Bamboo Pizza

Ok folks, this is it.  Bamboo Pizza.  The scariest restaurant I’ve ever eaten at, and maybe the scariest I ever will eat at.  Definitely it will be in the top ten I imagine.  I rode by this place on my bike a couple times before I ate there and didn’t think it could be a real restaurant, it was either an empty storefront and/or it was named by someone who didn’t know what “pizza” means.  There was no way that there could be a place called Bamboo Pizza really serving pizza.  Turns out I was wrong. 

Judging by this sunbleached poster thing in the front window, Bamboo Pizza has been serving slices for some time.  The mystery (one of them at least, there are dozens of mysteries surrounding this place) is how are they selling enough of them to stay open.

Upon entering Bamboo Pizza, Steve and I saw a table of four old Asian gentlemen (Steve and I disagree on whether the proprieter and this group of gentlemen were Chinese or Vietnamese) and this terrifying hot food display.  Being confronted with this filthy glass encasement, I began to feel panicky.  There was no menu, and no sign of any food being made to order.  This was it.  It looked fucking scary.  The pizza was unlike any pizza I’ve ever seen,  it looked like a frozen pizza that had been reheated and reheated and reheated until the cheese and sauce began to congeal and become one entity.  The potato wedges were glistening and wet.  The baked chicken (you are so lucky I didn’t get a good picture of it) looked like the chicken they cook in Gone With the Wind during the war when they’re nearly out of food; scrawny and almost black, with skin drawn taut over bones.  The fried chicken was not the color fried chicken should be.  It was all just so wrong. 

Steve ordered first because I was sort of in a state of shock.  He got fried chicken and potatoes.  I figured we might as well try everything they had, so I ordered the pizza and the baked chicken.  I ended up getting fried chicken and potatoes.  I don’t know if this was due to there being a language barrier, or if the dude just recognized that I really didn’t want to eat that pizza.  Our lunches (plus drinks, Steve had a coffee and I got a Tiki Punch) totalled up to eight dollars.  EIGHT DOLLARS.  A quarter of a chicken for two dollars.  Potatoes for one dollar.  Drinks, at one dollar each, were the most expensive things in the place.  It was mental.

Ugh, looking at this picture of what I ate is turning my stomach.  Look at those potatoes, my god!  I know you want a close up:

Barf. 

So, the thing is this food wasn’t TERRIBLE.  Hear me out.  It wasn’t good, certainly, the chicken was very salty and pretty tough and the potatoes…well the potatoes were pretty disgusting.  Intensely greasy, odd tasting and unevenly cooked, sometimes mushy sometimes crunchy, like an apple.  But the point is that nothing tasted rotten or putrid.  Everything tasted like it wasn’t fresh, but not like it had gone bad.  Well, everything except for the ketchup.  I started off dipping my potatoes in it, but noticed it was very sour and sort of effervescent.  I said to Steve, hey I think that ketchup is starting to go off, and he said, really?  as he squirted more onto his plate.  Guess which of us ended up with a stomach ache later?

The reason I couldn’t finish my food (or even my Tiki Punch!) was that I was so grossed out by the scary filthiness of the restaurant that I couldn’t stop thinking about it everytime I would bring a morsel to my mouth.  They even had a disgusting dirty TV-VCR set up on which they were showing some video of a concert or something.

One of those videos was titled “Jekyll and Hyde Together Again” which sounds pretty great.

There was a lot of weirdness going on while we were there.  To begin with, the four old dudes were there when we got there and still there when we left, showing no sign of budging.  They weren’t eating, they were playing cards but displayed no evidence that they were gambling.  Several people came in to buy food, not homeless people, but certainly very poor people.  That’s how we learned that slices of that gnarly pizza cost only one dollar.  One lady came in, we didn’t really pay that much attention to her at first because we thought she was just getting food.  She got my attention when she started very loudly talking about how someone had jumped out a window up the street on Ellis.  Then she left, with no food, but Steve insists that he saw money change hands between her and the proprietor.  So what else is this dude selling?  Also strange; a refrigerator like an ice cream display, about waist level with a sliding door on top, with what looked like old Jug Wine jugs full of what looked like olives.  I didn’t notice until we were leaving that there seemed to be a sandwich prep area in the back with a giant jar of peanut butter on it.  So the point is I have no idea what is going on with this place.  I just know that I never want to go back, and I recommend you avoid it at all costs.

Bamboo Pizza

407 Ellis

Their Yelp Page (two reviews!  amazing!)

Pizzeria

OH MY GOD I KNOW.  It’s been forever.  I have been treating this blog so deadbeat dad style.  Here’s a treat for you though, a very special trip outside the Tenderloin to start AND later, another post!  Because shit, I have got a TON of restaurants to get through!  Just because you haven’t heard from me doesn’t mean I stopped eatin’, y’all.  Oh, I have been eating up a storm.  Believe it.

Anyway, here’s the deal with Pizzeria.  Yeah, it’s on Valencia, but the owner, Juned, was kind enough to invite me over there for dinner on him in exchange for me writing this post that you are currently reading.  So I was like, sure, why not?  I had been wanting to try this Pizzeria place for a while, I’d read about it being as good as any other pizza spot in the area, but perpetually empty. 

And yeah, it was pretty much a ghost town in there.  But, to be fair, it was Cinco de Mayo, which is not a day when people generally go out for pizza dinners, especially in the Mission.  And though the dining room was quiet, throughout the meal I noticed they were doing a pretty brisk delivery business.  I asked Juned about this and he confirmed that they do a lot of delivery because they are a halal establishment, which mean no alky-haul.  That’s a problem for some people.  Trust me, I know all about it. 

We started with this Greek salad, which was as delicious as it looks.  Everything was impeccably fresh and the balsamic dressing was sweet and salty and rich.  I have to admit, I was pretty relieved when this salad came out.  I was starting to doubt a little, to think that maybe this place stank it up and that’s why it was empty.  This salad reassured me that that was not the case. 

I was having trouble choosing a pizza because they all sounded really good (especially the Philly Cheesesteak, wow) but Steve was immediately drawn to the Chicken Tikka Masala and I certainly wasn’t going to argue with that. 

Oh man.  This was a pretty good pizza you guys. The crust was crackly and the flavor was robust and developed.  Juned told me this is because they let the crust rest for a day before they use it.  The extra time is totally worth it.  I appreciated that, though the crust was awfully thin, there was still a raised edge and that the sauce and cheese and toppings came right up to that ring.  Do you find that with a lot of very thin crust pizzas these days the toppings are just kind of sprinkled over the center and not spread out well?  I feel like I find that to be the case.  Not so cool.  The sauce here was applied with a light hand, and had just the right amount of sweetness.  The chicken was still tender and the Indian spices were subtle but definitely there.  There was a soft but lingering heat. 

Steve and I didn’t order wings because we try to be kind of healthy, and usually when we go for pizza we get a salad and a small and we are stuffed.  Maybe Juned sensed how tempted I was by the mention of wings on the menu because he brought us some after we finished our pizza.

Holy crap you guys, these wings.  I mean, I’ve already said how delicious everything else was, but these were definitely the highlight of the meal.  So. Freaking. Good.  They use free range chicken and that, plus whatever else they do to these wings, make them so chicken-y tasting.  I’m used to dry, sort of flavorless chicken under all that sauce.  These wings were juicy and bursting with flavor.  And they make up their own sauce here, starting with a base of Frank’s Red Hot sauce, then adding their own touches.  These are what will bring me back.  Well, these and that Philly Cheesesteak pizza.  I have got to try that. 

So that was my dinner at Pizzeria.  It was awesome.  Now, you might be saying, oh, it was just delicious and awesome because they invited you there especially to wow you and they won you over with freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.  But that’s just not true.  I was won over before the cookies came.  Also, I don’t think the treatment I received was especially preferential.  I think anyone who went to Pizzeria would have a similar experience, because Juned is a really nice guy who’s really excited about pizza.  He is super enthusiastic about the food he is making; he gushed about going to buy fresh basil and showed me the container they use to keep it fresh, and talked proudly about using only California garlic and real fresh pine nuts in the pesto.  He is just a dude who thinks he’s making really great food and wants to share it with people.  And he’s right, he’s making good food with lots of love.  I guess I should say something sort of negative so I don’t seem like a crazy shill, huh?  Well, if I have to, I would say that Pizzeria could do with a remodel of the interior.  I think they are trying to reflect the quality of the food and their desire to separate themselves from slice joints in the decor, but it comes off as uninviting.  More light I think would serve them well, and maybe white tablecloths.  The combination of leather chairs and shiny dark wood tabletops comes off a little cold.  If they could warm the dining room up, I think more people would be drawn to eat inside.  But then again, I’m not an interior designer, so what do I know?

I think you should try Pizzeria if you’re in the neighborhood.  If you really need a drink, there are tons of bars around that you can visit before or after you eat.  Or, if you’re not in the neighborhood, think of them the next time you’re contemplating delivery.  And don’t forget the wings!

Pizzeria

659 Valencia

http://www.sfpizzeria.com/