Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Serpentine Love

To celebrate Wil's birthday and the end of CNY, we went to Serpentine, a new restaurant in the Dogpatch by the people behind Slow Club. Wow, I may have another new favourite restaurant. Althought the food was not as spectacular as SPQR, the location and space was far more to my liking. Industrial and slightly alternative.
The four of us shared a bottle wonderful, reasonably priced Morgon (the wine list was very well-priced and selected) as well as the following appetizers:

Chantenay Carrot Soupfried sage - black truffle oil $6.50
Crispy Hama Hama Oysters -south carolina style hush puppies - smoked pimenton aioli - meyer lemon$10.50
Savory Bread Puddingnettles - roasted onions - swiss$6.50

The appetizers were all amazing. The carrot soup was smooth and creamy without being too dairy dependent. You could really taste the freshness of the carrots.
The oysters were perfectly breaded and fried with a touch of spiciness and the hush puppies were as Southern as one can get in these parts.
The bread pudding was divine. Full of umami and rich as hell. We coudl barely finish a serving between four. We were amazed at a woman sitiing near us who ate the whole thing on her own. Chalk that up to American glutoony, but that's another debate...

Chris had for his entree the Prather Ranch Hamburgeracme roll - arugula - pickled onions$11.50add gruyere or buttermilk blue$1.50. He said it was just as good as the Slow Club version.

Jenny had the Liberty Duck Breast grilled sunchokes & roasted purple carrots - arugula - blood oranges$22.50. Huge pieces of duck breast with tender meat. She wished that the duck fat had been rendered out a bit more by the skin for crispiness.

Wil had the Anderson Ranch Grilled Lamb T-Bone french green lentils - roasted white turnips - baby red dandelion greens - nicoise olives - anchoaide$24.50 which we shared. Great piece of lamb. I never had lamb T-bone before. The lentils wer a bit salty for me.

I had the beef cheeks (no menu description) that I also shared with Wil. Rich and falling apart tender. I still ike the Coco 500 one better.... but this one was no loser.

The cocktails were expertly made and all the prices were low enough to make coming back easy and desired. We also adored the low key yet attentive service.

Urban Family's Chinese Assimilation Program CNY Celebration

I apologize for the tardiness of this post but on CNY, eleven happy Chinese assilimilators gathered at Utopia Cafe for a banquet. I picked Utopia based upon previous Chowhound recommendations, its central Chinatown location, reasonable prices, and low corkage ($5 for 4 bottles). As you can see... we took ample advatange of the low corkage and brought an array of spirits for festive boozing. The most unbelievalbe part is that all of this came to $138 total.

The fist course was a seafood tofu soup. Delicate in flavour yet soothing and warming at the same time.
White steamed free range chicken - this is not my favourite dish in the world. Maybe due to chicken phobia. But the chicken was too *chicken-like*. Nonetheless, those who weren't repelled thought the meat was tender and had good ginger dipping sauce.
The next dish was a medley of oyster, mushrooms, etc done in a lettuce wrap - solid and a nice alternative to the chicken version.
Twin dungeness with ginger scallion preparation - the crab meat was sweet and amplely meaty. Good saucing too.
Pepper beef - great black pepper flavour and not too chewey which can happen with Chinese beef preparations.
Bamboo core with bok choy -Really savory with the oyster sauce. I've never had bamboo core before and its texture was kind of sponge like. Very interesting.
Steamed whole fish - delicate and perfect doneness.
We also had the following which we missed out on photos:
Scallop and Calamari
Smoked Meats Claypot
E-Mein Noodles

The claypot was probably one of the most loved dishes of the evening. The rice got infused with all the smokiness of the meats and the crisp edges really add great texture. God, I want to go back there again for the claypot.
Sherri brought cookies from Tartine Bakery for New Year sweetness. The Year of the Rat is really getting off to a delcious start!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Battle ZJM, Part 2

I finally returned to New Mandarin Garden in SSF to try their other za jiang mien (ZJM) version. It's their "Taiwanese" version. The noodles here were the same toothsome, hand-pulled kind used in the Korean version. But the sauce was different. So first off, the Korean version uses black beans and the sauce ends up very black whereas this one uses a more brownish bean sauce. You can also see bits of ground pork and dried bean curd diced up in this version along with some green onions and I think bamboo shoots (well, there's some kind of diced vegetable in the sauce for texture). The Korean version only of had diced up fatty pork (not ground).
I really thought I was going to like this version better after the servers had said that most Chinese people like this version and seeing that I think my palate is skewed Taiwanese. But I didn't. The sauce was very sweet for a Chinese style bean sauce. Sweet isn't a flavour find great with dried bean curd. I wish the prominent note had been salty instead. It wasn't bad but the taste wasn't exactly addictive either. I'm sticking with the Korean version next time.
Closeup of the noodles after the sauce has been mixed in.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Finer Than Yo Mama's China

Wil and I decided to indulge in a more refined Catonese meal before his trip to WASP land to honour Tyler. Remembering our decadent multi-course spectacular at Asian Pearl in Millbrae last year, we decided to head there. We ordered the "Date Dinner for Two" for $38/person. Although the service was the typical Cantonese dismissive style, the food was outstanding once again. I love the serving pot for the soup as well.

Pumpkin Seafood Shark Fin Soup - this was rich without being creamy. In fact, neither of us had pumpkin soup done in an Asian style before. We felt a tad guilty about the inclusion of shark fin, but certainly didn't waste a drop if it's any consolation to the poor shark.
White cooked chicken - the ginger galric dipping sauce took away any leftover "gamey-ness". Although this is not my favourite dish in the world, the preparation was flawless. The meat was perfectly velevety.
Three Treasures of Shitake, Abalone, and Fish Maw - We had this dish before during the Yimster Chowhound extravaganza. This is probably our favourite dish at this restaurant. The sauce with abalone reduction was savory and multi-dimensional. We each had a separate palte serving as part of our set meal. We practically licked the asuce clean.
Lobster with garlic - a whole lobster. The meat was sweet and juicy. As Wil put it, "New England by the way of Hong Kong."
Clam, seaweed, mushroom rice soup - this was a revelation to us. Neither of us had such a dish before. It was light, clear, yet retained some of the briney falvour of the sea. There was also bits of pork in there. It cleared the palate and also provided a comforting experience.
There was also a pudding dish that came with our set meal, but we skipped it as neither of us are fond of Chinese restaurant desserts. This meal was an incredible value considering the price and all the top quality ingredients with careful preparation that went into it. Asian Pearl will be visited again...


I have a new favourite restaurant in SF. It's SPQR. Despite the hour and half wait (or maybe because of it and the glasses of wine we drank on empty stomachs), I have only mad love for this place.
I love the menu and must agree with Bauer on this point... any restaurant that has a "Fried" section can't be bad. The prices are great too. It 3 antipatis for $18 or 5 for $28. Phil and I went for 5 with a pasta to share. The wines come in cute carafe portions perfect for two people.

Celery and tuna conserva salad with bottarga, potato and lemon - this beats the tuna conserva at A16 and Zuppa. Love the contrast in flavours and texture.Marinated beets and fresh ricotta - fresh beets and cheese.
Chicken livers - both Phil and I are chicken liver fanatics even though we rarely get to partake in the is treat. These were fried expertly and worth every single calorie.Brussels sprouts with garlic, capers, lemon and parsley - not quite to the brussel sprouts with kimchee level, but good nonetheless.
Zuppa: pancetta, cabbage and farro - the cabbage was crisp and creamy at the same time (sounds liek an oxymoron) and pancetta added a savory element.
Amatriciana- Guanciale, tomatoes, red onions, pecorino and chiles - really got the brightness of the tomatoes and the pasta had great bite.
The wreckage after we plowed through.