Friday, July 29, 2011

Park Chalet: San Francisco's park oasis

The Park Chalet located in Golden Gate Park is one of the city's most iconic restaurants. It is my favorite place to relax on a rare sunny afternoon in the park. The Park Chalet is an expansion of the world famous Beach Chalet. The two restaurants share a building but each face different directions, the Park Chalet faces East to GGP and the Beach Chalet faces West overlooking beautiful Ocean Beach. The architecture and grounds of the Park Chalet really sets the restaurant apart from any other in the city. The interior of the restaurant plays on the natural park surroundings with all glass walls and ceiling, so even if you are inside you still feel as if you are literally in the park. The lawn outside the restaurant is a great place to eat al fresco or catch a few rays on a weekend while enjoying one of the Park Chalet's specialty brews. One time, I was entertained for a good half-hour watching some young guy try and impress the ladies with his yoga skills (sadly it worked).

Everyday of the week features a different special in addition to their special summer activities. This summer they are featuring a "family staycation" give-away for five as well as the Summer JAMband Family Festival. Monday is $2 pint, followed by Taco Tuesdays with $2.50 tacos, half-price margaritas and $3 pints. Wednesday to Friday feature the 3-6-9 Happy Hour with menus and food specials for $3, $6, and $9 as well as a free Friday Movie Night. Sunday is the popular Recovery Brunch Buffet, an all you can eat and drink mimosas special for $25. The Park Chalet is a great place to bring a date, meet friends or entertain out of town guests on a budget. The location is beautiful and on a sunny day in the city, no other restaurant compares to the bustle of patrons on the lush lawn enjoying a delicious cheap beer.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Yummy Shabu Shabu at Shabusen Restaurant

Shabusen Restaurant serves up some of the best shabu shabu in San Francisco. Shabusen, located on the Peace Plaza in Japantown, is an authentic Japanese (-American) restaurant serving shabu shabu as well as sukiyaki.

The shabu shabu menu is limited but delicious. It's either chicken, beef, shrimp plus the accompanying vegetables. We shared the both beef and shrimp between three people. I recommend ordering 2 plates of protein for 2-3 people and then add a plate per person after that, depending on how much you tend to eat. The vegetable plate comes with every order but is a bit disappointing. I am used to a variety of noodles and vegetables with my shabu shabu, but Shabusen serves up 90% cabbage with a few carrots, noodles, mushroom and cubes of tofu. Not the great selection I have come to expect with shabu shabu. Add a side of rice or an appetizer per person for a little variety. The one thing I did like the best were the dipping sauces. The ponzu-style and miso-based dipping sauces were a perfect accompaniment to my shabu shabu.

I recommend Shabusen for delicious authentic shabu shabu. It really is the best shabu shabu in Japantown.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Gourmet Carousel: Cheap and Delicious Chinese Food

Looking for excellent Chinese food at rock bottom prices? Look no further than Gourmet Carousel. Located in Lower Pacific Heights, Gourmet Carousel has been serving up delicious Chinese food for over 25 years. This restaurant epitomizes the saying "don't judge a book by it's cover." The building is in desperate need of a new coat of paint and the dining room needs a complete make-over, but the food is tasty. The tables are a little too close, but that closeness lends to the authentic family feel of the restaurant.

The food at the restaurant is some of the best in San Francisco. A perk of eating in is the complementary "house soup" for the table. The last time I went it was a scrumptious potato and cabbage soup. Each dish is full of flavor and comes out fast. The menu is packed with house specialties like Sizzling Chicken in a Clay Pot, Shredded Pork in Plum Sauce, Salt and Pepper Spareribs, and Prawns with Hot Sauce. My favorite appetizers are the Fried Egg Rolls, Fried Won Tons, Pot Stickers, Hot and Sour Soup, and Won Ton Soup. Some of the main dish highlights are the Mu-Shu Chicken, Salt and Pepper Prawns, General Tso's Chicken, Mongolian Beef, and any of the fresh vegetable side dishes.

Gourmet Carousel is the best deal in town. Lunch specials start at $4.95 and don't top $5.95. Side dishes average $8 and are so large that my fiance couldn't even finish his Mongolian Beef by himself (that is a first ever).  The only downfall is that they don't deliver. (Gasp!) The Gourmet Carousel moves to it's own beat, but it's a tasty beat. Next time you are looking for a delicious, cheap, Chinese food experience try the Gourmet Carousel.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Umami: Trendy but why?

Umami, located in the Marina district, is a hugely popular sushi restaurant. The reason why it is rated so high is a mystery to me. I have to say, I was not impressed with Umami one bit when I went there for dinner a few weeks ago. The restaurant is beautifully decorated and quaint but the food was just plain horrible. The classic sushi and nigiri is passable but not extraordinary. The menu nose-dives with it's "hot kitchen" menu. My friend and I ordered the Rock Shrimp Tempura, Spicy Tuna & Avocado Salad, Potstickers, and the Seasonal Kakiage (Vegetable) Tempura. The potstickers were good but there was nothing that set them apart from the $4.95 potstickers I could have gotten from my go-to corner delivery joint. The rock shrimp tempura and the seasonal vegetable tempura were not palatable. Sadly, I had to do what I hate and send back the rock shrimp tempura. The tempura was covered in a heavy mayonnaise aioli that made the shrimp taste as if they were trying to cover up cheap fried popcorn shrimp from Sizzler. Not good at all.

The only good thing about Umami is that they have a decent happy hour. From 5:30-7pm they have great drink and food specials (stick to the sushi) and half-off bottles of wine. Next time you are looking for sushi in the Marina, look elsewhere than Umami.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Memphis Minnie's: Best BBQ in San Francisco

Memphis Minnie's is by far the best BBQ in San Francisco. The unassuming joint in the lower Haight serves up the tastiest brisket, tri-tip, ribs and other fine BBQ treats in the city. Everything at Memphis Minnie's is slow smoked Southern style, no gas or electric here. All the meats are smoked at least 4 hours (some up to 18 hours) over white oak logs, lending it the authentic taste that Memphis Minnie's is known for.

Memphis Minnie's is usually busy all day, which is a testament to how delicious it's smoked meats really are; however, the food comes out hot and fast. They are known for their Slow Cooked Texas Beef Brisket but the menu also has an assortment of fine dishes if you aren't a fan of traditional brisket. Popular main dishes are the: St. Louis Style Pork Ribs, Santa Maria Tri-Tip Steak Plate, Smoked Chicken Plate and the Two Way Combo (any two meats) for those who can't make decisions. The Smokehouse Sandwiches are also an excellent choice for lunch or dinner for those with a smaller appetite.

Memphis Minnie's is plain delicious. The meats are smoked to perfection, the sides are super tasty and they even have creative desserts like the Smoked Pecan Bacon Brittle. Yum! Next time you are looking for BBQ in the city, hit up Memphis Minnie's and you won't be disappointed.