Jul
15
2014

Top Tastes

Kusukabe's fantastic omakase sushi dinners

Kusukabe’s fantastic omakase sushi dinners

My Top Food Articles: July 1-15

Photos and articles by Virginia Miller

From my 15 articles/posts a week as Zagat Editor, I summarize and link to just some coverage highlights here – you can sign up for Zagat’s weekly newsletter for highlights here and follow along on Twitter @ZagatSF, where I post daily.

As I have been for over a decade, I’m on the ground daily looking for early standouts at each new opening, while sharing underrated places and dishes you’ve seen me write about here at The Perfect Spot for years, and, of course, plenty of drink coverage (cocktails, wine, spirits, beer).

New Bay Area Openings

First Look at PABU from MICHAEL MINA

KUSAKABE’s Omakase Sushi Experience in Pictures

ABV: Elevated COCKTAILS & BAR FOOD from cocktail gurus and a Southern chef

First Look at CHUBBY NOODLE in the MARINA

What to Order at CAUSWELLS, New in the MARINA

Early Tastes at BIG CHEF TOM’S PORK BELLY BURGERS

What to Order at STREET TACO, New on HAIGHT ST.

10 HOTTEST RESTAURANTS in the Bay Area Now

Every Friday: 25 NEW RESTAURANTS TO TRY IN THE BAY AREA

Underrated & Established Spots

7 HOTTEST BBQ RESTAURANTS in the Bay Area

STONES THROW’s Stellar Summer Menu – 4 Top Dishes

Secretly Awesome: Dumplings and hand-pulled noodles at HOUSE OF PANCAKES

East Bay

Secretly Awesome: SACRED WHEEL in OAKLAND

Napa

LA TOQUE Makes Truffle Dinners a Summer Affair

South Bay/Peninsula

31st UNION Serves FARM-To-TABLE in SAN MATEO

Events/Dinner Series

CHARLIE TROTTER Inspires New PARALLEL 37 (at the Ritz-Carlton) Dinners

Free EAT DRINK SF PREVIEW SERIES Every Saturday in July

OUTSIDE LANDS Summer Pairing Series from NAPA to SF

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Written by in: Top Tastes |
Jul
01
2014

Top Tastes

Dining at 2 Michelin-starred Saison - interview with Chef Josh Skenes below

Dining at 2 Michelin-starred Saison – interview with Chef Josh Skenes below

My Top Food Articles: June 15-30

Photos and articles by Virginia Miller

From my 15 articles/posts a week as Zagat Editor, I summarize and link to just some coverage highlights here – you can sign up for Zagat’s weekly newsletter for highlights here and follow along on Twitter @ZagatSF, where I post daily.

As I have been for over a decade, I’m on the ground daily looking for early standouts at each new opening, while sharing underrated places and dishes you’ve seen me write about here at The Perfect Spot for years, and, of course, plenty of drink coverage (cocktails, wine, spirits, beer).

My biggest feature article of the last two weeks hit yesterday, in line with Best Thing We Ate lists in each Zagat city around the US – here is my list of the top 12 Best Thing We Ate dishes in the Bay Area this year so far.

Interviews

Chef JOSH SKENES on SAISON’s New $498 Test Kitchen Dinners and Winemaker Dinner Series

New Bay Area Openings

What to eat at MARLA BAKERY’s restaurant, just open in Outer Richmond

First Look at BELCAMPO MEATS new San Francisco restaurant and sustainable, ethical butcher shop

New PIATTINI ADDS A SLICE OF VENICE to Mission St.

Every Friday: 25 NEW RESTAURANTS TO TRY IN THE BAY AREA

URBAN PUTT GETS BOOZE – and what to eat one month in at the quirky mini-golf restaurant/bar

Day Trip: Port Costa

If Savannah (or other quirky, historic Southern town) met a California Gold Country Western town, it might feel a lot like PORT COSTA, home to one of the country’s best dive bars and a cosmopolitan restaurant and cocktail bar

East Bay

Early Tastes at PERDITION SMOKEHOUSE in BERKELEY from Mikkeller Bar SF & The Trappist Founder

What to eat & drink at downtown OAKLAND‘s new CAPTAIN & CORSET

Secretly Awesome: TRABOCCO’s pizza and pasta in an ALAMEDA strip mall

Rockridge’s (Oakland) OSMANTHUS renews your fried brussels sprouts crush

Underrated & Established Spots

8 reasons to revisit LOCAL KITCHEN & WINE MERCHANT in SoMa

The 8 BEST HOT DOGS in San Francisco

Unsung Heroes: SF’s best Afghani food for over 20 years at HELMAND PALACE

The 10 BEST PLACE FOR FRIED CHICKEN in San Francisco

NICO ADDS NEW ROSE PAIRING and LOW PROOF COCKTAIL menus with these dishes

THREE TWINS ORGANIC ICE CREAM & GOTT’s ROADSIDE join forces

South Bay/Peninsula

LEXINGTON HOUSE, a destination restaurant and cocktail haven in LOS GATOS

Elegant weekend escape to CARMEL (where your boutique hotel houses a Michelin-starred restaurant)

Silky crudo, standout salads and Carlos Yturria’s cocktails at LURE + TILL in PALO ALTO

Events/Dinner Series

ICHI, Commonwealth and more join STONES THROW CHARITY DINNERS throughout the summer

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Jun
15
2014

Top Tastes

Aveline's gorgeous "vegetable garden"

Aveline’s gorgeous “vegetable garden”

My Top Food Recommends, New Openings & More: June 1-15

Photos and articles by Virginia Miller

From my 15 articles/posts a week as Zagat Editor, I summarize and link to just some of this coverage here – you can sign up for Zagat’s weekly newsletter for the Bay Area here and follow along on Twitter @ZagatSF, where I post daily.

As I have been for over a decade, I’m on the ground daily looking for early standouts at each new opening, while sharing underrated places and dishes you’ve seen me write about here at The Perfect Spot for years, and, of course, plenty of drink coverage (cocktails, wine, spirits, beer).

New Bay Area Openings

10 Hottest NEW SF RESTAURANTS

12 innovative dishes at the new AVELINE FROM A TOP CHEF ALUM

What to eat at funky new Chinese American eatery, CHINO

What to eat & drink at the new Paris-meets-NY chic hotel bar, THE EUROPEAN

KAIJU EATS serves creative izakaya and ramen

Every Friday: 25 NEW RESTAURANTS TO TRY IN THE BAY AREA

Where to Brunch: SoMa’s NEW RED DOG from Chef Lauren Kiino

1058 Hoagie Turns into a JEWISH DELI called Rye Project

3 Summer STRAWBERRY DESSERTS to try at new restaurants

Events/Dinner Series

ACQUERELLO’s 25th ANNIVERSARY DINNER SERIES all summer with guest chefs from NY to Seattle

Underrated & Established Spots

The 8 BEST SEAFOOD SPOTS in the Bay Area

The BIG 4 IS BACK: 9 picks from the new menus

TONY’S PIZZA NAPOLETANA pours beer into pizza

Napa

3 reasons to visit PRESS ST. HELENA, including a unique wine cellar, a new patio with fireplace, and a brand new chef from none other than Blue Hill in NYC

Interviews

CHEF ALEXANDER ALIOTO on his upcoming Summer restaurant, Plin, the Alioto family and more

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Jun
01
2014

Top Tastes

Weekending/day trip to Saratoga at the Mountain Winery

Weekending/day trip to Saratoga at the Mountain Winery

My Food & Drink Recommends, New Opening Tastes and More: May 15-31

Photos and articles by Virginia Miller

From my 15 articles/posts a week as Zagat Editor, I summarize and link to just some of this coverage here – you can sign up for Zagat’s weekly newsletter for the Bay Area here and follow along on Twitter @ZagatSF, where I post daily.

As I have been for over a decade, I’m on the ground daily looking for early standouts at each new opening, I also share underrated places and dishes you’ve seen me write about here at The Perfect Spot for years, and continue with plenty of drink coverage (cocktails, wine, spirits, beer).

Events

OUTSIDE LANDS FOOD LINE-UP announced – plus for more summer festivals for food & drink lovers

BAYVIEW UNDERGROUND FOOD MARKET every Thursday in the Dogpatch

New Bay Area Openings

Every Friday: 25 NEW RESTAURANTS TO TRY IN THE BAY AREA

10 BAY AREA RESTAURANTS set to open this Summer

BEST BITES at the new GASHEAD TAVERN

Early favorite dishes at the new GASPAR BRASSERIE

First Look at PALM HOUSE, a new tropical/Carribean-inspired restaurant and bar

BARTLETT HALL (aka Maverick Downtown) opens near Union Square

Bay Area BEER GURUS open PERDITION SMOKEHOUSE in BERKELEY on June 13

UNO DOS TACOS opens on Market Street

Drink Coverage

Local bars, writers, bartenders and industry folk finalists in the Oscars of the cocktail world, TALES of the COCKTAIL

5 COCKTAILS to LOVE at the new SMOKESTACK

3 COFFEE COCKTAILS you’ll want for breakfast

8 EARLY FAVORITE COCKTAILS from Kevin Diedrich at the new GASPAR BRASSERIE

Trend Alert: 3 PRICKLY PEAR COCKTAILS around the Bay Area

3 LOCAL WHITE WINES to pair with take-out

South Bay/Peninsula

10 REASONS SARATOGA should be your next day/weekend trip, from a Michelin starred restaurant to quality Indonesian food

Coffee

EQUATOR COFFEE opens first SF location downtown

Underrated & Established Spots & Dishes

5 BEST CARIBBEAN SPOTS in the Bay Area

6 BEST BAY AREA LOBSTER ROLLS

UNSUNG HEROES: Gaspare’s Lasagna

10 TOP OUTDOOR dining and drinking spots in the Bay Area

SECRETLY AWESOME: Champurrado at La Espiga de Oro

PAXTI’S GIVES AWAY $500 worth of pizza

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Written by in: Top Tastes |
May
15
2014

Top Tastes

Schroeder's, the historic beer hall and restaurant, reinvented and now a destination - but thankfully those beautiful murals remain intact

Schroeder’s, the historic beer hall and restaurant, reinvented and now a destination – thankfully those beautiful murals remain intact

My Food & Drink Recommends, New Opening Early Tastes, and More: May 1-15

Photos and article by Virginia Miller

As I write a few articles a day in my new role as Zagat Editor, I will summarize and link to just some of this extensive coverage for easy access (you can sign up for Zagat’s weekly newsletter for the Bay Area here for some highlights and follow along on Twitter @ZagatSF where I post daily articles).

As I have been for over a decade, I’m on the ground looking for early standouts at each new opening (and there has been a slew of high profile openings the last few weeks), I also share underrated and forgotten dishes and places you’ve seen me write about here at The Perfect Spot for years, and continue with plenty of drink coverage (cocktails, wine, spirits, beer).

News

JAMES BEARD WINNERS INTERVIEWS: Charles Phan and Daniel Patterson react to their big wins

New Bay Area Openings

SMOKESTACK – Killer BBQ, beer and cocktails in one cool Dogpatch space from brew master Dave McLean

PRUBECHU – Guam cuisine and tasting menu steal

SCHROEDER’S – Legendary German beer hall and restaurant reborn

4505 BURGERS & BBQBBQ, burgers and more from butcher king Ryan Farr

HOG ISLAND OYSTER BAR – More than doubled in size, and now with cocktails

MANOS NOUVEAU – Under-the-radar Mission opening serves lovely ceviche and Mexico-meets-Peru cuisine

LA RONDALLA – A historic Mexican classic reborn after being closed since 2007

HOMESKILLET – Potato chip-stuffed burgers and breakfast all day at the newcomer from Little Griddle folks

GRUBBIN‘ – Pastrami and meat-heavy sandwiches in friendly Parkside shop

BISSAP BAOBAB OAKLAND – SF’s longtime Senegalese favorite opens a second Oakland location

Drink Coverage

TRENDSPOTTING: Coffee and soda, coffee and tonic

3 LOCAL WHITE WINES to Pair with take-out

5 BAY AREA ROSE WINES for a Spring afternoon

3 COOLING COCONUT MILK COCKTAILS on SF menus now

9 CURRENT HAPPY HOURS with a view, quality food and drink, and more

Napa

12 ESSENTIAL NAPA RESTAURANTS – Tough to choose but here are 12 iconic, important spots from Napa to Calistoga

CITY WINERY NAPA: The third location of the NY music venue and winery puts music, wine & food under one roof

Underrated Spots & Dishes

SECRETLY AWESOME: Fang’s Peking Beef Bao

5 UNUSUAL BRUNCH DISHES

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Written by in: Top Tastes |
May
01
2014

Top Tastes

 A dreamy vegetarian course: tender potato gnocchi filled with liquid cauliflower sauce, colorfully marked by Pantelleria (Sicilian-style) capers and romanesco broccoli.

A dreamy vegetarian course: tender potato gnocchi filled with liquid cauliflower sauce, colorfully marked by Pantelleria (Sicilian-style) capers and romanesco broccoli.

Celebratory Spring:
Quince’s Artful New Menus

Photos and article by Virginia Miller

Here’s my May 1st photo slideshow and article on a few of the great dishes from Quince, a 2 Michelin-starred, Italian-influenced fine dining great in San Francisco, for Zagat: www.zagat.com/b/san-francisco/quinces-spring-menu-our-12-favorite-dishes-tastes.

Splurge on the Spring menu: a $40 supplement adds in Tortelli alla Cecilia Chang, a decadent pasta tribute to the great Chinese restaurant legend and SF local, Cecilia Chang. The tortelli pasta is filled with smoked sturgeon and potato, marked by dill and generous dollops of caviar.

Splurge on the Spring menu: a $40 supplement adds in Tortelli alla Cecilia Chang, a decadent pasta tribute to the great Chinese restaurant legend and SF local, Cecilia Chang. The tortelli pasta is filled with smoked sturgeon and potato, marked by dill and generous dollops of caviar.

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Written by in: Top Tastes | Tags: ,
Mar
15
2014

Top Tastes

Joe Obegi in front of his iconic burger joint on its last day

Joe Obegi in front of his iconic burger joint on its last day

Tribute to a SAN FRANCISCO LEGEND:
Goodbye, Joe’s Cable Car

Photos and article by Virginia Miller

Joe's burgers

Joe’s burgers

Pulling into the Joe’s Cable Car parking lot 15 minutes to its 11am opening time, I made it just before a steady stream of cars, news crews, even a firetruck full of fireman, filled the legendary diner for their last Joe’s burger. On its final day of business, March 16 – after 49 years run by the same wonderful, 75-year-old owner – Joe Obegi served burgers, chatted and took photos with patrons.

Love those root beer freezes

Love those root beer freezes

Fresh-ground meat, old school-delicious burgers, quirky diner decor and Joe’s constant personal touch make losing this iconic burger joint a real loss for San Francisco and for food lovers. It’s been a favorite of mine since I moved to SF in 2001.

Here’s my photo goodbye to Joe’s on it’s last day of business. Tragically, it seems the diner will likely be torn down to make way for condos. The wrong places go.

Fresh ground meat daily

Fresh ground meat daily

Iconic roadside sign

Iconic roadside sign

Joe's exterior

Joe’s exterior

Joe's Cable Car3-Virginai Miller

Exterior sign

Joe keeping an eye on diner's on the diner's final morning

Joe keeping an eye on diner’s on the diner’s final morning

Beautiful 1946 Mercury in Joe's parking lot

Beautiful 1946 Mercury in Joe’s parking lot

Peeking into the kitchen

Peeking into the kitchen

My favorite of the many parking lot signs

My favorite of the many parking lot signs

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Mar
01
2014

Top Tastes

Still wriggling on the plate: live, raw spot prawns at R&G Lounge

Still wriggling on the plate: live, raw spot prawns at R&G Lounge

HOLDING STRONG at SF Standard-Setters

Photos and article by Virginia Miller

In the midst of the latest, hottest, buzzed about new openings, the greats get forgotten. Whether it’s old school classics like seafood at Tadich Grill, or arguably the best souffles in the US at Cafe Jacqueline, where Jacqueline has dedicated decades to churning out perfect souffles every night, many of our greats keep their steady following yet stay under the radar. Recently, I’ve gone back for East German comfort at Walzwerk, ever impeccable Greek feasts at Kokkari, rounds of crab, garlic bread and chowder at Anchor Oyster Bar, and live – still wriggling on the plate – raw spot prawns at R&G Lounge… all restaurants I’ve been going to since I moved here 13 years ago.

In the meantime, I’ve been returning to more recent greats opened in the last few years, remaining impressed, particularly by these dishes:

STATE BIRD PROVISIONS, Lower Fillmore
Changing the game nationally with its level of dim sum-style, playful creativity

Curry rabbit roti

Curry rabbit roti

Wow factor abounds at playful-casual, if extremely difficult to get into, State Bird Provisions. There’s usually a few hits every meal but recently it was curry rabbit roti ($20) that made an impact. Warm, floppy Indian roti bread scooped up aromatic curry graced with tender rabbit, black trumpet mushrooms and lentils.

Dessert was equally memorable: piping hot buckwheat bao ($8), a bun with a sugary-cinnamon crust, partnered with a cup of coconut cream and carrot jam dotted with maple pecans. Savory, vegetal and sweet played together harmoniously, a burst of winter joy.

BAR TARTINE, Mission
Setting a national standard for modern Eastern European-influenced fare

cake

Celery root-scallion cake

Bar Tartine chef Nick Balla keeps expanding the boundaries of what modern Eastern European (strongly influenced by his Hungarian roots) food can be, doing things I’ve yet to see any US chef do with that category. Balla revived the fried bread that haunted my dreams since my travels in the Hungarian countryside in 1999 with his menu mainstay of langos ($12), fried potato flatbread radiant with garlic, sour cream and dill.

That ever remains a highlight but recent visits impressed particularly in the form of a warm square of rice flour-based celery root and scallion cake ($14). Moist and savory, the cake rests atop a spread of nettle puree, given umami complexity under shaved dried tuna flakes and celery leaves.

CONTIGO, Noe Valley
Idyllic modern Spanish, neighborhood dining

Cinco Jotas' Jamon Iberico de Bellota

Cinco Jotas’ Jamon Iberico de Bellota

I sure miss the years of rolling out my front door on 24th Street and moseying half a block to Contigo for  some of the best Spanish food in the city paired with gorgeous, crisp Spanish and Portuguese wines (like a 2012 Raventos i Blanc “La Rosa” pinot noir Rose from Penedes, Spain). Whether those perfect jamon croquetas/fritters ($3) oozing with bechamel sauce, or the ever-comforting, changing coco (flatbreads), like a recent pie laden with broccoli rabe, smoked bacon, spring onions, and manchego cheese ($15), Contigo does it right.

Contigo coca

Contigo coca

But when the ultimate level (5J) of Spain’s legendary cured ham, Cinco Jotas‘ Jamon Iberico de Bellota ($25), is on the menu, I cannot resist. It’s pricey but  the paper thin, pink and white sheets of acorn-fed Spanish heritage “Pata Negra” ham from Jabugo, Spain, melt and dissolve on the tongue like the finest of silk… if silk were succulent and meaty.

LOLINDA, Mission
Raising Argentinian steakhouse stakes (no pun intended)

Lolinda NY steak

Lolinda NY steak

Granted, there’s not a ton of competition in the Argentinian dining category, but of Argentinian restaurants I’ve been to anywhere, Lolinda nails it. Yes, crowds reach a deafening roar in the dramatic, chic dining room and I recently experienced a frustrating wait even with a reservation, but each dish that arrives is downright delicious, from traditional beef, egg and raisin empanadas ($7) where the pastry shell is no throwaway, to those juicy steaks, appropriately charred on the outside, rare on the inside, like the a 13 oz. New York steak ($29) with lively chimichurri sauce, a staple of Argentina steak culture.

Lolinda ceviche

Lolinda ceviche

But I’m all about their exceptional ceviche ($14), often in the options of octopus or silky, sashimi-like ono tossed in bright lime with aji amarillo peppers, sweet potato and fried corn in fritter-like form. The texture contrast and impeccable freshness only enhances the vibrant flavor of a standout in a city where it’s not difficult to find good ceviche.

ROKA AKOR, North Beach
Catering to a wide range of diners with impeccable sushi & robata

Roka Akor sashimi

Roka Akor sashimi

Chain aspect aside, Roka Akor has acclimated to San Francisco quite well. They’ve done so with professional service, impeccable sushi and sashimi and robata grill dishes in an area that reaches everyone from tourists to the FiDi (Financial District) business set.

Their sashimi selection ($34/$46) is impressive in presentation and freshness, while their rolls/maki are above average, appropriately delicate rather than fried or heavy with sauce. At lunch, ubiquitous miso black cod arrives in unique form – on skewers ($18 with salad), while cocktails utilize Japanese herbs, citrus and flavors to partner with dishes.

Avo & asparagus tempura roll

Avo & asparagus tempura roll

On my most recent visit (after a couple lunches here, I love it for lunch, though there’s also that appealingly dim, underground bar), I was surprised to be most taken with a new vegetarian maki ($11.50). What sounded absolutely typical, a light roll of ever-so-softly fried avocado and asparagus, weaves with Japanese herbs, sprinkled artfully with edible flowers – a statement veggie roll, if there ever was one.

Lolinda's dramatic dining room an bar from an upstairs table

Lolinda’s dramatic dining room & bar from an upstairs table

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