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food blogger

American Nouveau/ dinner/ San Francisco

Lord Stanley: Not My Neighborhood Joint

As someone who is passionate about food (aka one who constantly thinks about their next meal as they are eating their current one), I have been assessing the SF food scene and comparing it to what I know – New York. Friends from the East and West coast want to know where I stand, and I am always so torn. It’s as if I need to choose between Biggie or Tupac, and we all know that is a really tough choice. Then I see this article from Bon Appetit, “San Francisco Is the Best Food City in the Country Right Now” pop up on my Facebook feed. HOLY CRAP, someone answered for me! Thank you Andrew Knowlton!

This is the best gif I could find to represent my excitement…

Luckily, I have friends who are as excited about food as I am (see my foodie definition above) and want to check out these spots. Glancing through the list of restaurants in the article, there are restaurants that I have thoroughly enjoyed listed – Lazy Bear, Mourad, The Progress – alongside ones I’m not familiar with. I figured these unknown restaurants are potential gems, and I will be an early adopter! In under a day that I re-posted this article on my Facebook feed, reservations were made (thank you friends). We are going to Lord Stanley.

I saw this place having a lot of potential. I could become a regular if this was really good since it’s located about 4 blocks away from my apartment. The waitstaff would know me by first name, the host would seat me before people who had reservations, and I could order dishes only OLD-TIMERS would know about; as you can see, my imagination runs wild. Lord Stanley describes itself as serving European influence cuisine in a casual environment. They are so European where they adopted their way of billing – service is included in the final bill. No need to do math after you’ve stuffed yourself silly. Check, check and check!

Excited and hungry, we all ordered the tasting menu while two friends added the wine pairing. It was about six courses for $83. Not horribly expensive but not cheap.

Food Breakdown

Poached oyster, horseradish and buttermilk – Overly garnished with herbs, oysters fell by the wayside.

Chilled squash with ricotta and mint – Delicious house-made ricotta, and the squash had a good bite – refreshing.

Sea bass with bouillabaisse jus – The fish was nicely cooked, though the roasted red pepper felt a bit random. Any chance we could get more jus in there?

Grilled Wagyu beef with Matsutake mushrooms – Beef was cooked medium-rare and juicy, with mushrooms that added a nice earthy and spicy flavor.

Strawberry “Eton Mess” – Crispy and light piece of meringue served with fresh seasonal strawberries made a great combination.

I had the same feeling walking out of this restaurant as I did after watching Avengers: Age of Ultron – continuously disappointed and frustrated. I wanted to like the storyline, the characters, but nothing really made sense. Same goes for Lord Stanley: the food was everywhere, with no central theme or taste that combines it together; the service missed details that were hard to ignore – not explaining what the first wine was, not asking which type of water that’s in your cup before filling it incorrectly, double charging a credit card, etc.; the pace of the meal was confusing, first items coming out quickly and the last parts coming out very slowly where the entire meal ended up being three hours.

Why have you failed me Bon Appetit? I raise my fists to the heavens in rage. Looks like my search for my dream local restaurant ensues (SIGH).

Lord Stanley
2065 Polk St (and Broadway)
San Francisco, CA 94109

Breakfast/ Cooking

What’s on My Plate: “Californian Breakfast”

Special service announcement everyone…I cook, sometimes! One of the key benefits to living in California is that this state is full of great farms that turn out incredible produce. On the weekends, you can find me at a farmer’s market asking questions like, “how do you cook cranberry beans (side note: they do not taste like cranberries)? What is a pluot? (If you ever get one, it’s worth it.) Luckily I have an unabashed attitude, or one that comes across as completely unaware, so when I ask my questions strangers happily answer. Thank God for genuinely nice people!

Is this challenging? Yes. Fun? Absolutely.

In the spirit of trying something new, from time to time I’ll be sharing what I make with a series called “What’s on My Plate.” I want to highlight what I’m eating, and the farms where these ingredients came from (insert promo to support local farmers). If there’s a request to provide a recipe, I’ll be happy to write about it – just let me know e.g. leave a comment, write me an email, send me a tweet…pick one!

This plate is my “Californian breakfast” because it well represents Cali (touches of Asian with American, with a heavy dash of farm) – the classic American Sunny Side Up egg with sautéed tomatoes. and traditional Chinese sticky rice (carbs are my friends) topped with Momofuku’s ginger scallion sauce. Flavorful, delicious, and tasty.

This plate includes ingredients from:

American Nouveau/ dinner/ San Francisco

The MINA Test Kitchen: Tasty Experiments, Sign Me Up!

People are big fans of Michael Mina, and I totally get it. He started his culinary empire in San Francisco and has played a major role in building the restaurant scene to where it is today. Think Pablo Escobar, and replace the cocaine with food and power hungry vengeance for zen-like philosophies (Warning: There may be many references in this post to this highly addictive Netflix show – I am obsessed). There is no doubt that his restaurants do insanely well (see here for awards, it will take you a solid 2 minutes to scroll through the page) and his restaurant group extends across the US with 20 restaurants. There’s barely enough room on the website to list them all:

MINATESTKITCHEN_COMOkay so he’s pretty badass. Pablo Escobar level badass. However, the more accolades one chef or restaurant receives, the more side-eye skeptical I get…which doesn’t really make much sense but bear with me here. It becomes a personal mission to figure it out – if the food is actually delicious, and restaurant worth going to – in addition to having the perfect excuse to eat out (“See Mom, there’s a reason bigger than me that requires me to eat out and spend money for it. I need to make sure people know if the restaurant IS really good or not...”)

For my friend’s birthday (Happy Birthday HARRY), we all went to the latest Michael Mina venture – Mina’s Test Kitchen, located in the Marina. He pairs up with chefs to create a pop-up kitchen; essentially, they can cook whatever they want. Successful dishes move on and graduate to his other restaurants. What’s great is that the cuisine is themed (the current one being Eastern Mediterranean) and changes every few months (next one being Italian). You buy tickets to secure your seat and payment of the meal. Easy peasy.

His philosophy to cooking – to focus on achieving balance and harmony – is in-line with what I look for in food, so we are starting on a good foot here. Tip: There were many terms I have to look up looking at the menu, so you might be interested in brushing up on your Mediterranean / Greek, or just have your iPhone handy.

The Greet

We started off with the palette cleanser, a limonata popsicle with basil, sea salt and peach with olive oil drizzled on top. Refreshing and a cute bite to begin the meal.

Laffa

This course was so good, to the point where I could be happy eating a few more and call it a night. What made is particularly tasty was the laffa; it was soft, doughy, warm, and perfectly encased everything else (berbere-spiced ahi tuna, baba ghanoush, crispy spring onions, and pickled hot peppers). It tasted as good as it sounds, trust me.

Salatim

The Saganaki-style helloumi (which sounds Japanese, but in fact is a Greek dish) reminded me of paneer, except this was pan-fried and was saltier. The marinated heirloom tomatoes, toasted sesame seeds, madjool dates, and watercress all played nice, contributing to the simultaneously sweet, tart, and nutty flavors. Taste explosions? YES OH MY.

For all the avocado lovers out there, this dish was made for you. No toast needed to show you what this avocado is all about *insert feisty sideways snap*; served with pickled hot peppers and summer vegetables, fried walnuts, kataifi (those crispy-looking things on top), schug (a chile relish) it made for a very well spiced, crunchy and creamy dish.

The grilled stone fruit fattoush, shaved cauliflower, radish persian cucumber, crunchy pita, chilies, and mint oil was a crunch-fest, and delicious to boot. Easy to eat, light, and just a solid tasting dish. Let those vegetables and fruit shine!

Hummus

Want some more oomph? Oh yes, there’s more. Hummus made of spicy lamb ragu, toasted pine nuts, pomegranate, crispy zucchini, and espelette pepper served with WARM was delightful. Yes, the pita was warm. They had a small heat device underneath the basket to ensure it arrives warm to you. Now if every place can serve warm pitas, the world would be a happier place.

Mains and Veggies

If you can’t tell, this harissa-marinated roasted chicken was tendy, juicy, and flavorful. It came with smashed and fried fingerling potatoes, soaking up any oils from the chicken and the fryer. YUM-MY.

Sides included swiss chard with oil-cured black olives, toasted garlic, red grapes and a slow-cooked brisket with yemenite-spiced basmati, chick peas, and lentils (supplement of $10). The brisket was good but, I would venture to say, okay missing out on and saving yourself the extra moo-lah.

Anything with corn will win me over and this is no exception. Moroccan street corn with chemoula yogurt, feta, cayenne pepper, orange zest, mint, and green onions reminded me of New York Cafe Havana’s grilled corn (but just a tad fit “fancier), as it has similar and basic elements: corn, cheese, spice.

Sweets

Rounding out the meal was the watermelon granita that sat above rose water cream, toasted pistachio, and basil. After a full meal of spice and intense flavors, this was refreshing and slightly sweet, closing the night perfectly.

The restaurant is well thought-out; the waitstaff is attentive, food is tasty down to the smallest components, and runs like a well oiled machine…just like Pablo Escobar’s crack business. Whatever Michael Mina and his team are putting into their dishes, I definitely want and need some more; it is THAT good.

The MINA Test Kitchen
2120 Greenwich St.
San Francisco, CA 94123
minatestkitchen.com