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Sons and Daughters.

20 Nov

The reservation was made before Sons and Daughters received their shiny Michelin, back when it was still possible to make reservations. Naturally, I was beyond excited for this night. Yet, I was equipped only with my trusted iPhone 4 (without the S) and this nifty app called instagram, so I apologize for the photo quality here.

Tucked away in the less-touristy side of Union Square, across Nob Hill Theater, was this gem. Through a glass door was the white walls and rustic interior of wood and leather. It was an open-kitchen, facing the quietly buzzing crowd.

Sons and Daughters served in the style of 5-course tasting menu, along with amuse-bouche and bread courses in between. For each course, we have two choices to pick from. We found not names of the dishes on there, but list of ingredients it was comprised of.

Pickled Beet   Smoked Creme Fraiche   White Strawberry: a sweet beet gazpacho with cutely diced pickled beets and creme fraiche. Sat quietly aside all was a white strawberry that was pearly and pleasantly clean.

Quail egg   Malt   Yeast   Ground Cherry: the quail egg was poached with the yoke runny. Pierced with my fork it ran onto the small salad of shaved celery root and radish flowers. At the base were the ground cherries, consistency alarmingly similar to that of bacon bits. Hidden in between were green berries with miniature bursts of tangy delight.

Sea Urchin   Sea bean   Cauliflower   Dashi: my absolutely favorite dish of the night, though likely biased due to my fervent love for sea urchin – the soft, creamy taste of the ocean. In its fresh entirety, this piece of sea urchin sat amidst a vibrant purple from the cauliflower, that formed a breathtaking beauty. Squashed sea bean laid at the bottom, providing a necessary crunch; while the dash mixed to become gelatinous, taken the plate to a different level of umami.

Sea bass   Green Farro   Leek   Caviar: a nicely balanced segua between the last and the next, though a shade less memorable. The sea bass was nicely grilled with skin crisp to my taste, next to the caviar beurre blanc. Leeks, also grilled, oozed sweet autumn memories that the farro complimented.

30 dag aged New York steak   Chanterelles   Brussel sprouts   Charred onion: hearty without losing its basic elegance would be the summary of this dish. The steak was tender, juicy with just a hint of blood. The vegetables tossed in (likely) a generous dose of butter, bringing the warm flavors of foliage.

Yuzu   Pop corn   Seasame   Passion fruit: a playful finish of light yuzu custards with small sesame chips and reduced passion fruit drops so tangy my brows farrowed. And, days later, I still couldn’t get over how much the ice cream tasted like kettle corn!

It was a lovely dinner. The flavors were wonderfully balanced with such fascinating textures, this dining experience felt almost cerebral (but in a good way). Even though some dishes did stand out more than the others, and the menu left me wanting more (as all tasting menus do, I suppose), I am excited to see where this restaurant would go after its first star.

Sons and Daughters | 708 Bush Street | San Francisco, CA 94108 | 415.391.8311


Breakfast Taco & Waffle+Fried Chicken Slider.

21 Jun

Marengo on Union is this small hideaway right above the infamous Bar None. It is a cozy haven for the whiskey-thirsty, serving intoxicating nectars in a springtime of colors, and delicious sliders to please their hazy patrons.

On a beautiful Saturday morning such as this one, Marengo was in all its glory. Early summer skylight shined through their half-opened sky roof.

This was not the place for your $11 breakfast platter. Here everything was served in small, bite-sized portion for some mix n’ match. Without reading much into it, I went  for the more unusual sounding: the breakfast taco plus the waffle and fried chicken slider. And my, were they looking glorious underneath the sun. Inside the taco was the soft-scrambled eggs topped with melted cheese and speckles of chorizo. Green cilantro shreds laid on top of the gold, salsa waiting to be poured.

To the side was the waffle slider: neatly stacked with a piece of crisply fried chicken in the middle, powered sugar dusted generously on top. Oh my my, oh hell yes.

So first try, the taco. As breakfast burritos are quite common (and a lovely choice as hangover cures go), I was not expecting much beyond an open-faced version. Wrong, obviously. Right underneath the bed of scrambled eggs light and fluffy yet rich with sharp cheddar, it came a crunch. A surprise, it was a small bed of golden hash brown underneath! The crispy texture was a fantastic juxtaposition to the cheesy eggs; topped with the salsa, the taco was a summer fiesta on my tongue. While the tortilla was a tad dry, I fully enjoyed this combination. Breakfast burrito, you have been topped.

A sip of my bloody mary and a breath caught from my excitement at discovering something so simple yet delightful, I moved onto the waffle slider: the slider bar’s version of chicken and waffles. The waffle was not soft and buttery but almost crunchy to the bite – which I learnt later was to soak up all that delicious syrup. The small piece of fried chicken was divine; a honey rub before being lightly breaded then fried, juicy still in the center. That hint of honey in the chicken made the idea of mixing savory and sweet (which I never appreciated much) harmonious.

While no ingredient here was out of the ordinary, the modern twist on breakfast food and their little touches of genius (hash brown & honey rub) made the dishes interesting and different to me. And seriously, what could go wrong with a place that comes with a “brunch cocktail” menu?

Marengo on Union |  1980 Union Street | San Francisco, CA 94123 | 415.441.2575

All-In-One Sandwich.

12 Jun

Originally from Pittsburgh, Giordano Bros is a small corner joint on Columbus Ave, offering live music, beer and bites. It is, of course, also one of the biggest Steelers’ bar in the city. I remember many Sunday afternoons strolling past, peering through their almost floor-length window to see the place packed with cheering / tearing fans of black and yellow.

(not taken during football season)

Aside from providing Steelers’ fans a home-away-from-home, Giordano’s also serves up a Pittsburgh delicacy: the All-In-One Sandwich. This sandwich has a cult following that rivals Ike’s Place. Though, unlike the crazy options Ike’s has to offer, the All-In-One Sandwich is far simpler. Italian meat of your choice, provolone, cole slaw and fries. All of that sandwiched between two slices of bread. A dish made of unusual ingredients it is not, but it does comes on board under “familiar food goes wild”. Served with a fork in case you like to eat the spillage salad-style.

Now it sounds like a lot (and a combination slightly bizarre) to be packed into one sandwich – and ultimately, one bite. But it wasn’t. Imagine tasting it in this order: a slice of white French bread soft and sweet as the cloud, followed by the vinegary crunchy cole slaw, crispy ends of thick cut french fries with a mashed-potatoy center, then onto melted provolone, warm and hearty grilled italian sausage (in my case), and ending with another slice of fluffiness.

It was so delicious yet non-disruptive. The varying textures and tastes made this into a one-bite-wonder. It was messy yet fun (as the best foods always are!), and washed down nicely with some beer in an ice-chilled mug. I also soaked the bread with some leftover wing sauce to add a layer of tangy spice. All the simple awesomeness in one big, blissful bite.

All. In. One.

Giordano Bros | 303 Columbus Ave. | San Francisco, CA 94133 | 415.397.2767

Fried Pig Ears.

8 May

The last time I was at Magnolia was for a crawl fish boil, where I proudly demonstrated how to eat one of those suckers – head/brain sucking included. And because of that, while the Haight remains an area I scarcely venture into, this corner pub on Haight & Masonic remains in my heart a “fun eat place”. To see fried pig ears on my long-awaited return simply affirmed my belief that Magnolia is awesome.

Now pig ear is not an unfamiliar ingredient for most Taiwanese and Western Chinese people. It is one of the stable “braised flavors.” The “braised flavors” are small plates consumed at local eateries, usually served with cool beer or Chinese grain liquor. In a sense, quite similar to yakitoris at traditional izakayas; or put simply: Taiwanese bar food.

These “braised flavors” are prepared with several different ingredients, then served singularly or paired according to the customer’s preference. Common ingredients include various beef, chicken and duck parts (meat, innards, feet), tofu/bean curd products, and of course, pig ears. They are usually braised in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, grain alcohol and a few Chinese herbs, for 25 minutes to 4 hours, depending on the ingredients. They are then removed from the pot to be chilled in the fridge over night, and served cold with sprinkles of parsley.

Long story short: that is how I remember my pig ears growing up. Braised, chilled, and thinly sliced. The skin part has the soft yet chewy texture of a tougher jello, with the cartilage in the middle crunchy to bite, soaked in the aroma of sweet soy sauce. It is a fun food!! That said, the fried version, as listed on their menu, was not something I was familiar with. When it was served, the little fried strings of pig ears sat there, topped with a mayonnaise-based buffalo sauce, looking like the baby of curly and shoe-string fries: all oddly curled and tangled.

And “bizarre fries” is what I thought to myself when I ate it. The pig ears were breaded then deep fried, forming this brilliantly crisp entrance to the chewy goodness on the inside. Then, as my teeth – as if in slow motion – penetrated the chewy layer, it snapped the thin soft bone on the inside and form that delicious crunchy sound. There it is – albeit Americanized and in an aioli, it is still my fun food!

It was a perfect marriage too, with my tall glass of Prescription Pale Ale. The slight bitterness in that aromatic beer washed down the deep fry smoothly, returning my mouth into that clean, fried-pig-ears-craving state again. The deep fry treatment suddenly made sense alongside this fuller-bodied beer (Taiwanese beers are really light), how the caramel-like malt flavor compliments!

Because I like to see just how many ways I can eat my dishes, I drizzled a bit of Youk’s Hot Sauce for another layer of hot, tangy flavor. It cuts the fattiness nicely, and, quite frankly, eating at a bar without some form hot sauce is just silly.

For the grand finale, I took some fried pig ears, paired it with a bite of house pickle, then washed it all down with the remaining of my beer. What a lovely, lovely day.

On our way out, I noticed that the couple sitting right behind us got an order of fried pig ears as well. I gave them a mental high-five, secretly wishing that I had inspired them.

Magnolia Pub & Brewery: 1398 Haight Street | San Francisco, CA 94117 | 415.864.7468