Browsing Tag:

sf eats

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

brunch/ lunch/ San Francisco

Picnic at the Presidio: Eating with Off the Grid

Looking for food trucks to help supplement a nice day at a park? Look no further – Off the Grid (Presidio) provides a great space to enjoy the beautiful days in San Francisco, with many food vendors to boot. It reminds me of Smorgasburg in New York but with camping tents and picnic area.

I managed to try out a few vendors, not all, so here were my eats:

Girl Friday Zeppoles were delicious; light, not oily and flavorful, these zeppoles were a perfect start to whetting my appetite. A zeppole order came with a one of their four signature sauces which you can choose from. The savory zeppole had bacon, garlic, herbs, and parmesan in it, with a creamy harissa sauce (this is the only savory sauce). The other zeppole was the traditional type, slightly sweet, and got the earl grey chocolate sauce. Even though I didn’t find early grey to be that strong, it was a great pairing regardless.

In hopes of eating more to satiate our appetites, my friends and I naturally gravitated towards fried chicken. Sugarfoot Grits brings the southern flavor to the mix, and this fried chicken was cooked perfectly. It was juicy and nicely breaded so we easily finished each piece – “finger lickin’ good – was how I would describe it. The biscuit was a bit dry and was significantly less impressed by.

Fine and Rare brought some seafood to the park, as seen above is their crab roll. There was a good amount of crab meat with a touch of mayo. The lettuce provided a nice crunchy bite in conjunction with the soft bun.

Lastly, after a huge wait, we got Little Green Cyclo‘s garlic noodles with nine-spice grilled chicken. This was really good and we ate this dish quite fast. The chicken was tender, and not over cooked, with a nice char flavor. The noodles were full of garlic – which I am openly partial to – with some sriracha sauce, and chomped away until there was nothing left.

If you’re in the mood for getting a nice blanket, your own booze and have yourself a picnic with the option of checking out more of a SF food scene, Off the Grid Presidio is a the place to go!

Off the Grid Picnic at the Presidio
Main Post Lawn
Montgomery St & Lincoln St
San Francisco, CA 94129

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