(San Fran Trip) Swan Oyster Depot – Nob Hill

And so this last post wraps up our final San Fran trip series. On the last morning of our stay, we went to the famous Swan Oyster Depot to get some early seafood for takeout. We decided that it’d just be better to go when it opens so we’re not lining up for hours and wasting our time.

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Impressive display of seafood
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Swan Oyster Depot’s Deliver Truck parked out front

When we got there, they were just opening for business and everyone was very busy shucking, deshelling, and just in general preparing for the busy day they have ahead of them.

We decided to get a couple things to try out a selection of their foods.

First off, tfung wanted one last clam chowder before we left SFO so we got a small, which came with little flower-shaped crackers. The crackers were just placed with no container into the paper bag with the bowl of clam chowder for us to take home. Unfortunately, it wasn’t all that exciting since it was in an ugly styrofoam bowl, so we didn’t take a photo of it. The chowder was not bad. It was not too thick (like the Boudin ones) and not too runny. There was lots of clam flavour without any fishy taste. There were potatoes in it which makes me nostalgic of the first clam chowder I’ve ever had (Chunky’s). The soup was still pretty hot even though we had taken it out and it took us at least 20 minutes to get home. Also with the crackers, it was pretty good.

We also got the crab cocktail, which was a bowl (same size as the clam chowder) of deshelled crab meat and cocktail sauce. We originally thought they were going to put the cocktail sauce on the side, but they did not. They literally drowned the delicious, beautiful crab meat in it. We were extremely disappointed at this gesture and honestly I thought they ruined the seafood. The cocktail sauce was too sweet, too thick and just overall gross. We tried to dry off the crab meat in our hotel room with tissue. At one point I thought about using water to rinse it, but we also wanted to hit the Ferry Building Market before we left for the airport so we didn’t.

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A dozen oysters

Finally the star of the meal was definitely the oysters. We were looking forward to these as we had heard good things about them. We ordered just a dozen oysters (their pick), and I actually snagged this cute miniature bottle of tobasco sauce on the way home. The oysteres were put on this cardboard platter, and was wrapped in paper, taped to secure it. I thought it was a pretty simple and efficient way of takeout for shucked oysters. The oysters were good, but still did not match up to the Royal Miyagis we had at the Ferry Building Market. These were not as fresh and sweet as the royal miyagis and many of them had a strong fish taste. Some of them had some sand it in as well. It was decent oysters, but I didn’t think it was the best.

Overall, we thought the hype over Swan Oyster Depot was not true to their products. Their seafood is good, but it’s not amazing. As a seafood specialty store, I would have expected more from them. I do have to say that their speed is excellent, and everyone knows their roles to the T. No one is standing around wondering what the next thing they have to do is, which is essential for a successful food establishment. I do recommend you give it a try, but not if you have to wait a long time for it.

Service: 4/5
Food: 7.7/10
Atmosphere: ~
Price: $20-60 (depends how much you get!)

Swan Oyster Depot on Urbanspoon

~kehwon

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(San Fran Trip) The House – North Beach

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The house is a small restaurant in North Beach just east of Chinatown that serves Asian-American fusion cuisine. In actuality, the food is closer to Western cuisine than Asian cuisine. The ambiance as we walked in was casual and relaxed. It was dimly lit, but the decor was basic and not too refined. It felt like an average restaurant that just dimmed the lights to try and appear more upscale.

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Grilled Sea Bass with garlic ginger soy

Anyways, on to the important stuff – the food. I ordered the Grilled Sea Bass. The sea bass was very well done. It was cooked to perfection. It was moist, soft, and tender. There was a thin crust on the outside from being pan seared which was browned very well. The sea bass was accompanied with string beans which was a bit tough and chewy, but seasoned well. The ginger soy was a really good sauce that went well with the sea bass. I found that overuse of the sauce masked the flavour of the fish, so I only used it sparingly. Overall, I thought the sea bass was very good.

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Kurobuta Pork Chop with pomegranate currant sauce

Karen ordered the Pork Chop. Initially they asked us if we wanted medium rare or medium. Because of the high risk of trichinosis with eating raw pork, she ordered the pork medium well.  It was a pretty large pork chop making the dish a good sized portion. The pork chop was thick, juicy, and like the sea bass, it was done to perfection. The sauce was but sweet and savory. The sweetness came from the pomegranate currants, and the savory came from the richness of the drippings from the pork chop. The noodles that the pork chop came with were a bit of a let down. It was their attempt at fusing Chinese cuisine. The noodles were flavoured in this garlic soy sauce that just tasted like american-chinese fast food noodles. We were not impressed by that, but the pork chop made up plenty for that.

The house is a fusion restaurant that really is just a North American restaurant that uses one or two ingredients that are commonly seen in Asian dishes. However, the quality of the food is very far from typical. Their pork chop and sea bass were both very delicious dishes that used fresh ingredients and were excellently prepared. This justified the relatively higher price.

Service: 3.5/5
Food: 8.5/10
Atmosphere: Fusion, Casual,
Price: $30-50

The House on Urbanspoon

~ Thomas

(San Fran Trip) Woodhouse Fish Co. – Castro

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Following our trip to the outlets, we decided to hit Fillmore street, home to many boutique shops I wanted to visit. We also were excited to be here because of the Woodhouse Fish Company. We had searched up where we could get lunch around this area the night before and settled for this place.

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We actually arrived quite late for lunch, around 3-4pm. The place was very quiet, with about 2 other tables other than us. We read the menu quickly and settled with our picks with anticipation.

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After having the Scoma cold crab, I had been craving for more crab. So I ordered the Toasted-Buttered Dungeoness Crab Roll. It was absolutely delicious. They gave generous portions of crab, which was of good quality due to its sweetness. The roll was nicely buttered and toasted, giving the perfect smoothness that the crab needed. Without a doubt, if I came back here I’d order the same thing. The fries were not anything to be mentioned. The coleslaw was advertised as house-made, and was pretty good. However I wish they gave a little bit more so I could truly taste it.

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Tfung ordered the Baja-Style Fish Tacos. I thought the fish was too dry and the batter they fried it in was horrible. The tacos were cold and powdery. I wasn’t a huge fan of the sauce as I felt it didn’t mesh everything together properly. It was like someone just threw random ingredients together that didn’t fit well. Tfung thought it was pretty good, but I thought the Tres Carnales fish tacos from Edmonton were way better.

Overall their service was pretty good but it was hard to determine, as it was the slowest time of the day. The server was nice, friendly and gave us good time to decide what we wanted to order. He did disappear for a while when we were ready to pay, but we just got his attention when he reappeared.

Service: 3/5
Food: 7.7/10
Atmosphere: sailor/nautical, diner
Price: $10-20

Woodhouse Fish Company on Urbanspoon

(San Fran Trip) Minamoto Kitchoan – Financial District

Tfung’s friend had recommended us try this shop as she had a very good experience with the sweets, and she knew that I liked Japanese snacks. I have to be honest and say that the service fluctuated a lot. We came to this shop 3 times, and the first time we were here, the person was so rude and unhappy to be serving us. We were purchasing at least 5 items and she gave me this nasty attitude that I did not appreciate. However the other two times were ok and there was one person who was very nice, patient and polite.

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I liked how the store was setup, with the display as non-perishable gummy models of what the sweets look like. They have a back store-room where they store everything, since a lot of them need to be refridgerated. They receive their shipments from Japan every day, since some of the sweets expire in about 3 days since day of purchase.

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I bought the Green Tea Puff at the recommendation of Bernice :). She and I have quite similar tastes and all the recommendations she’s given me so far has lived up to her hype about it. This was the same. It looks like a macaron but the texture is more like a more elastic sponge cake, with the crust being slightly crumbly/crunchy. The butter cream filling was absolutely amazing, unlike most green tea flavours I’ve had. This was a true maccha taste, leaving that bitter aftertaste in your mouth. Since we went to the Japanese Tea Garden and experienced some real maccha tea, I thought this was very representative of high quality maccha. If you don’t like green tea, this is definitely not for you.

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We also ordered the Ayashirabe, which is a cake with white bean paste as filling. It was a little sweeter than I would have liked. It was also very filling and gives you that slightly nauseated feeling. I didn’t think this was a good purchase, but I guess it was a good try to rule out which sweets were good and which were bad.

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Finally we got the green tea mochi with white chocolate filling. I honestly had high hopes for this due to my love for authentic Japanese-made green tea products. However the white chocolate filling in this really turned me off. I hate white chocolate, and am a dark chocolate girl (as is tfung). But I gave this a try since I did love the maccha. The filling and the green tea didn’t go well together in my opinion and just tasted awkward, unbalanced and like someone just tried to mash two unwilling flavours together.

Overall I thought this sweet shop was nice to visit, but not a lot of their products were good. They had very interesting sweets, but it was almost like they tried to hard to be fresh and innovative. I’m a very traditional girl, loving authentic food. This might be why I wasn’t so impressed with most of their sweets (at least the ones I tried).

Service: 3/5
Food: 7.0/10
Atmosphere: proper, clean, Japanese-style
Price: $10-30

(San Fran Trip) Zuni Cafe – Hayes Valley

On the second full day that we were in Montreal after a good night’s sleep, we set out for Zuni Cafe. Tfung had made a reservation for the two of us for 12pm, but we arrived earlier than 12 and they weren’t letting us in. So we wandered over to the store across from Zuni Cafe.

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Apparently a lot of people do this, as the owner correctly guessed that we were waiting for Zuni Cafe to open. This store happened to be a very interesting one. It showcased some beautiful antique musical instruments. Not only that, but they hold monthly concerts with certain themes or composers. We saw a poster for Brahms <3.

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The most interesting piece was actually a piano that was recovered from the building next to the 911 incident site. I thought it was very special and it’s chance encounters like these on trips that make them that much more special.

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After a quick chat with the owner and admiring the pieces and the space, we started seeing patrons who were lined up outside Zuni Cafe heading in. So we decided to do so as well.

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We were seated on the top balcony at the front of the restaurant. The actual shape of this restaurant is very interesting, and is long and very geometrical. As a result, we got an incredible view of the kitchen being on the top floor. We ordered quickly as we were starving, and were told that the Roasted Chicken for 2 will be ready in about 50 minutes. So we took this time to take a good look at the kitchen and observing what each person was doing. It was very reminiscent of a tv show I watched about a boy who aspired to be the first chef of a brilliant Italian restaurant.

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Other than ordering the Roasted Chicken for 2, we also ordered some beloved oysters. They have a fairly longer list of oysters to choose from but we decided to get a Japanese and a West coast oyster (since we were on the West coast afterall). We ordered the Marin Miyagi and the Hog Island Kumamotos. We had Kumamotos before at Rodney’s Oyster House and remembered we had a good experience with it. The miyagi was no where as good as the Royal Miyagi we had at Ferry Building Market which was a little disappointing to us. It had some very fishy taste. But, the texture was very crunchy and creamy.

The Kumamoto was pretty good but I didn’t think there was anything spectacular to report. It had a little bit of the fishy taste, but the texture was good. The sauce was just a typical mignonette sauce with vinegar and some shallots.

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Roasted Chicken For 2

There was a very long lag time between our oysters and the roasted chicken. But as this picture may suggest to you, it was well worth it. We were able to observe the cook taking the roasted chicken out of the big stone ovens. She had set it down on the cutting board for a while to cool off and let the inside of the chicken cook, I suppose. During that time, she made the stuffing part of the dish. She had bread crumbs, some vinaigrette, pine nuts, dried craneberries thrown into the mix. It was also plated with some greens.

When the chicken came, we were so excited as we had heard lots of good things about it. You can see how excited he was:

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The chicken was so delicious. We usually don’t like to order chicken at restaurants because we believe it to be something we can make quite well, just like steaks. But here this dish is a must have! Really is worth the wait. The chicken was so tender and juicy, yet crispy on the outside, all the while taking in all the flavour of the glaze, yet still retaining the fresh flavour of chicken. It seemed so simple yet elegant, for the lack of better phrase. The stuffing was also very delicious. We both love pine nuts and I especially love dried cranberries as well. With the greens and the vinaigrette, it was the perfect accompaniment to the chicken.

I did think the service could have improved, but I suppose they have to keep a lot of other customers happy as it was a really big restaurant. The waitress was attentive at first but of left us alone after. When the chicken came, she never really tended to us until we had to flag her down to get the bill. The bar was very extensive and I thought it looked very nice with all the different colours. The one fault in the restaurant is that there are only two washrooms in the restaurant. It’s one of those one person per room ones, so it took a long time to wait for it. Especially when there are families that enter the one washroom and spend 15 minutes in there.

Overall we had a really good time here. We were seated in a nice spot and loved the chicken. We didn’t think that the oysters were all that great, but as we had been led to believe, the chicken really was the star of the restaurant. If I come back again, I will definitely order the chicken again because it was so delicious. Although we did not get to try their other dishes, we had a glance at them as they arrived at another table and by appearance, they looked good. I may explore other options on the menu next time.

Service: 3.5/5
Food: 8.8/10
Atmosphere: cafe/bistro, open kitchen, casual
Price: $30-40

~ kehwon

(San Fran Trip) Tadich Grill – Financial District

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After a long wait, we finally sat down, but only at the bar since the dining room would be an even longer wait. They do not take reservations and even though it was already 9pm, there were many people waiting for a seat. We had planned for this since many reviewers had mentioned Tadich’s popularity. Their setup is very peculiar but efficient. The long isle on the server side of the bar leads right to the kitchen so there is no need to criss cross between tables and makes it very easy for the servers to get your food and serve it to you. Everyone was extremely friendly and willing to have conversations with you if you are a traveler or just a regular customer. No body rushed us even though there were lots of customers waiting to be seated. The service was excellent.

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With San Francisco being famous for their clam chowders, we decide to order another one after having Boudin’s clam chowder, which was already decent. We were surprised by how much Tadich Grill spoiled us. This was one of the best clam chowders I have ever devoured. It was thicker and creamier than Boudin, which almost strays from soup territory. But, that consistency worked perfectly for the fully loaded soup. There is a generous amount of “stuff” they pack into this chowder and best of all, there is A LOT of clams. This chowder is so jam packed that the ingredients are sticking out of the top of the soup. It was rich, filling, and scrumptious.

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For our mains, I had the Seafood Cioppino and Karen had the Swordfish with Lobster claws. Cioppino is a fish stew that originates in San Francisco. In this dish, there was dungeness crab, clams, mussels, shrimp, scallops, squid and fish. As with the clam chowder, this dish was fully loaded.

Presentation on this dish was lacking. Although it was a stew, they did not take the time to arrange the seafood nicely. Their bowl they used to serve the food was very plain and had their logo on it in green letters. Not the best looking stew I’ve ever had, but the taste made up plenty for it.

The tomato based fish broth had a rich seafood flavour with herbs and mild spice. It really brings out the sweetness and the freshness of the seafood. The broth was very flavourful and rich, but was a bit on the watery side. I like my stews thicker and it was just not the thickness I expected from a stew. Overall, this dish was amazing. The seafood was cooked to perfection and there was a generous portion. The broth was so tasty that I found myself spooning it even after all the seafood was done. Even the garlic bread was very good.

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Again, presentation can be improved, but Tadich Grill is a homely, casual restaurant. They specialize in their food and not so much concerned about its looks. We will let this one go.

Swordfish is very difficult to prepare. The timing with cooking swordfish must be perfect, otherwise you end up with extremely tough and chewy fish that is almost inedible. In addition, you have to be careful not to overly season swordfish as it can mask its mild taste. This swordfish was done and seasoned to perfection. There was not too much salt and pepper but enough to bring out the flavours of the fish. The fish was moist, tender, and just really good quality. Every bite made me want more. Imagine how happy I was when Karen said she couldn’t finish it. The lobster was not necessary because it did not go well with the fish together. However, it was nice to snack on the lobster claws on the side as we ate the delicious swordfish.

We were way too full for dessert. So we decided to call it a night and head back to our hotel in Union Square West. As we walked, we talked about how much we enjoyed the meal at Tadich. The presentation was not there, but every dish tasted beyond our expectations and more. The seafood was well portioned, fresh, flavourful, and done to perfection. The servers are friendly and welcoming. When we come back to San Francisco, we will make sure to slot in a trip to Tadich Grill.

Service: 4.5/5
Food: 9.3/10
Atmosphere: Casual, Comfy, Grill
Price: $30-40

Tadich Grill on Urbanspoon

~ Thomas

(San Fran Trip) Boudin and Scoma – Fisherman’s Wharf

So following our trip to Ferry Building Market, we wanted to head over to the Fisherman’s Wharf. We had originally wanted to take the streetcar but we lined up for 20 minutes and no one in the line were able to get on since all 5 of the streetcars that passed were full.

So we decided to walk it, since we could use the exercise anyway.

Our first stop was Boudin Sourdough Bakery and Cafe. We had to google streetview this place so many times because we were worried we wouldn’t be able to find it. It was useless in the end because Fisherman’s Wharf has changed so much since whenever the pictures were done. We found it in the flurry of vibrant and lively shops at one end of the wharf. There was a huge line so we split up. Tfung lined up and ordered food, while I went to wait for a table. We ended up getting a turkey avocado sandwich and the clam chowder soup in the sourdough bread bowl. The sandwich was actually REALLY good, and it’s too bad I didn’t get a good picture of it. The turkey and the fresh avocado went really well together.

The clam chowder was thick, and creamy, but was not overly so. However, there were very few clams in the chowder, so I was slightly disappointed, since I like a clam chowder with A LOT of clams. The flavour was good, but I have definitely had better clam chowder before. It just lacked that clam taste that I was looking for, which would make it a rich tasting clam chowder. With that being said, the sourdough bread was absolutely delicious with the chowder. But there was so much that we couldn’t finish it!

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Boudin’s Clam Chowder in Sourdough Bread Bowl

After doing some light shopping around Fisherman’s Wharf, we proceeded to Scoma’s Restaurant.

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We only wanted one thing, which was cold crab and that was exactly and the only thing we ordered. The full crab costs $30, which was a little pricey.

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It really was very fresh, sweet and juicy. We don’t like to use any sauces or lemon because we love to taste the true flavour of the crab. It was really tasty and tfung was so sweet to peel some of the crab legs for me 🙂

Overall I thought both restaurants were just touristy, bucket list places. The food at Scoma’s was without a doubt good. The prices were a bit high, but it was not surprising since it was in the most touristy area of San Francisco. The restaurant’s style is that of an old tug boat, which fits nicely as a restaurant on the Wharf. However we both noticed a stale, musky smell, which turned us off our appetite a little bit. The service wasn’t bad, but it also felt they were rushing us to finish and serve the next customer.

Service: 3/5
Food: 7.5/10 (Boudin), 8.0/10 (Scoma’s)
Atmosphere: diner/fastfood (Boudin), boat-theme (Scoma’s)
Price: $10-20 (Boudin), $20-40 (Scoma’s)

Boudin:
Boudin Sourdough Bakery & Cafe on Urbanspoon
Scoma:
Scoma's on Urbanspoon

~ Thomas and Kehwon

(San Fran Trip) Japanese Tea Garden – Golden Gate Park

Wanting to relive the Japan trip we made last summer, I had signed me and tfung up for the Japaense Tea Garden Tea Ceremony for the Friday morning. They only have openings on Wednesday and Friday mornings, so I had called in ahead of time to make a reservation. We made the reservation for 10:30 as it is free admissions into the Japanese garden until 10am every day. So we first came to enjoy some of the beautiful scenery the garden had to offer.

I honestly love Japanese gardens. They just give this sense of tranquility that I can never achieve in any other setting. It gives me a sense of comfort, that things will be alright. It’s just a great feeling, and I wish I had a Japanese garden easily accessible to me in Toronto.

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After enjoying the beautiful scenery, we went over to the center of the garden, which is where the snack shop is located. This was also the location of the tea ceremony.

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We could see the kimono-clad lady setting up for the tea ceremony, and after I snapped a few pictures, we decided to order some snacks while we’re waiting. After all, we hadn’t had any food that morning yet.

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We ordered the dorayaki and the green tea cheesecake. The dorayaki is kind of like two pancakes together with redbean paste filling. It is a sweet that was made famous (at least in my chidlhood) by the cartoon (or anime as it is referred to in Japan), Doraemon. The robot cat who was the star of the cartoon absolutely loved dorayaki. I thought it was pretty good but not really anything to note. It taste like the good quality ones I could buy in Toronto, at its freshest state. Other than that I hadn’t thought it was spectacular. I did however quite enjoy the greentea cheesecake. There was just enough greentea flavour, but still had the cheesecake taste. It was a good balance of the two. Every bite with the whipped cream was better than the next. My only complaint is that it was too small to share between the two of us.

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The tea ceremony was an amazing experience for me. We learned the proper procedures of the tea ceremony, as well as how to properly receive and drink our maccha tea.  You receive the bowl with your right hand hugging the side of the bowl so that the fingers point away from you, and the tips of your left hand’s fingers supporting the bottom edge of the bowl. You set it into the palm of your left hand, and then rotate the bowl three times clockwise. Then you drink from it, usually 3 sips to finish all of the tea in the bowl and you make a kind of slurping sound at the last sip. This slurp when done right is a sign of respect and appreciation for the beautiful tea that was brewed for you by the tea maker. There are also many other rules and procedures but this was the most important part.

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To balance the bitter taste of the maccha tea, we were served some sweets. They were the famous japanese mochi and some japanese crackers as well. The Tea was absolutely delicious in my opinion. It was so creamy and rich, with just enough bitterness to it that doesn’t overwhelm you. The mochi was of good texture, not too chewy but not too mushy, and the filling wasn’t too sweet either. The crackers were also slightly sweet and had a very slight burnt flavour to it.

I loved the whole experience so much, and I hope tfung did too. I’m more into the Japanese traditional stuff, like when we got to wear yukatas at the onsen in Tokyo. If you have any interest in Japanese traditions, I do recommend you check this place out. If not for the tea ceremony, for the garden and some of their snacks is good too!

Japanese Tea Garden Tea House on Urbanspoon

~ kehwon

(San Fran Trip) Cocobang – Union Square

So finally I’m reviewing all the incredible places we went to in San Francisco, and the series will be in order.

Just a little background, we went in late July, and took two connecting flights which was incredibly exhausting. So when we finally arrived and checked into our hotel and decided we really should get something to eat. We were originally planning to get some sushi this night, but when we were walking around near our hotel we decided to settle for Korean food. The reason being that San Francisco was much colder than we imagined! I was about 10˚C when we arrived that night, so we wanted some spicy hot soup.

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Spicy Fried Chicken

We ordered the Spicy Fried Chicken since tfung was very excited about getting fried chicken. I have to say it was pretty good but I just wasn’t in the mood for oily and greasy food. The batter wasn’t super crispy or anything since it was in this sweet and sour type of sauce. But the overall flavour was really good and the chicken wasn’t dry at all. The coleslaw type side that came with it was doused in thousand island/mayo sauce which was really delicious. However as a dietitian I thought the amount of sauce they used was excessive.

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Kim Chi Hot Soup

We already wanted some hot soup for the night, but when we sat down, we saw the table next to us share this dish and we asked them what it was. So we ordered the Kim Chi Hot Soup, fully loaded. It had a bunch of veggies in it, kimchi of course, tofu, ramen, some rice cakes. There wasn’t any meat in it but it was so delicious. Tfung did find it a little spicier than he would’ve liked but it was perfect for me. The kimchi was sweet and spicy, not really much sour taste to it. I loved the ramen in it, it was done just the way I liked it, not mushy and a little bit more on the underdone side.

Overall we liked the food, but it wasn’t anything mind-blowing. The price was fair and service was pretty good. I did find that the girl didn’t understand my english very well, maybe I have a Canadian accent…..

Service: 3/5
Food: 8.5/10
Atmosphere: Shabby chic Korean
Price: $10-30

Coco Bang on Urbanspoon

~ kehwon