Fina Estampa

For Steve’s birthday dinner he wanted to go somewhere for the blog.  What a nice guy!  Since we were planning on hitting up a movie at the AMC 1000 (Youth In Revolt) he choose Fina Estampa.

Fina Estampa is notable for turning into a pretty off the hook dance club on some nights.  Other than that I knew nothing about it.  It looks kind of creepy from the outside because all the windows are pretty high off the ground so all you have to judge it by is the fortress-like exterior.  Inside is not much more inviting.

It’s rather cavernous and dark.  And, at least the night we were there, totally empty.  So empty, in fact, that we were almost sure that nobody was working there for at least a minute.  A really nice waiter eventually appeared and seated us and brought us our menus, then brought us bread and dips.

AMAZING bread and dips you guys.  This was the best thing we ate.  Check this stuff out.

The gold stuff is butter, obvs.  The white stuff is a kind of vinegary hominy.  The red is a super spicy roasted pepper sauce and the green stuff was this garlicky salty fucking delicious stuff.  I ate way too much of it.  Way way too much.  But I couldn’t stop.  I want to go back to Fina Estampa and just eat bread and dip and drink this.

Pisco Sour.  So delectable.  I think this has egg whites in it, but it tastes like a really good creamy margarita.  We got a pitcher of this for $26.  Totally worth it, especially because check out the classy wine glass you get to drink it out of!

Things went a little downhill from there.  It was so sad because I had such high hopes.  It didn’t suck or anything, but we didn’t have anything else as outstanding as the bread and the drinks.

Fina Estampa has their menu broken up into four sections; Tapas, Mexican Food, Peruvian Food and Platos de Mariscos.  We ended up ordering from each section except the Mexican food, because it was the most ordinary and boring, though if I were to return I’d probably order some quesadilla or something, because it’s also the cheaper sections.  We started off with the Spanish food,

When we ordered the mussels, or choros a la criolla, I was expecting steamed mussels, but these were more like a ceviche.  This was difficult to eat because there was so much of the pico de gallo-esque salsa on top of each mussel, and also because it was so lemon-y sour with not much salt to balance it out.  This could be remedied somewhat with some doctoring up with the bread condiments.  The sourness was also accentuated by the lack of flavor in most of the mussels.  They were of very uneven quality, there were a few that were tender, plump and sweet, but the others were bland and difficult to chew. 

Steve choose his entree from the Platos de Mariscos section of the menu, Saltado de Mariscos

I found the calamari to be the standout in this dish, which consisted of tomatoes and onions sauteed with calamari, clams and shrimp as well as french fries.  It was pretty good, but I think a saltado is better when it’s made with steak or chicken.  Seafood is a little more delicate in flavor and texture and has a harder time standing up to french fries.

I ordered from the Peruvian portion of the menu.  There were several dishes featuring noodles, and I couldn’t resist trying one.  I had never encountered noodles in South American food before, so how could I pass them up?  My tallarin de pollo was very much like chow mein, but not exactly.  The chicken strips were reminiscent of cheap Chinese food, dry and rough on the outside but moist on the inside and still pretty tasty, and the noodles were certainly chow mein noodles.  The tomatoes and onions were cut in a decidedly un-Chinese fashion, and the seasoning was more like what you’d expect in a Spanish dish.  It was an odd juxtaposition, and I definitely didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either.

In all, I enjoyed my experience at Fina Estampa.  It wasn’t the best food I’d ever had, but our waiter was really nice, and I like eating in a big empty room, and if I were to go again, the menu is so extensive that they would have a lot more chances to get it right.  I would recommend it as a spot to get a drink and bite before a movie at the AMC 1000; get that Pisco Sour.  Yum.

Fina Estampa

1100 Van Ness Ave

www.finaestampasf.com

EZ Pizza

It was a lazy, kind of sickly day, and a suggestion of delivery pizza sounded pretty good.  I hit up grubhub to find an acceptable place.  It’s not easy.  When you’ve set a goal for yourself like I have you have to make certain sacrifices, one of them being denying yourself pizza you know to be delicious to engage in the crapshoot of randomly picking a Tenderloin delivery-only pizza joint.  But that is my cross to bear, and so I waded through 20 something restaurants before settling on EZ Pizza.  What made me choose that particular one?  Well, first off getting delivery from EZ meant that I wouldn’t have to eat there; it’s located on Taylor between Turk and Golden Gate, which I have to admit is not my favorite area to hang out in.  Second, it has fair reviews on Yelp, which I take with a grain of salt, but are nice to see.  And lastly, the menu was pretty interesting, they have a lot of very delicious sounding special pizzas.  So I entered my order in grubhub, which I love.  I love ordering food online, I love not talking to people on the phone, especially now that I seem to be going deaf, I love getting a confirmation email, I just love everything about it.  Right, so the order went through and my pizza arrived in an acceptable window of time and here is a really great picture of it

Ha ha, not!  That is a terrible picture!  In real life the cheese was, y’know, a normal cheese color, not some crazy neon yellow green horrific color.  This pizza looks a little radioactive, I know, things are just really yellow in my house for whatever reason.  Anyway, this closeup is an teensy eensy bit better.

I guess.  It’s still looks kind of nuclear or something.  Anyway, I ate a slice of this pizza, the Gourmet Chicken Pizza with pesto, chicken, black olives, mushrooms and garlic, probably as I watched Jeopardy, and most of the cheese and the toppings slid off, which is annoying but doesn’t really take away from my enjoyment of it, I can deal with that.  It tasted pretty good.  The chicken I liked a lot, it was totally not what I expected when I read “marinated chicken” on the menu.  It was very saucy, very tomato-ey, not all dried out and hard enough to cut the roof of your mouth like chicken on pizza often can be.  It was my favorite part of the pizza.  I did like the crust a lot too, it was crispy and had hint of cheesiness.  Really though, the pie was about a million times better the next day, cold out of the refrigerator.  Weird how that happens sometimes.

Oh I also got a Caesar salad.

It wasn’t bad, it was lightly dressed and I didn’t find any of those weird slimy dark pieces of lettuce, so I guess they probably actually cut up some lettuce leaves to make it.  Which is nice, and the romaine was fresh and crisp.  The croutons were a little salty, but all right.  This is a pretty solid place to get a meal, and it’s pretty cheap (our large specialty pizza was around 23 bucks) and they have some good deals available on grubhub right now. 

EZ Pizza

39 Taylor St

www.ezpizzasf.com

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

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

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

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?

Blogroll Update

Hi y’all; no, no real update yet, though I’m giving you a little tease with the above photo.  I just wanted to alert you that I have updated by blogroll over there with some of my favorite food and SF-centric blogs.  They are sites that I read nearly every day and really enjoy, so I think/hope you might enjoy them as well.  I also wanted to ask for help; I’m always on the lookout for new reading material, so if anyone has any suggestions on good San Francisco material blogs I’d love it if you’d share!  Thanks in advance. 

I’m hoping to get some new restaurant posts up this week, I’ve really been lagging.  I’ve got a couple that are nearly ready to go, and I’m going to try to go out to some new places this week, because I’ll be out of town the last week of this month.  I’ll be in San Diego, and I know that’s pretty far from the Tenderloin, but I will be posting pictures of my eating adventures from the trip to banana hamburger.   banana hamburger is my new tumblr blog where I’m posting photos and thoughts from dining escapades outside the TL.  Probably a good place to go when this blog gets neglected for a while.  There’s a hot tip for ya.

eating the TL

I was inspired today to set a goal for myself, and a new direction for this blog.  I saw a blog called Eating Clement Street which is written by a woman who recently moved to the Inner Richmond and has decided to eat at every restaurant on Clement.  The Inner Richmond just happens to be my old hood, so I was keen to see what this blog had to say, and quickly found that it clashed with me.  Already, after only four restaurants written up.  So, as a rebuttal, I’ve decided that I will eat at and blog about every eating establishment in the Tenderloin.  I don’t know exactly how that is a rebuttal…one might say I’m just ripping this Clement Street blogger off.  Or that I’m ripping off the multitudes that she is ripping off.  A real rebuttal would be to eat at the places she goes to and write a blog about that…but I don’t live in the Inner Richmond anymore, I live in Lower Nob Hill.  The Tendernob, if you will (and I won’t).  So, I’m eating the TL.  Now, a few clarifications.  This is the Tenderloin neighborhood as defined by Yelp.  The borders are Franklin on the west, Powell on the east, Post on the north and about a third of a block south of Market (even with Stevenston Alley) on the south.  This is not how I would define the Tenderloin, (I would call it between Post and Market and Taylor and Van Ness) but it makes it easier to just go with Yelp.  I will be going to restaurants, bars , cafes, corner stores; any place serving food that is not a grocery store.  I am filtering out the more expensive places (I’m not rich) with Yelp’s qualification system, which means I am going to places with one or two dollar signs.  Also, I will be going to chain and fast food restaurants, but I won’t be going to Starbucks.  That is my one exception.  Through my Yelp research I am starting with a list of 251 restaurants.  I may find out that some of these restaurants are no longer open.  I may come across newly opened restaurants as time goes on.  I’ll cross all bridges as they come.  I will be visiting these restaurants in no particular order, just whatever strikes my fancy.  I hope that that is enough exposition because I can’t think of anything else to say.  I hope you are looking forward to some interesting adventures, because things can get pretty interesting in the Tenderloin.