Saturday, September 30, 2006

The House
I remember back in the summer when the World Cup was on, when Belden Alley would be packed, and many a computer would be streaming the game (and inevitably slowing down the network). Well, I woke up one bright saturday morning, and I had a calling for some fusion. So we drove down to North Beach, got stuck in traffic, struggled with parking for a good 45 minutes, walked past the bustling Steps of Rome, and settled into The House, which was pretty much empty.

Free plate of pickled cucumber

Tuna special of the day 9

Ok I am sure this had a much more glamourous name, but it escapes me. This was seaweed-wrapped sashimi grade tuna, slightly battered, and flash fried so that it was still pretty rare. It was then topped with a mound of spinach and other greens (you can tell this meal was not recent), and served with creamy and a spicy-sour-tangy sauces on the side. The tuna was extremely fresh, and fried ever so slightly so that it was still light and delicate. The sauces also worked really well with both the greens and the tuna.

Grilled sea bass with garlic ginger soy 19

I can't say I am a big fan of sea bass, but since this was one of The House's signatures, we decided to give it a try. The sea bass was perfectly grilled, with the skin not burnt but still slightly crispy, and the flesh smooth and just cooked. I don't think the fish was marinated at all, but just grilled with a pinch of salt. We agreed in unison that this was an excellent sea bass preparation.

The sides, however, were rather disappointing. The pan-fried udon noodles, though flavorful, were way too salty, as were the garlic green beans. The flavors also didn't quite mesh. The noodles and beans were way too overpowering for the sea bass.

Grilled pork chop special ~18

The pork chop was also not listed on the menu. It would come grilled on a bed of asparagus, with a pomegranate glaze, a tangy orange sauce, and some grassy olive oil on the side. The pork chop was very tender, but completely flavorless. I had to douse it with the pomegranate sauce, which made me forget I was eating pork at all. If the pork chop were marinated, this would have been pretty good.

Sesame soy glazed salmon 13

The picture is cut off, but this was a TALL dish. I think the yellow things stood a good 16 inches above the plate. Anyway, the salmon was very nicely done, cooked slightly and evenly so the flesh was extremely light. It was, however, extremely salty. I think they took the glazing a bit too far, as I was eating a 5:1 rice to salmon ratio. This came with some Chinese mustard greens, which were simply boiled, but even that did not mitigate the saltiness in the salmon.

Mango Tapioca 6

They have some interesting desserts on the menu, but we decided to go with the mango tapioca. I was disappointed to find some mango syrup rather than fresh mango (it was summer, afterall). There wasn't too much tapioca, but there was a lot of almond-flavored milk. Overall, this was average; it got very heavy after a while.

Despite some problems with oversalting, the House is a great fusion restaurant. They have some interesting items on the menu which we didn't get to try, but the ones that we did were solid. They are very good with preparation of their seafood, but they need to lower their flavor intensity a notch. Value was great as well, at least for lunch. I'll definitely be back, and let them know I'm allergic to salt or something.

The House
1230 Grant Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 986-8612


Friday, September 22, 2006

Tsunami Sushi & Sake Bar
During my internship, my co-workers and I wanted a good place for happy hour-ing and dinner. Tsunami, which is open until 2 a.m., seemed like the right match. I was also in the mood for inauthentic sushi--sometimes, you just need some.

The space really isn't that big, but we made reservations for the "lounge area," which was really more like a couch with low tables against the wall. I didn't really understand what made the place trendy. Decor--the red accents and sake wall were pretty played out, and not sterile enough to be swanky. Age group--I was again the youngest one there by a good number of years. Flavor profile--I can get sweetened avocado and eel anywhere. Gentrifying neighborhood with matching crowd--that must be it.

Magic Mushrooms

I forgot to note the prices nor descriptions, so I'll take my best stab at descriptions. We started off with one of their signatures, the magic mushrooms. I think it was enoki wrapped in fish cake, topped with cheese and tobiko, and baked. Surprisingly, this was pretty nondescript. I didn't really taste anything besides the cheese. I was expecting something much more shroomy, so I would have expected shittakes in place of/in addition to enoki. Unfortunately, nothing psychedelic here.

Scorpion Roll - tempura shrimp, topped with eel and avocado

I was in the mood for a sweetened avocado/eel combo, a "comfort" food, if you will. This was just average, with tough/dry unagi, flavorless sauce, and mushy tempura. Seriously, can you really mess this up?

Mt. Tam (left) - snow crab, maguro, topped with tobiko/ ??

The Mt. Tam was quite disappointing. The snow crab tasted like a typical over-mayonnaised filling of california roll, and the maguro was mushy. As for the name, is it a Mt. because it's a triangle? Creative...?

The mass to the right, I forget what it was called. It was basically the Mt. Tam, but topped with avocado, maguro, and a bunch of shaved radish. Really bland; at this point, I was drowning it with soy sauce to please my angry taste buds.

Sushi combo

As we were there for hours, I became quite hungry again. But as the night progressed, I also became more risk averse with their "creative" rolls, which, to my chagrin, were not so creative (or appetizing). I hoped I would fare better going with the traditional: the sushi combo that came with the typical yellowtail, salmon, snapper, tuna, etc. and california roll. The fish wasn't the best quality, and the rice was again hard and bland. Utterly disappointing again.

I guess one draw of the place is its sake list and relatively creative cocktails. I ordered the Sweet Geisha (plum sake, soju, lime sauce and cranberry) which at first tasted like cough syrup, but it sort of grew on me since it actually tasted like something; afterall, I had been eating bland rice and fish all night.

I don't see why this place is popular. The sushi isn't good, it's pricey ($15+/ roll), and the pseudo-trendy atmosphere/crowd is rather vexing. I'm adding Tsunami to my "how to be a masochist" list.

Tsunami Sushi and Sake Bar
1306 Fulton St.
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 567-7664


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I'm back from my blogging hiatus. I am now fully settled, as well as armed with wireless internet in my new apartment. I also have a kitchen with applicances. I've committed myself to cooking, but so far I've cooked one meal and it took a whole two minutes to cook and prep. With school and recruiting in full swing, I'll probably be eating at weird hours, but I'll be eating, photographing, and blogging nonetheless.


The Quest to get into Quince

This summer, I had a list of restaurants to be tried. After my internship ended, I had around two weeks for about a dozen restaurants--some of which required reservations weeks in advance. You can guess by the title of this post that Quince was on my list. I had quite a severe craving for good pasta, and it would be a while before I made it to Manhattan, so it was a do-or-die. The first time I called in, they told me they had an opening on a thursday, a week after I would have left. I called a good many times after, and left my name on the waitlist for every day of the week, except those on which I had other reservations. The difficulty and inconvenience just made me even more determined; they didn't stand a chance. I emailed people, posted on Craiglist, and even hatched a plan that would hypothetically involve a certain Mrs. Doubtfire and/or an Inconvenient Truth.

Well, it didn't come down to that (but what a saga it would have been). After my persistent calling, a spot opened up on a Wednesday night at 6.

Glorious carbs

The meal started off with some delightful bread rolls and sticks. I loved the savory olive oil rolls on the left.

Maine lobster, ruby grapefruit and soy bean salad 16

This was probably one of my favorite courses of the night. The lobster was fresh and tender, and the sweet and creamy sauce was a great accent. The beans were exceptionally fresh and crunchy; the grapefruit and radish were a great combo. This was a great summer dish, with light flavors and fresh fruit and produce.

Sformato of eggplant with slow roasted tomato, basil & Olivestri olive oil 11

I was quite interested in trying the sformato, which was an eggplant foam. While this was good, it was rather subdued in flavor. The distinct flavor of eggplant wasn't pronounced at all, and the overpowering cheese and marinara sauce did not help matters.

Pappardelle with Hoffman Farm hen 17

I had heard quite a lot about Quince's legendary pastas, so we decided to skip entrees and order three pastas instead. They were accommodating and portioned them individually, so we each received a platter of 3 pastas--a pasta tasting, if you will.

The papparadelle with hen was almost perfect, but oversalted. The pasta--textured but ethereal--lived up to the reputation. The hen had a great intense flavor, which I couldn't get enough of. This would have been flawless, if they just lowered the sodium notch a bit.

Gnocchi with monkfish cheeks braised in sweet & hot peppers 18

I'd also heard about the legendary gnocchi, but I ended up being less than whelmed. Once again, the pasta itself was great--meltingly soft and light--but this was just so sweet. I couldn't get over how there was nothing flavorwise to balance the already sweet peppers with the gnocchi. The hard monkfish with soft gnocchi was a great texture contrast, though.

Tagliolini with leeks, white wine, chanterelle & lobster mushrooms 18

I didn't go through all that work to get in without getting an overwhelmingly shroomish dish. This was, hands down, my favorite pasta of the night. The taglioni was, like the other pastas, wonderful as usual. The mushrooms were absolutely divine. Already pungent and earthy, the addition of white wine and truffle oil added even greater depth of flavor. I really couldn't get enough of this one; I would have settled for a whole order or two for myself.

Citrus lace millefloglie with blackberry ice cream & lemon cream 9

While the appetizers and pastas were great, the desserts were really nothing worth noting. Just your run-of-the-mill millfloglie with berry and citrusy flavors.

Middleton Farm raspberry & almond tortino with creme fraiche sherbet 9

Another soporific dessert. I don't remember much of it, except that the tortino was too sweet.

I wish that Quince's desserts would have lived up to the savory courses, but it was a good meal overall. I loved the taglioni so much that I could've been served a Nobu chocolate lava cake and walked away happy. The service was very attentive, but how could it not be, when they have a lookout platform of 5 servers just watching your every move? Example: I reach for the last breadstick, and while my arm is still outstretched, a server immediately brings out a new platter. Bravo.

In terms of value, well, it's expensive. The prices are high, the portions are small, but taste really makes up for it. A word of advice: plan ahead. Though, some ridiculous name-dropping would have been fun.

1701 Octavia St.
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 775-8500

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