Friday, December 30, 2011

Commonwealth's Chef's Tasting

Commonwealth, "a progressive American restaurant in San Francisco's Mission district," does a fine job with its chef's tasting menu. Lonely Planet pal AB and I met there a few weeks ago per her glowing recommendation. The line-up was not only pleasing to the eye, but to the palate as wellfor the most part anyway.

It started with an amuse bouche of the crunchy granola persuasion, comprising thin slivers of raw maitake mushroom drizzled with honey, laying atop a sprinkle of pine nuts. Presented to us on rough-hewn slate slabs, the au naturel opener was less to AB's liking than minewe both agreed it had a true forage feel to it, like we were taking a trek in the woods.

The foie gras bon bons served with half-rounds of quince, tonka bean and Szechuan peppercorn were a step up from the mushrooms, though I'd have preferred the foie gras less chilled and sans chocolate. The strong, bittersweet flavor of dark chocolate seems better off saved for the end of the meal vs. introduced in the beginning.

Commonwealth's standout dish was the crispety-crunchety deep-fried
Jerusalem artichokes, sharp and yet sweet onions cooked in hay, tiny soft-boiled quail egg, sprinkling of chickweed and radicchio leaves, resting on a beautiful bed of quinoa.

I'm not going to say no to a good scallop, and these were seared oh so well. Though scallops seem to be on every hot SF restaurant menu, this dish was made unique in its accompaniments: vadouvan (aka Indian spice blend), pumpkin puree, black rice, nasturtium (both the flowers and leaves), and a nettle emulsion.

I appreciated that my moist and tender quail came out as tiny medallionsmuch easier to pop in my mouth than to work on a little carcass of a bird with fork and knife. It came with crispy curls of parsnip, bitter chicories, fig leaf, vanilla and a beurre rouge (or red butter sauce).

And the finale: chocolate played a part, and rightly so. This peanut butter semifreddo with chocolate ganache outer shell and sprinkling of frozen popcorn was essentially a fancy PB&Choco candy bar. Thumbs up, we say.

Blue Plate Special

YH and I popped into Blue Plate one weekend last month with the hope that the always hoppin' outer Mission eatery might be able to take us sans rezzies. Success. The hostess squeezed us in between two seatings with the stipulation that we'd need to hightail it in an hour and change. We were happy to oblige.

What you see here: a big block of creamy chicken liver pate with a drizzle of pomegranate and aperol, honey, pistachios, caramelized cocoa and grilled bread to spread the lovely goodness on.

We had a few other Blue Plate specials as well—including the soft and springy grilled Monterey Bay squid with chickpeas, blackened eggplant, pimenton and sorrel. We rolled out of there and on to our next party super happy and beyond satisfied.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Lovely Locavore

I'm happy to report that outer Mission has got another great restaurant to brag about (the other one being Blue Plate, and Front Porch is pretty good too). JA and I dropped in to not-quite-year-old Locavore last weekend and loved the freshness of the food, the showcasing of the SF Bay Area's seasonal ingredients, and the super friendly service.

Among other things, we had the fish croquettes, which were blistering hot and deep-fried to perfection. (My queen-of-the-deep-fryer mom would've been proud.) They sat atop a mellow sauce of roasted garlic aioli, along with tangy pickled onion slivers, and sharp shoots of cilantro and watercress.

My crumbly beef meatballs were well-seasoned, the whole wheat noodles al dente. The dish came in a savory beef broth, accompanied by wilted spinach, vella cheese and sweet roasted onion. It was exactly the kind of rich, comforting food I wanted on a blustery winter night.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Empanadas at La Mar Cebicheria

I'm pretty damn picky about my empanadas, having been spoiled by the stellar quality of the empanadas at old haunt Caracas in NY's East Village. So imagine my delight when I cut into my perfectly crispy-on-the-outside, molten-and-moist-on-the-inside empanada de tamalito verde at La Mar Cebicheria on the Embarcadero not so long ago.

Filled with sweet corn, cilantro and queso fresco, and served with a salsa criolla (or onion relish) and an uber-spicy Huancaina Rocoto (queso fresco and red pepper) sauce
, this dainty hot pocket was everything I'd hoped it would be. Compare this with the limp and lifeless empanada I had at Tacolicious the next day, and it absolutely roared with flavor and contrasting textures. Yes, of course empanadas hailing from Venezuela, Peru and Mexico are different. But this I know: Sad and soggy they should definitely not be.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Tacolicious Tacos

New York pal DY was in town and coming down with a cold, so I took him to newly opened Tacolicious in the Mission to get him a piping hot bowl of posole. Typically, these spicy Mexican soups are made with chicken, but the Tacolicious version had shredded pork swimming in a chile pasilla-tomato broth, accompanied by chunks of avocado, cotija cheese, crispy tortilla, cilantro and other herbs to add to the mix.

We of course had to try a bunch of tacos, it being Tacolicious. DY's fave was the Guajillo-braised beef short rib, while mine was the fried local rock cod with shredded cabbage and tangy crema as well as the taco of the week: the uber-rich and savory braised lamb in adobo sauce. Heck, they were all really tasty, stuffed generously as they were with deliciously tender meat. The chicken in mole sauce could've done with a touch more seasoning. But all in all, I enjoyed my meal, enhanced as it was by the "pasion"a habanero-infused tequila margarita flavored with passionfruit and a good squeeze or two of lime.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Bacon Bacon Bonanza

The Bacon Bacon food truck parked by our office one Friday not too long ago, thanks to our executive assistant whose got a penchant for good eats and arranges these foodie Fridays for the office. Having heard how tasty Bacon Bacon's pork-laden fare is, I hightailed it to the truck well before noon in hopes of beating the lunch rush.

Ahhh, the line was already 20 deep, but no matter. My meal was well worth the wait. The slightly sweetened sloppy sloppy joe, spiced up with sriracha and dressed with plenty of bacon, was a gut-buster-and-a-half. And man, was it delicious.