Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Habitat (Downtown)

Last week my friend and I were treated to dinner at Habitat at the Fairmont Hotel, where Chef Francis Ward prepared eight courses for us to sample. My friend and I were both completely blown away by the phenomenal quality of the food and I thought I'd share a few photos here. Although every single course was fantastic, I must state for the record that the unbelievable melt-in-your-mouth tender duck breast was the best duck I have ever had in my life—bar none. In fact, my friend doesn't usually eat duck, and she gobbled this up. Two other standout courses that also deserve special mention are the salted caramel pumpkin soup and the sweet potato gnocchi. My understanding is that a new menu will be unveiled soon, and I'm confident that the new dishes will be just as fantastic!

Fresh Tandoor Baked Naan at Habitat
Fresh Tandoor Baked Naan with Cucumber Aioli, Hummus, and Tomatillo Salsa

Salted Caramel Pumpkin Soup at Habitat
Salted Caramel Pumpkin Soup with Spiced Cream

Amuse Bouche at Habitat
Amuse Bouche

Beet Salad at Habitat
Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Local Wild Flower Honey

Sweet Potato Gnocchi at Habitat
Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Bacon, Parmigianno, and Pesto

Lobster and Grit
Lobster and Grits, Lobster Bisque, Endive, and Watercress

Duck Breast at Habitat
Cold Smoked Duck Breast, Turnip and Sweet Potato Hash, Liver Mousse,
and Balsamic Reduction

Banana King at Habitat
Banana King with Peanut Butter and Banana Ice Cream Cake, Chocolate
Cheerios, and Banana Caramel

In addition to incredible food, the service was also top-notch. Our server was beyond attentive and we were visited by both managers and the chef to ensure our experience was nothing but perfect.

For full disclosure, the meal was complimentary for a reason entirely unrelated to my status as a semi-anonymous, sometime food blogger; in fact, my friend was the one who made this dinner happen and Habitat had zero idea that I write this blog when the invitation was extended to us. Also, because this was a chef's tasting, the photos may not reflect full portions from the menu.

Restaurant info:
Habitat Restaurant
510 Market Street, Pittsburgh, PA
(412) 773-8848
Web | Facebook | Twitter

Habitat on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Inaugural Dinner Lab in Pittsburgh: El Jefe de Malay

Well, hello. It's been a while since I even logged in here, let alone post something to this lonely, abandoned space. What I can say? I've been busy. As in barely-got-time-to-breathe busy. My various hobbies took a backseat...or more like a hideout in the trunk.

Hopefully I'll have a little time now to make a slow comeback. I have a year's worth of food adventures on the backlog, but rather than picking up where I left off, I thought I'd just start fresh and go back to the old stuff if I have time.

And what better way to hit "reboot" on my blog with a unique event that R. and I just attended last night: The launch of Dinner Lab in Pittsburgh. Dinner Lab is an experimental dining concept that began in New Orleans (*swoon*) in 2012 and now spans across 33 cities across the USA. Each event features an up-and-coming chef testing out his/her specialty dishes and he/she will have the opportunity get feedback from diners to help hone his/her craft. To attend, one must be a member of Dinner Lab ($125 annual fee for Pittsburgh) or be BFFs with one who may purchase up to four tickets to each event. Each dinner ranges from $50-$95 per ticket, and so far, the Pittsburgh events have sold out LIGHTNING FAST. The ticket price includes tax, gratuities, and alcohol, so no money is exchanged at the dinner itself—just show up with your ID and enjoy! The events are always set up with 60 seats at communal tables per seating, two seatings per evening. The venue varies each time and is only revealed one day prior to the event. About half the events will feature local chefs while the other half will be from all over the country. Members also have access to Dinner Lab events in other cities.

When a friend learned about Dinner Lab and asked if I wanted to join, I was admittedly hesitant at first. My main concern was that our crazy schedules wouldn't allow for many opportunities to take advantage of the membership, which makes the membership fee difficult to justify. After stalling for a few days, we both decided to take the plunge for a year and see how it goes.

The inaugural Pittsburgh Dinner Lab kicked off May 1-2 with Chef Mario Rodriguez, a.k.a. "El Jefe de Malay" and was held at the vacant Produce Terminal Building in the Strip District—the former home of the Pittsburgh Public Market. R. thought the venue was a bit too informal but I appreciated the opportunity to be back in my old stomping grounds one last time before the building with so much history is torn down forever.

Pittsburgh Inaugural Dinner Lab

Dinner Lab in Pittsburgh-El Jefe de Malay

El Jefe de Malay-Feedback Card

Since I love South Asian food, a meal featuring Malay cuisine was just perfect for me. We arrived promptly at 7:00 pm for drinks, and after a brief introduction of Dinner Lab by Event Manager Kevin Zener, dinner began at 7:30 pm. The 8:00 pm seating arrived at some point during our meal and filled out the other half of the space, but was no interruption to our meal at all.

The first course was Green Mango and Lychee Salad served with fried peanuts and cilantro crema. Unfortunately, I was getting over a cold and my sense of smell (and thus taste) was far from 100%, but I still found the salad to be flavorful, refreshing, and interesting. I particularly loved the inclusion of lychee and the contrast with the cilantro crema. I gave this a 4.5 out of 5 rating on taste and 5 on creativity. My only comment was that the mango seemed a little on the bland side to me. I thought perhaps my perception was due to my dampened sense of taste, but R. confirmed he thought the same.

El Jefe de Malay-Green Mango & Lychee Salad
Green Mango and Lychee Salad

The second course was Red Chili Littleneck Clams served with Chinese sausage, green onion, and a spicy broth. This was a slight change from the originally planned mussels instead of clams, but this worked out nicely for us because R. is not a great fan of mussels and he loved the clams. The broth was chock full of flavor—a bit on the salty side which knocked my rating down to 4.5—but the spices were fantastic. The Chinese sausage ("lap cheong") was a nice touch; I've had it all my life but have certainly never had it with clams. Five out of 5 for creativity! This course was also paired with an Italian sparkling wine (Elmo Pio Asti), though due to my cold, I did not partake.

El Jefe de Malay-Red Chili Littleneck Clams
Red Chili Littleneck Clams

The third course was a surprise change from what was fish stew listed on the original menu to Crispy Fried Duck with turnips, ramps, fresh sriracha, and palm sugar glaze. Interesting combo, for sure, and not bad. The duck meat was cooked to the perfect tenderness, which for me, compensated for some overcooked and dry duck confit I had elsewhere earlier in the week (I won't name the offending restaurant). That said, I felt the duck was too high on saltiness and too low on crispiness. Based on what I remember from a really cool Science of Gastronomy class I took last year, I thought the duck may be better paired with something sweeter to take the edge off the saltiness. Three-and-a-half for taste and 4 for creativity.

El Jefe de Malay-Crispy Fried Duck
Crispy Fried Duck

Course number 4, paired with Tsingtao beer from China, was one I initially wasn't sure I'd like: Goat Rendang served with coconut rice, pickled pineapple, and kaffir lime. Surprisingly, it turned out to be the best course yet! You see, I don't like goat, so this isn't something I'd order for myself for sure. But all I could taste was heavily yet perfectly spiced, melt-in-your-mouth savoriness that paired especially well with the slightly sweet coconut rice. It didn't taste..."goaty" to me at all. Granted, maybe it was my half-plugged nose because R. thought there was too much meat flavor, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved this dish. I gave this one a 4.8 for taste and 5 for creativity.

El Jefe de Malay-Goat Rendang
Goat Rendang

Lastly, but certainly not least: Coconut Panna Cotta with rice cake, ginger granita, and cashew crumble. This, I thought, was the bomb. I know I'm biased—I LOVE coconut, and I LOVE ginger, so put those two together and you pretty much have a winning formula for me. But it was more than just the flavor but also the texture of having the crunchy ginger granita sitting atop the creamy coconut panna cotta. Combining the spicy versus sweet and the crystalline versus rich and the icy versus cool created a sort of heavenly gestalt. This was a slam dunk 5 out of 5 on both taste and creativity.

El Jefe de Malay-Coconut Panna Cotta
Coconut Panna Cotta

I would be remiss to not mention that the evening was filled with free-flowing alcohol which I sadly had to miss. From what I gather, there were some solid beer options, a number of wine selections, and a specialty cocktail which I did take a sip of and know I would have enjoyed tremendously if I could have imbibed without abandon. They called it a Japanese Sangria, and according to R. the ingredients included mostly sake, some brandy, pomegranate juice, honey, ginger, and lime. R. also thought the alcohol pairings for Courses 2 and 4 were excellent.

El Jefe de Malay-Japanese Sangria
Japanese Sangria

I would also be remiss to not commend the waitstaff for their cordiality, expert service, and attentiveness to our needs (especially in the drinks department). The whole night seemed to have run smoothly and flawlessly and I think the fact that the waitstaff made it look so easy was a big part of the success.

Despite my initial skepticism, I have to say we had a ton of fun at our first Dinner Lab event—hey, so much so that it inspired a first (and lengthy!) blog post in nearly nine months—and we hope we will be able to attend another Dinner Lab soon. At this point I don't know yet if I will extend my membership beyond this first year, but here are the pros and cons I see based on this initial experience:


The communal tables made for a fun, lively atmosphere, and provided a chance to meet some new people. In fact, we discovered that the gentleman sitting next to us did the woodworking at my house when it was being built nearly five years ago, and I had even hired him to help install my kitchen cabinet hardware when I first moved in! Crazy small world, huh?

The dishes at these events are unique and likely not to be found at any other place, at least not yet. I am always up for trying things I can't get anywhere else so I love this aspect of the events.

Annual membership fee notwithstanding, the per-event price is an incredibly good value when you factor in the food, drinks, tax, gratuities, impeccable service, and pleasant overall experience.

Because the chefs get instant feedback from the diners, this is a great opportunity to contribute to the local culinary scene in a positive way, and I love this aspect of being connected to my community. It is also empowering to be able to help shape a budding chef's offerings.


As of this writing, there is only one more weekend event scheduled, at the end of May, which I will not be able to attend. The annual membership only makes sense if there are enough opportunities for members to participate. Personally, as I'm sure is the case for many, I have already lost two months because my membership began in March and the first event did not take place until May, and top that off with my busy schedule, there is certainly a part of me that is still wondering if I will be able to take full advantage of my membership.

Not only is there only one other weekend with an event scheduled at this point, but it was also sold out within, oh, probably a day would be my guess. I'm thinking there must be members out there who are eager but unable to participate due to the limited opportunity and immense popularity of Dinner Lab. Don't get me wrong—I absolutely love that Pittsburgh has responded so enthusiastically to this new concept. We are certainly upholding our reputation as the "next big thing" food-wise! But, supply must meet demand.

Dinner Lab also has a fairly strict cancellation policy in my opinion: You may cancel up to five days before the event, with credit towards a future dinner. I can see the argument that this is more lenient than concerts and sports games, but should one not be able to make an event, the ticket holder to a concert or a sports game can sell or give away the ticket. For Dinner Lab, the member must be the one attending the dinner. In the case of an emergency then, there would be no way out except to forfeit the ticket (along with additional tickets purchased for guests) altogether.

Overall, would I recommend Dinner Lab? Right now I lean towards yes, but of course I think it depends. If you're an adventurous eater with few dietary restrictions (some can be accommodated, but it depends on the event) and a flexible schedule, I believe this is a really worthwhile endeavor. I cannot stress how thoroughly I enjoyed my experience last night, and if events are scheduled more frequency, there is a very good chance it will become my next favorite Pittsburgh experience.

To sign up or to find out more, go to

Update (5/9/2015):

One more cool thing I want to add about Dinner Lab: Yesterday I received an email with the aggregated ratings of the meal from all diners. DATA!

In general, diners overwhelmingly enjoyed each course; almost every course had average ratings well above 4 out of 5. In addition, the overall experience was also highly rated, at approximately 4.8. I really love that Dinner Lab kept us informed of the results of the meal, because even if I weren't a data nerd, it made me feel more involved with the experience and that my opinion truly mattered.

Finally, it turns out I have this invite link that you can use to join and it will get both you and I $20 credit towards a future event. Check it out if you'd like.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Slanted Door (San Francisco)

Sorry for the break in my San Francisco posts—but I went out of town (again!), and didn't manage to get all caught up on my blog before leaving...and since coming back I've been super, duper busy. Like working ~60 hours a week busy!

Let's time travel back to May. It was our last day in the San Francisco Bay Area and I had managed to secure a reservation at the James Beard-anointed 2014 Outstanding Restaurant, The Slanted Door, located in the same Ferry Building where just a few days prior I had enjoyed a feast of oysters at the Hog Island Oyster Company. (Once again, advanced reservation highly recommended!) After a long, four-hour journey from Napa Valley where we had spent the day (a trip that should have taken one hour—Bay Area Traffic Monster strikes again!), we were glad to have made it there on time.

Green Papaya Salad at The Slanted Door (San Francisco)
Green Papaya Salad

Crispy Vegetarian Imperial Rolls at The Slanted Door (San Francisco)
Crispy Vegetarian Imperial Rolls

Crispy Vegetarian Imperial Rolls at The Slanted Door (San Francisco)
Crispy Vegetarian Imperial Rolls

The Slanted Door serves upscale Vietnamese cuisine—no $6.95 pho here! The atmosphere is lively and space boasts a beautiful view of the bay, and the service was excellent. The food, of course, was top-notch. We ordered two appetizers for the table: the Green Papaya Salad (with pickled carrot, rau ram, crispy shallot, and roasted peanut) and some Crispy Vegetarian Imperial Rolls (with taro root, cabbage, vermicelli noodles, and roasted peanut), which we were quite happy with. For entrees, R. got the Pan-Seared Day Boat Scallops (with tat soi and pineapple-coconut sauce) and I had to try the famous Grass-fed Estancia Shaking Beef (8-ounce cubed filet mignon, Sausalito watercress, red onion, and lime sauce). And what can I say? The food was delicious and much deserving of the "Outstanding Restaurant" honor. There was no better way to cap off our weeklong trip to the Bay Area!

Pan Seared Day Boat Scallops at The Slanted Door (San Francisco)
Pan Seared Day Boat Scallops

Grass Fed Estancia Shaking Beef at The Slanter Door (San Francisco)
Grass-fed Estancia Shaking Beef

P.S. The door is not slanted!

Restaurant info:
The Slanted Door
1 Ferry Building San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 861-8032
Web | Facebook

The Slanted Door on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Okayama (San Jose, CA)

After spending the afternoon in Monterey Bay and Carmel, our plan was to drive the two hours back to my godparents' neighborhood for some sushi. Well, two hours into the trip, and we were still stuck in stop-and-stop traffic on 101 and not even remotely near where we needed to be... (Pro tip: Do not—I repeat— D O  N O T drive from Monterey Bay back to the San Francisco area at the end of a holiday weekend!) Knowing that we wouldn't be able to make it back to our 'hood until 10 pm, we needed a Plan B for dinner somewhere enroute.

I really don't know how we ever survived in the stone ages before smartphones, but since we're in 2014, R. did an Urbanspoon search and found Okayama in San Jose, which was open 'til 10 pm and along the way. By the time we arrived at 9:15 pm, we had been sitting in the car for 3.5 hours in what should have been a one hour drive between Monterey and San Jose! We were exhausted and ready to stuff ourselves.

Nigiri at Okayama (San Jose)

Nigiri (another view) at Okayama (San Jose)
Nigiri (another view)

Mango Tango Roll at Okayama (San Jose)
Mango Tango Roll

Mango Mochi Ice Cream at Okayama (San Jose)
Mango Mochi Ice Cream

Located in Japantown (a fact we discovered only once we got there), which seemed to be a very heavily residential neighborhood, Okayama was not so much small as it was unassuming. Given the hour, we got down to "business" right away. I ordered nigiri sushi a la carte: Toro (fatty tuna; $8), Hamachi (yellow tail; $4.75), Sake (salmon; $4.50), Unagi (fresh water eel; $5.25), and Hotate (scallop; $4.25). Each order came with two pieces, so the prices were quite good. Everything was amazing, but I was particularly impressed by the melt-in-your-mouth fatty tuna that was just phenomenal. R. got the Mango Tango Roll ($10.50) with salmon, cream cheese, and avocado, topped with mango and thin lemon slices, which we also loved. Since we are big fans of mochi ice cream, we ended our delightful meal with some Mango Mochi Ice Cream (may have been two orders as pictured).

I really can't begin to express what a great find this was. My godparents kept commenting that Okayama was better than the Japanese restaurant that they had originally planned to take us that evening, and I'd have to say this was easily a Top 3 meal for me during my weeklong stay in the Bay Area. And to think, we owe this all to some nasty Californian traffic!

Restaurant info:
565 N 6th St, San Jose, CA 95112
(408) 289-9508

Okayama Japanese on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Fish Hopper (Monterey Bay, CA)

On Memorial Day, we drove two hours down to Monterey Bay to check out the aquarium. After a few hours of octopuses, bat rays, and jellyfishes, we were hungry for a late lunch. We wandered down the street and into The Fish Hopper, a restaurant with nice views of Monterey Bay (dining by the water seems to be the theme around these parts!). I ordered the Sand Dabs ($17.95) as I had been wanting to try this Pacific white fish, and Monterey is supposed to be the place to get them! At The Fish Hopper, the sand dabs are breaded and grilled, topped with diced tomatoes (on the other side of the plate) and a light basil sauce. The fish was very fresh and the melt-in-your-mouth meat was cooked just perfectly. It was just a quick stop at The Fish Hopper as we had other places to be so I didn't try any other dishes, but this certainly seems like a great option amidst the many touristy options.

Sand Dabs at The Fish Hopper (Monterey Bay, CA)
Sand Dabs

Restaurant info:
Fish Hopper
700 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA
(831) 372-8543
Web | Facebook | Twitter

Fish Hopper on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Skates on the Bay (Berkeley, CA)

After four days in San Francisco proper, we trekked over to the suburbs of the Bay Area to spend some time with my godparents. On the first night, we visited Skates on the Bay, a waterfront restaurant at the end of the Berkeley Marina with breathtaking panoramic views of the San Francisco Bay. If you're lucky enough to score a window seat, I'd imagine it would feel a bit like sitting right on the water because of the way the building juts out into the bay. Although our table was farther in, we still had a stunning view of both the Golden Gate Bridge and the new and very modern eastern span of the Oakland-Bay Bridge. In fact, with bay views gracing three sides of the restaurant, I don't think there is a bad seat in the house at all!

Of course, seafood was the only natural choice for us in a setting like this! R. and I shared a scrumptious Pan Seared Crab Cake to start ($18.95), with succotash, sweet corn puree, and fresh herbs.

Pan Seared Crab Cake at Skates on the Bay (Berkeley CA)
Pan Seared Crab Cake

Pan Seared Crab Cake at Skates on the Bay (Berkeley CA)
Pan Seared Crab Cake

My entree was the fresh and delicious Limoncello Scallops and Prawns ($33.95), with polenta, snow pea sprouts, asparagus, and limoncello sauce.

Limoncello Scallops and Prawns at Skates on the Bay (Berkeley CA)
Limoncello Scallops and Prawns

R. had the Almond Milk Poached Alaskan Halibut ($34.95), with toasted pasta pearls, almonds, asparagus, and charred cucumber vinaigrette. He thought it was just to die for!

Almond Milk Poached Halibut at Skates on the Bay (Berkeley CA)
Almond Milk Poached Alaskan Halibut

I was far too full for dessert, but R. couldn't resist the Hot Fudge Waffle Sundae ($8.95), with vanilla bean ice cream, fresh strawberries, candied pecans, housemade hot fudge and butterscotch sauces, and whipped cream. In fact, I was the only one at the table who didn't order dessert...and so the waitstaff brought out a Creme Brulee for me, on the house! What a lovely surprise!

Hot Fudge Waffle Sundae at Skates on the Bay (Berkeley CA)
Hot Fudge Waffle Sundae

Creme Brulee at Skates on the Bay (Berkeley CA)
Creme Brulee

To be honest, due to its location, I had been worried that Skates on the Bay would just be the kind of tourist trap that wouldn't live up to its hype. Luckily, the amazing food and service proved those fears wrong. Add to that the gorgeous view, and Skates on the Bay really has it all.

Restaurant info:
Skates on the Bay
100 Seawall Dr, Berkeley, CA 94710
(510) 549-1900
Web | Facebook | Twitter
Check out the virtual tour

Skates on the Bay on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Zero Zero (San Francisco)

The last of Twitter friend Alison's recommendations that I tried in San Francisco was Zero Zero, a trendy Italian eatery located in SoMA (south of Market). Alison's other recommendations had all turned out to be gems, so I was expecting nothing short of excellence from Zero Zero. In addition, we were meeting up with some friends for this meal, and since anyone who knows me expects to eat high quality food with me, my reputation was definitely at stake! Luckily, Zero Zero delivered.

R. and I split an appetizer and a pizza. He picked the appetizer: Tomato Braised Chickpea, Rosemary, and Burrata Bruschetta ($8.95) which came in one large scrumptious piece, and I picked the Mason pizza ($18.95), with grilled corn, speck, scamorza, thyme, fresh garlic, mozzarella, and Grana Padano cheese — a great combination of flavors. Zero Zero also serves up some tasty cocktails: my Hot Lips ($12), with Blanco tequila, jalapeƱo, cilantro, lime, and ginger syrup was the bomb.

Tomato Braised Chickpea, Rosemary, Burrata Bruschetta at Zero Zero (San Francisco)
Tomato Braised Chickpea, Rosemary, and Burrata Bruschetta

Mason Pizza at Zero Zero (San Francisco)
Mason Pizza

As with many other popular San Francisco restaurants, advanced reservation is a must to secure a table. Even with a reservation, we had a bit of a wait.

Restaurant info:
Zero Zero
826 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94107
(415) 348-8800
Web | Facebook | Twitter

Zero Zero on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Hog Island Oyster Company (San Francisco)

R. was busy with a work thing on the Saturday of our trip, so I decided to check out the Ferry Building on my own, which I knew would be busy because of the farmer's market there that day. Unfortunately, time was tight so I didn't have time to explore the market too much, but from what I could tell it was huge and impressive!

While at the Ferry Building, I did manage to grab some lunch at Hog Island Oyster Company. It really was the perfect plan, since I LOVE oysters and R. doesn't (what a crazy man!). Lunching alone also worked out nicely in this case because it was a Saturday and there was a massive line outside waiting for a table, but being a party of one, I was able to be seated at one of bars right away!

Hog Island Oyster Company (San Francisco)
View of another bar area from my seat

Perhaps it was the freedom of being on my own and doing and eating whatever the heck I wanted, but I'll admit I kind of went all out on this meal. I started out with an order of a raw Oyster Bar Mix ($20) which consisted of one each of the day's oysters, largely because I just wanted to try everything. The oysters of that day were: Hog Island Sweetwater (Pacific; Tomales Bay, CA), Redwood Curtain Kumamoto (Kumamoto; Humboldt Bay, CA), Hog Island Cliffside (Pacific; Discovery Bay, WA), Sea Cow (Pacific; Hammersley Inlet, WA), and Northern Cross (Atlantic; Ballard Point, VA).

Oyster Bar Mix at Hog Island Oyster Company (San Francisco)
Oyster Bar Mix

I also got the Casino Grilled Oysters ($13 for 4 oysters) with butter, Spanish paprika, bacon, shallots, and thyme. I loved the raw oysters, but I thought the grilled oysters were divine beyond words.

Casino Grilled Oysters at Hog Island Oyster Company (San Francisco)
Casino Grilled Oysers

As I was enjoying my lunch, I noticed a cute older couple sitting next to me enjoying what looked like an oyster chowder. I was intrigued. They told me it was an Oyster Stew ($12) that used to be on the menu but for some reason is now off-menu. The woman used to live in San Francisco, and even though they live out in Arizona now, they come back every year and most look forward to this meal at Hog Island Oyster Company! Their revelation told me two things: first, that I had absolutely picked the right place to eat, and second, that I could not leave there without trying some of that oyster stew!!

And so I did. And it was exquisite. With five large oysters, it was plenty filling, too.

Oyster Stew at Hog Island Oyster Company (San Francisco)
Oyster Stew (off-menu)

Oyster Stew at Hog Island Oyster Company (San Francisco)
Oyster Stew with massive oyster

What can I say except that this was hands down the best meal I had in San Francisco!

Restaurant info:
Hog Island Oyster Company
1 Ferry Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 391-7117
Web | Facebook | Twitter

Hog Island Oyster Company on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Fino Restaurant (San Francisco)

On our third night in San Francisco, I met up with two of my childhood friends who now live there—one I hadn't seen in 24 years!! She also happens to be a regular at Fino, located inside The Andrews Hotel in Nob Hill, and suggested that we meet there.

The atmosphere at Fino is classy yet cozy. Not sure if it was my friend-the-regular-patron's influence or if the staff at Fino is just naturally awesome (I'm leaning towards the latter), but our other friend had run into some unexpected major traffic delays on her way to meet us (not surprising in the Bay Area, as I can definitely attest to even in my brief time there!) and we ended up starting our meal much later than our reservation time, but the staff was super cool about it even though it looked to be a busy evening for them. My friend loves the linguini there and orders it every time. I decided to go the pasta route as well and ordered the Fettuccine con Prosciutto e Funghi ($15) or fresh fettuccine with prosciutto and mushrooms, as well as tomatoes and garlic, in a creamy tomato sauce. It was simple, but fresh and delicious—better than some of the meals I had in Italy. R. liked his pizza as well. Unfortunately, I was much too full for desserts, but it was a lovely meal with a precious opportunity to catch up with old friends, which was sweet enough.

Fettuccine con Prosciutto e Funghi at Fino (San Francisco)
Fettuccine con Prosciutto e Funghi

Restaurant info:
Fino Restaurant
624 Post St, San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 928-2080

Fino on Urbanspoon

Pompei's Grotto (San Francisco)

There are probably few places more touristy than the Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, and like all good tourist we spent a few hours there during our trip. We had taken advantage of a free walking tour which led us to a crab fishery on the wharf. We didn't eat their crabs, actually, but the reason I bring it up is because the owner of the crab fishery said that when she dines out, she likes going to Pompei's Grotto. So naturally, that is where we ended up after the tour.

Pompei's Grotto is smack in the middle of the busy Jefferson Street. It has a fairly large seating area indoors but we opted for patio seating because, you know, San Francisco. We started with an order of Baby Cakes ($14.95), which consisted of two small Dungeness crab cakes with pesto aioli, and then we each had some Clam Chowder, mine in a regular bowl ($7.95) and R.'s in a bread bowl ($9.95).

Baby Cakes at Pompei's Grotto (San Francisco)
Baby Cakes

Clam Chowder Bowl at Pompei's Grotto (San Francisco)
Clam Chowder

Clam Chowder in a Bread Bowl at Pompei's Grotto (San Francisco)
Clam Chowder in Bread Bowl

Overall, Pompei's Grotto is pretty low-key. There is nothing fancy or surprising about it, but the food definitely hit the spot. Not a bad option amongst the many touristy options.

Restaurant info:
Pompei's Grotto
340 Jefferson St, San Francisco CA 94133

Pompei's Grotto on Urbanspoon