Turtle Tower – San Francisco

Turtle Tower Chicken Pho

Turtle Tower
631 Larkin St
(between Eddy St & Ellis St)
San Francisco, CA 94109
Neighborhood: Civic Center/Tenderloin

Rated: ♣♣

I tried the famed chicken pho at Turtle Tower, and I was shockingly unimpressed. It’s just not the pho I’m used to. I prefer the typical kind of pho with the thin chewy noodles. This kind of pho used fat rice noodles, similar to those in Chinese noodle soups. Also, the load of green onions and cilantro over powered the dish. A big turnoff. The spring rolls filled with vermicelli noodles, shrimp, chicken, mint and lettuce were fresh and tasty. But, I’d say Out the Door’s spring rolls are a little bit better because they’re bigger and they use a special sauce in the wrap. In conclusion, I don’t think I’ll come back to Turtle Tower when I’m craving pho.

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Cafe Mo’z – San Francisco

Cafe Moz Huevos RancherosCafe Mo’z
36 5th St
San Francisco, CA 94103
Neighborhoods: Union Square, SOMA

Rated: ♣♣♣♣

Sneaking in a shopping trip during lunch, my co-worker and I found this cute little cafe just outside the SF Shopping Center. I was initially looking at the falaffel sandwiches, but what is this? They have breakfast! Breakfast for lunch is always a preference of mine. Cafe Moz looks like your typical cheap take-out lunch place for the busy professional, but if you really sit down and enjoy the meal, you’d be pleasantly surprised.

The scene:

It seems like Cafe Moz serves 2 different kinds of food – Mediterranean and breakfast. An odd combination, but it works.

The service is very friendly. The server could’ve passed for borderline flirtatious, but hey, I won’t complain. Good service and good food is all I ask. My coworker even forgot her leftovers at the table and the server chased her out the door with her doggie bag.

The food:

Huevos Rancheros – I cannot turn down huevos rancheros. It’s a good brunch plate because it embodies elements of both breakfast and lunch. This common breakfast plate consists of hearty black beans mixed with fluffy scrambled eggs, salsa and chewy corn tortillas. I added a few douses of Tabasco for a good kick. One thing I look for in a good huevos rancheros is chewy tortillas. Soggy tortillas are no bueno.

The reason why I’m giving this 4 clubs rather than 5 is because I think they use a jarred salsa rather than a fresh one. Nothing wrong with that, but I’d appreciate it more if it was made from scratch.

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Five Guys Burgers and Fries – Vacaville

Five Guys BurgerFive Guys Burger and Fries
1651 E. Monte Vista Ave.
Suite 102
Vacaville, CA 95688

Rated: ♣♣♣♣

Sorry In-n-Out. It’s been a good decade, but now it’s time for a new guy to wear the crown… make that five guys. Five Guys Burger and Fries is an East coast burger joint slowly making it’s way to the Bay Area. Never frozen, the hamburger patties at Five Guys are hand formed for every order to maintain its backyard BBQ freshness. Randomly, they have all-you-can-eat peanuts. I don’t understand the combination of peanuts and burgers, but hey, it’s free!

The scene:

The award-winning burger joint is slowly creeping its way to the Bay Area with locations in Vacaville, San Jose, and Fremont. The interior is reminiscent of In-n-Out with the same 50s-style and red and white color scheme. The peanuts really are the gimmick though. No need to be hungry while waiting for your food, just snack on a bowl of peanuts.

The food:

The burgers are more on the expensive side, but you’re totally paying for the quality. What’s funny is that K, T and I came into Five Guys with the intention of only getting an order of fries (since it was 5pm and close to our family dinner time). We ended up getting a burger, a hot dog and an order of fries. We couldn’t resist!

Burger – The standard here is 2 burger patties with grilled onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, pickles and lettuce. I am such a Five Guys noob that I didn’t realize that all toppings were free and I could’ve had the burger “all the way” with jalapenos, A1 sauce, and hot sauce in addition to what I ordered. Dang! I had been craving a burger for a while and this totally satisfied the need for a fat juicy burger. The meat tasted very fresh and lightly seasoned and the toppings were plentiful. The only set-back was that the patty was so juicy, it soaked into my bread.

Cajun Fries – We got a small order of Cajun fries, but there was nothing small about it. This order could literally feed 5 people. I was in awe watching the guy behind the counter pouring each order of fries into white cups. After he sticks the white cup in the brown paper bag, he takes another scoop of fries and dumps it in the bag. I don’t know about you, but when I used to get fries at MacDonalds, I would get a kick out of the extra fries I found at the bottom of the bag. That was MacDonalds. Imagine getting an extra scoop of fat steak fries covered in some kind of Cajun seasoning. Ah-mazing. Also, you have to love spicy if you get these fries. They are addicting, but hot!

Well, that was my adventure of driving 1.5 hours out of San Francisco just to try Five Guys Burger and Fries. They’re opening 200 storefronts this year, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed for a San Francisco location. In the meantime, I’ll happily enjoy my In-n-Out.

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Luna Park – San Francisco

Luna Park Anchor Steam ChickenLuna Park
694 Valencia St
(between 18th St & Sycamore St)
San Francisco, CA 94110
Neighborhood: Mission

Rated: ♣♣♣

My good Canadian friend, Tye, who just moved to America (specifically SF) took me to Luna Park for my bday last month. My bro and sis-in-law tried it out a couple weeks prior and mentioned they had a make-your-own s’mores dessert on the menu. As soon as I heard s’mores, I knew I had to try it out.

The scene:

Like any other restaurant in the Mission, Luna Park is a trendy hot spot for young hipsters looking for a night out drinking or a meal with a group of friends. The restaurant is decked out with red walls, industrial piping on the ceiling and crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.

The place is crowded, even until late in the evening, which may explain the poor service we received that night. Anytime we needed something (to place an order, glass of water, check) we had to wail our arms until we grabbed our waitress’ attention.

The food:

Some items were really good, and some I could pass on.

Goat Cheese Fondue w/Grilled Bread and Sliced Apples – This was my favorite part of the night. I’m a huge cheese fan, especially when it comes to stinky cheeses. Take a potent cheese and turn it into fondue with some buttery bread and I am in heaven.

Moules Frites: Prince Edward Island Mussels with Dos Equis, Bacon, Red Fresno Chiles, Lime and Shallots with French Fries – I have never been a fan of mussels, but I do admit these were awesome. They used baby mussels so that the flavor wasn’t too over powering with each bite. It tasted more like clams soaked in a buttery wine sauce. We dipped the bread from the fondue and found that to be sinfully good.

Oven Baked Macaroni & Cheese and Broccoli with Applewood Smoked Ham – Such a disappointment. The mac-n-cheese was pretty bland itself. Seemed like it only had one flavor – rich. It didn’t have much depth to it. I’m not trying to be a snobby critic, but it was missing something. Something sharp. I got it with the ham, but the large cubes of the salty meat were overpowering for the dish.

Beer Marinated Grilled Half Chicken with Brentwood Corn Ragout, Squash, Blue Lake Beans, Gypsy Peppers and Jalapeño – This dish came as a recommendation and it didn’t disappoint. Opposite the mac-n-cheese, the chicken was full of flavor and spices. Spicy, smoky, and sweet. With my leftovers, I ended up cutting up the chicken and throwing it in my mac-n-cheese. That definitely kicked it up a few notches.

Vegetable Risotto – Completely bland. Tasted like the chef cooked the risotto with water rather than a broth. When something is this creamy, you usually need something in there to balance the flavors. This didn’t have it.

DIY S’Mores – These were so yummy. I’m grading this lightly since I did make them myself at the table. The marshmallow sauce and chocolate came on separate fondue burners with a side of homemade graham crackers. The s’mores taste ooey gooey and full of love, but you have to eat it quick or else the marshmallow hardens and sticks to the serving cup.

All-in-all, this restaurant was satisfactory. I wasn’t blown away by anything that would make me want to come back.

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Banana Island – Daly City

Banana Island Mango ChickenBanana Island
416 Westlake Ctr
Daly City, CA 94015

Rated: ♣♣♣

Banana Island has been around for a while, and every time I go there, I’m generally pleased with everything I order – most of the time satisfied, sometimes underwhelmed. I used to have to wait 20 minutes for a table, but it’s much easier now thanks to the brand new parking structure out front. I’m sure it’s hurt business since the restaurant is completely obstructed from the street. Nonetheless, I’m able to eat here with no wait!

The food:

There is a plethora of items on their menu celebrating East Asian cuisine, specifically Malaysian, Indonesian and Thai. They’ve got a mix of curries, noodles, seafood, and the famous roti (paper-thin bread fried and dipped in a coconut curry).

Roti – I’ve come here a few times when this is the only thing I’ve ordered. It’s addicting. The mildly chewy and crispy bread dipped into the creamy and semi-spicy curry is such comfort food. The best part of this dish is the soaked potato in the cup of curry. Don’t let them take the curry away after you’ve finished with your roti, though. Save it and pour it on your rice!

Singapore Tofu – This is my favorite dish at Banana Island. It consists of lightly battered and fried silky tofu mixed with shrimp, chicken, snow peas and mushrooms. The tofu just melts in my mouth.

Pineapple Fried Rice – Sometimes, this is a hit or miss. I’ve had it a few times where the entire dish is really sour because of bad pineapple. One time, I asked them why it was so sour and they said that their last shipment of pineapple wasn’t good. Don’t sell it then! But, when the pineapples are fresh, this dish is pretty good.

Mango Chicken – Also, another favorite of mine. Tender, juicy chicken mixed with crunchy mangoes and drenched in a sweet/tart sauce. Yum!

Basil Noodles – This is pretty much chow fun with tons of basil. It’s amazing how basil can completely change the taste of a classic chow fun. Although the taste was there, I thought there were too many bean sprouts. I rather have a load of noodles than the crunchy vegetable.

Fried Bananas – I’m a sucker for desserts, especially those involving fruits. You really can’t screw up fried bananas, so of course, I loved this dish. Who wouldn’t love a gooey banana that’s deep fried in batter?

Chocolate Peanut Roti – Banana Island has a whole section on roti desserts. The one that caught our eye is the roti filled with chocolate and peanuts. The mixture of chocolate and peanuts was thick, creamy and nutty. Such a sinful treat.

As I’ve continuously mentioned throughout this post, this restaurant is a hit or miss. They’ve got some amazing dishes and some duds. It’s good enough for a 3-clubber, though.

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