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Kimson Doan

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The Best Dishes Editors Ate This Week

This week a perfect praline, celebration-worthy roasted duck, and a nontraditional take on a Taiwanese favorite

There’s certainly no shortage of excellent food to be found in San Francisco and the Bay Area — but there’s plenty worth skipping, too. Luckily for you, Eater editors dine out several times a week (or more) and we’re happy to share the standout dishes we encounter as we go.

Here’s the best of everything the Eater SF team has eaten recently. Check back weekly for more don’t-miss dishes.


January 27

Macadamia praline from Kokak Chocolates

Paolo Bicchieri

There is, objectively, a best nut. It’s not the peanut, that low-laying legume of the field, nor California’s much-loved almond, in all of its chalky pasty hubris. It’s the macadamia nut, and that’s a fact the Castro District’s Kokak Chocolates understands. Owner Carol Gancia puts the globular, meaty queen centerstage where she belongs. There are layers to this praline, with a thin snap of wafer cushioned by caramel. A surge of sea salt shakes a would-be somnambulant chewer back to life if the intricate designs on each chocolate weren’t captivating enough. Gancia says she wants her treats to capture “chocolate memories,” which run tropical given her home of the Philippines. Whether it be the best-selling coconut pie or the guava truffle with so much guava it’s like eating the fruit and then chasing it with a shot of chocolate chips, Gancia’s treats are blasts of nostalgia, proving chocolate tastes better when it reminds us of life’s sweet moments. I’m not saying this macadamia praline’s unreal combo of nuttiness and sweetness can unlock time travel. But, I’m not saying it can’t, either. Kokak Chocolates, 3901 18th Street, San Francisco

— Paolo Bicchieri, Eater SF reporter

Roast duck meal at Kaokao Grill

Roast duck pieces are folded into white bao, with pieces of cucumber and green onion. Kimson Doan

Lunar New Year arrived on Sunday, and it only seemed appropriate to celebrate with a roast duck. And while I have a soft spot for those red lacquered ducks that hang from hooks behind a restaurant window, what I picked up from Kaokao Grill in Berkeley was not that. Dare I say, this was an improvement upon those versions, in ways that I’m still trying to pinpoint. The Sichuan five-spiced duck gave the bird a nice base layer of flavor, with lovely undertones of anise and cloves that were present, but not overpowering. Like other dishes at Kaokao, the duck is then smoked, imparting another flavor distinctive to Kaokao’s version, and yielding perfectly tender bits without being over-dry. Add on the meal kit, and it’s a complete dinner with fluffy bao, Kaokao’s house sauce (a zhuzhed up Hoisin sauce, I think), and julienned strands of cucumber and scallions. The roast duck is only available on holidays, such as Christmas and Lunar New Year, which means there could be stretches of time before one can try this again, but I would argue that only makes it all the more special. Kaokao Grill, 2993 College Avenue, Berkeley

— Dianne de Guzman, Eater SF deputy editor

Honey walnut shrimp and pork toast at Piglet & Co

It’d be remarkably easy to walk right past the new Piglet & Co restaurant on Mission without even realizing what you’ve done. The windows of the storefront hide behind graffiti-covered plywood boards, and a simple sign on the blacked-out door promises only that there’s a restaurant “coming soon.” This is to say that stepping inside the dark space with a long bar uplit but subtle blue lighting feels like stumbling into a secret club — even if you knew exactly where you were going. Anyone who’s been following chef Chris Yang and his partner Marcelle Gonzales Yang knows to expect playfully reimagined Taiwanese dishes, and of all the plates I tried during this early visit, the most thrilling was easily one that married the texture of pork katsu with the comforting flavors of honey walnut shrimp. Yang starts with a base of toasted milk bread, adding a layer of crunchy candied walnut relish before crowning the stack with a thick patty of pork and shrimp. The juicy combo comes breaded in panko crumbs and fried to a crisp, before being adorned with a drizzle of caramel-y brunt honey aioli. Brunch service starts next month, and I’m already counting the days until I can get back for more. Piglet & Co, 2170 Mission Street in San Francisco

— Lauren Saria, Eater SF editor


January 21

Cioppino at Anchor Oyster Bar

Paolo Bicchieri

San Francisco is well-known for a few dishes including the seductive Irish coffee at Buena Vista Cafe and the golden Peking duck at Mister Jiu’s. Cioppino, in all of its stewy splendor, is right up there with the best of the best — though which restaurant takes the belt for the best iteration of the dish is anyone’s call. In my opinion, Anchor Oyster Bar might be the Muhammad Ali of the cioppino game. Dungeness crabbing has been delayed what feels like a thousand times this season, but the Castro Street mainstay of more than 40 years brought a catch on the very morning I took my pops to the restaurant. Combined with meaty tomato, sweet shrimp, and mussels, the enormous bowl, which wasn’t even technically the “large” order, testifies to the region’s seafood privileges. There’s a thickness to the dish that feels fitting given the enormous amount of labor that goes into its creation. While loads of other restaurants craft cracker-jack cioppino (there’s a restaurant named after the dish, after all) Anchor’s ambiance and menu add to the luxuriousness of their riff, too. The scallop linguine smelt so strongly of citrus and cream that it was like someone grabbed my nose and smacked it back and forth with a glass of lemonade; Alaskan cod came on a bed of beans and tomato for a rustic roundhouse of indulgence and class; and draining the last dredges of the cioppino, in its oceanic loveliness, made as good a case for best of the best as I’d ever seen. Anchor Oyster Bar, 579 Castro Street, San Francisco

— Paolo Bicchieri, Eater SF reporter

Marin Dungeness hand roll at Yonsei Handrolls

Patricia Chang

The siren’s song of Dungeness crab has been luring me into an indecisive state, trying to figure out from restaurant menus where I’d like to have my first taste of crab this year. It’s a big decision — and one I haven’t quite figured out yet — but at a recent dinner at Yonsei Handrolls it seemed like a no-brainer to tide myself over, crab-wise, with this hand-sized piece of beauty: a Marin Dungeness hand roll with shoyu butter and garlic chives. It was everything a crab-liking person could want: the oceany sweetness, with the velvety addition of butter, and some bite from the chives and seaweed wrapping. I was distracted as soon as the roll landed on the table and, true to how goofy I can be, didn’t take a photo. Thankfully, my dining partner is much more diligent than I am at these things, and probably took a better photo than I ever could. As a secondary mention, the American wagyu roll, with mountain yam and a quail egg, also stood out. It wasn’t the easiest thing to bite into, but the flavors of the wagyu and quail egg together were outstanding and really emphasized that perhaps one doesn’t need to go the “traditional” route — and that chef Kyle Itani has really got a hit on his hands here. Yonsei Handrolls, 1738 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland

— Dianne de Guzman, Eater SF deputy editor

Lunar New Year Pastry Box from Sunday Bakeshop

Lauren Saria

From over-the-top cocktail pop-ups to stunning seasonal pastries, there’s a lot to love about Lunar New Year in San Francisco. So last weekend I started my day by swinging through Neighbor Bakehouse in the Dogpatch to pick up a box of festive pastries from Sunday Bakeshop before heading to Chinatown to meander around the flower market. I practically inhaled a subtly-sweet hojicha financier and risked spilling chantilly all over myself just so I could take one bite of the stunning black sesame toasted rice eclair while still en route. The rest of the pastries made the perfect snacks for a post-market afternoon spent curled up by a fire once the storm rolled in. Each pastry surprised and delighted with familiar flavors including mango, match, cha siew, and coconut packaged up in technically impressive forms. Considering the flaky sweet and savory croissants and gorgeous tarts inside, it’s perhaps a little ironic to say my favorite was a relatively simple cookie. For as long as I can remember White Rabbit candies have been a go-to treat and Sunday Bakeshop’s strawberry White Rabbit cookie, perfectly thin and soft, struck just the right balance between tart freeze-dried strawberries and milky white chocolate. And until next New Year, I’ll be looking forward to my next fix. Sunday Bakeshop, 5931 College Avenue, Oakland. Pick-up is also available at Neighbor Bakehouse, 2343 3rd Street #100 in San Francisco.

— Lauren Saria, Eater SF editor


January 13

Vegetarian spicy hue noodle soup at Sunflower Garden Authentic Vietnamese

Paolo Bicchieri

Sunflower Garden Authentic Vietnamese in the Inner Sunset has been on my list since a Wildseed employee let me know it’s a go-to for plant-based food. has been on my list since an employee of Wildseed let me know it was a go-to for plant-based food. While the restaurant has plenty of options for meat eaters, this vegan spicy hue noodle soup might be the star of the show. Swimming in the enormous bowl of spicy broth, the mighty discs of vegetarian ham, which tasted nothing like ham, more like Tofurkey or fish, do an excellent job of absorbing the oil and spice of the broth and make for succulent and satisfying bites. The other treasures are the wide pillows of deep-fried tofu, thin and chewy like inari skin. The vermicelli noodles are a primo carb base for the tremendous $16 entree, in which the brightness of lemongrass mingles with the subtle umami from mushrooms. With a plentiful fried taro cake for an appetizer, which is not vegan thanks to a bit of egg, I just about passed out working through this bowl of soup. And I’m not really a soup person, certainly not like many in my generation who build entire cottage core-esque identities around various broths and brines. But this emboldening bún bò huế chay has me thinking I’ve been sleeping on scintillating stews for way too long. Sunflower Garden Authentic Vietnamese, 1368 9th Avenue, San Francisco

— Paolo Bicchieri, Eater SF reporter

Hainan chicken rice at Noodles Fresh

Dianne de Guzman

I’m trying to get better at trying restaurants and bars that have long been on my radar but, for whatever reason, I haven’t yet visited. One such place is Noodles Fresh, a Chinese restaurant I’ve passed by for years on drives along San Pablo Avenue in El Cerrito. But finally, for once, hunger intersected with a jaunt nearby and I was able to bring home a couple of dishes. While my Jiangxi noodle salad was quite delicious, with its seafood-flavored chile sauce, my heart belongs to a good Hainan chicken rice plate — especially if all the separate components are done well. To wit, the chicken was delicately poached, retaining a nice texture and not verging into the overdone territory. The rice was a lovely golden hue, imbued with the taste of the chicken broth, but without any slick oiliness. And the ginger dipping sauce was done in my favorite style, which is to say slightly too salty, ideal for bringing some depth to the combination of rice and poached chicken. It’s just a pure comfort dish, even if it’s not one I grew up with, in a soothing combo of rice, chicken, and sauce that makes rainy weather like this feel less dreary. Noodles Fresh, 10042 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito

— Dianne de Guzman, Eater SF deputy editor

Tonkotsu ramen at Kodaiko Ramen & Bar

Lauren Saria

There’s really nothing I crave more than a hot bowl of something brothy when the weather gets grey and moody as it has been lately. And while San Francisco has more excellent ramen spots than I can count on two hands, I recently found myself in downtown Sacramento with the opportunity to visit a new-to-me ramen-ya I’ve been curious about for years. From the same chef-owner behind one of the city’s top sushi spots Kru, Kodaiko Ramen & Bar hides behind a narrow entry off the K Street thoroughfare down a steep set of black stairs. Reach the bottom and you’ll feel like you’ve stumbled into some sort of secret ramen and sake-filled den. A heavy ceramic bowl of tonkotsu ramen starts with a heady base of pork and fish paitan augmented with shoyu tare with a tangle of bouncy ramen noodles resting under a shower of negi (shredded green onions) and an inky black slick garlic oil. A jiggy hunk of pork belly, a pinch of peppery mustard greens, and a custardy half ajitama were all the extra toppings this satiating bowl required. By the time my spoon was scraping the bottom, I was already wishing I had room for more. Kodaiko Ramen & Bar, 718 K Street in Sacramento

— Lauren Saria, Eater SF editor


January 6

Coffee flight from Coffee Movement West

Paolo Bicchieri

I started going to Coffee Movement’s new location on Balboa Street obsessively before 2023 took hold, probably as an unconscious attempt to push the year back like Odie off that kitchen table. A flight of coffee there is an affordable, emboldening way to dive into coffee nerdom for those uninitiated. The shop will prepare any of three coffees in three ways — as drip coffee, espresso, and as a mini latte — or each of their three coffees one way. For those comfortably in the church of caffeine, Coffee Movement’s $5 triumvirate is a chance to expand one’s horizons of what roasters are out there pushing the scene to new places. The Nob Hill-born coffee shop rotates specialty coffee drinks and roasters often, and while I was there I had a Costa Rican offering from Onyx, produced by Las Lejas. Onyx is one of specialty coffee’s favorite godfathers; the first time I ever tried a single-origin, pour-over, fancy schmancy coffee in 2014, it was Onyx. Prepared three ways, I felt I was able to experience the roast in its most dominant expressions. This particular coffee was bright and acidic with tea-like qualities that made it super drinkable. I realize I’m on the millennial side of my zillennial demarcation with my love of simply-made coffee, but whether you’re a morning lark or a night owl, into the loud or the quiet, Coffee Movement’s flight a the gorgeous procession of both light and dark coffee that anyone would be lucky to try. Coffee Movement, 1737 Balboa Street, San Francisco

— Paolo Bicchieri, Eater SF reporter

Shishbarak soup dumpling at Lulu

Dianne de Guzman

Lulu has been one of my local favorites ever since I fell under the spell of its charming mezze brunch and rose brulee cappucino, but it was lovely to see chef Mona Leena Michael branch out into dinner on a recent weeknight. At Laylat Lulu (or “Lulu at Night”) the restaurant served a multi-course dinner showcasing Michael’s talents beyond the usual breakfast/lunch/brunch game. And while I was a fan of a number of the other dishes — sesame fattoush tostada, I’m looking at you — the one that really won me over was the shishbarak soup dumpling. The dumpling was stuffed with wonderfully seasoned lamb and enfolded in a wrapper with a nice amount of chew; meanwhile, the pine nut salsa macha helped give it a nice variation of texture and flavor in each bite. The addition of kishk provided a nice tangy finish to offset the lamb. It was a nicely balanced dish in the middle of the meal, and one I’ll be thinking about for a while. Lulu, 1019 Camelia Street, Berkeley

— Dianne de Guzman, Eater SF deputy editor

Egg and cheese sandwich from Schlok’s

A bagel sandwich cut in half wrapped in paper. Lauren Saria

I woke up on Monday, January 1 feeling, honestly, not that great — but still infinitely better than I deserved all things considered. In fact, I realized I probably only need two things to push myself back into fully “I’m actually doing alright” territory: coffee, duh, and a big, carb-y breakfast. And thank goodness my partner had the bright idea to place an order from what’s become a go-to breakfast option in the neighborhood, Schlok’s. Normally we’d walk over but on that day, we took advantage of the delivery option, and in less than an hour were basking in the glory of two shiny bagels encrusted with ample everything seasoning and encasing layers of egg, cheese, and sweet pepper butter. I never tire of this simple but well-executed sandwich, just a chewy bagel, an oozy couple of eggs, lots and lots of cheese, and that vaguely tangy sweet pepper spread. In terms of all the things that you could have had for your first bite of the year, I’ve got not a single regret that this was mine.

Schlok’s, 1263 Fell Street in San Francisco

— Lauren Saria, Eater SF editor

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