Friday, April 29, 2011

Modern Thai on Polk Street

I recently went to Modern Thai with my friend Dianna. I had passed this little restaurant for years on Polk at Bush Street but never actually stopped to eat there. When we first walked into Modern Thai I was a little taken back to see the entire restaurant was empty on a Thursday night at 7pm. I eventually figured out they do a lot of take-out compared to eat-in as the delivery guy was constantly on the go. The inside of the restaurant is simple and clean. A few of the walls are painted lime green and bright red, lending the "modern" to Modern Thai. Other than the colorful walls, the restaurant isn't modern or hip. It's just a basic large Thai restaurant but it does have a few tables outside on Polk Street for those rare warm nights.

Modern Thai offers all the popular specialties you would find at any average Thai restaurant. Main dishes cost from $7-12 and appetizers $5-8. The menu has a large selection of pan fried noodle and fried rice dishes in addition to entrees that come with your choice of tofu (vegetarian); chicken, pork or beef (for $1 extra); or shrimp (for $2 extra). I was particularly impressed with the Pad See-Ew (flat rice noodles with egg and broccoli), Thai basil with chicken, spicy green beans with shrimp and vegetarian egg rolls. The flavors were good but the dishes didn't stand out from any other Thai restaurant. I did have one major problem with the food in that it came way out too fast and I mean within 2 minutes of ordering. The waiter didn't have time to open our wine and pour our first glass before our entrees arrived. I found this a bit unnerving that the food comes out so fast. When I questioned why the food was done so quickly the waiter told me it was "fresh" whereas I call it "pre-made". I was a quite disappointed that the food wasn't fresh nor made to order. Next time they should wait at least 5 minutes before bringing out the food so that you think it was made special for your table. As for the wine, Modern Thai offers wine specials during the week, $15 for a bottle of cheap red wine. It's pretty good too, but it will produce one heck of a hangover in the morning.

Modern Thai on Polk is an average Thai restaurant. The food is good but not exceptional. I would recommend ordering take-out rather than eating in. The actual restaurant doesn't have much to offer in the way of ambiance or service.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

San Francisco to Host Professional Surf Competition

The Association of Surfing Professionals announced Sunday that San Francisco will be home to the tenth event of their World Tour. Sometime between November 1st and 11th, thirty-five professional surfers will descend on the unpredictable waters of Ocean Beach to be crowned the Rip Curl Search ASP World Tour champion. Due to the erratic nature of waves at Kelly's Cove, the actual date won't be announced until officials know Mother Nature will cooperate.

It's been over a decade since San Francisco has hosted a professional surfing competition and Rip Curl, the main sponsor, is keeping the event low-key. You'll be able to sit back and enjoy the show because there won't be any expos, festivals or concerts. The best part is it's FREE, so come out to the beach and see some of the best surfers in the world tear it up.

Five tips:

1. Pack your own food and beverages. Ocean Beach doesn't have much to offer in the way of restaurants and what they do have is expensive, so bring your own and save a bundle of money.

2. Take MUNI. Parking will be a madhouse. Numerous lines begin and end at Ocean Beach. The 38, 38L, and 31 lines will drop you closest to the event.

3. Wear warm clothes. It's going to be cold and breezy. Average temperature in November in the Outer Sunset is mid-50's.

4. Bring a blanket or folding chair to sit on. Any public seating will fill up fast so don't count on finding a spot.

5. Come early. Since Mavericks was cancelled this year, the event is expected to be crowded.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ah Lin Restaurant: Best Chinese Food Delivery

Ah Lin Restaurant in Pacific Heights is the best Chinese food delivery in town. I've tried numerous Chinese restaurants and this one is clearly the best. The Wok Shop on Sutter and Franklin is a close second but their crab puffs don't even come close to the delicious flavors of Ah Lin.

Ah Lin is run by a husband and wife who seem to never have a break and literally are at the restaurant from open to close everyday. In addition to delivery and take-out, Ah Lin has a very nice dining room if you want to eat at the restaurant. They offer beer and wine and the service is fast and friendly. Ordering take-out and delivery is easy over the phone or online. I prefer online, so that I can type in any modifications I want to the dishes, which is never a problem. Plus if you order online, you can take advantage of the online coupon offers: one free soda or Thai ice tea for orders of $15 or more; free order of egg rolls or green onion cakes for orders of $30 or more and free wonton or hot and sour soup for orders of $40 or more.

My favorite dishes at Ah Lin are the Mongolian Beef and Shrimp with Black Bean Sauce. The appetizers at Ah Lin are also the best in the city. The crab puffs and dumplings are homemade and bursting with flavors. The egg rolls although offered in chicken, vegetarian or shrimp are really only available in vegetarian so keep that in mind if you order online. Also, the owner makes her own spicy mustard which is one of the reasons this restaurant is so highly rated. No more packaged preservative filled sauces!

The quality of the food can't be beat. Next time your looking to order Chinese food delivery give Ah Lin a try.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Ryoko's Japanese Restaurant

I discovered Ryoko's Japanese restaurant with a friend a few weeks back. She is a regular at the restaurant and I was quite excited to see what she was raving about. Once we walked into this little gem near Union Square, I knew I was in sushi fun fun heaven. We went on a Tuesday night, not a normal happening night at Ryoko but the vibe was still happening and hip. One reason the atmosphere was so fun was every time a customer entered the restaurant, the entire staff said, "hello and welcome" in Japanese. It wasn't your normal boring "hello" but a sort of sing song whimsical "hello" found in a Disney princess movie. Every time the staff greeted a new customer, I couldn't help but smile.

Ryoko's has to be the most hip and happening sushi restaurant in San Francisco. For 23 years they have perfected the sushi experience and it shows. They are open 7 days a week from 6pm to 2am. It's a great late night healthy snack alternative to pizza or a burrito. Plus on Thursday, Friday and Saturday night they have live DJ spinning in the restaurant.

The sushi and sashimi is super fresh, flown in from Japan and other spots around the world. They offer a daily specials menu with exciting rolls as well as fresh catches. The sushi menu has some amazing rolls with creative SF names such as Spicy Golden Gate, Alcatraz and Humboldt. The bar has a wide selection of hot and cold sake plus a full bar for cocktails and mixed drinks, a rarity in a sushi restaurant.

I will definitely be back to this neighborhood gem. Word of advice make a reservation or arrive right at 6pm or else you will be stuck waiting for a table. This place is hot and the crowds rarely diminish even in the late hours.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Best Pizza in San Francisco: Village Pizzeria on Van Ness

Village Pizzeria is by far the best pizza in San Francisco. I've tried a plethora of pizza places and none compare to the delicious thin crust New York style pizza of Village. Amici's and Victor's on Polk are a close second, but Village blows them out of the water.

Village Pizzeria is located on Van Ness and Sutter and has been serving the Bay Area since 1979. Village offers delivery as well as dine-in service. Delivery orders can be placed online and by phone. One perk to the phone ordering is if you are a repeating customer, you have the option of keeping your credit card on file for even faster and easier service. Eating at the restaurant is also fun because you can sit at the counter and watch the pizza experts toss the dough in the air and they often have specials. Village also offers pizza by the slice if you are on-the-go.

In addition to pizza, Village also makes great salads, appetizers and pasta. My favorite are the spicy chicken wings that literally set my mouth on fire but taste so darn good. The garlic bread, antipasto salad and Greek salad are also favorites of mine. The peperoni pizza is excellent although it can be quite greasy. The specialty Hawaiian pizza is also a hit.

Next time you are ordering pizza check out Village Pizzeria on Van Ness for some of the best New York style pizza in San Francisco.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Lalola Bar de Tapas

Lalola Bar de Tapas is a family owned and operated food and wine bar on the corner of Mason and Pacific in North Beach. Located on the famous Powell-Mason cable car line, it's an easily accessible place to meet up with friends after work. I visited last week for the first time for happy hour and dinner. I was a bit nervous to pick a place that doesn't take any reservations but luckily we were able to beat the crowd and get a prime window table.

The menu is a your standard tapas menu with a few exciting extras. The dishes come in three sizes, Pincho (single bit portion, so you don't have to share), Tapa (a few bites, can be shared) and Racion (a big tapa, so you can happily share) but not all dishes are available in the multiple sizes. It was nice to have the choice in sizes of the dishes as my fiance always complains he is hungry after tapas, so it's hard to get him to try this sort of place. Last week we tried the, Madrid-style Tapas Bar Fries, Mixed green Salad with olive oil vinaigrette, Breaded zucchini sticks, Mushrooms in garlic and white wine, Fried Calamari with aioli, Crab-Stuffed Piquillo Peppers with bechamel and tomato and Shelled Garlic Pimenton Shrimp. The food was OK. I did not like the crab-stuffed piquillo peppers and was underwhelmed with the other selections. The food was esthetically pleasing but the taste just wasn't there. I have a feeling we ordered some of the boring dishes but our server didn't help us to choose or recommend the dishes of the house. Next time I come, I will order the Paella and some of the larger more exciting dishes like the Beer-Braised Stew and Moorish Style Pork Skewers and hope for the better. However, on the flip side, LaLoLa does have a great wine list with some delicious wines you don't see everyday. Plus they have great happy hour specials with $3 white or red sangria and $3 Stella on tap.

The best perk to Lalola is the 1.5 validated parking in the Vallejo Garage, such a treat for a restaurant in North Beach. My first visit to Lalola as underwhelming, but I'm looking forward to my next visit, so this cute neighborhood gem can redeem itself.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Freddie's: A Classic Sandwich Shop

Freddie's sandwich shop has been making delicious sandwiches in San Francisco since 1926. The primary location of this little neighborhood gem is Francisco and Stockton in North Beach. It's an institution for people who grew up in the neighborhood and went to Francisco Middle School. It's quite entertaining and timeless to see the kids line up for sodas, sandwiches and candy. The second location just opened up on Pine and Polk in the Polk Gultch neighborhood and I couldn't be happier. Our closest sandwich shop was Whole Foods which is barely passable compared to Freddie's.

Best things about Freddie's are the super nice people who work there. It clearly is a family joint and it shows. Service with a smile but that warm grandparent type smile. My favorite sandwich is the chicken salad with the pepercini spread. Yum! The dutch crunch is amazing and the drink selection endless. I love this place.

Best Indian Restaurant Delivery in San Francisco

Darbar on Polk and Bush is the BEST Indian restaurant delivery in San Francisco. I am a big fan of Indian food and have tried a good portion of the restaurants in the city and nothing compares to the wonderful flavors of Darbar or the value. As most restaurants charge $9.99 or more for your basic Chicken Korma Curry dish, Darbar only charges $6.99. Yah!

Darbar has some of the fastest delivery in the city. Although they tell you 45 minutes on the phone, it usually arrives in about 20-25 minutes. Not only are they prompt, the delivery persons are super nice and have never forgot anything, not a dipping sauce or even a napkin. Darbar does have a bit of a trick to get the lower prices when ordering their food for delivery. If you call and order, you get the in-restaurant menu prices, example: Chicken Tikka Masala for $6.99 and Vegi Samosas $1.99 but if you order via their website it costs $9.99 and $2.99 respectively. But if you use to place your order (and not the company they use thru their official website) you still get the banging Tikka Masala for $6.99. It's best to order via the phone to lock down the good prices plus if you order $30 or more for delivery you get a free appetizer or dessert for saying you found them on Yelp.

My favorite main dishes that have never disappointed are: Chicken Tikka Masala (a classic), Chicken Makhani (delicious butter cream sauce), Chicken Vindaloo (spicy spicy spicy!) and Chicken Korma (yummy coconut based cream sauce). I always order the garlic and plain nan and the two types of samosas, vegi and lamb. I seldom branch out of these fine dishes but I can say they are always spot on thus the other dishes must be too!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Zuppa: At one time a great Italian Restaurant in SOMA

I moved to San Francisco over three years ago and one of the first restaurants I went to was Zuppa in SOMA. It was one of my favorite spots right away. I even threw a birthday party for my (now) fiance in the private loft area upstairs. But now the food and service is terribly inconsistent and the place is a shell of what it once was.

We ate at Zuppa with some friends a few weeks ago. We started with the Margherita pizza which was (as always) absolutely delicious. I wish we had stopped there because that was the highlight of our meal. Three of the four of us ordered the Ragu di Campagna and the forth, the pasta with muscles. I know it's not foodie hip to order the same thing but usually the ragu is the best part of Zuppa and we all wanted it. Whom ever was cooking that night had no food quality control and just sent out whatever he or she felt was passable as my ragu had about 10 noodles and a pound of sauce and my other two companions had a bowl full of naked noodles and very little sauce. Anyone working expedite or in the kitchen could visibly see how ridiculous it really was. And to top it off my friend's pasta with muscles had 3, yes 3 total muscles, little guys too. I was really disappointed in the food at Zuppa and that was probably the last time I will go back. It's the third strike. Last time I went, I got food poisoning from a bad oyster appetizer while I was still eating my dinner (and my friend also got sick).

Zuppa once was a great Italian restaurant in the city but sadly it no longer has the same quality food it once had. The atmosphere is hip with the raw concrete walls and the private party loft upstairs, and the happy hour is one of the best in SOMA. But sadly the food just doesn't make the cut. Bye bye Zuppa!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Pour House: A quiet glass of wine on Polk Street

The Pour House on Polk Street is a great place for a glass of wine or microbrew after work. It conveniently opens at 4pm, the time I think happy hour should start. The Pour House used to be SNOB (Sonoma, Napa or Beyond) but the subsequently changed the name and the vibe. SNOB was a bit pretentious and the service was about as rude as a NYC cab driver at 2am. I went twice before the name change and both times I felt as if I was inconveniencing the bartender by gracing her with my presence. But this has all changed, thankfully.

The Pour House has turned into a fabulous low-key semi-hipster place. The new atmosphere is relaxed, there is plenty of seating with a long wood bar (with purse hooks), 3 overstuffed couches up front and a splattering of tables in the dark, romantic back of the bar. Unless you know the majority of the people sitting on the couches, it can be a bit awkward to sit there. My friend and I started out on the couches but later moved after a group of 5 sat down. I really felt I was invading someone's living room couch. So if you have space issues or don't like people listening to your conversation then pick a seat at the bar or one of the tables in the back.

The bar offers 40 different premium wines and 25 microbrews (10 on tap). The bartender on duty was a very nice young man who unfortunately went to UCONN (I didn't hold it against him, we still tipped). My only complaint is that the cheese plate is horrible. First off you have two cheese choices, Jarlsberg and an unidentified crumbled goat cheese. The two cheeses come with massive wheat crackers that do nothing to compliment the cheese. The best part was the dish of salty olives. If I wasn't so starved, I would have told him he could keep it after my first glance. Another food option is to order from one of the restaurants on Polk Street and have them deliver right to you at the bar.

I'm happy to report that The Pour House is a great location for a quick drink on Polk Street.