Catch up! Day 1
We started off the next day at the Ferry Building, where after sufficiently whetting our appetites by passing through the rows of food vendors and shops, we sat down to have lunch at the Slanted Door.
Both GQ and BH are part Vietnamese, and so have exacting specifications for Vietnamese food; BH said he was a fan of the crepe served at the Slanted Door, citing it as one of the better versions he'd tried. What came out was a shatteringly crisp shell filled with shrimp, pork, bean sprouts, and onions, pieces of which were meant to be rolled into leaves of cool lettuce and dipped into nuoc mam. The combination of flavors, textures, and temperatures was quite wonderful.
The crepe was the highlight, and from there it turned less exciting. We got a spicy rice vermicelli salad, with cabbage, cucumber, mint, chicken, lime, and peanut sauce, which wasn't actually that interesting in flavor or execution. Just your average cold noodle/veg/chicken salad.
GQ went for the Alaskan halibut over vermicelli noodles; MH ordered the lemongrass chicken, which came piled with peanuts, jalapenos, and slivers of red onion. I took bites of each of their dishes and thought they were good but again, not outstanding. Maybe I just have higher expectations when dishes like these cost nearly two or three times what they are priced in regular Chinatown (or Saigontown) joints; I appreciate the increased attention to decor and presentation, as well as to possibly fresher, better quality ingredients, but then it comes down to, is it three times as fresh? Three times as high in quality? Three times as tasty?
Sometimes, the answer is no. My grilled lemongrass pork over vermicelli was no more delicious than anything I've had elsewhere. The fried "imperial" rolls it came with were decent—super crunchy on the outside, and filled with a good combination of shrimp, pork, and glass noodles—but they needed a dip in nuoc mam to fulfill their potential. Had they charged me six bucks for this plate, I would have been happy. But it was twelve, and so I felt critical. Hipness and scene just isn't worth that much to me, I guess.
Afterward, in the marketplace, we stopped by Ciao Bella and topped off our lunch with gelato (a single scoop of pistachio in waffle cone, for me). And I was going to pass by Acme Bread Company, reasoning that there was no good reason for me to buy a loaf of bread, but when I saw they were selling a loaf dotted with scallions, I couldn't resist. The bread could have used more scallions and a bit more salt (okay, maybe it's unfair to wish for scallion pancakes) but nonetheless I ended up tearing off little pieces of that bread and popping them into my mouth all afternoon.
After the Ferry Building GQ and I walked along the water to Fisherman's Wharf and then eventually hit Ghiradelli Square, where we were handed samples of their new peanut butter flavor. I love bringing back food and sweets from different places, but with Ghirardelli, I felt absolutely zero need to buy chocolate. Why bother, when it's so readily available across the nation? It's the same as when I went on the Celestial Seasonings tour—I could have bought some tea, but then again, I can get Celestial Seasonings tea at any grocery store, anywhere. So on Ghirardelli chocolate, I passed.
We spent a while poking around before getting on a cable car to return to the apartment. After resting up, GQ and I were joined by BH and MH and we all went to Mangarosa for dinner. The lively restaurant features samba dancers who get up on the bar and who circle the dining room, urging patrons to get up and dance with them. I arrived during the middle of one set, and managed to snap a few photos of the dancers before we were seated at our table.
We started with pão de queijo, the delightful, chewy cheese breads made from yucca flour. The ones at Mangarosa were small little puffs, and so good that we ended up ordering a second basket.
None of us were especially hungry, so we opted to share two different salads plus a main course. On the left is a salad of hearts of palm with arugula, endive, and radicchio in a citrus vinaigrette, and on the right is a warm spinach salad with goat cheese, polenta croutons, grilled pears, and caramelized onions.
Above is the Brazilian Steak Réchaud, which came sliced in pieces on a very hot grill. I don't know what kind of steak it was, but it was richly flavored and almost buttery. There were little bowls of fried garlic, toasted yucca flour, and tomato and cucumber salsa as condiments, too, which nicely complemented the grilled meat.
Despite GQs protests (she wanted something else) BH succeeded in ordering quindim, or Brazilian coconut flan, for dessert. I sort of wish she had won—the heavy custard was as thick as cheesecake and tasted like sweet egg yolk. It was cold and hard and way too rich, and the raspberries around the plate did little to lighten the taste. After one bite I put down my fork and just drank coffee instead. We hit up a few bars in the area afterward before I headed home with GQ and BH—and the first thing GQ and her unsatisfied sweet tooth did upon arrival was head straight for the freezer to scoop out a bowl of ice cream. After that disappointing flan, there was no way I could blame her.
Day 1: Civic Center Farmer's Market, Bund Shanghai, Paulette, Miette, Mandalay
Day 2: Slanted Door, Ciao Bella, Acme Bread Company, Ghirardelli, Mangarosa
Day 3: Saigon Sandwich, Flying Fish Grill
Day 4: El Tonyayense, Pica Pica Maize Kitchen, Bi-Rite Creamery, Pagolac
Day 5: Lee's Sandwiches
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Catch up! Day 1