Cha Cha Cha – San Mateo

Cha Cha Cha Fried Plantains and Pork

Cha Cha Cha Cuba
112 S B St
San Mateo, CA 94102

Rated: ♣♣♣♣♣

I’ve been debating whether or not to write this post. Not because I have mixed feelings about the restaurant, but because I don’t want this place to start getting crowded. You may have already been or even heard of the famed Cuban fare at Cha Cha Cha in the Haight, but they’ve opened another location in San Mateo. And the best part is, not many have discovered it yet! Thanks to our good friend, Victor, for the tip. We ate like kings for lunch. For 4 people, we ordered fried potatoes, Jamaican jerk chicken, black mussels, Cajun shrimp, lechon asado, and a coconut flan. The fried potatoes were different than the Spanish tapas version, but it was super good. I don’t think these were battered, just fried. The best part is the creamy spicy sauce that comes with it. It’s almost like the orange sauce from La Vics in San Jose. The Cajun shrimp is served in another creamy spicy sauce that I could not stop soaking my bread in. The lechon asado was probably my favorite dish. Juicy pork that melts in your mouth with a side of rice and beans and pan fried plantains. Mmm, so good. We loved the plantains so much, we ordered another helping. Everything else we had was amazing. I just hope, for my sake, that this place doesn’t get busy!

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LaLoLa – San Francisco

LaLoLa Roasted Peppers and Crab

1358 Mason St
(between John St & Pacific Ave)
San Francisco, CA 94133

Rated: ♣

Ever since we came back from Europe, K and I have been craving Spanish tapas. After a quick search on Yelp, we came across LaLoLa in Chinatown. I called ahead. No wait? Okay, let’s go. When I first walked into the restaurant, I was smacked in the face with a strange smell. It was pungent and sour. If I wasn’t so hungry, I would’ve turned around and walked away.

I ordered a ton of food – crab stuffed piquillos, patatas bravas, fries topped with Iberian ham and a fried egg, mushrooms with garlic and white wine, and fried calamari. To be honest, nothing really stood out. The flavors were muted. The first red flag was the stale complimentary bread. Seriously? What Spanish restaurant serves bad bread?? I order patatas bravas anytime I see it on the menu and I was so disappointed after my first bite. The potatoes were dry and they were topped with way too much mayo. It’s safe to say I won’t be coming back here again.

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Armani Cafe – San Francisco

Armani Cafe Fig SaladArmani Cafe
1 Grant Ave
(between Market St & Ofarrell St)
San Francisco, CA 94108
Neighborhood: Union Square

Rated: ♣♣♣

A coworker invited me to lunch the other day and suggested we go to the Armani Cafe in Union Square. Little did I know, it was a cafe inside an Armani store. To be honest, it was a little strange sitting at a bar in the middle of a clothing store, but I was surprised by the quality of the food. I ordered the Insalata di Fichi, mixed greens with caramelized figs, toasted walnuts, bleu cheese topped with a dark balsamic vinaigrette. The ingredients were very fresh and I was impressed that they used local ingredients in their dishes.  The leaves were well-dressed, the figs were sweet and chewy, and they had a mountain of bleu cheese – all things I love. I didn’t care too much for the walnuts though. They tasted a little raw and could’ve used a little more time toasting. I also had a virgin mojito, but I’ve never really been a fan of mojitos, so I won’t comment on this one.

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One Market – San Francisco

One Market Rice Crusted PetroleOne Market
1 Market Plaza
San Francisco, CA 94105
Neighborhood: Financial District

Rated:  ♣♣♣

Yet again, I had another work meal, and yet again, it was satisfying. With no reservations, we ordered a dozen oysters to accompany our main course. Salty, briny, fresh – just as oysters should be. I had the rice-crusted petrale sole with a carrot-ginger emulsion. The dish was very light and mild. But then again, you really don’t want a strong sauce to overpower such a mild and tender fish. I also had a raspberry lemonade, but I wasn’t a fan because it was waaayy too sweet.

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Shalimar – San Francisco

Shalimar Palak PaneerShalimar
532 Jones St
(between Ofarrell St & Geary St)
San Francisco, CA 94102
Neighborhood: Civic Center/Tenderloin

Rated: ♣♣♣

For some odd reason, I’ve been craving a lot of Indian/Pakistani food lately. I’ve been wanting to eat it once a week and I’m hating myself for that since it’s never a light meal. In this tiny hole in the wall in the Tenderloin, I wondered if my hands were cleaner than the food I was about to eat. But in any case, K and I tried the Palak Paneer (spinach and Indian cheese) and our usual Chicken Tikka Masala (tandoori chicken in a creamy tomato sauce) with a side of basmati rice and naan. The Palak Paneer is one of the better one’s I’ve had. It’s thick, creamy, and packs a little heat. The cheese (or tofu rather) is a little firmer than what I’m used to. The Chicken Tikka Masala was very aromatic and flavorful. The only problem was that the chicken was a little overcooked. Overall, the fare is pretty good here. Best part of the meal was the hot and fluffy naan. I’d say it has the best naan in the city.

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