blocks away, but in terms of breakfast greasy spoon spots, I’ve been pretty loyal to New Village on Polk.  I’ve been eating farmer omelets and hash browns there for going on 7 years.  That’s why it pains me a bit to say that I want to go to Moulin for breakfast now and forever. 

My preconceived ideas about Moulin started to change as soon as I walked in.  I had been expecting something dingier and dirtier with more booths.  Instead, the interior was neat, though a bit cramped, and it was bright in the front and shadowy in the back.  It looked a bit like a chalet or some sort of Disney version of Scandinavia.  I kept thinking that it felt more like a diner in Southern California than one in San Francisco.  It was easy to forget that the Tenderloin was bustling right outside.

The food at Moulin is cheap.  Not astoundingly cheap, not especially cheaper than other diners, but cheap enough.  I ordered my coffee and I ordered the French toast breakfast, which came with sausage and an egg, which I asked for scrambled.  As I drank my coffee and found it being refilled at an astonishing clip, I noticed that there were only two people working in the restaurant.  An older Asian man who was taking orders, serving food and coffee and running the register and an older Asian woman who was doing the cooking and picking up the slack on the other tasks when her partner got busy.  Only two people in a restaurant that was fairly full of customers, and my coffee never got more than three-quarters empty.  Also, nobody entered or exited without getting a sincere and cheery greeting or farewell.  Several customers they seemed to know and they would stop and chat with them for a moment or two.  And still my coffee and water stayed full and my food came out in a reasonable amount of time considering there was only one cook.

I was astounded by the efficiency of the proprietors, but I was most astounded when my breakfast arrived.  It was GOOD.  And I don’t mean “good” like, “oh yeah, it was pretty good.”  This was one of the more delicious breakfasts I’ve had in a while.  The french toast was eggy and light and sweet after I drenched it in syrup.  The sausage was cooked in such a way that a crust formed on the outside of the link that you crunched through to reveal a juicy interior, yet the usual slime of grease you find with your breakfast sausage was absent from the plate.  And the egg…this was the highlight of the meal for me.  So many times you get scrambled eggs at a diner and they seem kind of like a throwaway; almost always they are cooked incorrectly, either they’re too dry or too runny.  These eggs were cooked absolutely perfectly, they were soft without being wet, they were fluffy and moist.  And to think that this level of perfection was achieved in a kitchen with just one cook.  My loyalty switched as soon as I put the first bite of egg in my mouth.  And everything was served on pretty fiestaware!  Moulin forever. 

Can I say more good things about Moulin?  As I mentioned before, the people working there were so so nice.  The cook, Janet I assume, cleared my empty plate from my table and remarked “you finished everything!  good for you!”  Too adorable.  As I paid (I think my bill ended up being about 9 bucks) and walked out of the restaurant, I was escorted by a chorus of “goodbye, thank you, have a nice day!”  I could still hear it as the door closed behind me and I was back in the world.  Luckily, morning is the nicest time to be on Geary Street.  The streets are cool and quiet, the odors are relatively non-offensive, and everybody on the sidewalks seem to be in a better mood than they are in the afternoon, when the street denizens seem not as happy to be alive.  I walked back up the hill home with a spring in my step, already looking forward to my next trip to Moulin.

Moulin

887 Geary

Their Yelp page

Be a Fan

Hey y’all!  I just wanted to stop in for a mo and let you know that Goldentooth now has a page on Facebook!  So you can become a fan, and then you’ll get updates when there’s a new post, as well as sneak peeks at photos and maybe hints as to where I’ll strike next.  I might also be asking for dining companions from time to time.  Right now there is no good link for the page, but I think you are all familiar with Facebook, right?  So just go there, search for Goldentooth in the search bar and you can’t miss it!  Exciting, isn’t it?

Larkin Express Burmese Kitchen

Hi guys, hi.  I know, I abandoned you for far too long.  I also know you don’t visit this blog to learn about my personal life (yeah right, you’re all obsessed with me, duh), so I’m not going to go on and on with excuses.  I’ll just say that it was a combination of long vacations and laziness, and I can’t promise it won’t happen again.  But I can promise that this blog is not dead!  Long live Goldentooth!

On to the eats!  After the gym on a Sunday morning Steve and I swung round the Tenderloin with the idea to get some pho somewhere.  On our way up Larkin our eyes were caught by the Larkin Express Burmese Kitchen and we decided to switch gears (ha ha, get it, because we were on bikes…and we switched gears…get it?) and have lunch there.  I was pretty psyched because I had only had Burmese food once, at Burma Super Star of course, where else, so the chances that I would be trying something new were pretty good.  And I love trying new things! 

I was expecting LEBK to be like a deli counter sort of place, almost half convenience store.  I guess it used to be more like that, but something changed, I don’t know if they’re under new management or what, but I thought it was pretty nice inside.  The decor is not extravagant, but I liked the autumnal colors and the tapestries and what not.  The dining area isn’t huge but they don’t cram a million tables into the smallish space, which is nice.  It was also nice that for most of the time we were there we had the place to ourselves.

If I wanted to oversimplify things in a very American way, I would say that the LEBK menu read like a cross between Indian and Vietnamese cuisines.  It was hard to pass up the noodle soups and the intriguing salads, but they offer a long list of combos that are too good not to order.  After much deliberation I decided on combo meal A, which is chicken or pork curry (I chose chicken), and vegetable (I chose sauteed stripped bamboo), dried shrimp paste and rice.  Steve ordered the combo meal D, which is a choice of any two meat curries (Steve went with chicken and beef), a vegetable (sauteed yellow pea and onion in this instance) and rice.  We also ordered a dish of samusas to start, because I just couldn’t resist.  I started with a mug of Burmese milk coffee

It was like any other hot coffee drink sweetened with condensed milk, but that never gets old with me.  It is the essence of deliciousness in a cup.  In my excitement over the milk coffee I neglected to read the menu closely enough to see that all the combo meals come with Organic Burmese hot tea.

It’s ok though, because the tea had nothing on the coffee.  Don’t get me wrong, it was nice and had a taste I couldn’t quite pin down, kind of like slightly bitter apricots, but tea is a second tier hot drink, no question.  Sorry tea, you know I still love you.

Samusas came out looking all gorgeous golden and crispy.  They came with a sauce that was bright red, an eensy bit sweet, spicy with big chili flakes and complexly salty, probably, I would guess, from some sort of preserved fish product.  The wrappers were perfectly light and greaseless, and the potato filling steamed as you bit into them.  The slight sweetness of the tuber mix was just right complemented by the dipping sauce.  Thinking about them now, my mouth is watering, I can taste that chili sauce…man, you guys, I think this is the perfect food.  I’m getting a little emotional over here. 

Ok, let’s snap out of it and get back to business, shall we?  Entrees have arrived;

Have I ever mentioned how much I love sectioned plates?  It’s not important right now, just thought I’d point that out.  Anyway, that bamboo looks a little scary, right?  Because it has big big slices of jalapeno in it.  I was definitely a bit scared at first.  I had a few tentative bites before I began to really chow down.  It was hot, certainly, but also bright and crunchy and slippery.  The chicken curry had a flavor that I want so badly to describe as murky, but I’m afraid that sounds unpleasant, when it totally isn’t.  It’s really delicious, but the flavor is deep and complex and feels dark on your tongue.  It’s spicier than the average curry you’ll come across and leaves a slow burn.  Of course the perfectly steamed white rice was the ideal companion for the curry.  Mm, so tender and creamy.  Love you forever white rice. 

The one thing that confused me during my meal was this, the dried shrimp paste.  It was not a paste as I understand pastes, it was more like a seasoning mix, it was very dry with clearly separated elements.  I didn’t know what exactly I was to do with it; I added a bit to some rice, but the flavor was very very strong.  In the end it was left by the side of my plate.  I suppose I should have asked what it’s purpose is, perhaps next time I will.  But it must be just a condiment, right?  If you know, please leave it in the comments, won’t you?

Ha, I’m finding the beige-ey beige-ness of Steve’s meal amusing in retrospect.  At the time I didn’t even notice it because everything was so delicious.  The beef curry was very tender and slightly smokier than the chicken curry.  The yellow peas were al dente with slightly chewy skins, which made for a nice texture contrast with the rest of the squishier dishes.  And I am on a real onion kick right now, so I appreciated the sweet oniony flavor that permeated the legumes. 

Should we talk about neighborhood?  LEBK is decisively in the Civic Center area of the Tenderloin, just a bit north of City Hall, and just south of the Larkin restaurant corridor proper, so things are pretty quiet in the immediate vicinity.  So quiet in fact that, if you were to visit, you would probably find yourself in the same situation we did, which is the lone customer in the restaurant.  Though I imagine it might do a brisk workday lunch business.  Still, if you like bustling joints, this isn’t for you.  If you like to eat quietly and like empty streets, check it out.

All in all, I was completely charmed by Larkin Express Burmese Kitchen.  Writing this post today, I was overcome with a desire to return IMMEDIATELY!  Next time I will certainly visit in the early evening, when they have a completely insane happy hour deal; 4 to 6pm any beer or wine (I assume they mean glasses of wine) is just two dollars!  Unbelievable.  Spicy food and cheap beer…does it get any better than that?

Larkin Express Burmese Kitchen

452 Larkin St

burmesekitchen.com