Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Slanted Door

I've been to San Francisco four times now, and each time with a list of places that I hope to visit. I've been lucky in stumbling over great finds; however it doesn't hurt to do some research prior to the trip. The Slanted Door has been on my list from the first time that I visited, and it was only on this last visit that I was finally able to experience it! My mom was slightly hesitant about going to this restaurant, as she said, "I don't like Vietnamese food;" however, after her first bite of food at the Slanted Door, I can proudly say that I expanded her horizons in the food realm!

The restaurant offers Vietnamese food, with a San Francisco flair. The modern twist of Vietnamese cooking is accented with a plethora of locally grown produce and ecologically farmed meant, game and poultry.

There is a relaxed and open atmosphere with large glass windows overlooking the San Francisco Bay.

Although it was a foggy day, we could see the San Francisco Bay Bridge peaking out from the haze from where we were sitting.

We were overwhelmed by the extensive menu offerings (everything sounded so delicious!), so we made our choices based off of the recommendations from the waitress. The Crispy Imperial Rolls included shrimp, pork, glass noodles and peanuts, served with fresh lettuce leaves to wrap and a light dipping sauce. Absolutely delicious!

The Green Papaya Salad was very original, and included tofu, rau ram (Vietnamese coriander) and roasted peanuts. The dressing was unlike any other papaya salad I've eaten. It was fresh and vibrant without the overpowering fish sauce and chili pepper that I'm accustomed to.

My favorite was the Caramelized Tiger Prawns. They were smothered in a sticky sauce of garlic, onions, and chilis. There was a slight sweetness from the caramelization, with a kick of heat at the end. Finger licking good!

My mom and sister ordered the Chicken Claypot, which was chicken thigh pieces with a caramel sauce, chilies and fresh ginger. This one wasn't the greatest, a little on the salty side.

The Slanted Door lived up to my expectations and changed my mom's perspective on Vietnamese food. The San Francisco twist on Vietnamese food worked perfectly, in my opinion, and I would definitely recommend this restaurant to those in the Bay Area!

The Slanted Door
1 Ferry Building #3
San Francisco, CA 94111

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Pizzeria Delfina

Pizzeria Delfina was another accidental discovery that my mom, sister and I stumbled upon while walking through the Castro and Mission districts in San Francisco. It was a cold and rainy day, and we were on a quest to re-visit Tartine. To our disappointment, it seemed as though everyone else decided that Tartine was the perfect cozy escape for such a rainy day. The crowd was not our idea of relaxation after the long, cold walk, so we backtracked our steps to a pizzeria that we spotted along the way.

Owners Craig and Anne Stoll have a menu inspired by their memories of New York pizzerias and Craig's childhood in Naples. They offer classic pizzas as well as daily special pizzas using seasonal ingredients. Their menu has portions that are both printed and handwritten, as selections change daily. There's also an array of antipasti beautifully displayed along the counter as well as daily soup and salad selections. Desserts are also tempting... if you leave room for them, that is! To round it all out, they offer a nice selection of wine Southern Italy.

The restaurant is set up almost like a diner, with both tables and counter seating. The kitchen is wide open, and customers can watch as the pizzas are being prepared. Upon being seated, you are served with breadsticks, a plate of cheese, oregano, and red pepper flakes, and a glass bottle of water. So simple, yet artistic.

We started off with an antipasti of Satsuma and Walnuts served with fennel and arugula. It was a wonderful pairing of seasonal ingredients. The licorice flavor of the fennel and the peppery arugula were balanced out with the sweetness of the satsumas. All the flavors were brightened up with a light vinaigrette dressing and the walnuts added nice texture.

It was tough to decide upon just one pizza, but we decided to try the classic Margherita. This one was tomato, basil, and Bubalis Mozzarella di Bufala and finished off with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil just before serving. The thin Neapolitan inspired crust was crispy on the outside with a thin, chewy center. When I took my first bite of this pizza, my face explained it all! Eyes wide open, a huge grin on my face, and all I could say was "mmmmmmm...." The texture and flavor of the Buffalo Mozzarella is incomparable to plain mozzarella and its definitely worth it to pay a little extra for this one! Combine it with a glass of Italian wine and you have heaven!

If I had any more room in my stomach I would have tried the Clam Pie, which includes cherrystone clams, tomato, oregano, pecorino, and hot peppers, or the Broccoli Raab, which is topped with broccoli raab, mozzarella di bufala, parmigiano, olives, and hot peppers. They also offer a Salsiccia with housemade fennel sausage, tomato, bell peppers, onions, and mozzarella. Looks like I'll have to go back for more next time I visit my sister!

Pizzeria Delfina
3611 18th Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Second Helping of "Mediterraneo"

I just got back from celebrating my dad's birthday at Mediterraneo. Last time, I said that it was worth another try... well, I sure am glad that I went back! We had an awesome time tonight. The food was superb, service was exceptional, and we even got to meet the owner (Fabrizio poured us some Grappa and sat down at our table to chat)!! This place is now my favorite place to eat Italian food!

The Northern Italian Seafood Risotto was made with a saffron broth and included muscles, fish, shrimp and clams. The flavor of the saffron really brought out the flavor of the seafood.

My dad's Ciopinno was exceptional! It was a light, yet flavorful fish and tomato broth, packed with clams, muscles, fish, and shrimp. I couldn't stop sticking my spoon into his dish to get a taste of the soup! The best part was towards the bottom of the bowl where all the small bits of fish and clam were left.

The Puttanesca was also perfectly executed. This classic Italian dish is made with garlic, anchovies, tomatoes and olives. Its amazing how such simple ingredients paired with freshly made pasta can create such a wonderful dish!

Dessert was a thousand times better this time around. My favorite was the chocolate pyramid. It appears to be dense and rich, but its actually a lot lighter than it looks. The bottom of the pyramid had a ever-so-light crunch to it...perhaps some finely ground toffee? If you've had the chocolate pyramid at JJ's French Bistro, this one is a lot better!!

The tiramisu was light and fluffy, and not too sweet.

From the first time that I visited Mediterraneo, I knew that there was something special about it. Although I wasn't thoroughly impressed the first time around, this time made up for it ten-fold!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Thanksgiving in San Francisco

After spending Thanksgiving in San Francisco with my sister and mom I have a lot to share! I finally had a chance to try The Slanted Door at the Ferry Building Marketplace, we had some great French food, and some authentic Italian Pizza!! :) I originally intended to post it all at once, but its been a crazy week! So for now, enjoy a taste of one of the French restaurants, Le Garage...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Le Garage

Our night at Le Garage turned out to be quite an adventure. First, we got to cross the picturesque Golden Gate Bridge to travel from San Francisco to Sausalito. Then as we approached Sausalito, our Google maps directions took us onto a beaten path of dark and windy roads and into a sketchy boat harbor. With a phone call and the help of a Frenchman (with a thick French accent) from the restaurant, we were able to locate the dimly lit, unmarked restaurant with a garage door opening. I couldn't help but wonder what were we getting ourselves into. The area felt as though a murderer might be lurking out behind the garbage bin and the unmarked building left us feeling suspicious...

But once we were inside, elegance and edge blended seamlessly and the sight of people happily enjoying their food eased our minds. When I think of a French restaurant, I think expensive food and snooty waiters. At Le Garage, the atmosphere is fun, yet classy. The waitress wearing a auto-mechanic uniform, speaks to you with a classy French accent, as she offers her knowledge of French wine and cuisine. The d├ęcor is edgy, with exposed ceilings and unfinished railings, and yet the classy flower arrangement doesn’t look all that out of place.

Chefs Bruno Denis and Olivier Souestre both are natives of France, who are committed to serving simple French bitstro food in a relaxed atmosphere. At Le Garage, the chef takes special care to use local, organic, and sustainable ingredients whenever possible. The wine list is mostly French wines, but also includes some California wines as well.

To start off, we had black mission figs stuffed with Fourme d’ambert (similar to bleu cheese), arugula, dried cherries, pistachios, and a pomegranate vinaigrette. I had always wanted to taste fresh figs, since they’re a rare find in Hawaii. I was not disappointed; this dish was delicious! Sweet figs, creamy and slightly bitter cheese, spicy arugula, tart cherries, and crunchy pistachios—varying elements coming together to create one great salad.

We also had Dungeness Crab Stuffed Squash Blossoms, fried golden brown and swimming in a savory tomato basil coulis. The delicate squash blossoms were preserved in the lightly crispy coating and the rich crab flavor permeated the dish.

I ordered one of the recommended dishes, the Bouillabaisse. Its a traditional fish stew with mussles, clams, red potatoes, and white fish, served with crispy baguettes and Rouille (a savory garlic, saffron and mayonnaise spread). The broth was nice and rich, perfect for dipping the baguettes into.

The Loch Duart Salmon was served with baby leeks, mini charm tomato confit, parsnip chips and a kalamata olive vinaigrette. Each of the ingredients offered its unique flavors which paired to create one delicious bite.

The Duck Confit was expertly prepared with an organic burgundy reduction, French fingerling potatoes, and garnished with baby zucchini and parsnips. The duck melted in your mouth as the intensified flavors of the burgundy coated your palate.

The Ravioles de Royans was quite an interesting surprise. Tiny little purses of French ravioli filled with French cheese, smothered in an artichoke pesto. The waitress shared that these tender bites of pasta are imported from France. The pasta was topped off with Massachusetts Dayboat Scallops and oven roasted tomatoes, all drizzled with a lithe olives confit.

We all shared an order of fries with roasted garlic aioli.

For a bit of French desserts, we decided to share two. The first was an Organic Cabernet poached pear served with spiced panna cotta.

The other was Fondant au Chocolate, a molten chocolate cake suffed with raspberries and topped off with fresh whipped cream and a raspberry coulis. The restaurant also served complimentary glasses of dessert wine with our dessert.

So what started off to be a suspicious and scary restaurant, turned out to be a French delight! If you’re not up trekking through the dark and scary boat harbor, try this place for lunch or weekend brunch!

Le Garage
85 Liberty Ship Way, Suite 109
Sausalit, CA 94695

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Last week was the First Annual Restaurant Week to benefit the Culinary Institute of the Pacific. Restaurants across Honolulu teamed up with the Culinary Institute in an effort to raise money and encourage people to eat out. Some offered discounts, others donated a portion of their sales. I took advantage of this opportunity to check out Nobu in Waikiki. This place usually has a pretty high price tag, but for this special event you could get a three-course meal for just $32!

I'd been hearing wonderful things about this restaurant and was delighted to have the opportunity to try it at a discounted rate. Chef Nobu Matsuhisa creates a menu of modern Japanese with a hint of South American influence. Elements of lime juice, jalepeno, and cilantro are just a few subtle accents found in the Japanese dishes. Nobu Matsuhisa has obtained celebrity chef status across the United States, and is known for training the Iron Chef, Masaharu Morimoto.

This restaurant fits in perfectly with the trendy Waikiki Parc Hotel. The hotel itself boasts itself as being "Paradise with an edge" and "More than a hotel, its an attitude." Likewise, Nobu diners have the experience of new age Japanese cuisine set in a sleek and vibrant atmosphere. The dining area is dark with accents of red lighting, juxtaposed against a brightly light, ultra-modern sushi bar. Tables are set with white porcelain dishes and a set of chopsticks resting on a smooth river stone.

Start the experience off with a specialty cocktail or Nobu's private label beer, Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon. I ordered the Sira Ume cocktail; pinky vodka, Takara plum wine, and lime juice. Slightly sweet with a nice tang of ume.

The special set menu consisted a choice of salad, entree, and a dessert. In addition to this, we also ordered an appetizer and sushi.

My salad was Big Island Heats of Palm. Fresh ribbons of hearts of palm, yuzu dressing, micro greens and a jalepeno puree made from jalepeno, garlic and rice vinegar. The bright dressing and pepper flakes gave the hearts of palm a nice kick, while still maintaining the delicate aspects of the hearts of palm.

My mom had the Shiitake Salad, which was fresh seasonal greens with a spicy lemon dressing, garlic chips, marinated shiitake mushrooms, and sesame seeds. This one was a little overpowering and heavy on the salt.

Nobu has an impressive appetizer and sashimi menu. One of the waiter's recommendations was the Tiradito (whitefish, octopus, scallop, or botan-ebi). We chose the Tiradito Scallop ($17, not part of the set menu). Thin slices of scallop sashimi, Peruvian spicy sauce, lemon yuzu sauce, black peppercorns, and cilantro. This was unlike any sashimi I have ever eaten! You immediately taste the spice and tanginess of the sauce, followed by the sweetness of the delicate scallops, and then the flavor finishes up with a bright accent of cilantro. The dish is expertly composed and presented as a work of art.

For my entree, I chose the Black Cod Saikyo Miso (usually $23). The butterfish was marinated in Saikyo miso, a special miso from Kyoto. At the edges of the plate were dots of den miso, slightly stronger in flavor. On top sat Hajikani, a pickled ginger eaten at the end to cleanse the palate. I loved the rich and creamy fish paired with the delicate saikyo miso.

My mom ordered the Sashimi Dinner (usually $38). It consisted of an artfully displayed selection of hamachi (yellowtail tuna), hotate (scallop), maguro (ahi), salmon, tako (octopus) and uhu.

After the entrees came the Salmon and Avocado hand roll ($7). In the Nobu tradition, the sushi is served after the entree, as a simple way to end the meal. Chef Nobu believes that sushi will always be sushi, and should be saved for the end. Well, in my opinion, sushi is a little more than just sushi at Nobu. When the plate came to the table, we could immediately smell the fragrant nori--an indication of its quality.

The meal ended with our dessert, warm roasted pineapple with a brown sugar cinnamon crumble, topped off with Calpico (Japanese yogurt drink) ice cream. It was a nice mixture of tangy and sweet, warm and cold.

We had a wonderful experience at Nobu. The entire wait staff were more than accommodating and the setting offered a sense of glamour for Mom and I to spend time together. The dishes were filled with fresh and clean flavors, allowing us to leave feeling light and satisfied as we drove home for the night. I would surely visit this place again for a special occasion.

Nobu Waikiki
2233 Helumoa Road
Honolulu, HI 96815

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Honolulu Magazine's Hale Aina Awards

The Hale Aina Awards are one of Hawaii's most prestigious dining awards. Subscribers of Honolulu Magazine vote for their favorite restaurants in 25 different categories. Last weekend, the 2009 winners were announced, and in celebration of it, guests were invited to "Eat, Drink, Mingle, Repeat." As the theme suggests, there was good food, an abundance of "sophisticated beverages" and a sightings of some of Hawaii's most respected chefs. Ten of last year's restaurant winners each served their own unique dish at stations placed around the Sheraton Waikiki Ballroom while 16 different wine, sake and liquor vendors offered an assortment of drinks.

Alan Wong's Restaurant (The Incumbent Restaurant of the Year) served Portuguese Bean Soup with Kim Chee. A hearty soup with a kick of spice.

Beachhouse at the Moana (Hale Aina Award-Wining Chef, Rodney Uehara) served "Moyer Farm Beef Wellington" with Port Madera Demi with Morels and a Vegetable Brunoise. My favorite part was the Morel, plump and juicy!

Chai's Island Bistro served Sea Bass with a Lobster Reduction and Ribbons of Zucchini. This was one of my favorite dishes of the night. Chef Chai himself was there working hard to cooking up the sea bass. I had a chance to meet him and take a picture with him. He was very warm and welcoming, very friendly!

Formaggio Wine Bar and Grill served a Grilled Lamb Chop with Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce and Couscous with a Vinegar Reduction. My dad liked this one the best!

The Halekulani served Seared Tuna with Corn Chaat and Avocado Lime Dressing. (Sorry, the picture of this one didn't come out)

Mariposa served Texas Wild Boar Ragu with Kabocha Pumpkin Pappardelle, Hamakua Mushrooms, and Citrus Pistachio Gremolata. Warm flavors of fall with comforting ribbons of Pappardelle.

Ruth's Chris Steak house served Sliced Beef Tenderloin with Sweet Potato Casserole. The casserole was rich and buttery, topped of with a sweet cinnamon and pecan crumble.

Tango Contemporary Cafe (Hale Aina Award winning chef Goran Streg) served Hamakua Mushroom Risotto with Garlic Shrimp.

Vino served an Ahi Nicoise-Style Salad with Hamakua Heirloom Tomatoes, Roasted Yellow Fin Potatoes, Marinated Haricot Verts, Boiled Egg, and Aged Sherry Vinaigrette. Served on a spoon to enjoy all the flavors in one bite!

And last, but definitely not least, was Roy's Restaurant, serving Roy's Melting Hot Chocolate Souffle with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. It was miniature versions of the famous dessert, served warm. Crispy on the outside, warm and gooey on the inside! I got 2 servings of this one!!

Two hours of eating and drinking sure went by quickly! I feel so lucky to have been a part of this event!!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

More to come...

In this last week I have been blessed with the opportunity to share some great food with my friends and family. Check back soon for postings on the Hale Aina Awards and Restaurant Week at Nobu!!

For now, I leave you with this...

The product of two talented chefs and a little too much sake. Its a work of art... wouldn't you agree?? ;)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Izakaya Nonbei

On my last visit to Japan I had the opportunity to eat a several izakayas (Japanese pubs). The most memorable experience was the tiny "hole in the wall, mom-and-pop shop" where the husband and wife owners prepared our dishes right in front of our eyes. It was so special because we stepped aside from the busy streets of Kyoto into a little hideaway and were we were treated to the ultimate comfort food! Eating at Izakaya Nonbei took me back to that fond memory.

The decor makes you feel like you've escaped the a wintery storm in the middle of the samurai days. You can sit around a (unlit) fire pit with an iron kettle which makes you feel as though you're defrosting from the snow. Above the pit hang straw shoes and water canisters made from gourds that--according to my grandma--were used as people trecked through the snow.

Above the tatami lined floors hang wooden palates, each with a menu item written in kanji, displayed like artwork. The menu (there is an English version) is filled with authentic Japanese dishes, many of which are just romanized versions of the Japanese words. Luckily my grandma was there to explain what each were. Don't worry if you don't speak Japanese, the wait staff are very helpful.

The dishes are served izakaya style, meaning small dishes to be enjoyed with sake or beer. There are an assortment of Japanese sake, beer and cocktails. I had a shiso chu-hi (sochu) and my mom and grandma shared the frozen sake. The frozen sake pours out liquid, but when it hits the cup its turns in to icy slush!

Izakaya Nonbei brings in the freshest and highest quality sashimi. Chuu-Toro is the fattiest, most prized part of Ahi and this one was melt-in-your-mouth goodness!

The hamachi sashimi was also heavenly. Artfully displayed and generously portioned.

The agedashi tofu was slightly crispy, with the right amount of chewyness floating in a delicate broth.

One of their signature dishes is the Karei Karaage. Lightly battered and deep fried flounder. So crispy that every part of the fish (skin, bones, head, and all) can be put into your mouth. Oishii!!

We also had some enoki mushrooms and eggplant sauteed in a shoyu butter sauce.

Lastly, to end our meal (as in traditional Japanese style), we enjoyed rice and assorted tsukemono (pickled vegetables). My mom and grandma had plain white rice, but I had the miso yaki-onigiri, grilled musubi brushed with a sweet miso, with a toasty, caramelized crust.

The homemade tsukemono was displayed so beautifully and tasted like it was made with loving hands and long hours of devotion.

This place got my grandma's stamp of approval, and it sure got mine! Although it can be pretty pricey, the quality is well worth it. This place was recognized nationally by Gourmet magazine, and Chef Mavro has been known to dine here as well. If you're feeling like you miss Japan (or want to one day visit there) treat yourself to this tiny Japanese treasure trove.

Izakaya Nonbei
3108 Olu Street (off Kapahulu Ave, across from Safeway)
Honolulu, HI