Monday, June 22, 2009

Los Jarritos

We find ourselves at this family run, authentic Mexican restaurant from time to time, usually on a Sunday at lunchtime, but should try it for dinner one of these days. Los Jarritos is casual and lively and usually filled to capacity. There are two things that make me recommend a Sunday visit; it's during the weekend when they serve goat (birra) as well as menudo, and it is also the day when I'm certain there will be a Mariachi band there in the early afternoon. The two men with guitars in the photo were followed by a four or five piece Mariachi band in full costume.

Sure, every Mexican restaurant in the state will serve tortilla chips, but these were freshly fried. Better yet, the corn tortillas are made on the premises. Tasting delightfully fresh and soft, they are also thicker than commercially made tortillas. Being able to order a nopale quesadia, Quesadia Arturo ($5.50), was a first for me. Seeing them so many times in small grocery stores in the Mission district, I've always wanted to see how they were cooked and this was my big chance. Nice, similar to a thick walled, roasted chile in texture, with a mild, slightly acidic taste. I'd order these again.

Undoubtedly, the Deanna's Enchiladas Mole is the item we order time and time again. It's so very good with chicken that it is the single handed reason for the non investigation of most other items available on the menu. For $12.95 the enchiladas come with both rice and refried beans for a complete meal. We've tried the chicken mole, but nothing beats the combination of mole sauce and corn tortillas. If they put just that on the menu, we'd be likely to order it.

Birra is something that is very common in many countries, yet seldom seen here, so the opportunity to eat it seldom escapes me. It is not as gamy as most people suspect, less so than some lamb, but it is stronger than pork or beef; all the better as far as I'm concerned. Texturally, goat reminds me of a chuck roast, it's stringy, but tender all the same.

UPDATE: In 2010 Los Jarritos became 

San Jalisco

901 S Van Ness Avenue(between 20th St & 21st St)
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 648-8383

Thursday, June 18, 2009


My first foray into Dosa was with a group of friends for a girls night out at their Valencia Street address. We ordered some of the specials including an item or two from the street food menu that they offer occasionally. Since I needed to see what a dosa actually was, I ordered one and was hooked on this Southern Indian cuisine, very different than what I had become accustomed to in Indian restaurants prior to that time. Until this revelation it was more usual to find food in the Madras, Vindaloo or Korma cooking styles.

A mango salad and samosas started the meal and everyone seemed pleased with their selections. I personally have yet to try these menu items, but they look appetizing.

Even now I am unable to find this soup or this tomato and tapioca pearl salad on the menu. They may only be offered seasonally or could it be that the menu had changed? It pleases me to think about seasonal elements to the food prepared at Dosa; always a good sign and seldom disappointing.
The standout item that was ordered had to be this bowl of fried rice noodles mixed with vegetables and heaven knows what else. It was on the street food menu and was very flavorful and quite a bargain for less than $9, as I recall.

The second location for Dosa on Filmore Street and Post is a much more generous space and more sophisticated in decor. Also dimly lit, it reeks atmosphere and lively spice fragrances. The space is split level with dining on the left and mezzanine, with a lively bar scene on the right as you walk in.

The menu at the Filmore Street address includes a cocktail list with some very interesting ingredient combinations. The one in the photo was made with coconut milk and had Bollywood in its name, but this does not match the description on the menu, so once again I suspect that the menu changes from time to time. Another mystery soup that does not fit a menu description, but it was good and again it had a coconut milk base. You can't go wrong with that.
This luscious menu item is the Prawn Chile Fry. Besides being quite beautiful, the spicy execution of the prawns is mouthwatering and we order them frequently for the eye appeal as well as the taste. They perk up the palate and ready it for the more creamy options on the menu. A micro greens salad is a nice addition to the plate, not only for color contrast, but for the contrast in temperature and texture.

The spiced lamb chop in lentil sauce was a very satisfying main course being served with a potato and cauliflower side as well as the lemon rice. The rices at Dosa are so good you need to try them all. The fish curry and lemon rice enhance one another in such a splendid way and one could eat the coconut rice with anything on the menu, or all by itself. Someone has put much thought into the Dosa menus and we, the dining public, reap the benefits. This is a menu worth working your way through instead of ordering the same thing every visit.
Now for the restaurant's namesake, the dosa. A simple but very large rice and lentil wrap, paper thin, that in the photo above has encompassed the Masala Dosa, filled modestly with potatoes, onions and cashews. I have yet to see a dosa that actually fits the plate. They may need to start rating these by how many inches the dosa overhangs the serving plate, not that size matters.
Each dosa, no matter which kind is served with several flavor enhancers. All unique and very different in taste from one another. The largest bowl is filled with Sambar, a lentil sauce which can sub as a soup course. Another bowl is filled with a coconut based chutney. The last is a spicy tomato chutney. Folded into a triangular shape is the Masala Chutney Dosa, that has the addition of a thin layer of an eggplant based chutney. Honestly, I could not tell the difference, as both the Masala and Masala Chutney dosas have been delicious adventures.

Dosa on Valencia
995 Valencia (near 21 St)
415 642 3672

Dosa on Fillmore
1700 Fillmore (at Post)
415 441 3672

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Thanh Long

Truly a serene and inviting space, Thanh Long was not the restaurant I had hoped it would be. We didn't order the roasted crab, the dish they are known for, but this should have been more than a "one trick pony" of a dining experience. When the restaurant is owned by the same people that excelled in seafood at Crustacean and marketed their proprietary Asian sauces in stores throughout the country, one might expect to hold them to a higher standard than this. The menu has some very interesting things on offer, so I may need to go back and give it another try. In all fairness, one meal is not the best way to judge a restaurant.

Origami folded won tons made for an artful starter, but they were lackluster in flavor. Certainly we started with more than are seen in this photo.

The soft shelled crab made another nice starter and at $11.95, it was a reasonable price to pay for this crunchy yet tender and juicy delicacy. It also worked well with the tamarind chile sauce.

Here's where my opinion of Thanh Long took a nose dive. My partner in crime ordered the Colossal Royal Tiger Prawns and at market price they amounted to a cost of $34.50, exactly $25 more than the garlic noodles they were nestled on. that kind of math angers me as a consumer, especially when the prawns were by no means colossal. Not being very hungry, I just ordered the noodles and found them buttery, maybe too much so, and good tasting, although exceedingly too rich and salty for such a large portion.

4101 Judah StreetSan Francisco
CA 94122-1124
(415) 665-1146

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Il Borgo

If you have to have a neighborhood restaurant you couldn't do much better than this authentic Italian trattoria, owned and operated by an Italian family from Milan. The wall murals create a sense of place and that place is an Italian village, hence the name Il Borgo. The table cloths are stereotypical red and white checked like my grandmother, and most likely every other Italian grandmother in this country, used to use on her kitchen table. I feel at home in Il Borgo, with the exception of the laundry hanging in the corner; a clever way to allow patrons to see and retrieve lost clothing, usually scarves, from their last visit. The murals alone are worth a trip to this restaurant.
Ordering pizza at Il borgo is a good bet because it is made in the classic Neapolitan style with a thin crispy crust, and not too much cheese or tomato sauce. We shared this one, but the size is perfect for a single entree serving if you like to just eat pizza for dinner. There are no soggy spots in these pizzas.

The pizza menu is not long, but the pizza is good, so settle on something they have like this sausage and mushroom pizza. It was excellent.
The Lasagnette is a rolled lasagna filled with cheese and prosciutto with an aurora sauce that provides beautiful color was well as fine taste. Of all the pastas, the Carbonara is another favorite of ours. The Veal Scaloppini with Marsala sauce was very tender and plentiful, but the Veal Saltimboca is even better. It's difficult to go wrong in this restaurant since the chef is using family recipes.

500 Fell @ Laguna
San Francisco CA