Thursday, March 15, 2012


"Me" Time: 02. 15. 12

farm:table would have been a coffee kiosk if not for the communal table that could sit about 10 people uncomfortably. It is very, very small.

The kitchen counter is about 3 steps from the door where you will place your order. Turn around, take one step and you may sit at the square country table if you do not mind sitting elbow to elbow with strangers. It was a little too close for comfort for me that I chose to sit at the sidewalk outdoor table on

farm:table is an eatery housed in a historic apartment building that is full of SF character. A street plaque on Post says so. Despite the tiny space, it is rustic, full of charm and cute. Menu for the day is written on the chalkboard.

farm:table's offerings are packed with big and mighty flavors. Menu is seasonal (clue: farm) and changes often. They offer more food than what is advertised daily on their website:

A mouth-watering array of sweet pastries are on the counter. This little place does make use of every space and cranny. These pastries are from other bakeshops, though.

POLENTA WITH KALE GRANA PADANO (Extra $1 for bacon or egg) ~$9+
* A well-made silky polenta with kale. The sharpness of grana padano highly compliments this dish. I ordered mine with an egg which came out to be hard-boiled. I would rather have had runny sunny-side up or overeasy which I thought would add a silkier texture to this dish. The hard-boiled egg was a wild-card item in this otherwise perfect bowl of polenta.

*At first sip, my tastebuds woke up to this intense well-made coffee. The silkiness of the almond milk is a nice surpise and contrast to the strong coffee. Blue Bottle or Verve, this was one great cup o' joe!

CHECK: ~$19 for polenta & latte with tip

1. I applaud the concept. farm:table is an epitome of big city/urban dining.

2. The food was delicious and the coffee was superb. farm:table is a simple joy that feeds the soul. The simplicity of every dish also equals delicious.

1. Too pricey for my budget. For ~$20 (with tip) for lunch, I can eat well and comfortably at many full-service restaurants in SF.

2. On the day I was at farm:table, the table was packed and there was not a chance of asking anybody to scoot over for me. Eating at the tiny "dining area" is part of the farm:table dining experience but I need comfort when I am eating and paying premuim for my food. Sharing a table in a stuffy box also threatens my personal space. Sitting and eating street side on a beautiful day is a delight but it is not guaranteed with the SF weather and taking a risk that a garbage truck might pass by.

With my long tirade about the space, one can tell that the uncomfortable dining is  the deal breaker for me. Price is secondary if at least the venue is pleasant enough.

Despite my gripes, it was a delightful streetside brunch on a beautiful day in SF.


Farm:Table on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 10, 2012


BIRTHDAY LUNCH: 03.05.12 @ 11:45 AM

Boxing Room is New Orleans in San Francisco.

For a mere lunch hour, Heather and I found ourselves dining on New Orleans' signature dishes without having to pay an airfare or deal with luggage hassles.

I have been to New Orleans just few months prior to Katrina on a week-long food adventure. I have found Boxing Room's classics to be on par with what I had feasted on the touristy Bourbon Street and beyond.

Boxing Room is housed in the former original Citizen Cake but transformed into a lovely breath-taking bright space. Floor to ceiling wall blackboard menu and high ceilings with exposed beams.  The dining room  was airy and spacious. It was elegant yet rustic  at the same time with plenty of leather-seated wood chairs, counter seatings and booths.

SERVICE:It was obvious that staff was trained to focus on professionalism and efficiency. Service was friendly but a little too rehearsed.

As soon as we sat down we were given the complimentary complimentary BUTTERY FLATBREAD and DIP. Our main entrees came soon after that we did not get to really indulge in the flatbread and dip.

Our eyes got big when the mouthwatering Po Boys were placed in front of us.

Ginormous mouthwatering OYSTER PO BOY $18 for Heather with plump cornmeal  battered fried oyster in soft roll  and more oysters on the plate for munching and popping in your mouth.

Ginormous SHRIMP PO BOY $15  for me, just like the Oyster Po Boy, plump prawns were piled high. Both were delicious!

Both Po-Boys came with  yummy savory-sweet light HUSHPUPPIES  (included).

For dessert, we had the  BEIGNETS W/ MAPLE CHOCOLATE SAUCE $7. An order comes with just 3 beignets but an extra beignet was  thrown-in for free so  Heather and I could have 2 each.  Nice gesture! They were the fluffiest cloud-like beignets I have had so far in the Bay Area but  they were unlike the ones I had at New Orlean's famed Cafe Du Monde. Cafe Du Monde's beignets are the best beignets that I have ever had and will have to compare every beignet thereafter to the ones I had at CDM.  Boxing Room's beignets were airy, light and fluffy like CDM's but  they did not come with the  3 inch thick powdered sugar in the bowl which is Cafe Du Monde's trademark.

CHECK:  $45 before tip (with plenty of leftovers)

  * Portions are humungous. I recommend the share the po boys if you cannot finish one by yourself. Heather and I ate only half of our sandwiches each. The leftover got soggy right away. The Po Boys are lighter than the ones I have had even in New Orleans.

  *  Everything was good! Will definitely be back for date night!

Thanks, Heather, for the super-lovely and delicious lunch, beautiful company as always and pretty presents!And for being transformed to New Orleans for an hour of friendship in San Francisco. This Happy Birthday Girl truly felt special! X0X0

Boxing Room on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 4, 2012

B-Dama (Oakland)

DINNER DATE: March 3, 2012 @ 7PM

Japan is one country in Asia I have not been to yet eventhough my Filipino-Japanese loveones have been calling Japan "home" for decades. For years they have been inviting me to come and visit. They have regaled me with stories of fun drunken nights at many izakaya in their hometown of Nagoya.

An izakaya is a type of Japanese drinking establishment  which also serves food to accompany the drinks. They are popular, casual places for after-work drinking.

Despite my very limited experience with authentic izakaya, B-Dama gave me a sense that it is the real thing. The chefs are Japanese.  Being housed in a newly built commercial building does not diminish its feel of authenticity. As soon as you walk in you will be facing a "messy" kitchen where the grilling is being done. A step down is a the tiny dining room with sushi counter that seats about 10. Dining tables are tightly packed. B-Dama is how I imagine the izakaya in Japan to be like--casual, unpretentious, homey and relaxed. Little hand-made cutout menus are pinned on the wall  in addition to separate grill, sushi, soup and drink menus at the table.  Even the sign was crudely spelled and pasted on the glass window.

Honestly, Enrique and I felt "lost" while perusing the menu.  This is not a typical sushi place which we can navigate without having to look at the menu.

I am more familiar with the concept of izakaya than Enrique so I took care of ordering the yakitori (grilled items). Most of these grilled items can be ordered  prepared with sauce or salted. He took care of the sushi/sashimi part.

We were welcomed with complimentary pickled cucumber and radishes which were very nice palate cleansers:

For the YAKITORI, we had the:

*Very nice and flavorful. Slightly chewy but tasty. The beef and quail complimented each other texture-wise.

*I tried one and it was fresh, not chewy and with just the right amount of gaminess. However, now I remember that I really do not like chicken heart even when I used to eat them as street food when I was a kid in the Philippines.

*3 fresh shrimp with shell and head still attached. You bet I ate the whole thing--head, shell and "feet" and all!

*Enrique was slightly disappointed because he said it was mostly veggies with some seafood. I tasted what seemed to be "fake" crab leg. It was good but I was really there for the yakitori.

We also ordered nabemono (soup), sushi and sashimi:

TARA NABE  (Black Cod Soup)  $12: Arrived in a traditional cast iron pot, this soup was one of the best fish soups I have ever had in a while. The soup came with generous slices of very fresh black cod, tofu and veggies. The broth was not salty at all. I did not suffer from temporary dehydration whenever I eat MSG-laden Asian soups. This soup at B-Dama was so delicate and divine. The pot looked small compared to the big bowls of ramen we are used to but it was more than enough to truly satisfy me for the evening. A wonderful soup that I will definitely get again and again!

SASHIMI PLATE $17: Enrique was still slightly hungry (Surprise! Surprise!) and decided to order a sashimi plate. It came with about 10 pieces of assorted fish. We did not pay attention to what kind they were but we recognized tuna, salmon, halibut, etc. They were fresh but not melt in your mouth sashimi that I have experienced at other Japanese restaurants before. It came with a pile of grated radish which speaks to the authentic presentation of a traditional sashimi.

TAKO SUSHI $4.5: This is how we test the freshness of the sushi at a Japanese restaurant. We order tako or tuna sushi. The tako has to taste fresh, not rubbery or previously frozen.  B-Dama's was definitely the fresh kind!

CHECK: $65 including tax before tip and 1 Japanese soda.

I love the casual, non-pretentious vibe of B-Dama while feasting on delicious small grilled dishes. It is a fun place to bring your friends and order everything on the menu.  Overall quality is remarkably high. The black cod soup was exceptional. Even the green tea (another factor I used in judging the quality of a Japanese restaurant) was very nice--not bitter and appropriately hot.

Service was friendly but hurried. We absolutely loved our server that Enrique tipped generously. She was nice and very attentive. Be ready to patiently wait for drink refills as the staff are very busy.

Now that we are familiar with the menu, we will have a better time navigating and enjoying the dishes. B-Dama is a neighborhood gem. Enrique and I took advantage of the beautiful evening to walk here from our home.  A sense of adventure is a big part of izakaya dining.

And lastly, izakaya are sometimes called akachōchin (red lantern) in daily conversation, because these paper lanterns are traditionally found in front of an izakaya. B-Dama has one which further convinced me of the authenticity and integrity of its owners:

1. B-Dama tends to get packed. Get a reservation.
2. Prices of yakitori are reasonable between $2.5 to $3.5 each small plate.
3. Fenton's is directly right across the street if you want ice cream for dessert after dinner. (Which you bet was what we did!)

B-Dama on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 3, 2012


DATE NIGHT: 02.24.12 @ 3:30 PM

I am not sure if our meal counted as late lunch or early dinner at Cotogna yesterday afternoon. Let's just call it European Lunch.

Cotogna is so popular I dare you to try to get a 7 pm  reservation on Opentable ANY DAY of the week up to 3 weeks from now. When I scored a 3:30 PM reservation, I took it. Not only I hardly dine in SF without reservations, Enrique and I also need to start getting out of the house early on Saturdays instead of living in our pjs until 5 in the afternoon.

Aside from the personal reasons I stated above, 3:30 PM is a great time to have a relaxing delightful meal with a glass of nice cocktail that makes you close your eyes  in ecstacy  while taking in the view of SF's rare brick archictecture in the historic Jackson Square District.

Cotogna is a cozy place to be in SF: brick walls, open kitchen with roaring fire in the brick oven, a classy casual bar right next to the open kitchen, stacks and stacks of firewood against the walls on your way to the bathroom. The place is attractive but not stuffy. Hence, a great place to sip your cocktail at 3:30 in the afternoon.  And Cotogna is L O U D!

MIMOSA $11: There were only 3 cocktails on our mid-afternoon menu and I chose the Mimosa. The mimosa was okay and pricey for the tiny glass. But anything for mid-afternoon cocktail for me!

BUBBLY WATER $6/BOTTLE: Cotogna makes their own bubbly H20. Unlike many restaurants in SF who serve their bubbly water as complimentary, Cotogna charges $6 per bottle.  Enrique ordered 2! Yikes! He does not drink so its okay but charge $6, really?!

Cotogna's bread should belong to a new food group. It should come with a warning "Contains crack." The bread was loaf-style and generously seasoned with seasalt and spices. The bottom was soaking in EVOO but not greasy. It was focaccia that was melt in your mouth. I honestly have been good not touching restaurant bread but between me and Enrique, we had 2 loaves. Unlike their bubbly water, Cotogna was very generous with their bread.

Enrique hinted that I loved the bread so much our server packed us a box to go without charging us. Very nice!

   *TRIPE: Tender, spicy and very flavorful trip  tripe in chili oil. We really enjoyed this simple dish. I used the bread to soak up the juices. I have no shame when it comes to dining.

*#18 7 x 7 Big Eats:   $24 PRIX FIXE @ COTOGNA
1. SALAD: Citrus salad with grapefruit nicely seasoned with seasalt. Generous portions for 2.

2. ASPARAGUS TORTELLINI: Big fluffy tortellini, still slightly wet and tasted  light and good but not exceptional.

3. PINK LADY APPLE AND ALMOND CROSTATA: Dry and heavy with olive oil taste. For being part of the prix fixe this was okay. The ice cream was a nice accompaniment.

  *CORNISH GAME HEN WITH GRILLED POLENTA AND OLIVES $22: Whole juicy succulent hen. The breast was perfectly cooked but the drumsticks were bloody. Still good according to Enrique but he did not like the heavy EVOO taste. I ate the grilled polenta which was really good cooked crispy but still tender on the inside.

CHECK: $118 including tax, Healthy SF and generous tip for the nice gesture of giving us extra bread and very friendly service.

I agree with 7 x7 that Cotogna's $24 Prix Fixe is  one of the best deals in town.  It was not the best taste in dining but the whole experience was delightful. Cotogna is a true SF gem.

 *Cotogna is the sister restaurant of the finer dining "Quince" next door.
 *Chef Michael Tusk was recenty the recipient of  the James Beard Foundation 2011 Beard award for "Best Chef - Pacific!"
 *Once again the BUBBLY WATER IS NOT FREE! $6 per bottle
 *GO BETWEEN 4:30 PM AND BEFORE 5:30 PM. Last Saturday, Cotogna was still packed at 3:30 PM, By 4:30, crowd was thinning out. By 5:15, the place was practically empty. Cotogna is open all day

Mon - Thurs 11:30 AM  -  11 PM
Fri-Sat           11:30 AM  -  12 AM
Sun                 5PM - 9PM

Cotogna on Urbanspoon


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...