All Posts By:

Terry Chen

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Terry’s Shortlist: Sushi Restaurants (San Francisco)

I get asked about sushi recommendations a lot, especially since there have been a plethora of new restaurants that can make the scene difficult to navigate. So, here is my SF shortlist! 🍣

For the Fance 💰💰💰 ($100+/person)

  • Ju-Ni (Foodjournies Review)

    Known for: Receiving one Michelin star from non-Japanese chefs; an optional additional 3-piece nigiri set to end the omakase
    Memorable Item: Grated frozen monkfish over house-cured ikura (salmon roe)
    Reservation Tip: Make a reservation around 45 days ahead of time. If there’s a particular date you’re looking for, put yourself on the waitlist. You never know what will open up!

  • Kinjo

    Known for: Chefs who come from Sushi Ran and Ijji; fish comes directly from Tsukiji Market since they have special connections with vendors there
    Memorable Item: Live wild-spot prawn (ikibotanebi), where they also fry the head
    Reservation Tip: Make sure to specify bar seating for a more personal experience

  • Robin

    Known for: Serving sushi with modern twist in a chill hip-hop infused atmosphere
    Memorable Item: Sturgeon caviar topped on a potato chip and chai blossom
    Reservation Tip: You should be able to snag a seat since they recently opened (July 2017) but I foresee it getting harder over time

For the Average Night 💰💰(~$100/person)

  • Akiko’s

    Known for: Housing great sushi chefs; having a seasonal omakase
    Memorable Item: Wagyu A5 sushi topped with fried garlic
    Reservation Tip: For a primetime hour reservation (think 7pm), book two weeks in advance

  • Hinata

    Known for: Great lineage of sushi chefs (Ju-Ni, Ijji) in a more casual atmosphere
    Memorable Item: Soy cured salmon roe (shoyu ikura), which is beautifully salty and pops of umami
    Reservation Tip:  Shouldn’t be hard to get a table; note there are two seatings (6pm and 8:30pm)

For the “Great Deal” 💰 (~$60/person)

  • Ryoko’s

    Known for: High quality fish at a reasonable price, in arguably the loudest (“party-forward”) setting; open until 2am
    Memorable Item: Spicy scallop roll. The scallops are meaty, sweet and fresh, and the roll is stuffed full of them
    Reservation Tip: N/A – they don’t take resos, though I would suggest lining up around 5:45pm which will guarantee you a table no matter how large your party is

  • Elephant Sushi

    Known for: “Fun” rolls that come to you lit up on fire, reasonable prices
    Memorable Item: “The Beastie Boy” – ankimo, quail egg, and uni with shiso
    Reservation Tip: Walk-ins only

What’s on your sushi list? Let me know in the comments!

 

brunch/ Hawaiian/ San Francisco

Aina: SF Gets Lei’ed

San Francisco has its fair share of the latest Hawaiian craze sweeping through our cities, and I am all for this. Hawaiian cuisine has a lot of flavors that I love – island food (e.g. seafood, fresh fruits, etc.) with an overlay of Japanese influence. What’s great about āina is that they’ve taken their love of Hawaiian cuisine – with its attitude and welcoming aurora – and made it oh-so-very-SF by using seasonal ingredients to match.

Let’s dive in by talking about their spam masubi “ssam style”, using Stone Valley Farms whole hog spam, boston bibb lettuce, house-made kimchi, and short grain rice with egg yolk furikake (the seaweed sesame topping you see above). This delicious bite – or in my case, few bites worth – is delicious and awfully satisfying. The spam is unlike anything you get out of that can.

Let us not forget about one of the most important brunch time items – their Bloody Mary – made with lemongrass infused soju, charred tomato mix, fresh horseradish, pink peppercorn, and tabasco sauce. Fairly spicy and lightly tart, this drink finished with a savory taste that satisfies any hungry stomach as it waits for the next dish.

Then there’s the Malasadas, which was the epitome of you could imagine to be a Hawaiian doughnut. These three Portuguese style doughnuts coated in coconut sugar and filled with guava custard were fairly dense. It’s a great dish to share with friends given how easy it is to get full off of this; gotta make room for more later!

Here’s a dish where it’s obvious where the Hawaiian comes from – French toast made from taro bread served with apple wood smoked bacon, macadamia nut crumble, salted coconut caramel, fresh strawberries, and vanilla whipped cream. This dish is basically giving you hugs and kisses every time you take a bite, it is that good and comforting to your soul.

There’s their take on the loco moco, which became the kalbi version – braised kalbi short rib, smoked honshimeji mushroom jus, sunny side up eggs, hearts of palm pico de gallo, cilantro, short grain rice, and pea tendrils. The short rib is very tender, and salty which is nicely paired with some rice and egg to balance it all out.

Lastly, but not least, the Chicken katsu made of mary’s chicken, rolled omelet, vadouvan carrot purée, udon noodles, aïoli, katsu jelly, and grilled seasonal greens. This “bento set” blew my mind away, mostly due to their version of the Japanese potato salad; instead they used udon noodles and made it taste like how the potato salad would be but lighter! The omelet also incorporated furikake, added the umami element to the mix. I wish I could have this everyday.

I find myself wanting to head over to āina as often as I can, even if there is a wait (my personal limit is 45 minutes; I’ve generally been seated quicker than that here). With their love of using the land around them aka local ingredients, they fit right into the SF food scene and all the while, making sure you feel right at home in Hawaii.

āina
900 22nd St, San Francisco, CA 94107
No online reservations

Chinese/ dinner/ San Francisco

Mister Jiu’s: An Emergence of “New Chinese”

Chinese food is one of my comfort foods – give me a meal full of dumplings, noodle soups and rice dishes, and it’ll satiate my hunger and subdue any feelings of anger, frustration, and woe. Mister Jiu’s is a bit different than your normal MSG-filled Chinese restaurant around the corner. Even though they are located in the heart of San Francisco’s Chinatown, they’re making a new version of Chinese food, one that’s worth trying out and waiting for.

The photos will showcase dishes from the banquet and a la carte menu, so make sure to check out their seasonal menu prior to dining if you’re looking to have the same exact dish.

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Rice noodle roll (腸粉) with uni was a luxurious update to the traditional shrimp or pork filled noodle roll that you find at dim sum restaurants. The crepe felt as if it was very delicately made – silky smooth, not too oily – and worked well with the bits of creamy uni as it would slosh in your mouth.

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The charcuterie plate made of: Devil’s Gulch Pig Head, Chilled Beef Tendon, and La Quercia Cured Ham with fried dough (油條) is worth tasting. Like the traditional cold plates, it was served as an assortment and each cut with great balance between salt, meat and fat. The fried dough was not oily either, and only made me wish I had a bowl of porridge to go with it. Note: I’m also a huge fan of anything Devil’s Gulch so this won over my heart easily.

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A simple vegetable dish of tendrils, greens and stems was topped with uni mousse and pieces of uni. It was easy to scarf down this dish, with tender bites of vegetables mixed with intense umami flavors that sloshed around in your mouth.

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Recipe/ Taiwanese

Recipe: Taiwanese Minced Pork (肉燥)

The times where I really miss home, I like to make myself a comforting bowl of Taiwanese minced pork. What’s great is that there is flexibility in what you serve it on (traditionally it’s on rice but I topped udon with it), and even what’s inside; for my minced pork, I’ve taken advantage of the incredible produce in SF and made it my own, and you can too!

Prep time: ~15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour 30 min, mostly stewing so you’re not doing much
Commitment rating (time + money): Low

Ingredients

  • 1 pound, ground pork
  • 1 tsp of vegetable or grapeseed oil
  • 2 cup of carrots, diced
  • 1/2 cup of onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup of mushrooms (can be of your choosing), sliced
  • 2 cup broth
  • 2 tbsp shaoxing wine
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce paste
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp sugar or honey
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 tsp five spice powder
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 cup scallion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of fried shallots

Directions

  1. In a medium-sized pot, add cooking oil and ground pork into high heat. Stir and break out the pork into small pieces.
  2. Quickly add the diced onion to briefly sauté with ground pork. The ground pork should start looking brown after a few minutes.
  3. Add in carrots, mushroom, broth, cooking wine, soy sauce paste, soy sauce, sugar/honey, black pepper, star anise, five spice powder, fried shallots (3/4 of the amount). Bring this mixture to a boil, and then turn the heat to low. Stir occasionally (every ~20-30 minutes).
  4. Prepare the rice or noodles
  5. To serve, fill a bowl with rice/noodles and top it with the minced pork, leftover fried shallots, scallions, and cilantro.

Enjoy, and hope your tummy feels as comforted as your heart!

Breakfast/ What's On My Plate

What’s On My Plate: Fall Breakfast

As we get into fall, there is the emergence of new items like plums, grapes, squash, etc. and the continuation of summer items like beans and tomatoes. No complaints here! Pictured are produce from the CUESA’s farmers market at the Ferry Building:

Enjoy the season, and get your hands on this produce. If you do, I’d love to hear about what you’ve made and eaten!

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Recipe: Easy Peasy Chicken Stock

If you’re scared but want to start cooking, go with making a chicken broth. It’s delicious, cheap, lasts a long time, and most importantly – satisfies your soul. Plus it’s a great way to save your scraps (and the environment)!

Prep time: ~5-10 minutes
Cook time: 2 hours, mostly stewing so you’re not doing much
Commitment rating (time + money): Low

Two full tubs of stock!

Ingredients

  • 1 rotisserie chicken, eaten to the bone (keep all of what you don’t eat!)
  • 2 quarters of water
  • 1 onion, sliced including the head
  • 2 scallion stalk scraps
  • 2 pieces of ginger (sliced 1/4″)
  • 2 tomatoes, cut into 1/4 pieces (I use Early Girl, but you can use whatever you like)
  • 1 carrot, cut into 1/4 pieces
  • 1/2 serrano pepper, sliced (optional, I like a little kick in my broth)
  • Coarse sea salt, use as much as desired

Note: Feel free to add in any other vegetable scraps you have. It’ll make your stock have a personal touch!


Directions

  1. Fill a medium-to-large deep pot with water
  2. Toss in all ingredients into the pot with a pinch of sea salt
  3. Heat pot at medium heat
  4. Cook for 2 hours, stirring occasionally every 30 minutes. Add in water if you want more stock, and if too much water has evaporated
  5. Add in salt as desired (recommendation: don’t add too much salt if you plan on using this stock for other dishes)
  6. Strain the broth using a fine-sieve colander directly into a container

Voila! You’re done, and you can go back to watching the second season of Narcos.

dinner/ Japanese/ San Francisco

Noodle in a Haystack: Creating Bowls of Ramen Delight

Inspiration can come from a number of sources and this pair of foodies is one of mine. Clint and Yoko, husband and wife, host Feastly meals highlighting their love for Japanese cuisine, more specifically ramen. Their goal is simple but challenging – to bring reliably good ramen to SF.

If anyone has lived in SF and is fairly obsessed with ramen, you’ll find our situation distressing; we have a plethora of Japanese restaurants/izakayas/ramen joints that have one or a combination of these traits:

  1. Expensive
  2. Long extended waits
  3. Just not “good” e.g. flavorful, extremely salty, dry meat, etc.
  4. Don’t make their eggs right (this makes me particularly angry)

How is it that in a city where there is over 30% Asians, this is this our reality?

Just moving back from Japan, Clint and Yoko missed ramen where finding a delicious bowl and access were never an issue. Unlike most of us, they did something about it. They made their own, and it’s awfully delicious.

They honor the traditional with the use specific Japanese ingredients and spices, often requiring them to scour SF markets for these items. In addition, being in the Bay Area, they take advantage of what’s around to make their interpretation of optimal delicious ramen. Sous vide meat? Yes. Incorporate Meyer lemon to lightly bring out citrus/sweetness to offset the fat in the broth? Oh yes.

Needless to say, every detail is carefully thought through – flavor, texture, presentation – with what reminds them of their experiences in Japan to their daily inspirations living in the Bay. They don’t hold back either e.g. their chicken skins may take up to two-three hours to make, their broth requires a multi-step process to gather umami flavors. The best part of this is, we get to enjoy what they passionately create for each bowl and dish. #winning.

Here are a few photos to help bring to life their welcoming and satiating meals.

Chicken-skin with ikura “deviled egg”

Mazemen

Shio ramen

Okinawa sugar panna cotta with kinako graham crackers

Show your support, and check out a meal with them. They host their dinners via Feastly in the Mission and Daly City. Relish in each bowl you eat, and guarantee you will leave wanting more on any given day.

dinner/ Japanese/ San Francisco

Ju-Ni: Serving Symphonies of Sushi

I’ve found one of my “ones”, and cannot wait to tell you about it.

Before going into the restaurant itself, I’d like to clarify what it takes to be a “one”. It’s not just about the food. The institution needs to be more than that: the environment – space, decor, lighting, plating – all play a role in establishing a harmonious experience; the sequencing of the meal itself; interactions and explanations from the chef and/or waitstaff weave in and out of conversation. Without sounding too out-of-the-world here, it’s about the orchestration of it all.

Ju-Ni is sushi restaurant and located in San Francisco (frankly, way more accessible to me than some other places in the area). It’s not the cheapest meal, starting at $95 for 12 piece nigiri omakase, and with a $35 three-piece supplement you are getting at $130 out of your pocket. Logistically, it’s gotten much more difficult to get reservations over the past few months with only 14 seats and two seatings per night – 6:00pm and 8:30pm.

Still totally worth it.

The traditional sushi dining experience is challenged at Ju-Ni, and updated to suit a new generation of sushi chefs in the Bay Area. The dialogue that happens between you and their staff is welcomed and encouraged, going against the notion of placing a sushi chef onto a pedestal and marveling him from afar (think Jiro from “Jiro Dreams of Sushi“). Chefs, including the owner, don’t need to be Japanese as it has no bearing at all to the quality of food they are able to produce.

They still stick to purist ideals for the way nigiri is served. Each wooden board in front of you is carefully wiped after each piece to ensure you’re able to isolate flavors between each taste. Fish and ingredients are carefully picked, and prepared in a way that is mindful of flavor and texture at the same time.

Without giving too much away, enjoy the photos of some pieces that have been my favorites in the times I’ve dined there (the menu does vary based on what’s in season, etc.)

Mackerel (Aji) with Ginger and Scallion

Soy-cured Tuna

Shima Aji

Bluefin Tuna (Sustainable)

Ikura with Ankimo Snow

Kaisui Uni

So make that reservation – wait a few weeks – and get ready to meet one of my “ones”. If you go, enjoy their delectable symphony and tell me about it.

Ju-Ni
1335 Fulton St
San Francisco, CA 94117
Reservations

American Nouveau/ dinner/ travels

Castagna: Playful Fine Dining in Portland

I love Portland. It is a magical land of eats, microcrews, hikes and no sales tax which activates the inner consumer in me. Stuff, for LESS? Yes, count me in.

There are many great deals in Portland, and one of them is at a New American restaurant called Castagna. Not many institutions there where there are of a white-cloth dining experience – it’s certainly more about the hipster casual – so Castagna naturally stands out from the crowd. With an offering of $98 or $155 tasting menus (the price varies based on number of courses you receive), I find it a steal. Hopefully this posts shows you why. **There will be many photos. Be ready to scroll.**

Let’s start off with snacks – which is arguably one of the best ways to ever start a meal. There are many of them that whetted my appetite. These delicious small bites made me sit back and think, “Wow if this is the way it’s beginning, I can only anticipate what will come…”

Beet chip with foie gras cream. Creamy and crunchy. Please sir, can i have some more?

Their house made bread comes with two spreads – smoked pork lard and butter. I enjoyed slathering these different spreads across the warm wheat rolls. As to which one was better? That’s a hard one (and still can’t answer that question).

This is what they described as an “adult version of a fruit roll-up“, which was very good and unfortunately did not note down what was in it. I’m ashamed, mostly because I can’t properly describe how tasty this was.

Oysters so beautifully plated, and tastefully balanced.

Now, we venture into the course section of the night:

Peas, agastache and goat’s butter served in a small porcelain cup and a mother-of-pearl spoon. Was it as delicious as described? Hell yes, and every bit as luxurious as you’d think too.

This egg-looking dish is actually centered around asparagus, reminding you of the spring time.

Okay, I know this isn’t the best photo of what a scallop is, but this is a marinated scallop indeed. A few bites, and wish I had a bit more to be able to evaluate my feelings for the dish; it was fresh and mildly sweet.

Beet with black garlic powder and maltaise (aka hollandaise sauce), which was one of my favorite dishes of the night. Not only did the beet feel meaty, but also melded with the sauces and dust.

Morels with fiddlehead fern, and a few other beautiful things. Earthy and rustic, a small bite of something slightly heavy easing into the next course.

Culotte with oyster leaf was sadly, the only point in the night where I wasn’t satisfied. The meat was chewy, but not in a very pleasant flavorful way, which took away from the other parts of the dish.

Another one of the most impressive dishes of the night was the frozen rhubarb with black olive and vanilla sitting underneath. The combination of these flavors and textures made me come alive, and wonder for the next 30 minutes how this exact dish was formulated…and I’m still wondering.

Toast with strawberries and milk makes the last official course of the night, and what more comforting than those ingredients. The sharp-edged milk shardes poking into the strawberry ice cream and toast crumbs left you feeling like you can sit back and relax in ease, like giving out the last hug of the night.

Chocolates rounded out the night, with hazelnuts and sea salt. Who could say no to that?

Castagna plays around with seasonal ingredients, using different textures and preparation methods to have you think twice about each dish. Each bite makes you ask more – the whys and whats – and that’s what I love to do when I eat. Let curiosity flow, and enjoy your full blown thoughtful dining experience there.

Castagna
1752 SE Hawthorne Blvd
Portland, OR 97214
Reservations

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Lists: Where do I Foodjourney?

Recently I’ve had a number of people ask me where I eat at or if I have recommendations to eat in certain cities, and…I’m awfully flattered! It’s great to hear that people value my perspective on food, drink, and the like. Below are lists on Foursquare (it’s really the easiest way to share places with my friends), with the exception of the Taipei, that may be helpful to you as you travel to these cities in the future.

If you’re interested in seeing more photos and foodjournies, follow me on Instagram and Twitter!

For those in San Francisco, please help me dwindle down my list. There’s currently over 75…:GASP:

San Francisco
The SF Musts
SF Places (To Try)

New York
New York Musts
NY Want to Try
NYC Cheap Eats

Taipei
Taipei Eats

Tokyo
Tokyo Eats

Portland
Portland (To Try)

Hawaii (Honolulu)
Hawaii Eats