Friday, July 30, 2010


Of all the restaurants that cater to a young, urban crowd with a great bar scene, Limon is one I will gladly brave crowds to return to, for the food. Before Limon came to San Francisco, you would be hard pressed to find a Peruvian restaurant. Now you can find several, but none as sophisticated as Limon, in either decor or cuisine. The restaurant is lively and never seems to be at a loss for patrons, even early in the evening when the average restaurant only has a smattering of customers. Their loft dining area is my only complaint, as it has a claustrophobic feel with a lower ceiling height and it lacks good lighting. On a brighter note, Limon's owners are very hands on, making sure everyone is having attentive dining service. I have never before seen a patron's napkin being folded, in his absence from the table, anywhere but at an expensive, formal restaurant. One must feel appreciated when this happens in a casual dining room.  

Ceviche seems to be a popular choice for a starter, since it is difficult to find a table that does not have an order of it sitting front and center, as you walk through the restaurant. Not surprising since we have such fine seafood available in the Bay Area, but most probably because the idea of fish chemically "cooked" when mixed with an acid, such as lime or lemon, is intriguing, especially for the uninitiated. Limon is adept at putting flavors together, like using a mango sauce with the ceviche or adding Peruvian corn on the dish to impart some sweetness to each bite. Of the three I have tried thus far, the larger serving with three different fish, each with a different sauce is outstanding.

Smaller portions are available at lunch as well as during dinner service. This photo on the left shows the ceviche with fish, shrimp and squid, bathed in lime juice and topped with red onion. The Peruvian corn has larger kernels than we commonly see, but the flavor is sweet and it goes well with the ceviche.

This photo features the shrimp and fish ceviche, again with the Peruvian corn. The portions seem the same on these small plates at both lunch and dinner. If Limon served the corn as a side dish I would certainly order it, but I suspect is is difficult to come by as it seems to be reserved for the ceviche.

What they do serve as a side dish is the fried yucca. Potatoes, move over, there's a new kid on the block. The yucca root is still starchy, but seems less dense than potatoes, a nice difference, unless it picks up more oil while being fried. They make a nice side for the meat course.

The grilled pork chop is tender and juicy, and cooked to a pale pink color. Not undercooked, but cooked perfectly for flavor. It tops a bed of shredded and sauteed cabbage, carrots, onions and zucchini. What a wonderful dish for Fall or Winter.

With such skilled grilling being done at Limon, you cannot go wrong in ordering the Rib Eye steak, or any other grilled meat they may put on the menu. The portions are generous and could easily satisfy two people if they wanted to split the order. This was again cooked perfectly to order, medium rare.

Chicharron de Pollo is another winner in the small plate division. The chicken is marinated in a spicy sauce with Aji Amarillo peppers, then deep fried to a crispy texture. I wish I could identify the flavors in the Salsa Criolla that accompanied it. For now, suffice it to say it was good; we cleaned the plate.

We ordered vegetable empanadas from the hot selection on the lunch menu. For people who just had come back from a vacation to South America, we were slightly jaded, but this dish passed the test with flying colors. The empanadas were flaky, spicy, flavorful, and compared favorably to those we had eaten on our vacation.

Pan Seared duck breast was just as well prepared as the meats. It came as a surprise that the skin was not scored, so perhaps the fat was not rendered enough for someone wanting to eat the skin. Mine remained on the plate, but I generally discard it anyway. The Brussel sprouts were nicely sauteed, but not memorable, although the delicious bean croquette was. It was mixed with cumin and I believe a little rice. The fried plantain made a nice architectural element to the plating and I enjoyed eating it too.

Prices for all the food generally ranges from $6 to $25.

524 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 252-0918
Open Mon-Wed 12pm-10:30pm; Thu 12pm-11:30pm;
Fri-Sat 12pm-11pm; Sun 12pm-10pm

Friday, July 23, 2010


My curiosity was piqued the minute I noticed this restaurant from across the parking lot at 18th and Valencia. Luckily they had painted their name on the side of the building or I may never have seen it. The idea of a Mexican rosticeria was appealing and set Regalito apart from most of the Mexican restaurants I had been familiar with, so when Groupon offered a discount I bought two coupons, with the hope that I would like it well enough to go back, and that's exactly what happened. I find the spare, modern influence in the decor refreshing, but wish it was a bit bigger, as it always feels crowded even when it is not yet full of patrons.

One of the features of the restaurant that I like the most is the fact that nothing is overly spicy, making the food palatable for everyone. For those of us who enjoy heat, there is a wonderful house made hot salsa on every table. It's very spicy and I for one use it sparingly, but it's plentiful for those who like it hot. 
Papas Con Chorizo makes a nice starter. Regalito pan fries potatoes and chorizo then tops them with queso fresco. Papas Con Rajas is another good choice with roasted potatoes and roasted Poblano chile strips, it's also garnished with queso fresco and in addition to that, crema. Either would make a tasty lunch.

Of all the starters, the Chicharones have my enduring allegiance. Being served with pickled vegetables is the icing on the cake. The pork itself is crispy on the outside and oozing with pork drippings and fat on the interior. The meat is just luscious. The vinegar in the pickles is perfect for cutting the richness of this delicacy.

The Ensalada Nopalitos has changed from time to time, so it may not be offered with avocado or cheese. What you will be offered is grilled cactus mixed with tomatoes onion and garlic, and that's a good start. You won't find a salad like this elsewhere. 

Elote was the item that caught my attention when first reading the ever changing menu. This traditional grilled corn just has to be tried once. It's coated in mayonnaise, cotijo cheese and chili powder, then sprinkled with lime juice. I still prefer corn absolutely plain, but this was worth trying. It's another item you won't easily find elsewhere.

Pollo Pepian was a nightly special on our first visit. What a wonderful introduction to the cuisine offered by this restaurant. The rich sauce made primarily of pumpkin seeds was delicious and left us wanting more. This casual restaurant, industrial in design with lackluster service, does not prepare you for the fine food that awaits you.

Pollo Con Mole Negro is a standard entree on the menu. The house made mole is rich without being fatty or sweet. The complex flavor worked well with the perfectly cooked and moist chicken. I was surprised that the chicken half was poached rather than cooked on the rotisserie. The portion was very generous.

While Pibil is always on the menu it may not always be chicken in a chipotle sauce like this photo. Currently the menu lists a pork pibil, slow roasted in a banana leaf, with habanero and pickled red onions. Both should qualify as a soul satisfying meal for a cold, damp night.

Granted, Enchiladas Verdes are definitely served by every Mexican restaurant in the city; no big surprise here. However, Regalito makes the best I have tasted, perhaps because the chicken is roasted and plentiful or because the sauce is better. No matter, this is where I'm coming for my next order of them.

3481 18th Street
San Francisco, CA 94110-1745
(415) 503-0650

Thursday, July 22, 2010


I really wanted to like this restaurant more than I actually do, mostly due to my opposition to the Iraq War and my share of collective guilt at the botched job. Any Iraqi wanting to make a life for himself and his family in America should get some help from the community and I wanted to do my part. I've done my part three times now and suspect I do not particularly like the cuisine of Iraq, although lamb is a favorite meat of mine.

A+ for the pita and hummus. This  version of the Middle Eastern garbanzo bean dip was loaded with flavor and the grassy taste of the olive oil as well as the ground sumac only added to that.
Another winner comes forth in the form of  tabouleh. This refreshing salad of couscous, parsley and tomatoes  was bright and refreshing. The added mint was a good idea.
The bread and pita were warm; the dipping sauce, not so good. The lamb with an onion yogurt sauce was served with a good rice pilaf, but the lamb cut was boney, with little meat. Even a sprig if parsley or a spoonful of tabouleh would have worked wonders to give the plate some vibrancy. Visually it was so very unappealing, the taste became secondary. My partner in crime offered me a taste, but after my experience with yogurt sauce on lamb at Ziryab, I was gun shy. Next on the list of small disappointments was the dessert made with a rosewater flavored recipe similar to panna cotta. The chocolate sauce didn't work well with the rosewater. It would have been better if they had just sprinkled the pistachios on top and left it at that.

My love of lamb was definitely satisfied with the lamb kabab. Jannah served a portion of meat that was generous. It had a faint marinade flavor that was subtle and allowed the lamb to take a step forward in this dish. Again the portion of vegetables was generous and mercifully not overcooked, but they lacked seasoning. I'm still not certain what the item on the right of the photo was. It seemed like there was too much for it to be a sauce, but it was not substantial enough to be anything else.
As tempting as it might seem, don't try the beer, please. Even an amateur can describe this beer as being awful. Italian Peroni is a bad beer, but next to Almaza it shines. The chicken dish wrapped in phyllo sounded very appealing since, unlike Moroccan bastilla, it was being served with an apricot sauce. Unfortunately, because it was made with chicken, almonds, rice, phyllo, cinnamon and powdered sugar, the comparison with bastilla is certainly going to be made. That's the problem, because it doesn't compare favorably. When the first bite went into my mouth, it seemed to be lacking both powdered sugar and cinnamon. As one looks at the photos, they are clearly present, but in such small proportion, they were imperceptible. The filling would have been so much better if cinnamon was added to it, but again, it could not be tasted. If the fruit sauce were even the slightest bit sweet, the lack of powdered sugar wouldn't have been an issue, but it was tart without any sweetness. There was great potential in that dish, but it went unfulfilled. Maybe I'll go back for the lamb. On several occasions, it's been said that their Middle Eastern version of pizza is excellent. I'm willing to try that too.
Jannah's Menu
1775 Fulton St
San Francisco CA 94117
(415) 567-4400

Hours: Mon-Thu: 5pm-9pm
            Fri-Sun: 5pm-10pm

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Kingdom of Dumplings

Could there be a smaller restaurant in San Francisco? If there were more than ten tables, it would be a surprise to me, but hole-in-the-wall or not, this restaurant had more things on the menu that I had never seen before, so it was a pleasure to try something new. Ambiance aside, this was a great "little" find in a city teaming with restaurants.

When ordering a cucumber salad, you might expect a cold dish of sliced raw cucumbers with a dressing of some sort. You might never expect a sauteed dish piled high with cucumbers that were cooked with garlic and dressed with soy sauce and rice wine.  It never occurred to me and that made this dish all the more exciting. Seeing cucumber served that way encouraged thought of other uses for cooked cucumbers.

The processed lamb meat on the platter in the photo above was another matter entirely. With the exception of sandwiches, I had never before seen lamb served cold. This wasn't just sliced lamb served cold, it was a processed lamb product and although it was unusual, it did taste good. Just don't tell me what "parts" were used in the processing, I don't want to know. Something like a lunch meat in texture, it combined well with the green onion pancake we had also ordered. The green onion pancake was the only thing that arrived as we had expected, but it was better than most, since it was thicker.


As restaurant "namesake", we had hoped the dumplings would be good and they did not disappoint us. We started with the pork and chive dumplings, then finished up with the lamb and Chinese vegetable dumpling seen cut in half in the above photo. I have no idea what the mystery vegetable was, but will attest to the fact that these were my favorite of the 2 selections we had made. I believe the dumplings were all made by hand, because of the thickness of the dough. They were very filling and had we known that they came 12 to an order and that they were so big, we would have ordered less. The Shanghai Donut in the last photo was our dessert. How this black bean "bun" became a "donut" is anyone's guess. It was a sweet finish to a sweet new experience in Chinese dining.

There is no website for this restaurant, but from Menu Pages I've  linked the Kingdom of Dumpling Menu.

1713 Taraval St
San Francisco CA 94116
(415) 566-6143

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Ziryab Mediterranean Grill

We are lucky to have a Mediterranean restaurant in the NOPA neighborhood of San Francisco, but after one really bad meal I haven't been back. It seems unfair of me, since I really liked the restaurant and was so grateful that the owners saw fit to introduce a lower priced dinner menu before 7p.m. every evening. The food was good and the value was superb, because it was just around 30% off the regular prices and the portions were identical. Very neighborly. So for that reason I'm writing this review but also discussing my unfortunate experience.

On all but one occasion, I always ordered the lamb shish kabob and rice pilaf with carrots. (These photos were taken with an inferior camera, so please bear with me.) The meat was marinated so, it was very flavorful, the pilaf was well made and the carrots were tasty. Although the carrots may have been an afterthought to get more color on the plate, they were nicely prepared and helped bulk out the plate. It was a great meal for $10. As you can see in the first photo, the pita bread looked fresh and it was with just enough "chew" to make it interesting. The hummus was good and I liked the extra texture that developed because either the garbanzos were not peeled, or the person doing the pureeing stopped short of liquifying it. Either way, it was more rustic and I liked that.

Here is a photo of the problem. It was a stewed lamb dish with a yogurt dressing. It looked inviting because of the menu description, but I became very ill within a short period of time after eating it. It didn't taste"off", but my suspicion was that the yogurt had been improperly refrigerated, at too low a temperature. These things happen at restaurants from time to time. I boycotted this restaurant, but I should have just told the manager on my next visit, so they could actually address the problem. I really miss the lamb and intend to go back, but I will most likely keep away from anything with dairy in it.
528 Divisadero St.
San Francisco CA 94117
(415) 522 - 0800

Hours: Sun-Thur 3pm - 11:30pm
            Fri-Sat    3pm - 12:30pm