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sf dining

American Nouveau/ dinner/ drinks/ San Francisco

Lazy Bear: Listen and Learn

TL;DR – Lazy Bear is worth the money and very deserving of its Michelin star. This post captures meal is documented its entirety and in a detailed fashion.

I got schooled at Lazy Bear and I loved it. With notebooks and a pencil in hand – in fact, they give you these tools – all the chefs at Lazy Bear gave us one big tasty lesson. The “syllabus” includes talking about about what produce was in season, how to make the beautiful looking things on the plate (e.g. soak this in beef fat, soude vide that, etc.), and showcasing what is possible with thoughtful preparation. TEACH ME YOUR WAYS SENSEIS!

Naturally, you may ask how much does this “schooling” cost? Similar to a private university, it’s expensive; at anywhere between $145-$175 / person, it excludes tip and drinks. Wine pairings? Add another $85. Some old timers complain; yeah I know it used to cost something significantly less, reservations came easily, blah blah, but here we are today. It’s popular, hip, and oh-so-very delicious.

With my great note-taking skills still intact – it helps that I have occasional nightmares of getting a B in any class, thank you mom – get ready for a thorough journey through my meal.

Snacks

As a preview to the main dinner – or a great way to buy time as the next seating finishes up – they bring you to an upstairs area where you’re able to hang out, enjoy their delicious drinks, AND eat.

This started off the meal, and boy was it a strong start – whipped scramble eggs with Tennessee smoked bacon, maple and house made hot sauce. This is one of the night’s highlights; eaten with a spoon so you mix all the elements thoroughly, the eggs had a completely new texture on top of smoky and spicy taste.

The albacore tuna with a gel sheet of white grape and verjus, fresh crushed peanuts, and black olive was a small bite, refreshing and light.

On the light spectrum, the strawberry meringue is topped with with strawberry jelly, foie gras, and sorel packed a smooth yet flavorful bite.

They also handed over a plum and kuwat soda, fermented in-house with shiso which was awfully delicious, and I easily could have drank two of these.

The potato cannoli was a take on “sour cream and onion chip”; served with creme fraiche, whipped potatoes, caviar and chives it totally hit the mark.

Dinner

We broke bread together, and more specifically, with a spelt and rye dinner roll served with house-made cultured butter. Not only was the dinner roll served warm (plus points)  but the butter was silky and melded into the roll – slightly sour and soft (plus more points).

If you want to win over a crowd, bring in ribeye, avocado and tomatoes; the tomato panzanella with a carpaccio of Miyazaki ribeye covering avocado, padron conserva, and seaweed focaccia was a great bite. The focaccia was soaked in beef fat and olive oil; tomatoes were soaked in red wine vinegar to help with making this dish bright; the ribeye…well, that just speaks for itself.

Making vegetables taste good and somewhat interesting takes great skill, and in this case what a success – the legumes included summer squash (cooked in chicken stock, lemon juice), snap peas, bell pepper, fennel and saffron nage (made from fish, spices, and added chicken stock).

Ever thought about making a dish centered on one vegetable? Oh they did, and chose a vegetable I’ve never heard of – celtuce (used commonly in Chinese cuisine, a mesh between romaine and celery). Its stem was braised in butter and garlic, stalk pureed with almond milk, oil, and butter, and leaves dehydrated to take away bitter notes, along with chicken skin bits, and toasted almond.

Transform an American staple? Check box on that too; they took corn and made fresh corn grits, which were very sweet, and topped it with smoked ham. Yes sir, I’d want some more!

The grilled berkshire pork shoulder (glazed and finished with peach juice) was served with grilled peach, turnip, succulents (e.g. sea lettuce, beans, New Zealand spinach), and stone fruit tare. Sweet, savory, soft, and juicy, what more can you ask for?

This was their take on “beef and tomatoes” – sous vide Miyazaki ribeye cap, seared tomato, black garlic, and pureed eggplant. Nicely marbled and meat juices flowed in your mouth as you chomped down, with the addition of the sweet and tart tomatoes. Heavenly.

Dessert

White sesame “gomatofu”, iced green melon, sake lees, rose geranium was light, and a perfect palate cleanser.

Blue corn ice cream with blueberry whiskey puree, blueberry spongecake, and whiskey pudding was the perfect representation for what was in season at the time; not to mention, it was texturally interesting (spongecake, pudding, and ice cream!) and easy to devour.

Treats

The semifreddo vietnamese cookie was light and sweet, with bits of chocolate and pate de fruits.

Another sweet bite – the caramelized apricot with hazelnut and milk chocolate truffle melted in the mouth and was a delicious treat.

Last of them, the red velvet with red berries was my favorite. Moist, sweet and tart in one whole bite; easily wanted two or three of these after every meal.

I am on the Lazy Bear bandwagon; I absolutely love this place. Everything is well thought-out – from the interior design, the food/drinks and even the chefs (they actually come up and talk to you when you’re waiting for your seating). This is the kind of schooling I’m willing to pay for.

Lazy Bear
3416 19th St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
Tickets

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

dinner/ Italian/ San Francisco

SPQR: Finally, Satisfying Tasty Italian

I have gone around to various San Francisco restaurants hoping to get delicious pasta dishes like I can in New York, with depth in flavor and cooked al dente. I became skeptical, thinking that good Italian is doomed in this city. For every time I expressed my frustration, a friend would mentioned SPQR. For that reason, I made the OpenTable reservation with a hopeful heart and a hungry stomach.

So, how was it?

First thing I’ll say is that I can’t stop thinking about this pasta – smoked fettuccini served with sea urchin, smoked bacon and soft quail egg. It was cooked al dente and had the perfect combination of smoky and umami flavors paired with a creamy yet light weight to the pasta. Make note that this pasta isn’t always available, so check out the online menu beforehand.

Okay, so let me back up – even going beyond their pasta dishes, I also enjoyed other selections on the menu. For example, the Smoked Sturgeon “Bacon” Salad with beet cake, pickled red beet and beet greens was tasty, especially for those who love beets. It had both savory and sweet elements, and even though I couldn’t taste much of the beet in the cake, it gave this dish great texture and lightness amongst the other components.

Another pasta I had was the Senise Pepper Torchio with dry aged beef bolognese, burrata and kale. It was good, also cooked al dente and not heavy at all despite being a meat sauce. 

Their “Degustazione” of Suckling Pork with green apple, celery root “millefoglie”, turnip and its ash was good. The pork was split into various pieces based on part (e.g. loin versus ear) and worked nicely with the sweet apple.

Lastly, dessert. I had their “Coffee and Chocolate” which was white coffee gelato, liquid center cake, pudding, spuma, and cocoa nibs. Pretty straightforward: chocolatey, and almost like fudge, with hints of coffee.

SPQR has become a glimmer of light in this city as a destination where I can confidently eat delicious pasta and taste modern Italian dishes. The accolades they’ve received from Michelin, Food & Wine, and Grub Street are well-deserved. I would like to check out again – taste some of their other seasonal dishes (note: anyone who wants to come with let me know) – and frankly, to have another solid tasty meal.

So…maybe there is good pasta in SF after all!

SPQR
1911 Fillmore St
San Francisco, CA 94115
spqrsf.com
(415) 771-7779