Sons & Daughters, San Francisco

Sons & Daughters is the type of place you don’t want to share, but do. This oddly named restaurant opened its doors less than a month ago but is already making waves with glowing reviews on Thrillist and Yelp. Purple ceilinged with wall hogging pictures and giant glass chandeliers, the space oozes hipster charm; it’s also small enough to make you forget you’re not in New York. You don’t need a reservation (yet) but beware of Mondays and Tuesdays, since it appears this is holiday time for its creative chefs.

The freshly pressed menu was thoughtfully short and the waitress, unusually friendly. She started us off on the right foot with warm bread and a luscious mango-melon amuse bouche. Next was a zesty herbed salad served with refreshing eucalyptus and delicious curds. The lobster carpaccio, topped with caviar and dill, was unbelievably delicate and the squab, beautifully presented. We’d ordered the tasting menu, which at $48 is an absolute steal, and were blown away by the delicious wine pairings. My only complaint was the truffle risotto. Soupy and bland, this dish was larger than the others and not interesting enough to finish.

After a yoghurty palate cleaner, we chose the raspberry mousse for dessert. Topped with gingery crumbles, this was by far one of the best desserts I’ve ever had. (I’m really not big on desserts, but I’m a massive Tiramisu fan if that’s any indication.) Even with the small portions, we were pretty stuffed by now but happily accepted a last, tiny amuse bouche (or is it called something else at the end of the meal?) of jelly topped pineapple cubes.

Damage: Around $140 for two with one tasting.
Verdict: Absolutely wonderful. The appetizers are slightly stronger than the entrees but the entire experience – presentation, service, ambience, vibe – is just outstanding. Definitely a place I would recommend and revisit… even if it means having to make a reservation next time.

Sons & Daughters on Urbanspoon

R & G Lounge

After several weeks of lusting after the salt and pepper crab, my boyfriend got his wish Monday night as we ventured over to China Town for dinner at R & G Lounge. We’d ordered takeaway from R & G several times before and, while I found the food good, I didn’t think it dramatically different from any other Chinese restaurant. After dining in-house at what many consider to be the holy grail of San Francisco’s Chinese food, I ended up changing my mind.

For starters, R & G wasn’t the cramped, colourful Chinese food shop I had pictured it as in my mind. Instead we were greeted by a large, modern space, three-tiered, high-ceilinged and brightly decorated in glass and steel. People dress up to go to R & G and the short skirted, high-heeled Asian girls who walked in left me feeling uncharacteristically underdressed for SF in my jeans and hoodie. While modern and high-end, the upstairs seating area feels distinctly Chinese, with traditional decorations and an entirely Asian staff. We managed to snag the last table before the dinner crowd tumbled in and a waiter promptly came by to ask about drinks.

At first glance, R & G’s leather-bound menu could fool you for a 12-page novelette, but a closer look reveals that it’s conveniently illustrated with delicious-looking pictures of signature dishes. Having previously tried the special beef and seafood lettuce cups, we decided to go for the hot and sour soup, geoduck sashimi and scallops with steak cubes (in addition to the infamous crab, of course). The waiter was nice enough to inform us that the geoduck was trading at $60 per person (yikes!), meriting an easy pass and, resulting in a more realistically sized order.

Everything was delicious! The watermelon juice was fresh and unwatered down and came in a giant ceramic glass along with a crazy straw (who doesn’t love crazy straws?), the soup was a delightful medley of tangy flavours and the crab a golden mass of crispy goodness. My favourite dish of the night, though, was easily the steak & scallops – a surprisingly delicate and ungreasy blend of melt-in-the-mouth juiciness. I couldn’t stop nibbling on these bite-sized morsels long after I was full. As a bonus, we were in and out of there in just under an hour with less than $100 of damage. Worthy of its 4 stars on Yelp? That and more…

R & G Lounge on Urbanspoon

Why I love San Francisco’s Ferry Building

Market and Mission, two of San Francisco’s most famous streets, lead to the same jewel at the head of the Embarcadero – the Ferry Building. This beautiful structure, built over a hundred years ago, looks out onto a breathtaking expanse of bright blue sparkling water.  Ferry service continues to run North through the San Francisco Bay to Tiburon, Sausalito, Angel Island and Vallejo, as well as East, to Oakland and Alameda. Fortunately, public transport is not all this magical building has to offer. It is also an epicenter of gourmet food.

Purveyors of everything ranging from organic coffee to farm fresh fungi line the aisles of its spacious interior, attracting a good mix of faithful locals and inspired tourists. Tiny store fronts serving decadent gelato and delectable chocolate peek out from between larger shops selling cookware and recipe books. The Ferry Building’s flagship restaurant, the Slanted Door (one of my all-time favourites), caters to a higher-end crowd seeking haute Vietnamese cuisine and luscious cocktails. Taylor’s Automatic Refresher, the other gem of the building, is a San Francisco institution, serving up gourmet burgers, must-try sweet potato fries and an assortment of old-school milkshakes and lemonades.

As if this weren’t enough, every Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday, the Ferry Building outdoes itself by playing host to an outstanding Farmer’s Market. Stalls of fresh fruit, local vegetables, aromatic herbs and pretty flowers line the front of the building, while tents selling hot snacks and brunch specials squeeze together in the back. We tried sturgeon with capers, onions and cream cheese on a freshly baked baguette, followed by “korean tacos” comprising deliciously spiced minced kobe and sticky rice wrapped in seaweed paper and lastly, a cheese-free but melt-in-the-mouth delicious pumpkin lasagna. We also picked up a few items from the vast range of regional artisan specialties including cheese, jams, sauces as well as olive oils, specialty salts and cured meats.

A huge fan of local produce and Farmer’s Markets, I only wish New York or Boston would follow suit. After being spoiled by two wonderful years of Borough and Old Spitalfields Market, I’ve struggled to find similar wonders in US cities. Ithaca Farmer’s Market, held every weekend in upstate NY, is surprisingly good and extremely popular amongst tourists and Cornell students alike. Are you listening Boston?

A Fortnight in Fog City

I’ve been in San Francisco nearly two weeks now (time flies!) and am thoroughly enjoying what’s looking to be a fantastic summer. After a couple of do-nothing days in NYC, I flew out to join the bf who, conveniently, will be spending the next month or so in SF for work.

We’re staying in Nob Hill which, as the name suggests, is no friend to the faint hearted. My first week here, I nearly died climbing up the steep incline that leads home. I’m getting better at it but continue to be overtaken by pesky locals who make climbing a 60 degree gradient look like sliding on ice. I have also learned that wearing heels in SF is social suicide (you *will* get left behind).

From Nob Hill, it takes me about 40 minutes to get to the tech start up I’ve been working at, located on yet another, [Potrero] Hill. The Muni is certainly not the finest public transport I’ve taken, but at $2 each way, I really can’t complain. So many friends are spending ~3 hours/day driving back and forth from the Valley that I’m pretty happy to be able to re-discover Milan Kundera on the train.

Anyway, on to the food! We’ve been oyster shucking, boatside brunching, farmer’s market-ing, tea tasting and generally face-stuffing and, so far, the City has not disappointed. More to come but here’s the low down on some great local restaurants.

Cafe Kati, a cute little place in Pac Heights offers a fun menu of Asian Fusion delights ranging from old classics like chicken lettuce cups to creative hits like peanut crusted prawns with green papaya, mint and fresh basil. The ambience is small, cosy and intimate. It feels a little like a quaint old bookstore. Service is friendly and the wine list is great. We tried the dragon roll, the prawns and the sliders – servings are bigger than you’d expect and the food is melt in the mouth delicious.
Damage: $70 for two, including drinks (but then we didn’t order entrees)

Next, we tried Frascati, a Mediterranean style bistro located on the corner of a lovely tree-lined street not far from where we live. There are a couple of very cute looking restaurants on this block, but Frascati stands out for a unique and seasonally fresh menu. The Duck Confit Salad was fabulously tasty, the Dungeness Salad good, but very small. The big let down came from the desserts. We ordered the bread pudding and the apple cobbler and both were giant sized portions of mediocre kitchen fare. Nothing memorable about them and certainly out of sync with the rest of the restaurant’s delicate, deliberate sensibility.

Another great restaurant tucked away on a quiet corner at the top of Nob Hill is Venticello, which means “soft breeze” in Italian. This hidden gem exudes old world romance and Tuscan charm. The lights are dim, the tones are warm, the tables are candle lit and the doors and windows are thrown open to the cool night air. The maitre’D was warm and welcoming and the service, prompt and professional. The Carpaccio and Polenta con Portobello were absolutely divine – creative, original and beautifully presented. The meat pasta was so-so and somewhat uninspiringly arranged in a plain white bowl. The dish of the night however, was definitely the veal Scallopini – absolutely to die for. Served with tiger prawns and a basil cream sauce, this is apparently their most popular dish and something I could not get enough of!