after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

A Missing Month!

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t says:  Holy cow!  It’s been a whole month since our last post!  How shameful!  I guarantee that we’ve been eating – it’s just that I didn’t have time to eat and type!  So it’s time for a photostorm!!!!

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We’ve eaten a LOT of Long Bridge pizza.  It’s a bit insane to think that this is our “local pizza place”, as it’s definitely something that we would typically reserve for a weekend (given cost and fancy-ness).  However, when faced with just how good it tastes, g and I happily splurge on these two: the meatball pizza with the calabrian chili is to crazy-good, and the kale pizza special.  Hell – we’ve been guilty of ordering a large (or two) and freezing the rest for those lazy weekday nights when all we can muster is the strength to reheat a slice or two.

 

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For our anniversary, we ventured to Flour + Water.  This was my first time and g’s nth time.  Given the difficulty in securing a reservation and how much our friends had loved it, I knew it was going to be good – definitely anniversary-worthy.  We also pulled out a bottle of ’08 Detert Cab Franc (in the background) to mark the occasion – and boy did the sparks fly between the wine and the food!

 

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This pork rind and pickled tomatoes and ?polenta-corn-something-or-other? were an incredible way to start the meal.  I didn’t realize how hungry I was until taking these first bites.  I swear that these pictures just do not do justice to just how yummy these items were.  Given the excess of pork rinds, we held a moment of silence for kp: we miss you! come back!

 

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This salmon-filled pasta pouch was a complete mind-twist.  It was served with a clear [tomato?] broth, that when combined with the pasta gave the mouth a sensation that was as deep and full of flavor as any soulful cioppino or seafood stew that I could imagine … but it was a simple ravioli-ish thing in a clear broth!  Crazy!

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The rabbit tortellini ripped my head clear off my shoulders.  In some kind of buttery sauce, it sang for minutes on the palate with a delicate-but-unctuous presence that combined with the cab franc just so!  I mean, the other dishes were amazing as well that night (we’ll spare you the photos of pasta on pasta on pasta), but this one was the one I’ll remember [until my next time].  I do want to say that Flour + Water’s showing that night was superior to SPQR’s pasta menu because the flavors are homier, but just as profound, which we think make for a more craveable experience.  Don’t get me wrong – they’re both tasty – and SPQR rides the “unique” train (beet+beef + pasta!) – but as I daydream of pastas, it’s going to be F+W’s that come to mind.

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This picture is NOT from F+W, rather from Foreign Cinema.  Let me just get it out of the way right now: Foreign Cinema was underwhelming.  The “movie” that you’re supposed to be able to watch was a lie – it wasn’t even started when we got there, and we were seated far out of the way.  I guess you have to request a seat out in the garden?  On top of that, the food was quite forgettable.  I mean – I forgot what anyone else had already.  Even this dish, a pasta with bitter greens, cheese, and breadcrumbs should have been an easy homerun (I mean, if g and I can kill it at home with these ingredients, a restaurant should do better, right?), but it was “meh” at best.  The rest of the meal was similar – nothing remarkable – all quite snooze-worthy.  We sat, we ate, we left, and we proceeded to forget …  We did, however, go to Butter for Karaoke Sunday.  Pictures are not included to protect the innocent.  We’d definitely go back (with friends).

 

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During a trip to Napa, we hit up Redd Wood in Yountville.  Now this was redemption after the previous night’s snoozefest at Foreign Cinema.  The pole beans were a pretty boring looking item on the menu, but let’s just say that the char on these was fabulous.  I’m never eating steamed beans every again – burn mine forevermore!  We also did an obligatory four-cheese pizza (with an egg), a cheese plate, and a squid salad – but my sis claims that the pole beans were the best.  The rest of us can’t believe that she’d dis’ a four-cheese pizza like that, but I guess the bottom line is that Redd Wood delivered in spades, and might be my new favorite Napa lunch!  (Better than Addendum?  Maybe …)

 

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I have but a single picture from a dinner at Statebird Provisions.  A crime – I know.  Above is a japanese egg custard topped with kimchi and uni.  Go ahead and imagine that for a second.  Well this was even better than what you’re imagining.  It was rich and somehow light.  It was spicy and somehow flavorful (i.e. it wasn’t just a mouthful of spice).  It was a perfect bite.  Yes, Statebird had a lot of other wonderful dishes, from dumplings, to fried rice, to a crazy good kung poa sweetbreads, to burrata – and while it seems ridiculous to omit all the description of the variety that we had, I think you’re better served by this summary: if you want an “interesting”, “delicious” meal that’s an “experience”, then this is your place.  If you’re prone to hesitation or fear or food restrictions or sefishness (i.e. can’t share with tablemates), then don’t even bother.  Your interaction with hearing about food, choosing food, eating food, and groaning about deliciousness takes center stage here – so if that doesn’t appeal to you, then SBP isn’t going to be fun.  Now me: I love this place.  g “likes” it, but it’s not going to win over her heart of hearts – she wants less fuss, less “show”, less pressure to choose between plates that arrive at the table in random order – just give her delicious food and that’s it.

 

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Oh Zazie.  You sly dog.  We roll in there on a Tuesday and you blow us away with delightful food, a BYO policy, and tip-includedness.  You can do no wrong.  Seafood stew (above)?  Done.  Lamb?  No problem.  Pork?  Piece of cake.  Now if only you were closer …

Written by afterdinnersneeze

5 July 2016 at 11:22am

An Instant Philly Fave!

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t says:  I’ve been holding back on this review for a while because I couldn’t figure out how best to do it.  Normally, for a restaurant that was this delicious, I like to do a dish-by-dish review.  But the lighting was so low that the photos all came out terribly.  So now what?  And I don’t have the gift of word necessary to carry you through an entire multi-course meal.  So I decided to keep it tight:

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First, I wanted to prove to you how terrible the photos were.  I mean look at this thing!  It looks disgusting!  What’s that supposed to even be?  There is simply nothing I could say at this point to make you want to try the above dish … which would be a shame … 

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… because then you’d miss out on the best Boeuf Bourgignon that I’ve ever had – which is a lot of Boeuf!  For me it could not be any better: the beef was braised to perfect tenderness, and it was accompanied by the perfect consistency of the vegetables and the perfect depth in the sauce.  Sure other people had things on the table that I tried and also enjoyed (the fennel salad was spot-on, the spice goat was actually spicy, and the shakshuka was Kanella-good), but that Beef will haunt me until the next time I can have it again …  Gawd I want some right now …  I will mention one caveat – it was frickin’ snowing in April, so the Boeuf also gave me the psychological hug I needed to give me the strength to go outside again …

 

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Did I mention that the desserts were also delicious?  This is a huge plus in my book.  In a world where people are half-assing their desserts, I’m glad to see some with actual creativity and execution – good job Neuf!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

22 May 2016 at 3:33pm

Sous Buerre and Souvla – an exercise in opposites

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t says:  There’s no reason that Souvla and Sous Buerre Kitchen should be in the same review.  They feature different cuisines.  They’re in different neighborhoods.  They are entirely different concepts (restaurant vs. order-and-sit).  Really, the only thing keeping them in the same post is that they both begin with the same-sounding first syllable: “soo”.  But if you look deeper, maybe there is a point, because one’s failing is precisely the reason why the other is a success.

 

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Take Sous Buerre.  Referred to us by a server at Neuf in Philly (which was AWESOME – review coming …), we thought that it would have been a slam dunk.  It was more of a lay-up.  It got the job done, but it wasn’t spectacular.  Above is the sous vide pork loin.  You look at it on the plate and it looks like it has the potential knock your socks off.  Then you begin tasting: pork tastes like a good pork, the asparagus tastes like good asparagus, the jus is tasty, the kale leaf is weird.  And you put it all together and it just doesn’t quite sing.  It tasted like a pork with a side of veggie.  Not bad – but not great; the sum of the dish was not above its components.

 

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And this is the last photo I’ll share: the dessert.  Once again – lots of components strewn across the plate … but there was no synergy – which was surprising as hell because it was all bait! (chocolate, marshmallow, etc).  Unfortunately, the rest of the group didn’t have much else to praise (the gnocchi seemed like they were well-received, but no one shouted out: “OMG – you have to try this!”).  Fortunately, the company we had was awesome, and more than made up for the food.

 

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Meanwhile, look at Souvla.  Here, I ordered the lamb wrap …

 

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… and g got the pork salad.  And they were CRAZY-good.  It took them all of 10 minutes to construct (and that’s probably because they were so backed up) and I just couldn’t understand why it tasted so good; basically it was meat-and-veggies arranged in different proportions depending on if you wanted it in a salad or wrap .  It was one of those things where they mashed a bunch of ingredients together and it just really “worked” – every ingredient had a contribution in the final perfect bite, every aspect was balanced, and it was incredibly not-fussy (i.e. there weren’t signs on the door saying “world’s best souvlaki”).  The end result was a craveable sandwich/salad that was reasonably priced and we’d be happy to have again!  Now I understand why the line is always so frickin’ long!  The dining experience was a bit frustrating (they take your order … but you still have to vie for a seat – so it’s better to walk in and get a seat first and THEN order), but if you need to grab-and-go in Hayes Valley, this is the way to do it.

UPDATE:  OH NO!! Sous Buerre Kitchen has just closed!!!  Read about it here: http://sf.eater.com/2016/5/18/11701524/sous-beurre-kitchen-closed-mission-san-francisco.  I guess our review wasn’t far off from the truth!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

15 May 2016 at 3:16pm

A Word about Crenn

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t says:  g and I literally just ate at Petite Crenn last night … and it. was. fabulous.  Really.  Every dish.  Now, on one hand, we should expect it to be fabulous, as Dominique Crenn was just honored as “Best Female Chef” in the WORLD – the WORLD!!  (and the DLROW, too, for all my neurology friends)  But she really delivered!

Now, this post has no pictures – g was exceptionally self-conscious that evening, so photos were vetoed.  But take my word as to why I think that this is the first SF restaurant we’ve gone to that’s worth the fixed price meal:

  1.  Service was prompt and courteous.  You think that that would be a “given” – but it was nice to see people serving us who appeared to be excited by the food – it was contagious!
  2. The room is casual enough to make you feel at ease.  No white tablecloths.  No excessive silverware.  A higher-than-usual volume in the dining room allowed for more of a fun-night-out feel than a worship-at-the-altar-of-food feel.
  3. The wine list was reasonable.  Ok – I take that back; I’m sure that it’s marked-up by a bajillion percent – but they’re bringing in things that are unconventional, so I’m ok with it (it’s like paying a “finder’s fee” for interesting wine).  g had an actually wonderful rose cava (that I can’t find anywhere else in the U.S. except one retailer in San Jose …), and I had a Sauvignon Blanc that rode this very interesting line between New Zealand power and French austerity.
  4. Each dish was excellent.  From the bread course, to the oyster, to the gnocchi, to the fish, to the salad (salad!!!  the SALAD!), I was hooked.  It was like this magical mix of Little Fish and Talula’s Garden and Ottolenghi, where the hits just kept on coming.  The “weakest” course might have been the dessert, which was a mixed berry galette – but you know what – after so many other wonderful dishes, a humble berry tart which was nicely executed, was all I needed.
  5. We saw Dominique Crenn.  Sporting her short hair, tattoos, and [we think] a dog in a pet carrier, it was like seeing Bradley Cooper in the wild (there’s more to this joke).

Even g loved the dining experience – and she’s as anti-fixed-price as they come.  She has decreed: “yea … I’d come back … how about for my birthday?”.  ‘Nuff said.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

8 May 2016 at 4:07pm

Double-brunch in MB/Dogpatch!

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t says:  There was this curious little frontage called “the Lab” in Dogpatch – we’ve seen it on numerous ventures to Piccino.  Each time we peered into the windows and read the posted flyers we were intrigued; we had stumbled upon one of the sites of “Feastly”, which is essentially an organization that conducts pop-ups all over the country.  As far as the Dogpatch site, I would say that it is reminiscent of “Cook” in Philly, but less “instructional” (i.e. you’re not all up in the chef’s business the entire night), and more like a venue that is forever a pop-up restaurant.  Each night (nearly every night), there’s a different chef and “theme”.    Hoping to be one of the cool kids, I dipped my toe into the water by making a brunch reservation for a Saturday.

April 2016, Saturday Brunch, Party of 2.  The space is pretty simple.  The tables are simple.  The chairs are simple.  They aren’t going to win any awards for decor … but we got the feeling that that wasn’t the point.  This was not a showcase for “the next super chef” or “chef that’s so hot right now” (even though that’s what the website is espousing), rather, this was a space for some chefs to share their independent creations with a bunch of random people.  The theme for the morning: crepes.

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There was an open kitchen adjacent to a dining room of about 20 seats among two communal tables.  We arrived precisely on time and had the whole table to ourselves, but as you can see, by the time we left, it was getting full (lesson: early bird got the worm … with more elbow room)

 

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It started with a savory crepe – this one featured mushrooms, onions, and egg, and it was amazing.  The buckwheat added this grainy texture and savory, bittery flavor as a backdrop to the shrooms and sweet onions.

 

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The ham and cheese was similarly awesome – I mean – yes, a saltier ham might have been nicer, but there was something about it that really brought me back to breakfasts with my family at Verona in Vineland.  All smiles here.

 

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And then there was a dessert crepe.  Yours truly ventured the nutella crepe (above) while g ventured the salted caramel.  They were both the homiest sweet hug that you could get in the morning.  And because it was paper-thin, you were free to rationalize, “no, this is way better for me than eating a slice of cake for breakfast …”.  Exceedingly complex?  No.  Mouthwateringly delicious?  Absolutely.

 

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Above is a single shot of the pancakes at Cafe Reveille.  You read it here first: these are bite-for-bite as delicious as Plow’s pancakes.  And there’s no line to wait through.  ‘Nuff said …

Written by afterdinnersneeze

8 May 2016 at 3:01pm

Tosca Cafe hits some high notes (and some low ones)

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t says:  Let’s just come out and say it: Tosca Cafe is a weird place.  There’s no way to sugar-coat it.  A North Beach staple, it’s been around a while – and when you walk in, you feel it immediately.  I could have sworn that I walked into another decade (80’s?  Early 90’s?).  Be that as it may, there’s supposed to be some real talent behind the scenes, pulling the strings (April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman).  So what was the food like?  It varied …

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So we ordered some charcuterie, which had cuts ranging from a delectable speck to a mortadella that hit me almost as something from a deli counter in Jersey (i.e. bland and not exactly “artisanal”).  The cheese selection had the requisite soft, semi-soft, and blue.  But where was the love?  Where was the excitement?  For “innovative and fresh Italian cuisine”, these were “fine”, but more like a plane on autopilot than an exciting airshow.  

 

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The mains held more promise.  The grilled polenta with marscapone and mushrooms (foreground) was spot-on in terms of flavor.  It was bold and beautiful and balanced, with good textures.  Very nice.  The Brussels in the background were a bit more steamed than roasted, but at the very least offered a vegetal counterpoint to the pasta and cheese fest on my plate.  g’s bucatini was also nicely done – her one word review was “classic” (which is pretty high praise – she’s Italian like whoa).  No pictures because I was trying not to draw attention to myself.

I have no pictures of the desserts.  Tiramisu was a notch above what I like to call “the usual Tiramisu” (like the kind you might get at something like the Olive Garden – if the Olive Garden serves Tiramisu).  It wasn’t as good as the one that some old, frail Italian grandmother slaved over, but for a dessert that could be made ahead of time and sliced on demand, it was well put together.  I think we also had some cannolis on the table, but I don’t believe I tried any.

So I’m not sure if the new ownership has truly innovated anything on the menu (or if they did, I dread what it used to look like), but the end result was “pretty good”.  We’re glad we checked it out, but I think we’re off to bigger/badder/better places – after all, this is SF.  (We heard that Cotogna is pretty darn good – that might be our next Italian destination).

Written by afterdinnersneeze

27 April 2016 at 12:18am

Trestle’s “good deal”

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t says:  Since moving to SF, Trestle has been near the top of the list of restaurants to try.  Every review reads something like, “$35 fixed price!  The food is just too incredible for it to be $35!  How do they do it!?”.  g and I were totally “in” – but for the record, there’s also a pasta supplement (+$10), which we’ll get into later …

March 2016.  Saturday Dinner, Party of 2 (or 4?).  g and I nabbed a reservation for a few weeks in advance.  Later, we happened to be hanging out with k and cm, and decided we should eat together.  We called up Trestle and asked to add two to the party – they refused.  We looked on opentable – and they had another two-top available within a half-hour of our initial reservation … so we got that one, too.  We showed up to the restaurant, explained that we had two reservations, and they sat us next to eachother … with different servers … with the intention that we would keep it as “two separate tables”.  I understand why they did it that way, and we’re fine with it – but it did add some fun to our dinner conversation (e.g. pretending not to know eachother, etc).  It did confuse the servers that we were so friendly, even going so far as to sharing dishes (i.e. one said: “we’ve never seen this before!” – I hope someone let her in to the fact that we knew eachother).  Anyways – it was entertaining, and we’re happy they took us, even if it was a bit silly.

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Now here’s the problem with Trestle: the menu changes VERY fast.  And the problem is that unless a dish knocks us off our feet, it’s hard for me to remember what they are, as there is no longer a menu online for me to peruse (and I forgot to take a pic of the menu!  d’oh!)  First victim: the soup.  We remember liking it – we just can’t remember why!!  Argh!!

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The calamari salad was flawlessly executed – just the right crispiness, just the right zippy springy flavors, and not too many greens to make it calamari soggy.  Some might complain that it wasn’t salad-enough (::cough:: g ::cough::), but let’s be honest: who’s going to order calamari salad with the “hope” that there are more greens than squid?  Answer: no one.

 

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So, here’s the pasta supplement.  It was chicken “parm”, or maybe it was “chicken” parm – not sure what was in quotation marks, but I remember asking the waitress why (I wanted to make sure it wasn’t fake-chicken tofu).  It was essentially a deconstructed chicken parm, with an airy gnudi.  I would have preferred potato gnocchi instead, but aside from that, there was something really nostalgic about it.  Like, when I closed my eyes, I felt like I was in a South Jersey diner, age 8, and eating chicken parm from the menu of 200 items they served, thinking it was the best thing in the world (it was like pizza meets fried chicken!).  Now, 33-year-old me knows this was not the best chicken parm in the world, but it definitely hit the necessary notes for an elevated version of classic chicken parm (especially not having a tomato sauce that’s too sweet – that’s the worst).

 

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For the mains, I ventured the beef (?short rib?) on what I believe was farro.  Solidly executed (I’ve had more tender beef in the past), with a very nice glaze.  Wasn’t particularly eye-opening, but no-brainer good.  g had some kind of fish on another type of grain – once again – the details evade us – we know it was nicely done, but nothing really stood out.

 

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I’d have to say that the desserts were the weakest parts of the meal.  One was some sort of panna cotta with citrus highlights (and a crumble), and the other (pictured above) was a chocolate pudding with citrus highlights (and a crumble).  As sexy as torched marshamllow is, these were kind of phoned in.  Not super-thoughtful, not superbly composed, just a way to shut up a diner’s sweet tooth (my sweet tooth thanks them).  

So … Trestle … how was it?  Well, $40 per person for dinner is sort of a deal (because generally, you’ll need one pasta supplement per two diners, at least), and no part of the meal was bad (which is good!), but let’s add some perspective.  There are places in SF to get mind-blowing food in ample quantities that are just as inexpensive (Nopalito, Anchor Oyster), but those aren’t the contemporary-American-composed-dishes-in-courses restaurants.  When you start stepping up to the “tasting menu” styles of restaurant, then yes, Trestle comes in at a deal.  But I believe the flavors come in exactly at the pricepoint suggests; at no point did I every confuse Trestle’s dinner for some magical $100+ fixed price menu, or even an $70 one.  It tasted like a solid $30-40 – and for that, in SF, they get props for not charging $70, $100, etc.  Will g and I go back?  Not on our own accord – maybe if we have some visitors from out of town and need to add a Contempo-American stop to the itinerary (but that’d be after Mexican, Seafood, Japanese, other Asian, pizza, and French).

Written by afterdinnersneeze

20 April 2016 at 11:44pm

Posted in in California, Restaurant Reviews

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