Lunch Special: Chicken Kabab Over Rice Pilaf, Salad, Pita Bread, and Hummus from La Mediterranee
PERFECT with the refreshing passion iced tea lemonade from *$. I am kicking myself for not eating at La Mediterranee on Fillmore as much as I should. Been working a block away for 2 years and this is only my second time grabbing lunch there. D'oh. I know. Thanks, Cristie Kat.
P.S. Every now and then, if I am totally excited about food I have at lunch at work, I will post it on here...just because.
"TENDERLOIN—Playboy has named Saigon Sandwich one of the ten best sandwich destinations in America, saying the banh mi is 'so shockingly good that even Pacific Heights housewives in their Manolo Blahniks risk stepping on a used syringe or condom for a taste.' [Playboy via NBC]"
I have loved Saigon Sandwiches since I was a teenager. They are seriously my favorite sandwiches of all time, and I truly do not mind going there to get some sandwiches. I do have some fears, well more like annoyances, whenever I am in that area. There was this one time I saw a tweeked out female harassing people crossing the street, but it's not THAT bad during the day. After dark, yes, guards should be put up, but Saigon Sandwiches is only open until 6 p.m. anyway.
What I am trying to say is that I am annoyed that people make out this place to be some horrible neighborhood that you can get hurt at any moment. And I really am irked by the Pacific Heights comment. I work in Pacific Heights and women here are not as haughty as most people think. I haven't even seen women wear Manolo Blahniks here yet, and I have worked here for almost 2 years!
Idk why I am so irked. I love the TL. I love Saigon Sandwiches. I just don't understand why people are making a big deal about how rough the hood is. It's not Pac Heights, but who the hell cares? The TL comes out with the best sandwiches in SF! It's like people who clearly have never lived there are describing the TL in a way that should scare others off. I mean, if someone went to the TL, do they deserve an award or something for making it out alive? Whatev.
OH! Used syringe or condom? In all my years of visiting the TL, I have never seen any of those on the street. I have seen them in the middle of SOMA, Union Square, Nob Hill, Daly City even, but not in the TL for some reason.
Why are people hating on the Tenderloin? It IS a tough neighborhood and you have to have some amount of street smarts to navigate your way around, but no one will mess with you if you keep to your own business. If you did go in there with a stuck-up attitude and flaunted your wealth, then you DO deserve to get harassed and step on a hypodermic needle.
Restaurant: Poleng Lounge Address: 1751 Fulton St. at Masonic, NOPA, SF Phone Number: (415) 441-1751 Cuisine: Asian Date Last Visited: June 5, 2009 Dining Partner: Bub
Whenever possible, Bub and I try to make Friday night our “date night.” The workweek is usually stressful for the both of us and Friday night is a good night for us to unwind and be happy it is the weekend. I mean, who DOESN’T like Friday? Bub and I try to make it to different parts of the City, especially to parts we haven‘t been to much. We have never been to NOPA before together, so for this night, we decided on Poleng Lounge since we have been wanting to come here for the longest time.
Poleng Lounge is an Asian restaurant with a tea lounge as well. The whole place had a comforting zen quality to it. There is a bar immediately when you walk in and then a dining area complete with couches and lower tables for those who want to eat but also relax if they wanted to. After 10:00 p.m. or so, the place becomes a true lounge where a DJ is bumping the beats, the bartender is mixing up cocktails, and a dance room is open for those who want to bob their heads to the beats and drink those cocktails. This is a place that is frequented by USF students.
Cucumber Scented Water
Because this is an Asian-influenced restaurant, there are chopsticks in the table setting. I like how they gave us a whole container of water so that we didn’t have to wait for someone to come by and refill our glasses.
Our Iced Teas and a shot of simple syrup
Bub ordered the Peach Green Tea to the left and I ordered the Passion Tea. I don’t remember what kind of tea leaf mine was made from, and they don’t have it listed on their menu online, but I tasted some coconut in there also. Both teas were very refreshing and unlike any iced teas we have ever had. They are way more sophisticated than the Snapples we are accustomed to. I do like my tea on the sweet side, so that shot of simple syrup was gone.
Walu Kinilaw A Filipino Ceviche with Hawaiian Butterfish “Cooked” in Sugarcane Vinegar, Lime Juice, and Coconut Milk with Thai Chilies, Toybox Tomatoes, and Cilantro
I know I might sound mean for saying this, but I was so glad that Bub is allergic to fish. I saw Chef Tim Luym make this on Adobo TV and it looked awesome. I have tried kinilaw in the Philippines, except with yellowfin tuna, and I noticed that Filipino “ceviche” use vinegars as well as the traditional citrus juice. I am glad this was on the menu.
The butterfish was nice and dense. It really felt like it was cooked. I usually get scared of coconut milk in a recipe, but in this case, it worked. Nice acidity from the vinegar and lime juice and nice spice from the Thai chilies. You can say that I ate the entire, I mean, Bub wasn’t going to help me. *smirk* Delicious.
Sweet Potato Fries with Banana Ketchup
These sweet potato fries are on the 7x7 Big Eat List, and they are so addicting. The fries were beautifully crispy on the outside and the inside was almost creamy. That house-made banana ketchup is to-die-for. If I had a bottle of that stuff at home, best believe that it would be slathered, poured, on everything. There were tiny chunks of onion in there that really made me believe they make it from scratch. I love banana ketchup from the stores, but this tops those for sure.
Crispy Adobo Wings Succulent Deep Fried Chicken Tossed in Adobo Glaze Served with Achara (Pickled Papaya)
This was a dish that I had my eye on for the longest time. I mean, it was one of those dishes that made me go, “hmmm?” Adobo. It is the quintessential Filipino food. Ask five different families and they will give you five different recipes, but it is still adobo. BUT! Is this dish deserving of the title “adobo?” Traditionally, the chicken or whatever is cooked IN the soy and vinegar. These wings were just fried and then thrown in some sort of adobo-like glaze. Is THAT adobo?
Nevertheless, they were really good. The wings were plump and juicy and perfectly fried. They kind of reminded me of San Tung’s dry-fried wings…but without the spices and chilies. I love chicken wings no matter what they are cooked or tossed in. These are adobo-LIKE, but not customary adobo just because of the cooking method. I don’t think they were aiming for it to be traditional adobo anyway, but they did succeed in making a great chicken wing. I would have liked it if there were more on the plate! The atchara was good, but I would have liked it to be a bit more pickled. I like the sourness with fried meat. =)
Adobong White Button Mushrooms and Kang Kong
Bub absolutely loved this combination of vegetables. Just by tasting it, I could already make out the ingredients to make this at home. “Adobong” means cooked in soy sauce and vinegar. I make adobo all the time, so this should be very simple. I’ve had pork, long beans, and squid cooked in adobo, but never kang kong and mushrooms. So simple, but one of my favorites dishes here.
Szechuan Chicken Lettuce Cups Minced Chicken and Vegetables Served with Cool Lettuce Cups
Aren’t those lettuce cups gorgeous? They were indeed cool and crisp. Cut perfectly, as well. That’s pretty much I can say about this dish…
In a nutshell, Bub said that we could have done without this dish. The chicken was kind of boring. The menu said that they could make the chicken “mild,” but I didn’t get much spice from the regular-spiced chicken. I don’t know about this dish. I’m kinda indifferent. Didn’t like it. Didn’t hate it. Just okay. Didn’t excite. Wouldn’t do it again.
Sizzling Sisig Pork Medley with Coconut Vinegar, Onions, Peppers, Fresh Calamansi, Chicharones, and Egg
Bub thought we f*cked up because we didn’t eat sisig in the Philippines. I know, how could we NOT have sisig in the Philippines? Even Anthony Bourdain had sisig in the Philippines. Not us. Since we have been back, we have had sisig from Tribu and Ongpin, the Tribu one being the more traditional in flavor and recipe. Bub saw the sizzling sisig on the menu here at Poleng and he ordered it without hesitation. We ordered it with the egg and chicharones, for an extra price of course. You can add liver also, but I passed on that most definitely. The egg comes on the hot plate raw, so you have to mix it up with the meat to get THIS:
I was afraid that the egg would be still raw even after combining it with the meat, but the plate was hot enough to set the eggs. I really liked this sisig, but Bub, being the American boy that he is didn’t like it as much as I did. He likes the Americanized version of sisig - meaning meat, peppers, onions, and sauce. That is it. He doesn’t like the random parts of pig face. Meanwhile, I do. This version reminded me a lot of the sisig I had with friends at a now defunct Filipino eatery near Top of the Hill in Daly City. I could feel my arteries clogging, but it was worth it.
Broken Jasmine Rice
I never had broken rice before and I found the shorter grains to be easier to eat because less chewing is needed obviously. I don’t know much about broken rice either. Can you buy rice already broken? I would love to make this at home. It was fluffy and light and perfect with all our dishes.
So what did I think of Poleng? I was pleasantly surprised. I was expecting the food to be sub par, but there were dishes that I loved - the kinilaw and adobong kang kong and mushrooms especially. The bill ended up being about $80 with tax and tip included. Not cheap, but there was more than enough food for the both of us, even with Bub’s big appetite. Pleasantly surprised. Would I come back? Yes. It’s not traditional Filipino food, but it’s fun to have modern versions of the dishes I have loved all my life.
So today is Friday. Friday's are good. I just had my lunch. Well, I only took two puffs from the yellow inhaler and two tablets of my antibiotic. That's lunch. I don't have much of an appetitie anyway. Plus, I am feeling rather light-headed. Must be the steriods. So I have been sick. So sick to the point that I was forced to go to the doctor by my manager. I spent three hours at my medical center in Daly City. I seriously should find a PCP here in my building here in SF so that I don't have to trek all the way back to DC. Went in to get checked-out and came out with three RX's for my sickness. Well, it's a combination of the bug that has been going around, my asthma, and allerigies. Great. I forgot my HSA card at home, so I had to pay for these out of pocket. SHITE. For real. Anyway, they're starting to work I think, so I guess the OOP was ok. At least, I'ma get re-imbursed. Okay, I'm just rambling now. Yes...I want to go home. Medicine is great.
Restaurant: Hard Knox Cafe Address: 2448 Clement St. b/t 25th and 26th Avenues, Outer Richmond, SF Phone Number: (415) 752-3770 Cuisine: Southern Soul Food Date Last Visited: May 7, 2009 Dining Partner: Ate Di and Biz Markie =)
So Ate Di had this massive craving for fried chicken and collard greens. The last time we tried to get soul food at the Hard Knox in the Dogpatch, it was getting dark and we didn’t want to get mugged out there. So we resorted to eating fried chicken near the ballpark. It was alright, but we knew we could have been grubbing on something so much better. Since that night, we promised ourselves to get Hard Knox again. We picked a random Thursday and decided to go to the newer of the two branches that had just opened in the Outer Richmond. It was just one bus ride from my work, so it was perfect.
Youuuu Got What I Neeeeeeeeeeed…
When we got to Hard Knox on Clement, we saw a table set up with some Hard Knox t-shirts, hoodies…and some handsome fellas. Turns out that this day was the restaurant’s one-year anniversary in the Outer Richmond. Biz Markie was inside partying it up with the soul food lovers inside! C’mon! How could we resist? $10 us a raffle ticket for the drawing at the end of the night, a t-shirt, and food! We knew that we wouldn’t get to have our fried chicken and collard greens on this day, but we knew this was not going to happen again. A restaurant can only turn one once! We were ready to party it up Hard Knox style!
I love Hard Knox because of their funky decorations and random objects hanging on the tin walls. This location differed from the one in the Dogpatch because it had two levels, a smaller bar and different dining area. However, it still exuded that Southern vibe that we love. Before I move on, I just wanted to thank and give props to the awesome servers that night. They never denied any party-go’er their 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th helping to the food and they were ultra sweet. Now on to the food!
Fried Chicken Drumettes
These little drumettes were treated like the bigger pieces of chicken they serve here - crispy skin and succulent meat. How could you have only one of these? I could have eaten this entire plate.
Meatballs with Pineapple Salsa
I don’t see anything particularly “Southern” about these meatballs, especially with the pineapple salsa, but they were delicious. I like how they combined the savory meat with the sweet fruit.
I loved these. The mushroom filling in the middle was buttery and rich. I don’t know what they put in it exactly, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some cheese in there as well. I loved the phyllo dough and how crispy they were.
Now these were incredible. It did get a little tricky eating all these finger foods and holding a drink and balancing a small plate, but it was done. Like the chicken wings, I could have eaten this entire platter.
I didn’t get to take a picture, but they were also serving deviled eggs, mini pecan tarts, and other goodies! So good!
Biz Markie on the turntables and throwing down the beats
I just wanted to go down there and sing a song with him. Right when I had a chance, I went on YouTube and watched the “Just a Friend” video. He still is talented with his music. He spun for the night and even gave us a little sample of his beat-boxing here and there.
Can You Spot Ate?
I don’t think they expected it, but there was an NBA game between the Celtics and the Bulls that night. The place got packed in no time and it began to get hard maneuvering our way around the restaurant. It started to feel like a club at some point. The picture you see above was taken when we first got there, so there was still room to breathe.
Their bar is a bit smaller than the one in the Dogpatch, but the bartenders made sure everyone was well hydrated.
Of all the days in the year to come, we chose the perfect one. We seriously didn’t know that this was going on, so when we were invited in, it was hard to say no. Lots of hot people, tight beats, thrilling game shown on the flats screens, yummy food, and BIZ MARKIE! How many people can tell you they ate fried chicken with Biz Markie? Well, technically I didn’t meet him personally nor did I see him eating any fried chicken, but just knowing that I was in the presence of a hip hop icon is big.
Way back when I heard that Hard Knox was owned by Asian folks, I laughed and thought, “Oh, what the hell are they trying to prove?!” But in all honesty, I ate my words. Hard Knox is an incredible establishment founded by awesome people who showed skeptics (like me) that us Asian people have soul, too. Seriously, I underestimated my peeps, and I was wrong. And I am glad to be proven wrong because their food here is so damn good.
Congratulations to the owners, staff, and supporters of Hard Knox Café. Happy 1st birthday and I wish you more luck for the future.
The Restroom - “Office of the Mayor”
I seriously love their humor here.
P.P.S. I seriously never seen so many people wearing their SF gear outside of a Giants game. It was so hot. =)
Restaurant: Carnelian Room Address: 555 California Street at Kearny, 52nd Floor of the Bank of America Building, Financial District, SF Phone Number: (415) 433-7500 Cuisine: New American Date Last Visited: May 28, 2009 Dining Partner: Ate Di
So Ate Di and I seriously needed a catch up dinner session. Due to work and things in our personal lives, we really did not have much time to see each other often. So for this dinner, we had to do it special and big. Well, not BIG, but more HIGH? Not that kind of high, silly. Let’s just say that we were above almost all the people in San Francisco for this dinner.
Where I was headed after work was the Bank of America Building on California Street in the heart of the Financial District. The Bank of America Building is an integral part of San Francisco’s skyline. It’s one of the most recognized silhouettes besides the Transamerican Pyramid. Coming here, I already knew that this was a place where many companies congregated over lavish and expensive meals dealing with business and closing deals. What fun. I got to the corner of California and Kearny and immediately saw that big hunk of granite. I don’t know what it symbolizes, but it’s one thing I always see when I used to take the 9BX from 3rd over the Sacramento St. to catch the 1. Momma’s workplace (the Ritz) is also two blocks up California, so this was all familiar street-territory. Now inside the actual building is a different story. Even getting to the restaurant was a journey in itself. Hey, if a restaurant is situated on the 52nd floor, getting there should be special too.
The Main Dining Room
I was told that the Carnelian Room is actually one restaurant with several private rooms. I assume where many of the City’s business hold their meetings. We were there right when the dining room opened so it was still pretty empty. The leather-padded chairs were comfy and the white table-clothed tables were ornamented with the perfectly placed silverware and shining stemware. I said ornamented because the tables were truly beautiful, as if the glasses and forks and spoons were decorative items. Very classic tablescapes that boasted sophistication and simple beauty.
I was sort of bummed that on the day we came, it was incredibly foggy at that altitude. In the picture prior with the tables, those windows should have shown blue skies and the Bay Bridge. On our day, no. I thought they were actually white walls walking in, but Ate Di told me it was the fog. Sayang. I was just astonished how dense it was up there. There were times when we got to see the water and the piers, but pretty much we saw white most of the time. Bummer.
Bread and Butter
I found it interesting that they offered crispy flatbread in their bread selection. They were almost like crackers. I had to get over my intimidation with the silent atmosphere in the dining room before eating the flatbread because they were so loud. They were great with the butter.
I know, I know. Me eating olive bread? For some reason, these were alright. I did cringe when I had to chew on a huge hunk of olive, but the bread part was delightful.
Amuse Bouche: Cream of Potato and Leek Soup
This soup had something in it that reminded me of soupas that I make home. It might be the oniony-creamy based. Whatever it was, the presentation in the cappuccino cups, brown bits floating on top, and the soup’s voluptuous mouth feel were all very enjoyable.
Seared Georges Bank Scallops Sausalito Springs Watercress, Saffron Vanilla Cream - $17
Ate Di and I were in sync that night because we were eyeing the same dishes. We were going to share whatever we ordered, so it worked. The scallops had a beautiful sear, as you can see, and the inside was still very tender and rare. Some of the sweetest scallops I have ever eaten. The Saffron-Vanilla Cream was a bit lacking for me because I didn’t detect the saffron. I saw the vanilla bean, but at the time of consumption, they did not stand out. Besides from that minor hiccup, this dish was fantastic.
When I think ravioli, I think the customary fillings of sausage or ricotta cheese or spinach. Oxtail in ravioli was something very new and intriguing to me. They were not kidding with this starter. Everything on the plate added something to the whole dish. The wild mushrooms added some earthiness that was rich and intense. The crispy pancetta - which were essentially like bacon bits without the smokey flavor, added saltiness and another deep component. Beware kids, this is not a light dish. I like the addition of the sweetish cipollini onions the cavelo nero (a dark green in the kale family) because it made the dish seem a bit more forgiving, but everything about this dish screamed RICH.
What I love about oxtail is that because the meat sits on the bone, there is a lot of connective tissue and fat around. When the oxtail is cooked down, the meat has a “lip-smacking” feeling which I love. Kind of sticky and kind of buttery. Again, not something you’d eat all the time, but something I like to indulge in every once in a while. Quite delectable as the filling of this one-of-a-kind dish.
I love duck in every shape or form. Duck breast in this presentation is one of my favorites - seared skin so that it is a little on the crispy side, yet leaving the meat on the pink side. Duck does had a gamey aftertaste, so that is where the berry reduction comes in. A gastrique sounds like it has to do something with the stomach, but it is a fancy word for a reduction. The sweetness from this gastrique cuts through the gamey tones of the duck. Let me tell you something about that polenta - it was out of this world. By far, the best polenta I have ever had. It was creamy and simple. I loved it. All around this dish was tremendous.
Ate Di and I were wondering what a “sofrito” was before ordering. Instead of asking the waiter, we ordered it to find out. “Sofrito” is actually the bright red sauce that is usually made with annatto seeds. I don’t know the flavor of an actual annatto seed, but I know that they are widely used to color sauces. This sauce had a tangy, peppery taste to it - reminiscent of a Spanish-influenced sauce. The ahi tuna steaks were awesome, as expected. They were simply searing leaving the center of the steak quite rare. Be rest assured that there was no tuna left on my plate. Great stuff.
The starch of choice was the “scallion scented” couscous. Again, they are great with their carbs here at the Carnelian Room. It is easy to mess up couscous, and their’s was just perfect. PERFECT texture and PERFECT portion. Just perfect. I do have to complain about a few things. I didn’t get enough “scallion scent.” Sorry to be picky, but if it’s said to be scented, it better be scented good, but that is a negligible detail. The squash blossoms on the other hand…I was expecting big, beautiful, yellow squash blossoms filled to the max with a generous amount of crab. They were filled with crab alright, but do you see the size of those squash blossoms? I didn’t know that they grew them that small. I was quite disappointed. With this price, I thought they’d be generous. C’mon. Almost $40 an entrée here! If we forgot the squash blossom scandal, the dish was excellent. HOWEVER, the squash blossoms were featured on the menu as if they were a major component, but they were just guest stars…no more like extras. Tuna the main star and couscous the supporting actor. Squash blossoms, extras. They were just there. =/ I guess since everything else on the plate was just fabulous, I’ll let the squash blossoms slide. For now. >=(
So what rises after you beat it and get it hot? Soufflé, of course! *cymbal crash* Get your head out of the gutter, buddy. Okay, so many that was so funny. *laughs to self* At the beginning of the meal, our fantabulous server told us that if we wanted to order the soufflé that we would have to do it then. The normal dessert menu had a great selection, but we had to end the meal with something quite special. Ate ordered the raspberry, and what I liked about it was that raspberry wasn’t mixed into the batter enough to make the whole thing pink. I appreciated the raspberry-less portions of the soufflé because I don’t favor that particular berry.
Chocolate Soufflé Before Being Christened by the Chocolate Sauce
Like how it should be, the sauces were poured into our soufflés tableside. I think that just adds to the experience. I am not too much of a chocolate dessert person, but this was marvelous.
One thing I would have tweeked, was probably the sauce. Ate Di found it perfect as it was because she is a chocoholic, but for my taste, I would have preferred a vanilla sauce instead of the chocolate. I like contrast in my desserts, and this was too much chocolate for me. For me, see? If you are like Ate Di, this is heaven in a ramekin. Nonetheless, the soufflé was perfect in texture. You will always find me burning my tongue on soufflé because I am so excited to eat it. Wonderful.
Yes, this meal was a success. What would have made it PERFECT was if the fog went away. The sights would have been glorious, but the meal itself was over the top and superb. The service was top-notch and the dishes were splendid as well. The prices are a bit high, but you are paying for the real estate. Maybe next time, we should check the weather forecast before booking the reservation. Don‘t get me wrong, I don’t regret this visit at all, just would have been nice to see more of the views. But that’s San Francisco for you - the fog is part of the City’s personality after all and the City would not be the same without it.