Brenda’s

5 05 2013

Hello world! I am back. After a brief hiatus to take some dumb engineering test, and then some subsequent rest to do things like see the sunshine, remind friends that I exist, and generally sit doing nothing at all, I am ready to bloggulate again. Let’s kick this biatch off with Brenda’s.

Beignets

Brenda’s Beignets

Brenda’s French Soul Food is in the TL. That’s SF-speak for the Tenderloin. Which is the filth-ridden, junkie-laden, pristinely located neighborhood right in the middle of the city between all the other neighborhoods you like (ex: downtown, Hayes Valley, Nob Hill, etc.). The Tenderloin is like San Francisco’s booby trap for visitors who stumble into the area accidentally, and just a puss-filled blemish on the landscape that natives avoid most of the time.

Sunlit Brenda's

Sunlit Brenda’s

Sometimes something good takes up residence in the TL. Brenda’s is one of these diamonds in the rough, if you will. Last time I took a cab here, my driver was very confused.

Driver: “You want to go where?”

Me: “Polk between Turk and Eddy.”

Driver: “Are you sure?”

Me: “Yes, it’s ok, I’m meeting people there.”

Drivers are overly concerned when I request seemingly perilous destinations, for some reason.

Anyway, Brenda’s is awesome. It’s a decent-sized place and it will have a good SF wait for a table during weekend brunch. They do breakfast, lunch, dinner, and aforementioned weekend brunch. I’ve been for brunch and dinner, and both were very good.

Florentine $10

Florentine $10

Fried Catfish $11

Fried Catfish $11

For brunch, Alicia and I both ordered a Benedict of sorts. They have four choices of Benedicts, all $10 or $11. Comes with nice potatoes or grits.

The “dinner” I had there was just a mash of appetizers/sides shared between me and my two lady friends. The Brie en Croute salad was amazing. Fried shallots, sweet yummy dressing and a ridiculously good flaky bread-covered piece of warm brie. So good.

Brie en Croute Salad $8.50

Brie en Croute Salad $8.50

Other sides we shared were mac ‘n cheese, hush-puppies, and collard greens, and then a dessert of the (nearly mandatory)  Beignets and their special of peanut butter mud pie. The mac and puppies were really good, but the collard greens had an unidentified meat product in them which chased off the two veggies at the table. Plus, didn’t really love the taste, oddly. Usually I love any greens.

Mac & Cheese $5

Mac & Cheese $5

Hushpuppies $4.75

Hush-puppies $4.75

The Beignets are somewhat of a specialty; you get three per order and they’re massive! Choice of plain (no filling), chocolate, or apple. The sampler comes with one of each. Note also that the price of all these goods is relatively cheap, which makes any SF meal exciting. Aside from the location (which actually isn’t too far south of Nob Hill), it’s a great place.

Beignet Floght $6

Beignet Flight $6

Peanut Butter Mud Pie

Peanut Butter Mud Pie

Brenda's French Soul Food on Urbanspoon





Chaya

18 02 2013

Behold: Chaya.

The awesome thing about having a food blog in SF is that it’s no longer necessary to write bad reviews of restaurants. There’s just too much good stuff here to waste time on sub-par food. Chaya is one of the best places I’ve been in a while.

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It’s mom’s birthday. More than a pony, she wants a nice meal at an upscale restaurant — preferably with a view of the water — and a fun night with her daughters. Choosing a restaurant is always difficult, but we settled on Chaya, though none of us had been there before.

Chaya is on Embarcadero across the street and a bit south from the Ferry Building. It has large windows that look directly out onto the Bay Bridge. The atmosphere is fancy but not pretentious. The menu is amazing.

Our entrance involved unexpectedly squeezing all three of us into one revolving door compartment. The hostess said she’s never seen anyone do that. Well, we’re from Hayward, so, there’s that. We should not be trusted to act normal in public. Thankfully they still served us.

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The food is French/Japanese. Weird, right? Literally everything on the menu looked amazing. They have lots of creative seafood dishes, salads, sushi, steaks, and amazing sides. Oddly, there were no mains for strict vegetarians, though there were a few appetizers, sides, and a small sushi section.

Bottles of wine were half off on Sundays, #win. We ordered a sushi roll starter to share, mom and I ordered the same cod dish for dinner, and sister ordered filet mignon. At the recommendation of the waiter, we could not resist sharing the macaroni and cheese side to share as well. There were literally no complaints about anything. It was all amazing.

San Francisco Roll: crab, shrimp (cooked), avocado, cucumber, tomato, asparagus, soy paper

San Francisco Roll: crab, shrimp (cooked), avocado, cucumber, tomato, asparagus, soy paper

Soy Glazed Local Black Cod: hijiki brown rice, tempura green beans, baby bok choy

Soy Glazed Local Black Cod: hijiki brown rice, tempura green beans, baby bok choy

Angus Filet Mignon: fingerling potatoes, creamed swiss chard, black truffle sauce

Angus Filet Mignon: fingerling potatoes, creamed swiss chard, black truffle sauce

Fontina Macaroni Cheese with white truffle oil

Fontina Macaroni Cheese with white truffle oil

Particularly ridiculously amazing was the creamed chard with the filet and the rice that came with the cod. I could have eaten an entire vat of either. Yeah, I just made something delicate and delicious sound gross. Sorry.

Dessert was chocolate croissant bread pudding for me and sis, a nice port wine for mom.

Chocolate croissant bread pudding with caramel ice cream

Chocolate croissant bread pudding with caramel ice cream

Mains are around $30 each, appetizers in the $12-$20 range. The half price bottle of wine saved us $25, and the whole endeavor was appropriately priced for the quality of the experience. Certainly not an every-week affair, but completely perfect for a special occasion. Ten stars.





Cafe Jacqueline

11 06 2012

Looking for a romantic dinner for two in the City? Cafe Jacqueline fits the bill: dim lighting; cozy, high-ceilinged dining area; chic vintage minimalist decor. This North Beach restaurant isn’t your standard Little Italy establishment for sure, but it’s also unique in the City as a whole. Which isn’t something you find too often.

What Cafe Jacqueline does is souffles. What is a souffle? It’s something that people of my parents’ and grandparents’ generation revered and feared. Like Donald Trump’s hair nowadays. People probably used to look to Julia Child for guidance on this difficult and notably finicky dish; I’d just go to Jackie*.

Since Wiki says it best, I’ll just quote that a souffle is a “lightly baked cake made with egg yolks and beaten egg whites combined with various other ingredients and served as a savory main dish or sweetened as a dessert”. Yeah, that. As a savory dinner dish, it’s like a ramekin-ed, puffy quiche. As a dessert, it’s like an airy, warm cake.

Chocolate souffle. Read on.

While some of the fancier restaurants around offer souffles on their menu, this is the only restaurant I know of that is dedicated exclusively to this one dish. Dinner? Savory souffle with cheese and veggies. Dessert? Chocolate or fruity souffle. Each is made for two people to share, making it a great place for a romantic date.

So, naturally, I went with my mom. We shared the spinach souffle for dinner and the chocolate souffle for dessert. You order both at the same time because it takes FOREVER for Jacqueline (I believe she’s the actual person back there, the one with the wooden spoon and all the magic) to queue these things up. A few tips:

  • This is not Applebee’s. You will not be in and out of here in an hour. This is a three-hour minimum ordeal. Prepare adequately.
  • The service is slow (addendum to above). Again, not Applebee’s. They will not come to your table every 45 seconds to make sure you don’t need yet another side of ranch dressing. I found the staff to be courteous and friendly, but they aren’t in a rush and they don’t expect you to be either.
  • Reservations are a good idea. There are a limited number of tables, this place is popular, and there appears to be usually just the one seating. If you’re serious about going, call ahead.
  • The souffles are hot. I know you’re hungry, but you’re going to burn the shit out of yourself if you’re not patient. I learned the hard way; I advise that you do not.
  • You can have groups bigger than two people, but the souffles are meant for two people. As Alicia would say, sharing is caring.

Spinach souffle about halfway through… I was hungry and forgot to take a picture at the start.

Spinach salad

Butter lettuce salad

The food was good. The salads were not the best (spinach was mom’s and she said it was good; butter lettuce was mine and was really just butter lettuce with a light spritzing of something slightly more flavorful than water… could have done without it). The spinach souffle (with gruyere) was really, really good. Salty. Flavorful. Fluffy. Recommended.

The chocolate souffle was good, but I fear I was hoping for something different that downplayed the goodness. What I really wanted was molten chocolate cake (a la Lake Chalet or Buon Appetito) that somehow contained more volume of sugar than there was volume of actual cake. This was a light, fluffy cake with some melty goo in the middle. It was not overly sweet. I think it was well-executed (and, again, ridiculously hot: danger) and tasted very good. But it was not corn-syrup-super-duper-sugar madness that I come to expect (and desire) from a chocolate dessert. Just know that going in and you’ll be fine. Or, don’t be me and you’ll probably be fine too.

Chocolate goo innards of chocolate souffle. Mmmm…

Overall: CJ does a great job. Go, be merry, and eat souffles.

*I’m taking liberties with her name. I hope she’s cool with that.

Cafe Jacqueline on Urbanspoon








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