Sunday, April 27, 2008


Being stuck indoors while sick and trying to study (a most unproductive combination) has led me to crave certain foods. And when I can't have them, looking at photos is the next best thing!

Roast pork

Gouda cheese

Naan and chicken curry (Naan-N-Curry, SF)

Stewed marinated pork (Hoshi, Santa Clara)

Strawberry crepe (Original Pancake House, Fremont)

My mother's steamed sea bass

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Anchor & Hope (Ahoy!)

Love at first taste in a new restaurant isn't easy to come by, but it's magical when it happens. It all started when a friend emailed me a brief article about Anchor & Hope, a new restaurant in SOMA from the owners of the renowned Town Hall and the more recently acclaimed Salt House. After reading some more promising press coverage, I decided on a whim to check it out tonight - their first night open to the general public.

Located in the Minna Street alley, the restaurant is housed in a renovated warehouse from the turn of the century (which is interesting, since Salt House is in an old printing press warehouse from the 1930s). The name proudly stands out in bold, blue letters.

According to our very friendly and charming waiter, the Rosenthal brothers (owners) traveled to the seafood hot spots along the East Coast to figure out how to capture the look, feel, and tastes of a traditional fish house by the sea, while still retaining a modern touch. Their research clearly paid off, as reflected in the high ceilings, wood floors, brick walls, lengths of nautical rope dangling from wooden beams, and sea-themed decorations.

The resulting space was comfortably roomy and rustic, like an old fish shack, but still urban enough to fit into the city. The raw bar caught my eye on one side of the restaurant.

Great use of the ropes

And for some reason, I loved this line of fish painted at the top of one wall.

Sarah Schafer (formerly from Frisson) is the head chef at Anchor & Hope, and the menu consists mostly of seafood items, including several kinds of oysters of the day. My friend and I decided to order several appetizers to share, so we could sample more dishes.

Our waiter informed us that the wine and beer list was unavailable that night, due to some shipping issues. But before we could start feeling too bad, the owner came around and offered us complimentary tastes of white wine. We each ended up getting two generous glasses of free wine for our dinner. Now that's great customer service!

The food was phenomenal - fresh seafood, creative approaches, and casually fun presentation. We started off with a half dozen of raw Drake's Bay oysters - one of my favorites for the salty flavor. These bad boys were nice and fresh, served with a slightly spicy cocktail sauce.

I had really wanted to try the Angels on Horseback - smoked bacon wrapped oysters - and I'm glad I did. These were amazing. The combination of crisp, slightly fatty bacon, buttery oysters, salt, and mild spice sent my taste buds to heaven and back, resulting in my signature "zoned out" look as I was happily chewing.

Another excellent dish was the basil-stuffed clams, topped with parmesan bread crumbs. The crinkle of the crumbs contrasted well with the softness of the clams, and the basil was a nice highlight.

Wonders from the sea...

The last appetizer we ordered was a cold maple smoked trout, stacked atop a warm potato salad layered with some greens and a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette. Although not as standout as the above items, the sweetness of the maple was a nice approach, along with the lone quail egg on top.

And yet another perk of dining on opening night - complimentary fried smelts! Don't they look like a stack of shrimp tempura?

Finally, for dessert we settled on a warm rhubarb apple crisp with fresh strawberries and vanilla bean ice cream (although I'm still wondering about that brandy cherry creme brulee, but that will have to wait for next time). A wonderfully sweet way to end the meal.

And we all know cappuccino goes well with dessert!

Overall, I was very impressed with the Rosenthals' latest offering, and I will definitely venture back to Anchor & Hope to try their main fish entrees, along with that warm sea urchin in a shell appetizer. I hope you'll find the time to make a visit as well!

Anchor & Hope
83 Minna Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 501-9100

Sunday, April 20, 2008


In continuing my quest for decent food on a recent visit to Fremont, I decided to try Kaenyama off the Auto Mall Parkway exit, and was pleasantly surprised. First of all, the interior of the restaurant itself was gorgeous. At the entrance, there was an upscale bar / lounge area on the left and teppanyaki tables on the right. A row of well-lit booths dominated the center of the restaurant. An L-shaped sushi bar area occupied one of the back corners, aptly decorated with sake bottles and vases of white lilies. I could tell that a lot of thought and effort had gone into the decor.

Kaenyama's menu features plenty of traditional Japanese fare, including sashimi, teriyaki, udon, and tempura. Yet there's also a variety of creative sushi rolls and several interesting fusion attempts, such as foie gras miso, hamachi carpaccio, and grilled lamb chops with hon-shimeji mushrooms and a sweet nashi pear soy glaze (the thought of which is making my stomach growl at this late hour).

Since I was with my mother, we stuck to the more "typical" items. The broth for the chicken udon was flavorful but not too salty (gaining points in my mother's book), and the noodles retained a nice texture and consistency. My chicken yakisoba was also quite good.

Chicken udon ($13)

Chicken yakisoba ($13)

I was most impressed, however, with their version of the hamachi kama (yellowtail collar). This is one of my favorite Japanese appetizers of all time. If prepared well, the high fish oil and fat content of the collar will come through to give the meat a rich, juicy flavor. Eating hamachi kama is also a fun play on textures, since some parts of the meat will be firm and others will melt in your mouth like butter.

Hamachi kama ($10)

The most common way to ruin this dish is to overcook, leaving the meat too dry. But Kaenyama's hamachi kama was flavorful and moist, and brushed with a slightly sweet teriyaki glaze. Good to the last bite, and wonderful presentation.

Fishing around for the meat...

I will definitely be back to Kaenyama to try some of their rolls and sashimi (some of the fish looked fantastic), as well as that sauteed foie gras miso. Yes, I will pretty much try anything with duck liver.

43785 Boscell Road
Fremont, CA 94538
(510) 683-8800

Monday, April 14, 2008

Red Velvet Cake at CPK

The way to my heart is simple. Give me a decadent dessert and you will forever have a place in my memory. My first real foodie moment was from a bite of creamy tiramisu (still my favorite dessert of all time) at a restaurant in Ashland, Oregon while on a high school trip for the city's annual Shakespeare festival. I haven't the faintest memory of which Shakespeare performance we watched, but I remember that tiramisu. And I realized that to enjoy food was a real blessing.

Anyway, the first time I tried the red velvet cake from California Pizza Kitchen, it was difficult to contain my excitement. It was just that good. And today I was hit with a craving for another taste. So, with images of vanilla bean cream teasing my thoughts, I called up a friend for dinner at CPK. Getting pizza for dinner was just the perfect pretext for getting my cake.

Three layers of moist, buttery red velvet cake, with sinfully rich vanilla bean cream cheese frosting and delicate white chocolate curls on the edge. Served with swirls of vanilla bean sauce, as you can see on the plate. What sweet, sweet seduction.

I think I want another slice now.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Little Star Pizza

I think pizza is one of those foods that brings people together. For me, it's still the food of choice for low-key house parties, sports games, and lunch presentations that no one really wants to attend. Gather a group round a cheesy pie and you're basically set.

I had read quite a bit of hype about Little Star Pizza before going, and the one-hour wait for a table on a Saturday night piqued my curiosity even more. I remember muttering to my friends, "This place better be worth it," as I checked the waiting list for the tenth time while sipping on a pint of Blue Star in the crowded bar area.

Luckily, the pizza did not disappoint, and I could especially taste why everyone had been raving about the deep dish. A soft crust with deep cheesy goodness, topped with sausage, mushrooms, green bell peppers, and onions. I think I still prefer Zachary's overall, but my taste buds were definitely not complaining here.

Journeying to Chicago...

Some folks at the table preferred thin crust, so we ordered one with pesto roasted chicken, mushrooms, and onions. A nicely crisp crust, tender morsels of chicken, and pesto sauce drizzled in a spiral on top. Although I generally prefer thin crust pizza, I found myself gravitating back to the deep dish for my second round of slices.

We also ordered spicy chicken wings as an appetizer, which was the only bad part of the meal. They weren't really spicy and were over-salted. Hopefully this isn't the way they normally taste.

For some good pizza in the city, check this place out!

Little Star Pizza
400 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 551-7827

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Beef teriyaki loco moco at Hukilau - three scoops of white rice, tender beef teriyaki, topped with an over-easy egg and drenched in rich, mouth-watering gravy. Served with macaroni salad and a pineapple wedge. Now this is some all-Hawaiian goodness.


5 Masonic Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 921-6242