Saturday, January 25, 2014

Week 4 - Heirloom Café

We had a friend in from out of town, so we were looking for somewhere especially nice in our neighborhood.  The Heirloom Café is on Folsom at the corner of 21st.  This is a spot that I have driven and walked past approximately a million times, and I've never noticed the Heirloom Café.  From the outside, they're under the radar, with curtains hiding the view inside, and nothing but some very discreet lettering in one window.

  Short version: it's good, it's expensive.  It might not be entirely fair to call it out as expensive, since what really made it more expensive than other similar places is that we got a lot more wine than we usually do.  But the restaurant is especially known for its wine, and they offer excellent pairings, so if you're not going to get the wine, why go?

It was everything you'd expect: great food, great friendly, attentive, but unobtrusive service, nice semi-fancy, semi-rustic atmosphere.  Dark, though.  I like mood lighting as much as the next guy, but I also like to get at least a glimpse of my food.  And the wine was great.  It's always eye-opening for me to have wine well paired with food.  Nalani ordered a 2005 Rioja when we sat down, and we thought it was OK.  Later in the meal, the same wine came paired with my entree (braised pork, polenta, maple-glazed delicata squash, orange-pecan gremolata) and it was 10 times better.  And with dessert we had a 2011 Jurançon Uroulat that Nalani is still fantasizing about.

Would We Go There Again

I think only if we were in the mood to have someone hand-hold us through some excellent wines that can't be easily had other places.  Otherwise, for the money, we'd go to Blue Plate or Serpentine.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Week 3 - Oye Managua

Two out of the three times we've done this restaurant thing so far this year, we've ended up somewhere other than where we'd been intending to go.  This evening we headed over to Mission Street to visit our new neighborhood pizza place, Pizza Hacker.  Despite the unfortunate name, it's supposed to be very good.  We wouldn't know, however, because it turns out they're not open on Tuesdays.  Of course on Mission Street you only need to go about 15 feet to find another restaurant, and we ended up at Oye Managua.

Is that a... payphone?

This place was great!  They claim to serve the best Nicaraguan food in the Bay Area.  We have no grounds to dispute that claim, since A) We know nothing about Nicaraguan food and B) it was delicious.  It's got a comfortable atmosphere inside, and it was surprisingly busy for a Tuesday night.  We were the only white/white-chinese people in there, which is probably a good sign.  They have a tiny stage and on weekend nights they have live music.

Our server was a very friendly young man who was happy to make menu recommendations for us.  I got the Indio Viejo which the menu describes as "Shredded Beef In a Nicaraguan Style Porridge".  It was a very unusual combination of flavors (beef! cheese! mint! wait, what?) that worked amazingly well together.  Nalani got the Carne Asada a La Parilla.  Both of our meals came with piles of sides, including fried plantains and this amazing fried cheese that probably took a year off our lives.  And I had a very easy to drink beer, a Nicaraguan lager called Toña.

Would We Go There Again?

Definitely.  It's close, comfortable, delicious, and reasonably priced.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Week 2 - Toast Eatery

The problem with brunch the world over, as near as I can tell, is that if you want to roll in to a decent place around noon on a weekend, you'd better be prepared to wait at least an hour.  We were actually intending to visit a different Noe Valley establishment, but ended up at Toast Eatery because the wait was shorter.  It only took about 15 minutes to get seated, and we used the time to browse the bookshop down the block.

Toast Eatery is your basic diner, nothing fancy here, but definitely a cut above a greasy spoon.  The food was totally decent.  The service was very friendly.  It was a comforting place to be on a gray, rainy, San Francisco day.  Plus they have cool lightbulbs hanging over the counter.

Nalani got the Toast Combo ("no substitutions" warns the menu).  Could she add cheese to her scrambled eggs?  No problem.  Could she add onions too?  No problem.  Nalani praised the hash browns ("crispy on the outside, like mashed potatoes on the inside") and we both agreed that the hot links were delicious, and the french toast was definitely french toast.

I got the lox scramble because it's hard for me to pass up cream cheese in my eggs.  The scramble was great.  The toast was sort of tepid and I wish I'd gotten the sour dough instead of the white.  (If the place is called "Toast" don't you think the toast should be truly excellent?)

Neither of us got coffee, so we are sadly unable to comment on this crucial aspect of diner quality.  But if coffee turns out to be the Toast achilles heal, there's a Starbucks next door, if that's your thing, and a coffee shop called Bernie's across the street.

Toast Eatery also has another location not that far away on Church Street.  We've been to that location before but in our memory, though the place was quite cute, the service and food were both below the level of the 24th Street location.

Would We Go There Again

We probably wouldn't cross the city for it, but if we were in the neighborhood, sure.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Week 1 - Ichi Sushi

We'd been meaning to go to Ichi Sushi forever, it's quite close to us.  Walking distance, or it would be if we weren't so lazy.  To be honest, we'd heard so much about how great Ichi Sushi is, we were prepared to be disappointed.  In fact, it really is very good.

Tiny, cozy, and busy (and soon to open another larger location across the street, maybe?) and always hard to get a seat, from what I understand.  So, we went at 6:30 on a Tuesday, and only had to wait about 15 minutes.  (Pro tip - they'll take your phone number and text you when your table is ready, so you can go down the block and get a drink at El Amigo while you wait.)

The nigiri sushi was all of very high quality and expertly prepared.  The Toro was amazing, and the Uni was as good as it gets (I had two, since Nalani won't touch the stuff).  We also got a roll, the spicy scallop, which was very good, not overloaded and overblown, as specialty rolls so often are.  As our one hot plate we got the pork belly, which we agreed was unremarkable.

Service was friendly and welcoming.  We always get nigori (unfiltered) sake, and our server recommended we try something new.  She suggested the Kinka, a sake which, while filtered, is unpasteurized and therefore maintains much of the silkiness and sweetness of a nigori sake.  I have to say, it may be our new favorite sake.

Would We Go There Again

It's very good, and right in our neighborhood, so probably yes.  But if we were choosing any sushi place in San Francisco, for the money, we'd go to Kiss Seafood instead, which remains perhaps the finest sushi we've had anywhere.