Thursday, September 28, 2006

In Pictures: The Secret's Out with Tekka

Tekka Japanese Restaurant in San Francisco is the City's best-kept Japanese secret. It takes an enterprising treasure hunter to search out Tekka. It is in an area with extraordinary limited parking and is a tiny box-of-a restaurant with no identifying signage, and tattered and weathered facade. Inside the restaurant is the hidden treasure: the grandparently figures and "Mom and Pop" team of Nobu and Yoshimi, and a homey, warm, comforting, and "cozy" area (some may say "cramped") with seating for at max, 10 to 12 patrons. If you can't find the restaurant itself, look for the line that starts forming at 6:30 p.m.--the restaurant itself opens at 7:00 p.m..

Tekka is a unique place, with ocean-fresh and vibrant-flavored seafood that literally transports you directly to the noisy, bustling, and neon-lighted streets of Japan. There are also some unique and atypical attributes about Tekka. A list of stringent rules adorn the wall and window, with such rules as "No to go. . . . No forks, no soda. . . . No complaining." There is a small television that plays Wheel of Fortune and Dancing with the Stars in the background. And, the most idiosyncratic characteristic about Tekka is the glistening, melt-in-your mouth sashimi and sushi that is unbelievably not in Japan, but in San Francisco.

Here is a photo essay of the array of sushi and hot entree options offered by Tekka. The pictures should give you an idea of how delicious and attractive the sushi and the food at Tekka is. We only ordered one hot entree, and that was fresh shiitake mushrooms stir-fried with sliced asparagus spears.

So what do you think? Gorgeous huh? Let me let you in on a secret: it was delicious too.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Failed Osha Inspection

Another photo post.

Have you been noticing a trend lately?

As you may know, my digital camera has been out of commission for a while after I dropped it and broke off the plastic lens shutter cap. I can't believe the bad luck I've been having with digital cameras. I lost my first one. I've been using a borrowed back-up (which takes grainer pictures), so I hope that these pictures are still palatable to your eyes.

My "camera unluckiness" followed me to Osha Thai Restaurant
, where I recently ate two nights in a row. The first night, I forgot to bring any digital camera. The second night, I dined with a hungry group. If you are a food blogger, you know what it means to eat with a.... "Group." Although I have no shame in taking pictures of food, sometimes, I am hesitant to snap pictures in a group setting, because I have to explain why I am taking pictures of food (which inevitably garners scattered laughs) and also be "the person" who stops hungry people from immediately digging in when the food arrives on the table.

Also, I know that there is an unspoken etiquette rule of "sometimes it is inappropriate to take pictures." An article in today's San Francisco Chronicle sums it up perfectly. You have to read this article, even if you are not a food blogger. It is great.

Well, given my "camera situation" and the article, I am just going to post pictures in this post and no extensive restaurant review. Sorry the pictures suck, but I know you love me anyway!

We started with fresh spring roll with prawns, bean sprouts, lettuce, and mint wrapped in rice paper with a sweet and sour plum dipping sauce. I felt exactly like my sister-in-law when she ate spring rolls with us at Fin in the Mirage, "I can make this better at home!"

The rest of the meal included: Thai green curry with bamboo shoots, Thai basil, chicken breast, and sweet red bell peppers;

A red duck curry with pineapple chunks, red bell pepper slivers, and stewed tomatoes; and

An elaborate pad thai with gluey noodles, crumbled peanuts, deep-fried tofu squares, and the rest of the pad thai "works."

Hope you liked the article, the post, and the pictures. Also, I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on the food blogger paparazzi phenomenon.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

San Pellegrino 2006, Part Two: Frisson

Hi. This post is for you. It is an open letter, expressing my gratitude for having you in my life. You know who you are.

Happy Anniversary.

I had a great time yesterday night, and for the entire time we've been together.

You've made me laugh, you've seen me cry, and you've shared wonderful times with me.

Thank you.

I won't divulge too much in the post, but I am just going to list the names of our dishes that we ate at Frisson, and then go to sleep, like I promised. Your secrets are safe with me.

The meal we ate at Frisson was delicious, and depending on which items that were selected in the prix fixe menu, it started with either: a heirloom salad with multicolored grape tomato halves, buttery cannellini beans, pitted kalamata olives, golden wax beans, and English cucumbers that were sliced paper-thin with a razor-sharp mandoline blade and pickled in a tart, vinegary solution; or

A soup made of a roasted fennel and kabocha squash puree which was garnished with candied pumpkin seeds and a back-and-forth zigzag of drizzled creme fraiche.

The main course was either: a salt-baked Scottish salmon with crisped skin encrusted with crystaline salt granules, which was served over a beady bed of creamy, pebble-shaped chickpeas in a smooth garlic-anchovy vinaigrette, and topped with a luxurious nest of arugula and thinly-sliced black radishes; or

Circular slices of glazed and roasted pork tenderloin garnished with fuzzy sage leaves, and served wilted florets of broccoli rabe and a nutty risotto.

Although there were two choices for the dessert, we all chose the same spiced chocolate pot de creme which was accompanied by a sugar cookie sandwich, which had its insides smeared with a creamy, hazelnut nutella.

It was delicious, but your friendship has made it more so. Thank you again friends (and I am including my other blog readers in this "thank you.") It was a wonderful night.

Monday, September 18, 2006

San Pellegrino 2006, Part One: Fringale

After being inspired by Elmo Monster's dining adventure during last year's San Pellegrino Prix Fixe season, I decided to follow suit, and try out the San Pellegrino way of dining out. Of the dining choices, I selected Fringale, a cozy and warm, yet elegant French-Basque restaurant within walking distance of AT&T Ballpark.

Unfortunately, our visit to Fringale did not start out as planned. First, I accidentally forgot my cash and credit cards at home, I had to race back to my apartment (which is 40 minutes away from my workplace and from Fringale) and speed back to try and make the reservation time. Regretfully, I was ten minutes late, and my Open Table reservation had been cancelled. (I think that means I am on the Open Table blacklist again.) However, thankfully, my bout with bad luck ended when I walked through the doors to Fringale.

Immediately, upon entering the restaurant, I could sense my luck changing as I saw the bustling tables and as I was greeted by the earnest smiles from the servers. The reassuring quality of our service at Fringale was a dramatic departure from my previous Dine About Town experiences with overly pretentious places like Rubicon.

Our server was adorable, unassuming, and attentive. She had the softest, most melodic French accent, and her sweet smile was a pleasant cross between Audrey Tautou and Keisha Castle-Hughes from Whale Rider. Most importantly, I loved that she volunteered the complimentary bottle of San Pellegrino sparkling water, and that she treated us as if we were dining at Gary Danko (i.e. waited on us hand and foot).

In addition to the service, the food was "blow-your-mind" amazing.

The beau started with three prawn raviolis made with floppy sheets of tenuous wonton skins, filled with ground shrimp, and perfectly poached in a light seafood-infused broth. A pool of thickened lobster bisque was ladled over the wontons, and the bisque was ripe with the fragrance of the deep sea.

I started with the foie gras terrine, which was foie gras interlayered with a lightly-sweetened jelly and gelatin aspic. The flavors of the aspic were strong and the aspic itself was permeated with the milky essence of softened bone marrow. The foie gras was silky smooth and spread effortlessly
on crisp toast rounds with even the dullest of butter knives. In addition with the chilled terrine slice, the foie gras platter featured a purple-hued fig marinated in a tangy, fine-quality red wine compotee and toasted brioche slices.

The beau ordered the Creekstone Farm black angus hanger steak and requested that it be cooked medium rare. The meat was dark red within, and was so rare that the texture was akin to tuna sashimi. The hanger steak was thick, juicy, and tender. Thus, it had all the qualities of a sublime steak, and the beau savored every bite. In addition with the steak, the beau's meal came with bite-sized wedges of seasoned pomme frites and a mix of salad greens.

I ordered the Hawaiian walu fish steak, which was also a two- to three-inch thick slice of meat that was soft and sinfully rare within. The ivory-toned walu filet was carefully balanced on a pile of buttery and creamy mashed Yukon gold potatoes and a salad of delicate tendrils of roasted tomatoes and red peppers that were drizzled in a balsamic and olive oil vinaigrette.

Finally, for dessert, the beau ordered our staple French dessert choice of crème brûlée. The
crème brûlée rivaled the awe-inspiringly creamy crème brûlées of Bistro Liaison and Jasmine, but also had its own distinct loveliness.

I ordered Madame Angèle’s gateau Basque almond torte which was filled with a layer of custard cream, placed on a tiny pool of liquified custard, and colorfully decorated with ripe and rotund blueberries and delicate wedges of sweetened strawberries.

As our night ended, I realized that I had clearly had a dramatic change in luck for both the beau and I were fully satisfied. However, our experience only made us hungrier (and thirstier) for more San Pellegrino prix fixe offerings.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Transition Complete?

As some of you may have observed, I've been in the midst of a slow transition to Blogger Beta. After discovering that Blogger Beta now allows me to modify the html code in my Blogger template, I decided to make the final jump. Changes are still in the works, but they'll be forthcoming! As a reward for your continued readership, here are three pictures! The first is of oven roasted chicken drumsticks, the second is Thai green curry, and the last is a Southeast Asian-themed calamari salad.

Enjoy (the new layout) and bon appetit!

Update: Arrrggh! I am still encountering some trouble, so I am going to wait a bit before completely moving over. Pooh, I'm tired of this shifting back-and-forth.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Enjoy Kokkari Cola

The girls at work and I share a weekly lunch together, and it is a time where we sample the restaurants in San Francisco's Financial District and its vicinity. This past week, we splurged at a pricier restaurant, and enjoyed a leisurely two-hour lunch at the famed Kokkari Estiatorio.

To start, we ordered an appetizer platter layered with thick wedges of grilled Middle Eastern flatbread-style pitas. The pita bread was soft, chewy, and had fluffy, air-pocket-filled, pancake-like interiors. The pita segments came with chilled cucumbers sliced on a bias, a lone kalamata olive, and three types of chilled pita dips.

The first dip was astonishing. It was delightfully cloud-like and creamy. It was favosalata, or a whipped feta dip permeated with the pungent essence of green scallions and the nectar-like fruitiness of extra virgin olive oil. It was so funny to see the reaction of my co-workers as we each took turns sampling the favosalata dip. Like dominoes, upon tasting the heavenly feta and olive oil dip, each lady would widen her eyes, arch up her brows, and breathily murmur, "Mmmm."

The other dips were also delectable. The pita platter came with a rich and creamy tzatziki so thick that the yogurt, cucumber, and dill mixture didn't just coat the back of the serving spoon, it tenaciously clung onto the spoon in a gravity-defying clump similar to a tremendous dollop of sour cream. The platter also include a mashed melitzanosalata, which is similar to a baba ganoush of roasted eggplant. In the eggplant dip, I could taste sweetness of the roasted garlic and tomatoes, and I could see the green specks of parsley dotting the eggplant mash.

My co-workers ordered dolmathes, or grape leaves tenderly yet tightly wrapped around tiny logs of rice, sweet currants, and earthy pine nuts bound together by a light olive oil dressing; watermelon and feta salad made with sugary bricks of chilled and seedless watermelon, crunchy kernels of toasted pine nuts, leaves of Greek basil, and a golden drizzling of extra virgin olive oil; and

a Greek-themed ravioli stuffed with wild greens and feta cheese and coated with a fresh sauce made with summer tomatoes and dill.

I ordered the lamb souvlaki, or grilled lamb skewers made of spiced ground lamb firmly pressed onto wooden skewers by the steady grip of a chef. The spice blend melted the gamey aftertaste of lamb into a faint fragrance, and the moist meat provided a toothsome resistance as I bit and tugged each mouthful off of the skewer. The roasted tomato retained its fresh sweetness and juiciness, but the roasting process had reduced and concentrated the liquid and rich tomato flavors so that it had the intensity of a sun-dried tomato.

As we ended our meal, we agreed with one another that sometimes, the Financial District has its share of derelict duds. However, the hypnotizing Mediterranean flavors and the bustling ambiance of Kokkari convinced us that Kokkari was definitely not one of those.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Working Eater Series: Rustic Country-Style Okra Stir-Fry

One of my favorite working eater vegetables is okra. Although it is a hairy and slimy vegetable that has its share of shortcomings, it has many strong points too. For instance, it is very nutritious, as it is high in folate and Vitamins A and C, and it helps to lower cholesterol.

A classic working eater dish I make, is a recipe that I invented when I
only had okra and cauliflower in my refrigerator. Surprisingly, my ad hoc okra hodgepodge turned out deliciously, and was a hit with those who tasted it. I now count this okra recipe as one of my staple meals when I come home from a frenzied day at work.

In this recipe, I find that the cauliflower helps to sponge up some of the viscous mucus excreted by the okra, and the robust and concentrated flavors from the fiery chili pepper flakes in oil and pungent fish sauce help take away focus from the grotesque slime exuding itself from the okra innards. Without further delay, here is my okra recipe:

Rustic Country-Style Okra Stir-Fry
1 head of cauliflower, separated into individual florets
1 lb of fresh okra, tops removed and discarded, and sliced into 1/2 inch rings
4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
2 tbsp of fish sauce
1-2 tbsps (heaping) of crispy chili flakes in onion-flavored oil (you can get this in Asian supermarkets)
1 tbsp of vegetable oil

Heat the oil in a skillet or wok on high heat until the oil is shimmering. Quickly add the garlic, and fry until the edges of the garlic begin to brown. Add the cauliflower florets, fish sauce, and chili flakes, and cook until the florets are tender to the bite.

Meanwhile, rinse the sliced okra rings in a colander under a running faucet, and swish the okra around in the water with your hands. Drain the okra by shaking the colander over the sink vigorously, and put a plate under the colander to catch any slimy residue. Add the okra into the hot pan that is cooking the cauliflower, and continue to cook until the okra is slightly softened, but still crisp to the bite.

That's it! Wasn't that easy? I hope that you non-okra eaters sample this recipe. It is a great way to get acquainted with a fabulous and underappreciated vegetable. If the slime and the scratchy okra fuzz is too much for you, you can minimize the slime by leaving the okra pods whole and just trimming off the fibrous tops and pointed ends. You can also eliminate the fuzz by wiping and rubbing the okra skin with a damp washcloth.


Friday, September 08, 2006

Ten Simple Pleasures

I was just tagged by Goldfishy 526 (or Miss Jinerous) to list my ten simple pleasures.

Ten Simple Pleasures
1. Free Weekend and Night Minutes
2. Spontaneous Emails or Phone Calls from Old Friends
3. Family Pictures
4. Dressing Up for a Date with the Beau
5. Using Frequent Flyer Miles
6. Cookbooks with Step-by-Step Picture Instructions
7. Links to Passionate Eater
8. Phoenix Suns Games During the Playoffs
9. Hour-Long Showers
10. Comfort Food (see the pictures in the post for some of my comfort foods)

Also, about the photos: The beau and I got take-out at an inexpensive Tommy's Joynt-style
hofbrau near his home called Chick-N-Coop, and it was savory food, that was very comforting.

Hofbraus in the city are lil' gems. Obviously, the food is never going to be stellar, but if you want comfort food that time-warps you back in the 1950's and amply fills your stomach, they are definitely the places for quick, affordable, and heartwarming meals, and oftentimes, rejuvenating conversation with the older patrons and restaurant employees.

Our order at Chick-N-Coop was classic American hofbrau faire, including spaghetti with thick noodles saturated with an "interesting" sauce flavored with the essence of ground cloves,

Roasted chicken with a heaping side of mashed potatoes and gravy,

Pickled magenta-colored beets, soaking in a dark purplish liquid that could be used as a staining dye, and,

The obligatory crusty roll with a small pat of butter.

I apologize for the quality of the pictures (I am borrowing a lower quality camera while mine is in the repair shop), and I hope that you enjoy the post anyway! Also, I am tagging... Umm, would you like to do this meme? Go ahead if you do! And Rachel just put up her great list of ten pleasures!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Laboring Over Labor Day Radish Pickles

Reflecting back at this summer of 2006, several unforgettable images stand out in my mind:

My Mom's weathered and splintered picnic table cloaked in a red and white checkerboarded vinyl tablecloth;

Beef steaks ridged with thick white edges of fat, ready to be seared over glowing red charcoals on a sizzling grill grate;

Full ears of corn, fully beaded with plump, butter-colored kernels that burst-to-the-bite with sugary corn juice; and most of all,

Crisp, tangy, and cooling Chinese-style radish pickles.

Labor Day marks the official end of summer and the last time to fully relish the flavors and textures of the season. I am happy to say that this Labor Day weekend, I was able to enjoy many summer pleasures, and of these pleasures, my favorite were the pickled radishes. Although the season is quickly changing, it is not too late to enjoy these delicious radish pickles, and here is how:

First, select the firmest, most brightly colored radish bunches possible at a local farmers market stand. Next, remove all the black spots, bruised patches, and tenacious root wrinkles (that have soil deeply embedded within the crevices) with a small and easily-maneuverable paring knife. Then, slice the radishes into coin-sized rounds, and place them in an acidulated pickling solution made of white vinegar, granulated sugar, salt, crushed garlic, and freshly ground pepper.

Place the pickles into the refrigerator with an airtight lid. I'm gonna repeat myself here: you need a container with an "airtight lid." You don't want your entire fridge to smell like a wasteland. You must prevent the sulphurous odor molecules of wretchedness from overwhelming innocent bystanders each time the insulated vacuum seal of the refrigerator door is peeled open. A skimpy and loose-fitting plastic cellophane cover is grossly inadequate to control the tempestuous stench of pickling radishes. Trust me, the smells of some root vegetables are venomously putrid, especially when the smells are provoked by vinegar or boiling water.

Let the pickles sit in the refrigerator for several hours. When the color of the pickling solution turns a vibrant "Hawaiian fruit punch" color, and the pickles are ready to eat!

I hope I've inspired you to try my favorite summer pleasure, Chinese-style radish pickles. Bon appetit!
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