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2000s Archive

Having a Grand Time, San Francisco

Originally Published October 2009
Here’s the deal: We offered some of our favorite restaurant critics a theoretical $1,000 to spend dining out in their home city. In considering how they would use their funny money, which had to cover meals for two, drinks, tax, and tip, these professional omnivores cast a spotlight on their own proclivities, as well as on the thrilling diversity of their respective cities. The result? Some very tasty inspiration.
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$30 I realize how far a $1,000 windfall goes in this great restaurant town as we tear off pieces of Bodega Bistro’s bun cha, a tender Vietnamese rice-flour pancake folded over bean sprouts, shrimp, and pork, and wrap them in lettuce leaves with pickled vegetables, red basil, and mint. We drink pho ga, rich chicken broth ladled over firm rice noodles and slices of velvety chicken, the aromas of torn herbs wafting up in the steam. 607 Larkin St., San Francisco (415-921-1218; Bodega Bistro)

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$500 An 11-course meal at Coi presents astoundingly diverse local ingredients—wild leaves, seaweed, coastal grasses, and heirloom flora and fauna—foraged by Daniel Patterson, who regards gathering and cooking as a single activity. 373 Broadway, San Francisco (415-393-9000; Coi)

$100 At Aziza, the couscous cook starts hand-rolling semolina at 7 A.M., so by dinner the tiny grains have been steamed and fluffed no less than four times. I can’t resist a simple bowl with butter and almonds, freeing plenty of cash for Mourad Lahlou’s tagines, flatbreads, and b’stilla. 5800 Geary Blvd., San Francisco (415-752-2222; Aziza)

$50 The plump cakes of chicken and bacon hash at Boulettes Larder break apart with the touch of a fork as the poached egg yolks pour onto a plate scattered with buttery bread crumbs and celery leaves. We finish with an edible haiku—yogurt, avocado, mango, and dried persimmon. 1 Ferry Building Marketplace, San Francisco (415- 399-1155; Boulettes Larder)

$45 Nopalito hand-grinds organic dried corn to make incredibly flavorful tortillas, transforming tacos, quesadillas, gorditas, and enchiladas into whole new dishes. 306 Broderick St., San Francisco (415-437-0303; Nopalito)

$100 Flour + Water’s vibrant antipasti and handmade pasta, not to mention the chewy pizza crust with fire-licked edges, please me enough to endure the din. 2401 Harrison St., San Francisco (415-826-7000; Flour + Water)

$120 At La Mar Cebicheria Peruana, we sip pisco punch, slurp ceviche marinated in citrusy “tiger’s milk,” and dip vegetable chips into a trio of Peruvian salsas. Pier 1 1/2, The Embarcadero, San Francisco (415-397-8880; La Mar Cebicheria Peruana)

$50 All this leaves enough spare change for clay-pot rice, pea sprouts, and Peking duck at Hong Kong Lounge (5322 Geary Blvd., San Francisco; 415-668-8836). With my last $5, I head for olive-oil ice cream at Humphry Slocombe—a revelation. (2790 Harrison St., San Francisco; 415-550-6971)

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