Out The Door – San Francisco

Out The Door 5 Spice Chicken SandwichOut The Door
1 Ferry Plaza
San Francisco, CA 94111

Rated: ♣♣♣

Yeah, this place is good. But, it comes with a hefty price tag. You can get Vietnamese food equally this great and pay half the price outside of the city, SF’s Saigon Sandwich even. I went to school in San Jose, and I’m use to $5 bowls of pho and $3.50 Vietnamese sandwiches. Boy, was I spoiled. Because of convenience, I am now paying $7.50 for spring rolls and $8.50 for a Vietnamese sandwich.

The scene:

Out The Door is the take-out version of the very famous, Slanted Door. I’ve never had the opportunity to dine here, but OTD is a good, safe introduction to Vietnamese food. What sets this place apart from other Vietnamese restaurants are their unique menu options. In addition to the usual pho, sandwiches and vermicelli bowls, they have more Chinese-inspired dishes like porridge and buns.

This place gets super busy, so come early if you’re in a rush.

The food:

Spring rolls – I love these spring rolls, especially because there are no bean sprouts. The rolls also have the best balance of ingredients – large pieces of cooked shrimp, tons of noodles, few shreds of mint leaves and a chewy wrapper. I also think there’s some kind of sauce in here, but I can’t pinpoint what it is. Best part of the dish is the peanut sauce. It needs a little kick, but it’s still yummy.

5-spice chicken sandwich – The chicken is flavorful,  juicy and perfectly cooked. The sandwich is loaded with pickled veggies and the special white sauce that’s traditionally in other Vietnamese sandwiches. I also love that they have little containers of jalapenos so I can add as many as I want in my sandwich.

I love this place, partly because there’s barely any good Vietnamese options in this area other than Sai’s (but it’s a hike). But, I’m going to give OTD 3 clubs just because of the price.

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Michael Mina – San Francisco

Michael Mina Tuna Tartare MixedMichael Mina
335 Powell St
(between Geary St & Post St)
San Francisco, CA 94102
Neighborhood: Union Square

Rated: ♣♣♣♣♣

So, in my last post, I mentioned I didn’t make it out to Michael Mina with my whole group of friends. However, K decided to take me for some 1:1 time the night before my birthday. Michael Mina is definitely a special occasion restaurant, so I think it’s much more appreciated by a party of 2 rather than a large group.

The scene:

I had no idea Michael Mina was in the Westin in Union Square. The restaurant looks more like a lobby bar than a restaurant, but the ambiance absolutely screams big-price-tag.

Service was phenomenal. Our waitress, Sam, was always attentive. She observed my need to take photos of every meal and advised me when to take photos of certain dishes (i.e. the lobster pot pie before it’s been assembled.)

The food:

After Sam described the menu, K and I quickly flipped back to the first page with the cheapest menu option, the prix fixe menu ($105/pp).

Amuse Bouche Trio – This was the opening number for every meal at Michael Mina and it definitely impresses. The trio is consisted of a shrimp tempura, an uni (sea urchin) flan, and hamachi tartare. It has a great “wow” factor. Each little item is packed with big flavor and it plays with each of your sensory buds on the tongue. A fun way to start the meal.

Tuna Tartare – If I had to choose my last meal on earth, I don’t think this would be it, but it came pretty darn close. The tartare is initially served with the ingredients – tuna, egg yolk, chili pepper, salt, basil, pine nuts, pears and sesame oil – laid out on the plate and then they mix it right there in front of you. The combination of ingredients in this dish is brilliant. It’s both sweet and nutty. And the fish is incredibly fresh, it was like eating straight butter.

Michael Mina Rabbit Fois Gras AppetizerSpring Rabbit / Foie Gras – It is very rare to find rabbit on the menu.  From the left, we had the pea tortellini, leg confit, and tarragon.  I found this dish to be creamy and delicious.  I would definitely look forward to having this again.  In the middle, there was the Loin Terrine, California Asparagus,  Meyer Lemon.  I found the Loin Terrine to be slightly game-y but the Asparagus was delicious!  And on the right, I had the Foie Gras Mousse, Radish, and Chive Wafer.  I had no clue how to eat it, so, I placed the Chive Wafers into the Foie Gras Mousse like crackers in soup.  This was the highlight of this dish.  The Foie Gras was a little cold, but it tasted awesome.

Lobster Pot Pie – Wow, this is sinful. The pot pie is presented by one of the chefs in a copper pot. He then cuts off the top and assembles the entire lobster on your plate. The rich, creamy sauce along with the thumbelina carrots, potatoes, radishes and pearl onions is poured on top of the perfectly tender and succulent lobster.

Brandt Farm Beef – Fava Beans and Spring Potatos – From the left, I had the Filet Mignon, Laratte Potato Puree, Ramp Jus.  I barely remember the Filet Mignon, but the Potato Puree was really rich and creamy.  Just my style.  In the middle, I had the Grilled Ribeye, Crushed Fava Beans, and Potato Gaufrette.  The Grilled Ribeye was a bit on the dry side.  On the Right, there was the Braised Ox Tail, Morel Mushrooms, and Herb Salad.  The Braised Ox Tail was really good.  Definitely my favorite out of this dish.

Michael Mina Rootbeer FloatRoot Beer Float – I initially ordered the dessert trio, but in mid-lobster, I switched it to the root beer float because I knew I would be pretty sad watching K eat his, while I had something else. The root beer float is made of 1 scoop of sassafras ice cream and 1 scoop of root beer sorbet with IBC root beer. On the side of the float are 2 warm cookies – 1 chocolate chip and 1 chocolate chip pecan. I was way too full to eat the cookies, but I was able to finish mine and help finish K’s. I took the cookies to go and ate them warm 2 days later. Mmm, so good.

At the end of the meal, we spoke with Sam, our waitress, and she told us they were closing down that location and reopening a boutique version of it at the old Aqua location on California. In place of the space in the Westin will be a steak restaurant also branded with the Michael Mina name. A grand opening party is supposed to happen in mid-October, but I’m not sure of the details.  I hope I can get my name on that press list. :)

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RN74 – San Francisco

RN74 Mushroom TempuraRN74
301 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94199
Neighborhood: SOMA

Rated: ♣♣♣♣♣

A part of my job allows me to plan extravagant cocktail events around the country. Sweet deal, eh? Well, my last event was held in San Francisco and I was lucky enough to have it at RN74, Michael Mina’s 2010 James Beard-nominated restaurant. Food and service were great. A few minor hiccups, but overall a great party.

The scene:

RN74 is situated at the bottom of the Millennium Apartments in the FiDi. The restaurant attracts a beautiful businessy crowd, someplace I’d never have a chance to go on my own. Our party was set by the lounge area on the right-side of the restaurant. We didn’t get a private bar, but we did have 1 waitress collecting orders and a server pouring $100 bottles of wine.

Service was great. A tad-bit understaffed, though. Pre-event planning was awkward. The events manager couldn’t give me an estimate as to how much our party would cost. I was on a strict budget for our party of 60 (which later turned out to 80), and the events manager kept insisting a few trays of cheese, smoked fish and these little veggie and meat cups would be enough. But, we ended up ordering a load of extra food, about $7k worth.

What impressed me was their car service. After the event, I stood outside the restaurant waiting for a cab. The valet asked if I needed a ride and offered their town-car and said it would be the same price as a cab. When I got into the car, I asked how much would it roughly be to get to my home since I only had a few dollars on me. The driver insisted I could pay anything I wanted! I couldn’t believe it! Anything, really? Wow, this event really gave me a taste of life of the rich and famous.

The food:

We had a ton of food at our party, so I’ll only point out the most memorable.

Maitake Mushroom Tempura – My absolute FAVORITE! I literally had 2 whole servings of this dish. The mushrooms were lightly fried and salted and the meat was tender and fluffy.

Potato Ravioli – These raviolis were stuffed with creamy mashed potatoes! What more can I say?

Hangar Steak – This steak is like butter. Not the best steak in the world, but it was mouth watering.

Smoked Fish – The assortment of smoked fish was impressive. A little overwhelming since the platter was so huge. All the fish eventually tasted the same.

Cocktail – Pimm’s 74 – I’m by no-means a drinker, and I was handed this drink by a co-worker. The Pimm’s 74 is RN74’s specialty cocktail drink consisting of house-made “Pimm’s No. 1,” ginger beer, campari and prosecco. As garnish, a slice of orange and cucumber. It was much like a fruity champagne, but incredibly strong. I set the cup down after my 2nd sip.

The one thing I regret not ordering is dessert. It’ll have to be a really big special occasion before I come here again.

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Boulevard – San Francisco

Boulevard Rabbit PastaBoulevard
1 Mission Street
(between Steuart St & The Embarcadero)
San Francisco, CA 94105

Rated: ♣♣♣♣

I cannot tell you how much I enjoy work meals. Celebrating a new employee, company event, networking socials – They all give me the opportunity to try food at places I’d never go on my own (because I can’t afford it). Boulevard has been on my hit list for quite some time and I finally had the opportunity to try it a couple weeks ago. Aside from the appetizer, I was very much impressed with the food and service. I would love to come again to try other items on the menu.

The scene:

The restaurant has an old-fashioned, classic feel. It is built in the beautiful Audiffred Building, built in 1889 and is one of San Francisco’s oldest buildings.

Service is outstanding. The waiter came by several time to check on our meal and continued to fill our water glasses.

The food:

Everything had beautiful presentation. The food really comes to life when it is presented.

Ahi Tuna Tartar – Although displayed beautifully, I could not enjoy this dish. The tuna was mixed with A LOT of minced raw ginger. I cannot bite into ginger. Something about the texture and the over-powering flavors overwhelms my palate, leaving my mouth feeling tortured. I also could not eat the green onion tempura, again pretty, but I found no interest in eating an onion.

Rabbit & Porcini Mushroom Bolognese housemade linguine, grilled maitake mushrooms, parmesan cheese – This was ah-mazing! The pasta was so fresh and al dente and the sauce was rich and hearty. I’ve never had rabbit before that day. It tasted pretty much like chicken, but it had the texture of ground pork. The thin, fresh linguine pasta had the sustenance to hold velvety tomato sauce and the bits of ground rabbit. The mushroom on top was so tender and delicate, you could break it apart with a fork.

Peanut Butter Ice Cream Bon Bon – We most definitely could not skip out on dessert. Although full, we figured we had room for a tiny dessert. The bon bons are made of a rich peanut butter ice cream and covered in a thin layer of milk chocolate. How can you go wrong?

Passion Guava Lemonade – The lemonade came in a tall skinny glass and the bright pink color was absolutely beautiful. Drink was very fresh and tasty, but I’d be scared to know how many calories was in it.

This is definitely an “occasion” restaurant, so I’ll wait for the next occasion to try it again. I can’t wait!

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Rotunda – San Francisco

Rotunda
Neiman Marcus
150 Stockton St
San Francisco, CA 94108
Neighborhood: Union Square
Rated: ♣♣♣♣

Mother’s Day is just around the corner and what better way to celebrate it than with high tea? A friend was visiting from Canada and we decided to take her out for high tea. We were a party of 3 ladies and one gentleman (me). Being the only dude, I definitely needed to check my man-card (yeh, I had one loaned to me after I manned up and ate the KFC Double Down) at the door. Not the door at Rotunda, but the door for Neiman Marcus.

The Food

We each ordered a set for tea. I had the Earl Gray and Sam had the Pineapple Green Tea. Earl Gray is a winner for me no matter where I go. But, I’m a country bumpkin, I had no clue what to do with all the extra stuff they give you. A little bit of cream here, a spritz of lemon there, and plain. Plain was just good enough for me. Sam seemed to thoroughly enjoy her Pineapple Green Tea as she was quite reluctant to share.

The first thing they serve you is the Chicken Consomme. To me, it tasted like Chicken Broth. A very rich Chicken broth that I wish I could make my ramen at home with.

In addition to the tea set, we ordered the famous Popovers. They looked like poofy, fried dough balls that oozed down onto the plate. Eating them plain, wasn’t very good. But, smearing on that Strawberry butter, made the popover delightful. I couldn’t help but giggle like a schoolgirl as I smeared more and more of that evil (but awesome) butter on pieces of the popover.

The Scones that came with the tea set were pretty dry for me. I actually wonder if that’s how they are supposed to be. I mean, it would make sense if you break off some scone, smear some condiments (strawberry jam, lemon curd, clotted cream, and honey) and wash it all down with some Earl Gray.

Now imagine my eyes, as I sit there and suddenly, there appears a tower of food. Tower! The tower had all kinds of goodness, but they were in these tiny girly portions. Egg Salad sandwich, Crab Salad Sandwich, cucumber sandwich and chicken salad were laid out on the bottom layer, while the top layer had mini chocolate cupcakes, carrot cake, chocolate espresso cake, fruit tartelets, and macaroons.

You know, I want to say the girly portions weren’t enough, but I’d be lying. What I found was that I could barely try one of everything without being incredibly full. Good Job Rotunda, good job!

The Scene

The place is really elegant. You can feel the history off of the architecture. Which is one reason I felt out of place. Originally, I thought I would feel out of place as the only guy here, but it turns out, I was out of a place because I felt like a blue collar bowler while sitting there. I mean, I’m no slouch, but it felt like I should have worn more than a button up shirt and dark denim jeans.

The service was mixed. The hostess seemed like she didn’t know what she was doing, and she dressed really sloppy for a place like this. Our waiter was good since he was courteous, friendly, sometimes talkative. Although, there were times were he would disappear for a long periods.

When it’s all said and done, I would defintely do this again.  It was fun.   Next time, I’m holding onto my mancard on the way in, and wearing a tux.

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