Bang San Thai Cuisine Jones

Bang San Thai on Jones is the definition of a hole in the wall.  It’s cute and very very tiny, I’d say it can comfortably seat less than 20 people.   

Steve and I went here with my dad the day after New Year’s.  So this is the first Goldentooth foray of 2010!  How exciting!  Right?  You’re hella excited, I know.  Carrying on…

We were there pretty early, my dad is getting old and he likes to eat early, you know how old people are.  Just kidding!  Actually it was because my dad gave me a ride up from Ventura that day and we didn’t stop for snacks, so by the time we got to San Francisco our tummies were growlin’.  Eating early is fine with me anyway, it meant that we were the only people in the restaurant. 

One thing about these halal places, there’s no booze obviously.  This is a demerit in the books of both Steve and my dad.  I admit it’s a shame, because beer is the perfect cooling accompaniment to spicy Thai food, but this is the price you pay for (usually) a higher quality of ingredients.  So a round of Thai iced teas was ordered, and they were good.  The tea flavor was very strong, much more so than the average Thai iced tea you come upon. 

Sorry, it’s tom yum gai again.  Yes, I always order this, I can’t help it, I love this soup!  This was a fine version, not too spicy and not too sweet, with lots of mushrooms and chicken bobbing in the murky red broth.  It made my lips tingle, but not enough to stop slurping it down.   

Next we had an exceptional seafood salad.  I thought it was pretty excellent anyway.  I think Steve was put off by the rareness of the seafood, but I thought it was cooked perfectly considering the freshness of the shellfish, especially the scallops which were unbelievably sweet and tender.  I even enjoyed the mussels, which I’m usually not a fan of.  The sauce was a bit gritty, which I found odd and off putting at first, but forgot about pretty quickly because the flavor was so nice.

I’ve mentioned before that my dad likes stuff spicy, so this, the pa nang curry with chicken, is the dish we ordered extra hot and spicy.  I had a bit of stress picking out this dish, it went kind of like this; we want a curry!  well, what kind?  oh, I don’t know, whatever you like Mel.  Now, this is bothersome enough to me in ordinary circumstances because I hate making decisions.  However, when it comes to making decisions about curries, it’s even more trying to me, because I don’t generally care especially for Thai curries, and rarely order them, and therefore don’t know which kind of curry I like.  I know yellow is the non-hot one, but do I prefer green to red?  With coconut milk or without?  I just don’t know!  So I kind of randomly picked pa nang curry, a red curry with coconut milk, out of the list.  And I ended up being terrified of it.  As we were eating our soup and salad we heard the sizzle of raw food hitting a searing hot pan and soon the small dining room was filled with a steam or smoke and aroma that singed the nose and made the eyes water and caused me to cough.  I was like, holy crap, they’re really making that stuff spicy.  If the cooking fumes are effecting me like this, I don’t want to imagine what putting the actual food in my mouth will do to me.  The dish arrived at the table and it looked like it was probably pretty spicy and I refused to try it until maybe the tenth time Steve told me it really wasn’t that bad (I can’t trust my dad, he would probably bite into a raw jalapeno and tell me it wasn’t spicy).  And you know what?  It really wasn’t.  It was pretty unremarkable actually.  Just another damn curry.  There wasn’t anything wrong with it, but there was nothing exciting about it either.  And my dad was pretty bummed that they didn’t make it spicy for him.  It was almost like they went out of their way to make it not spicy. 

For our final dish we had trouble deciding whether to get the wide chow fun-esque noodles that my dad likes or the thai barbeque that we knew was a Bang San specialty, or to get both and have way way too much food.  Luckily, the specials board made the decision for us.

The super kee mao was a perfect alternative, combining drunken noodles (the flat rice noodles with pepper and basil) and your choice of barbeque beef or lamb.  We got lamb because that is Steve’s jam.

Mmm, that picture is making me salivate a little.  This was the best dish we ordered.  Perfectly cooked lamb, slightly charred, a little pink inside and easily yielding to the teeth topped wok fried gelatinous noodles that were just bursting with flavor, tangled up with slivers of peppers and green beans that hadn’t had all the crunch cooked out of them.  It was served with this little dish of a very unusual sauce, kind of like a chimichurri with fish sauce.  It was very salty but contrasted the sweet in the lamb and the noodles very nicely.  Definitely an order again dish.  My dad wanted me to get a close up of the noodles, so I did my best.

All in all, a kind of “eh” experience for me and my two favorite guys at Bang San.  I enjoyed all the food well enough, though it was another Thai restaurant that simply could not live up to Lers Ros.  My dad felt the same way I think.  In fact, he told me after our meal that he didn’t like anything we ate.  Then he retracted and said the Kee Mao was ok.  And he liked his iced tea.  I think probably he was peeved about the lack of spiciness in the Pa Nang, and I can’t blame him for that.  It’s a problem in many restaurants that serve cuisines with spicy dishes.  And it’s hard to blame the wait staff and the restauranteurs, to them my dad looks like any touristo who thinks they like spicy food because they put the fire sauce on their bean burrito (though I feel like people should be able to take one glance at my dad and his swarthy, cossack complexion and know he’s a guy who’s serious about his spicy food).  Bang San is not my first choice for Thai food in the Tenderloin, but for sure it’d be in my top five.  It has very good barbeque and lots of options for vegetarians and vegans, and, in my experience, are a reliable delivery provider. 

Bang San Thai Cuisine Jones

505 Jones

www.bangsanthai.com

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Vietnam Too

This is a story of Vietnam Too restaurant, but it’s not the same old story.  If this had been the story of any other of my visits to VT, it would go like this: the food was really good and surprisingly cheap and it came out fast and the servers were not going out of their ways to be nice but they seemed to tolerate me.  But that’s not the story this time.  I’m not sure why.  It could be because Steve and I sat at a table for maybe 10 minutes waiting for Bryan and Sarah to get there and we were asked maybe 3 times if we were ready to order and we said, no, we were waiting for a couple people.  Though, it would be pretty silly to be upset with us for that, since they have a large restaurant and it was largely empty and we did order beers.  Maybe it’s because once Bryan and Sarah got there, it still took us a little bit to order food.  Or maybe it’s because we ordered more food than could fit on our table.  I don’t know.  All I know is that it saddens me a little to be writing about the worst experience I’ve had at a restaurant I really like for this blog.

See, there we are enjoying our 33s while we wait, looking out on a mostly empty dining room.  Bryan and Sarah arrived shortly after I took this picture and we got down to figuring out the food sitch.

I like everything I’ve ever ordered at Vietnam Too, but mostly I’m interested in the banh hoi.  These are make your own spring rolls, you choose your protein and they bring out a dish of grilled meat, a plate of greens and sweet pickled veggie, a bowl of boiling hot water and a stack of dry rice paper wrappers.  It’s fun and tasty and I was way excited to try it again.  We ordered the BBQ prawns to share. 

Steve and I ordered the combination Won Ton soup for the two of us.  It was ok, but not my favorite thing ever because, you know, fish balls.  Yeah, it had fish balls in it, which I wasn’t expecting and didn’t really appreciate.  Otherwise it was fine, but disappointing in comparison to the other soups I’ve tried there (like Crab and Asparagus soup) which have been excellent.

Sarah ordered the green papaya salad for the table.  I don’t eat papaya salad that often but I always enjoy it when I do, and this was no exception.  There was a nice melding of sweet, tangy and salty and I liked the juicy crunchiness of the papaya.  My favorite part of this dish was the lightly fried prawns that dotted the top.  They evoked what popcorn shrimp could be if popcorn shrimp was routinely delicious.  Light and lacy outside, sweet and tender on the inside, they were a perfect complement to the vegetable part of the salad.

The banh hoi arrived, the lemongrass scented BBQ prawns on a bed of cellophane noodle that soaked up all the oil and juices the little crustaceans released.  The oddly textured things to the back left of the prawns in the above picture are the rice paper wrappers, and to the back right you see the lettuce, herbs (mint and basil), bean sprouts and pickled carrots and cucumbers you use to put your wrap together.  Some people like to put the lettuce inside the rice paper, i like to have the lettuce on the very outside of everything.  Whichever way is right, it’s all equally delicious.  Though, I have to say, I didn’t think the prawns were as delicious as the charbroiled pork I’d had here before.  They certainly couldn’t live up to the bodacious prawns from the papaya salad. 

Steve and I also ordered the pork kebab as, I guess, our main course.  Though I’m not sure why we thought we needed so much food.  By the time this dish came out, I was pretty full.  Still, I managed to cram a couple bites of pork into my overstuffed gullet.  It was flavorful and tender, with some charred and caramalized edges that I really liked, but it probably wasn’t the best choice for our one main dish, considering that it was just a big pile of meat on a plate.  I get a little antsy if I don’t see any vegetables.  But that’s neither here nor there I suppose, because it was still yummy.  We did get bowls of their very good brown rice to eat with the pork, and the smoky sweet meat went very well with the sweet and nutty rice.

This is where it starts to get kind of funny again.  Not funny ha ha, funny weird.  Bryan and Sarah had ordered their own main courses, each was getting a bowl of pho tai.  Well, our pork kebab had been on the table for several minutes, but still no big cauldrons of soup had arrived.  Bryan flagged the waiter down to ask about the pho, and the waiter said they’d be right out.  Now, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m something of a veteran noodle soup eater, so I have a pretty good handle on how long it takes a bowl of pho to get from kitchen to table, and it’s roughly between 30 seconds and 3 minutes.  I can’t remember a time, even in the busiest restaurants, when it took longer than that between my order and my receiving the soup.  I don’t recall exactly how much time had passed by the time B and S’s phos were set down in front of them (I’d had a few 33s by that hour) but my internal clock knew it was longer than it should have been.  Also, the soups were not accompanied by their standard herb and citrus accoutrement, though at this point our companions decided beggars can’t be choosers and just dug into their soggy noodles without condiments.  Also, the “rare” beef in the bowls was completely cooked through, perhaps suggesting that the bowls had been sitting in the kitchen ready to go for some time.  So the meal ended on something of a low note. 

All in all, this was an out of the ordinary meal at this establishment.  I am not pleased to report it here to you, since I am otherwise quite fond of the restaurant.  Overall the food was good, but nothing was particularly outstanding, and the service, which I feel isn’t their strong suit on a normal day, was strangely hostile.  I definitely do not want to dissuade you from trying Vietnam Too, it is a great place for affordable Vietnamese food that is a step or two above average.  I suppose I’d just recommend that you don’t get seated before your whole party has arrived…and that you don’t over order.  Good luck!

And hey, check out their cool fountain while you’re there!

Vietnam Too

701 Larkin St

Their Yelp Page

Brenda’s French Soul Food

I kind of thought I might never go to Brenda’s again.  Weekends at this place are usually kind of a situation.  They have about thirty seats and about 5 million people who want to have brunch there on Saturday.  Seriously, their yelp page has 1091 reviews.  That sounds like a lot right?  Especially for a place that is only open for breakfast and lunch, has been in operation just over two years, and was originally closed on the weekends.  Oh, and only seats 30 people at a time.  Craziness.  So, yeah, I thought I’d never go there again because I don’t really do the whole waiting thing, especially not for breakfast, but on Christmas Eve a little before one’o’clock we had our names at the top of the list.  And we got there just in time, check it out

Phew.  Steve and I hung out on the sidewalk out front for maybe 8 minutes.  During that time we noticed that the laundromat next door had been shuttered, and they had one of those building permit things in the window with Brenda’s name on it.  Hmm….

We got seated one of the four-tops in the middle of the restaurant and we felt pretty relieved that we weren’t sitting at the counter.   I have felt uncomfortable at Brenda’s before, but this time, even though nearly every seat in the place was occupied, I had plenty of breathing room. 

I was a little worried about this visit to Brenda’s once we got inside and I started looking over the menu.  It had probably been a year since I’d eaten there, and what if it wasn’t as amazing as I remembered?  What if this place was all hype?  I mean, there’s always a long wait at the Cheesecake Factory too, you know?  But then the gumbo came

And I was like, “Nope, they got this shit locked down.  This is the real thing.”  See, it’s steaming, it’s hot, but not like I ate some and burned my tongue and I couldn’t enjoy food for the next day and a half.  It was the perfect temperature, the perfect touch of spice with a subtle flavor of green peppers.  It was smooth and velvety and the rice, OMG THE RICE.  It was perfectly perfectly cooked, not at all mushy, each grain was firm but yielding.  Yeah, it was great.  It was kind of an afterthought order and I am so glad I made it.  But it only got better from there.

Steve got the special I’d been eyeing, the andouille, crawfish and cheddar potpie.  My stomach fell in love with it as soon as I saw it.  It’s one of the most beautiful foodstuffs I’ve ever seen.  It does not get a lot more food porn-y than that.  And incredibly the taste totally lived up to the looks.  The gravy inside was rich and brothy, and the intense cheesiness, the sweetness of the crawfish and the earthy spice of the sausage worked together in a way I could not have imagined.  The salad that came on the side was fresh and bright and dressed with some sort of light yet creamy dill vinagrette.  I had to keep myself from eating all of it.  Basically, if you see this on the specials menu GET IT.  For reals, just get it. 

Now onto my meal.  Grillades and grits.  I had never had grits before I ate at Brenda’s, but they turned me into a believer.  On the menu, they’re listed as cheddar cheese grits, but they’re more like butter grits with a touch of cheddar.  Not that I’m complaining.  I broke open my overeasy eggs and got a bit of runny yolk, a bit of grits and a bit of beef and Creole gravy on my fork, then down the hatch.  Wow.  Did I already say it doesn’t get much better?  Because it doesn’t.  Creoles dude, they know how to do it right. 

Holy crap, and my biscuit!  I remembered Brenda’s having pretty standard cream or whatever biscuits.  They were good, but it’s not really something I get excited over.  The biscuits have changed though.  Now they’re like biscuit/croissant hybrids.  And they’re as big as your head.  Well, not really.  Practically.  More like as big as your fist I guess.  I ate mine with butter and strawberry jam because it wasn’t rich enough for me as is I guess.  Because I’m a glutton.

It makes me pretty mad to think that someone ate that for breakfast this morning.  And I didn’t.  I ate a tub of cottage cheese from Lee’s Deli that I was really terrified would turn out to be rotten (it was ok though). 

Oh, and I forgot, Steve got a watermelon ice tea.  Yum.

I just had water.  I would normally get coffee, but they do some sort of New Orleans chicory coffee, which just isn’t my thing.  So whatevs. 

I can’t wait til they expand.  If it indeed happens.  I hope they can keep the quality super high if they have a larger clientele.  Becaue I am really looking forward to just dropping in on a Saturday morning if I feel like it.  How rad would that be?

Brenda’s French Soul Food

652 Polk St

www.frenchsoulfood.com

TCB

Hi y’all, just a few things I wanted to bring up real quick.  First of all, there is a new, shorter and easier to remember url to use to find this blog.  Now, instead of all that dot this dot that stuff, you can just type goldentoothsf.com.  How easy is that?  I know it’s made my life a lot better.

Second, I’ve added some search functions in the bar over there to the right.  There is a drop down menu where you can find a particular restaurant by name, or find all the restaurants that serve a particular cuisine.  I’m thinking of also adding the ability to search by street, I’d love feedback from you guys if you think that would be helpful or not.  Also, there is a search bar at the very bottom, if you, say, are wondering “what was that restaurant Mel went to with her dad?”  you can type “dad” into the search bar and it’ll take you to all the posts where I mention good old dad.  This is all very exciting stuff, no?

So thanks for reading, I hope you’ve been enjoying everything so far and that maybe you’ve been intrigued by some of these places, maybe even enough to visit somewhere new.  I have a lot of stuff in bullpen just waiting to get posted, so be sure to check back often.  Or you could always follow me on twitter or become a fan on facebook.

xo

mel

Zen Yai Thai

The first thing I saw at Zen Yai Thai was this sign.

It got me pretty jazzed.  I got a good little charge out of that.  Yeah, it’s a hot hit, I’ll be puttin in my mix like a number one record.  So much promise!  It’s like, how could they possibly live up to the hype!  They totally couldn’t, that’s how.  Or, how not?  Anyway, the interior of Zen Yai is really nice.

Steve had this restaurant.com gift certificate thing, so we ordered more food than we otherwise might.  We started of with Tom Yum soup, because, duh, you should know by now, as well as an iced coffee for Steve and a Thai iced tea for me. 

The drinks were fine, pretty average.  The soup was my second favorite thing we ate. 

There was a good balance of sour and spicy, and nice big chunks of veggies and chicken. 

The best thing we got was the barbeque.

We got the pork spare ribs and they were super triple double dog delicious.  They were sweet and succulent, not flabby but with the rich flavor of pork fat throughout.  Sometimes it’s easy to forget why and get annoyed when people go ape shit over bacon and all that, but when you eat something like these ribs, it’s like, oh yeah, now I remember.  Pretty amazing stuff.  They come with a superfluous sweet and sour dipping sauce (they already have some sort of sweet glaze on them), a refreshing vinegary carrot salad and some perfectly cooked sticky rice, which is adorably wrapped up in a foil packet.  I would love to try their other barbeque items to see if they are equally good.  I know that they are equally (ridiculously) cheap at seven bucks.

The rest of the stuff we got, unfortunately, was pretty blah.  Green veggie curry with tofu

was bland and a little grainy.  It was nice of them to make it for us with fresh tofu, as they usually make it with fried tofu.  Although the soy stuff was silky and fresh, it couldn’t save the dish.  The spicy squid also fell flat

To start off, it wasn’t very spicy.  That wasn’t the real problem though, the real problem was the mushiness of the squid.  I like my squid to have a little tooth to it, a snap when you bite into it.  This squid seemed to just disintegrate into paste after the first chew.  Kinda gross.  It’s weird, because the combination of bamboo shoots, squid and chiles sounds like it would hit right in my sweet spot, but this just tasted kind of off.  What a disappointment. 

It’s a shame that we ordered the wrong stuff here.  If we’d just stuck to the soup and the barbeque, I think we would have been pleased as punch.  Like I mentioned before, the restaurant has a very nice, clean and modern dining space, and our waitress was pleasant and did a great job.  The prices are better than reasonable and at the peak lunch hour on a Saturday we had the place entirely to ourselves.  It’s possible that I’ll eat Zen Yai Thai again, since they deliver, but it’s pretty unlikely as long as Lers Ros is still open.  Damn you, Lers Ros!  You have ruined me for all other Thai restaurants. 

Zen Yai Thai

771 Ellis St

www.zenyaithai.com

Ananda Fuara

Happy New Year everyone!  I hope that you all have a really great 2010 and that you try some really awesome new (to you at least) restaurants this year.  I have a feeling it’s going to an interesting one.

Well, let’s start a new year at Goldentooth with an old favorite of mine, Ananda Fuara.  Steve and I started going to Ananda Fuara when we first started on our “healthy living” escapades.  We didn’t do a lot of eating out because we were being pretty strict with our diets.  When we discovered Ananda Fuara it was like a miracle.  We could go out to a restaurant and not feel super crappy about it afterwards!  And the food was pretty delicious!  And it looks pretty creepy from the outside, but on the inside it’s actually super nice!

I guess there are a couple things about Ananda Fuara that put people off.  One, it’s vegetarian, and people who aren’t vegetarians sometimes freak out if they can’t eat meat.  It’s not vegan though, okay guys?  You can still get hella cheese, which is nothing to sneeze at.  Two, it’s run by a cult.  They are led by this guy who is hella strong (there are pictures of him lifting like 700 pounds!) and likes to paint.  You can see videos of him painting at the restaurant, and postcards of his works are on each table.

The last sort of yucky thing about Ananda Fuara is that it is right on Market street without much else going on in the immediate area businesses-wise, so there is always a choice selection of derelicts in the vicinity.  I’ve never been hassled by anyone, and once you get inside it looks like this;

Kind of like your aunt’s house or something, if your aunt lived in a restaurant.  So don’t worry about it, just get inside and everything will be fine.

It was pretty cold this evening, so I ordered a teeccino

This is their fake coffee drink.  It’s got chicory, almonds, barley and some other stuff in it.  Mostly it tastes like sweet hot milk.  I think that’s what people like these days, and certainly I like it these days.  I can pretend like I’m drinking a latte and not have to worry about being up til 4 in the morning because I am a child who can’t have caffeine past 12 noon. 

I’m always tempted by the appetizers like the “chicken” nuggets, the samosas, the nachos…but the meals here are super filling.  I was considering one of the salads because I was reading stuff by this crazy guy and I was like, yeah, I guess I could stand to eat less carbs.  In the end though, I couldn’t resist the curry dinner

Everyday they have a different special entrée, curry, garnish, soup and gelato and sorbet.  The curry that day was matar paneer, peas with fresh cheese.  I love paneer, and though the curry at Ananda Fuara is extremely mild, it’s certainly comparable in flavor to most Indian places in San Francisco, and I’d wager a good deal healthier.  The curry dinner comes with naan, which in this case was stained bright yellow and was soft and pillowy and sweet.  Nothing to write home about, no crispy charred bits, but they’re doing their best; they certainly don’t have a tandoori oven here.  It also comes with a pretty delicious rendition of raita and a really tasty sweet chutney, which tastes kind of like apple sauce if it were made with apricots and pineapple instead of apples.  Oh, and rice of course, which was fine. 

Steve ordered the same thing he orders probably 80% of the time we go to Ananda Fuara, the Ensalada Mexicana.  It is a pretty tasty salad, what’s kind of neat about it is they put hot rice and beans on top of the cold lettuce, which results in slightly wilted greens, which is something I’m pretty wild for. 

I wanted to try one of their awesome vegan baked goods for dessert but, even though my dinner didn’t look like it was that big, I was absolutely stuffed.  As usual, everything was tasty and fresh, served with a pleasant attitude and very affordable.  I think one would be hard pressed to find nothing to like at Ananda Fuara.  It’s one of those places you can overlook or look down at forever, but you shouldn’t.  You should give it a try and you will find yourself won over, I’m pretty sure.

Ananda Fuara

1298 Market

www.anandafuara.com