Wednesday, March 30, 2011


I wanted to like this restaurant because I liked the modern interior , bad artwork excluded, and my husband had eaten lunch there and liked it. It's within a neighborhood we can walk to and we could build up quite an appetite getting there. We're also lifelong fans of Chinese American food and there are no Chinese restaurants in our immediate neighborhood. Eliza's had all the appearances of a restaurant that might go the distance to bring inventive fare to its patrons. It just fell short, but not on the first plate that arrived on the table.

The dumplings were far from ordinary, because first and foremost they were vegetarian. The fried garlic garnish added not only an enhancement to the taste, but also acted as a textural contrast, pleasing to the palate. The addition of a sizable portion of bok choy was much more than I would have expected. 

These delightful dumplings were then bathed in a flavorful, light broth. For a simple appetizer, these were executed with a light hand, by someone clearly in touch with the cuisine, who wasn't timid about putting their personal stamp on the finished dish. It was impressive and set a positive tone for the rest of the meal. Unfortunately it also raised the bar of our expectations.

Next up was the Lemon Chicken, a dish both of us had eaten on many an occasion. Its appearance was flat, and so was its sauce. There was no eye appeal and the color was off putting, like they may have added food coloring to liven it up. It was cooked well, but the sauce was really too sweet and lacked a fresh lemon flavor. It's thickeners, along with the sweetness made it seem more like a lemon curd ready to be added to a dessert, not a sauce appropriate for poultry.

The Mongolian Lamb was a bit better, but not a memorable version. It was overpowered by the green onions, and for my taste, was stretched too far with vegetables. There just wasn't enough meat. The sauce was alright, but I didn't think it was very complex nor exceptional in any way.

Our last disappointment was the fried rice. Our traditional choice would have been BBQ Pork fried rice, but the pork in this rice dish was shredded, probably braised and not flavorful on it's own. The onions, peas and carrots may be compulsory in fried rice, but they didn't bring much to the table either. We would have been better off with steamed rice. A lower expectation may have been met with steamed rice.

I don't know if we'll return to Eliza's, but should that happen, we will not be ordering any of our last three items. There are too many other Chinese restaurants in San Francisco to settle on one just for its convenient location. Lackluster service added to the picture I've drawn. As I looked around the dining room I noticed that linens were stacked on the bar, also on a stool, and a box was carelessly left in the dining room. That didn't make a good impression either. It reminded me of a hole in the wall, mom and pop place that belonged more fittingly in an edgy location where the chaos would actually have been part of the appeal.

2877 California St. (bet. Broderick & Divisadero Sts.)
San Francisco, CA 94115


Fish the unassuming glass and steel place on the docks at Gate 5 in Sausalito is worth investigating further. We just can't manage to get beyond the Crab Roll. What a Lobster roll is to the Eastern Seaboard, the Crab Roll has become to the West Coast, or at least this part of it.

The restaurant itself is bare bones on comfort and minimal on style. With stainless, glass and concrete as the main building materials, there is a cool, industrial feel, as well there should be in this blue collar working environment. There is a boat building school around the corner, a West Marine store and a marina where many small sailboats are berthed, so casual is the theme for this nautical crowd.

The menu appears broad but it specializes exclusively in fish and specifically in sustainable fish and responsible fishing practices, so you won't see farmed salmon on the menu. Fish also sources its organic vegetables from local vendors and small farmers in Marin. This may account for pricing that seems a bit high for such a casual restaurant. I can personally attest to the quality of their Dungeness crab. Their popularity certainly contributes to the idea that they serve good food. There's always a long line after noon.

What do you think, is this picture worth a thousand words? The Acme torpedo roll is toasted and buttered with all organic Strauss butter, the crab is fresh and unadorned, except for a smattering of chives. Fries are crisp and flavorful.

How about this one? I find their website full of interesting information about them and what they love most, fish. Go Fish!

350 Harbor Drive
Sausalito, CA 94965
Phone: 415-331-FISH (3474)
Fax: 415-331-3421

Open all week 11:30 am - 4:30pm for lunch
5:30pm - 8:30pm for dinner
limited offerings between 4:30 & 5:30

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Chile Pies

As a fan of Green Chile Kitchen I wanted to like Chile Pies, but so far I'm under whelmed. That was also the case with my first visit to Green Chile Kitchen when it originally opened. I couldn't wait to try New Mexican food right here in California, but the green chile verde I had ordered was so hot, I became ill on the 2 block walk home. It took months before I went back in and ordered roasted chicken just to be on the safe side.


They deserve credit for sourcing out interesting drinks like the very tasty Sprecher root beer, and more credit for serving Three Twins ice cream, which I  had heard very good things about, since it started being manufactured. The small selection of the ice cream being offered was slightly disappointing, maybe 10 at the most. Since the ice cream is all natural, the colors weren't very diverse either, but after trying their Lemon Cookie, I don't care what it looks like; it's delicious. I also give thumbs up to the cardamom, salted caramel and coffee flavors. I hear their ice cream and pie milkshakes are equally good, but have yet to try one.

I digress, their main claim to fame is pie, so I stuck to my original mission and ordered one of their pot pies. On observation, it looked like a decent size for the price ($7) and the crust was very appealing. It was such a unique idea for a stand alone restaurant that Chile Pies already had my vote for support, now was the test of fire, trying a pie to see if I could truly support it with continued patronage. Not so much. While the chicken filling was nicely cooked, chunky and combined with some carrot and red skinned potato, the sauce lacked much flavor. Even though green chilies were part of it, they didn't lend much flavor either. I believe it was under seasoned. That beautiful golden crust literally "didn't bring much to the table", not to the pie anyway. Even with the extra sauce, there was no wow factor. My final criticism is that it needed more filling, no matter what the taste, it seemed skimpy to me. I walked by a month or so after eating this meal and noticed that the pie being served was much smaller than those in the above photos. Eating less of it for the same price does not make it taste any better.

DSC09483 DSC06921

On my next visit I went back to try the Frito pie that I kept hearing about. I think it must have been invented in the 1960's when housewives were making casseroles from anything and everything that came from a can, box, or bag. It seemed to make enough of a hit with New Mexicans, that Chile Pies added it to their menu. I have to admit that is was much better than the chicken pot pie and was fun in a nostalgic, weird food sort of way. Chile Pies has a presence in  the neighborhood, but it seems to be more about their fruit pies and ice cream than anything else, but that's enough reason to return. Their Boysenberry Pie Ala Mode definitely satisfies a sweet tooth. They now serve the same green chile stew and chicken posole that you can get up the street at Green Chile Kitchen and I have nothing but very good things to say about both those dishes.

Chile Pies Website

601 Baker St @ Fulton St
San Francisco CA 94115
(415) 614-9411