In the six months since being appointed Eater’s first San Francisco restaurant critic, I’ve eaten well. I’ve eaten often. I’ve eaten a lot. So, as 2017 draws to a close, I thought it’d be fun to reflect on my 40 work-related meals so far (more, if you count the places I scrapped), and call out my 13 favorites dishes — of the, oh, 100 or so — I’ve consumed. One from each restaurant, just to be fair. Stars be damned, I always found something to love.
In order of ingestion:
A Mano: Agnolotti dal Plin
A Mano’s crowds have yet to let up, in part, I’m sure because of these rich, buttery, piping-hot, pillows stuffed with pork, roast chicken, and chard —priced at a reasonable $16. The menu online currently lists the hand-pinched pasta as filled with kabocha squash, ricotta, brown butter, and sage. Which sounds good, too, if very 1990s.
Walzwerk: Grilled Bratwurst
Mmmmm. This perfectly seasoned veal and pork sausage comes sans bun, on a vintage plate with a ramekin of deliciously spicy German mustard it barely needs, plus a pile of housemade sauerkraut and buttery-smooth mashed potatoes. Just typing this makes me want to go back to Walzwerk this winter… January 20 might be a nice night to flee the American sector.
City Counter: Tuna Melt
Before hitting the Financial District’s new bright-white lunch spot, I hadn’t had a tuna melt in forever. And I haven’t had one since. But if my office was steps away, I’d pop in weekly for this closed-faced sandwich busting with fresh chunks of tuna pickled celery, red onion, and a gooey three-cheese fondue on toasted sourdough.
Alta MSP: Fried Chicken Sandwich
I Can’t Believe I Ate the Whole Thing. It was massive and messy and continues to occupy more space in my heart than a sandwich probably should. Succulent thigh meat sealed in an inch-thick cayenne-spike crust, on a soft Della Fattoria bun layered with housemade pickles, jalapeño-daikon slaw, and a hefty swipe of fermented chile aioli.
Robin: Uni with Emulsified Egg Yolk
Of all the — what, eight? ten? twelve? — gorgeous omakase dishes I downed at Robin, this fat, creamy, tongue-sized slab of Fort Bragg (or Santa Barbara) uni painted with a sticky-sweet, sunny-yellow shiro-dashi emulsified egg yolk is the one still on my mind.
“How many dips should we order?” people asked. My answer, after trying all five: all five.” The Liptauer Paprika Cheese: turo farmers’ cheese blended with onion and garlic and made even thicker with a little smoked potato. The sprouted white bean, with green chili and grapeseed oil, scattered with charred broccoli and crisp, fried garlic. The sweet preserved eggplant with preserved kumquats and sprigs of mint that ruined me for any basic baba ganoush. Has Duna jarred these yet? I’m waiting.
Do cocktails count? The citrusy Four Pillars Dry gin from Australia mixed with that lightly fruity 1724 tonic from Patagonia served in a bulbous glass adorned in slices of orange, lime, and lemon and enough leafy herb greenery to qualify for terrarium status? If not, that crackling, crisp quartet of patatas bravas, frosted with charred scallion aioli. AKA: Glorified tater tots, and I mean that as a compliment.
Hook Fish: Trout Salad
True, this surfer’s spot is all about fresh, locally-caught fish tacos. But it’s also got my new favorite salad in the city: house-smoked trout tossed with seasonal greens, slivers of red onion, sunflower seeds and “everything” nut clusters in a creamy crème fraiche—served on a little tin tray that, somehow, makes it taste even better.
The Morris: Duck Soup
I’m not really a soup person, but I sucked this steaming vat down on a superhot September day — and I can’t wait to do it again on a wintry one. Thick, hand-pulled noodles with shredded, tender duck thighs and legs, whatever’s left, really, in an umami-rich habanero-spiked broth.
Namu Stonepot: Sizzling Sisig
I can’t resist anything that comes with jalapeños, and they certainly added umph to this garlicky jumble of chopped ground pork jowl and head indeed sizzling with cabbage, fried garlic, and pickled onions in a citrusy tamari sauce.
Octavia: Wild Nettle Tagliatelle
Melissa Perello's “deviled” egg doused in dried marash pepper is dreamy, but damn, that bowl of wild nettle tagliatelle, tangled with pancetta, green peppercorn, sweet yolk, and the crunch of pangrattato, wasn’t big enough.
Eight Tables: Jiu Gong Ge
It was like an edible painting: each of the nine essential Chinese flavors as stunning on its own as they were as a whole. One-bite wonders, presented in teeny ceramic bowls but with flavor powerful enough to fill an entire plate. Numbing beef tendons simmered in peppercorns. Smoky, soy-molasses marinated smelt. Sous vide chicken roulade with salty duck egg. I loved each and every one.
Beep’s: Onion Rings
They’re not hand-sliced or hand-dipped or hand anything, really, other than being a sheer joy to hold in one — and take a bite.
- All Eater SF Reviews [ESF]