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The Best Things Eater Editors Ate This Week

Mining the latest dining gems SF has to offer

Couscous with uni and roe at Mourad
Ellen Fort

Welcome to your weekend planner, where Bay Area-based Eater editors recommend restaurants, cafes, and bars — whether they’re new and hot or the old standbys. As always, please let us know if you’d like to see something specific.

December 14

For when you’re sick: The cold is going around and around, and for when it hits, you’re going to want soothing, flavorful-but-not-too-flavorful noodle soup. A good choice is the wonton noodle soup at *Gum Kuo Restaurant* in Oakland Chinatown, with its ideal broth, sturdy egg noodles, and soft dumplings. Top it off with silky roasted duck for extra heft. Gum Kuo’s congee (rice porridge) with doughnuts is another sick day winner. 388 9th Street, Suite 182, Oakland — Janelle Bitker

For dumpling comfort: After driving by the cart a million times running random errands, I finally decided to stop by the The Everest Momo truck parked at the Chevron station on the corner of University and Sacramento in Berkeley this week. It’s a decent-sized, semi-permanent trailer with a few plastic tables out front. The menu has a handful of non-momo items, including a few noodles, but I opted for the fresh chicken dumplings, nine to an order for around $8. It took about five minutes to prepare them, and there was no one in front of me. The finished product was a pile of pleasantly droopy-skinned dumplings stuffed with lightly-seasoned chopped chicken. Starchy, but delicious. A very neutral comfort food that goes in a completely different direction when you apply the chili-jam on top. Would order again! 1500 University Avenue, Berkeley — Greg Morabito

For squid ink that means something: I went back to Barvale this week and one bite in particular stood out: the fideua, a jumble of squid ink-saturated black noodles, decorated with bits of squid and a squiggle of smoky, peppery aioli. Sometimes squid ink is just for shock value on a menu because the dark color it imparts to food is so arresting, but here it actually brought a lot of umami and even some funkiness to the dish, which made it my favorite bite of the night. Also, Barvale was also super loud when it opened and they seem to have put the sound system into check somehow, so I think the overall experience was improved. 661 Divisadero St, San Francisco — Carolyn Alburger

For a hot take on uni: The gonads of sea urchins have become the hottest ingredient on upscale menus across the country, in addition to the sushi restaurants that have long offered the creamy, briny delicacy. At Mourad, I recently consumed it atop a bowl of hot, lemony couscous, bringing temperature and texture into play, while a scattering of plump, sweet salmon roe give every bite a surprising pop of oceanic flavor. Gorgeous handmade couscous is always a must when dining at chef Mourad Lahlou’s restaurant, but this combination gave me a new appreciation for a now-ubiquitous luxury ingredient. 140 New Montgomery Street, San Francisco — Ellen Fort

For something sweet and kosher: There’s very little that’s kosher about sordid Sixth street in SoMa — with one exception: Frena Bakery. They’re coming off their Hanukkah rush, and yes, what brought me in this past weekend were their plump holiday doughnuts, or sufganiyot, filled with sweet-tart raspberry jam and dusted with powdered sugar. I could eat them year-round, but popping in this week was a nice reminder that Frena has a pretty extensive menu for all seasons, including highlights like rugelach, challah, and babka. 132 6th Street — Caleb Pershan

November 30

For top-notch, on-a-whim pasta: While the Bay Area is packed with excellent Italian restaurants, most of them require a good deal of advanced planning. If that’s not your forte, consider Belotti Bottega, the tiny market version of the East Bay’s top pasta destination. It serves the exact same pasta dishes as the restaurant, with several bar stools that always seem to be available. That means the same luxurious agnolotti stuffed with beef shank as well as the porky casoncelli in sage brown butter are within reach tonight. Don’t miss the lasagna, which is only sold at the bottega and is as fabulous as expected. 4001-B Piedmont Avenue, Oakland — Janelle Bitker

For a comforting breakfast on a rainy morning: The Piccino team’s counter-service cafe near Esprit Park in Dogpatch, Noon All Day, shines brightly even when all the tables are tucked inside because it’s started pouring again. This is a great place for a laptop lunch or casual breakfast. A particularly soothing choice is the “proper breakfast” with two poached eggs, braised butter beans, greens, toast, and pork belly or avocado. Baked goods like a delicate Taro-coconut danish with fresh basil are ambitious. 690 Indiana Street, San Francisco — Caleb Pershan

For North Beach time travel: There are no cigars at Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe, but plenty of smoky, grilled sandwiches cooked on Liguria focaccia behind the bar. The gigantic meatball (with gooey mozzarella) is the classic order, and can be split between two people if ordering a salad, too. The environment, a flatiron corner space, is a throwback, with old posters and people still reading actual newspapers. There’s espresso, coffee, wine, and thanks to the younger members of founder Mario Crismani’s family, several hip IPAs. But for the older crowd, there’s always Vov, a a traditional Italian liqueur you can get in your cappuccino. 566 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco — Caleb Pershan

For an all-you-can-eat adventure: Oakland’s Chinatown has many treasures, from dim sum at Peony to a banh mi at Cam Huong Bakery. One of its newer gems is Tastee Steam Kitchen, a sleek and modern steam restaurant (diners choose items to steam over a pot of rice that becomes a rich congee at the end). It also offers a great all-you-can-eat hot pot special at lunch, which is what I have come here to recommend. Go with some like-dieted friends and order as much pork belly, broccoli, lobster balls, tofu, noodles, quail eggs, and lamb shoulder as you desire to simmer in your choice of broth. There’s a serve yourself sauce bar with all the favorites, like ponzu, xo, and garlic/ginger, too. And, everybody gets a free boba tea with their meal. 329 11th St., Oakland — Ellen Fort

For nostalgic food in a modern setting: It’s probably not cool to suggest eating a place that has set a closing date (what if you get attached?), but that’s all the more reason to rush into Theorita for dinner right now. Start with one of chef Angela Pinkerton’s English muffin slathered with foie gras butter and Swanton Berry Farm strawberry jam, followed by meatloaf and buttered fries. And, of course end with pie (and a milkshake). Its last night of dinner service is December 15 (but it will stay open for coffee and pastries in the morning until December 24). 834 Divisadero St, San Francisco — Ellen Fort