Spice Kit – San Francisco

Spice Kit Wrap

Rated: ♣

I’ve been on the hunt for some good, cheap lunch spots near my office and I came across Spice Kit a few blocks away. Spice Kit is a Vietnamese-Korean-Chinese fusion restaurant serving items such as 5-spice chicken Vietnamese sandwiches, kimchi-filled burrito-sized spring rolls, and mini Chinese sandwiches (like those at Chairman Bao). The restaurant suffers from a slight case of identity crisis, and unfortunately, does not execute well.

Twice, I’ve had the spring rolls. These massive rolls can be filled with your choice of meat (5-spice chicken, beef shortribs, roasted pork or vegetables) with kimchi, lettuce, rice, bean sprouts and a special sauce. The rolls have somewhat of a sour taste – not from the kimchi but from the rice paper wraps. Also, the rolls are so large, it’s hard to eat them quickly which leads to cracking in the rice paper wraps. Towards the end of my spring roll, I was struggling to keep everything together. The most disappointing part of the spring roll was the lack of peanut sauce. I asked the server if he had any peanut sauce, and he said they don’t offer it. Instead, they have bottles of Sriracha sauce for dipping. Seriously! People order spring rolls for the peanut sauce! At least, I do. So unsatisfying…

All-in-all, I was pretty disappointed with Spice Kit. I’ll continue trotting over to Out the Door in the Ferry Building for my spring roll fix.

Spice Kit
405 Howard St
(between Fremont St & 1st St)
San Francisco, CA 94105
Neighborhood: SOMA

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The Spot – San Francisco

The Spot Pork BulgogiThe Spot
2325 Taraval St
(between 33rd Ave & 34th Ave)
San Francisco, CA 94116
Neighborhood: Parkside

Rated: ♣

This place is so popular amongst my friends. I really don’t get it. It’s like mediocre Korean food in a room full of fobby Asians (Disclaimer – I am Asian and I have nothing against my people.) The main event here is the soju. So, if you plan to get drunk and you don’t care how your food tastes, come to The Spot.

The scene:

You’ll find The Spot on a residential block on Taraval. It’s easy to spot because of the pack of Asians smoking in front. This place is great for hosting parties. They have a room in the back with a karaoke machine that, I believe, is free to use. A friend of mine hosted a fundraising event there in which they gave her a percentage of the cost of food that was purchased in her party.

The food:

There are so many other Korean places in the Sunset that’s so much better. I’m guessing you’d have to look at this place as a bar and not a restaurant. The Spot has about 12 different flavors of soju ($14 each) including yogurt, guava, strawberry, mango, etc.

Kimchi Pancake – This was the best thing we ordered. the pancake was thin and chewy, but a little too sour for my liking. I don’t remember it being spicy either.

Chicken wings – The marinade on the wings were good – sweet and tangy. The downside was that it was a tad bit over cooked. The meat was tough and chewy.

Pork Bulgogi – Probably the worst bulgogi I’ve ever had. The taste didn’t even come close to any other Korean place I’ve been to. The meat was incredibly red from the food coloring and the sauce was way too thick and pasty. It was also way too sweet and it had no hint of spice at all. This is such a signature Korean dish, how could you mess this one up??

Spicy Rice Cakes – This dish also used the same thick, pasty sauce as the pork bulgogi. There were also way too many veggies in here. So much that they skimped out on the rice cakes.

Chicken Gizzards РThis was just a plate of saut̩ed gizzards and vegetables. Very plain and oily, but the veggies tasted good.

All-in-all, I was very underwhelmed by the food. I think we paid about $25 per person for this meal too. I’d only recommend this place if you’re interested in bottles of soju with their free popcorn. It;s also a great place if you just want to have  party rather than a meal.

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Shin Toe Bul Yi – San Francisco

Shin Toe Bul Yi Spicy Rice CakeShin Toe Bul Yi
Neighborhood: Parkside
2001 Taraval Street
(between 30th Ave & 31st Ave)
San Francisco, CA 94116

Rated: ♣♣♣♣

K lives just one block away from this place and every time we go in and out of his house, we smell their delicious Korean BBQ. I’m always conflicted when we’re about to leave for another restaurant because I catch the smell of their juicy Kalbi ribs.

The scene:

The place gets super packed, but oddly enough, we got a table for 6 right away last time we came. Make sure you wear old clothes because you’ll smell like Korean food when you leave.

Service is lacking, however. They turned me away once since I came at 9 and they closed at 9:30. They also forget to give you some of the free items such as the soup or the fried fish.

The food:

What’s great at Korean restaurants is the plethora of appetizers. You have the kimchi, pickled turnips, cucumbers, anchovies, fish cake, bean sprouts as well as kimchi tofu soup or a fried fish. I think the rule of thumb at this (and most) Korean restaurants is if you order soup, you get a fried fish; if you don’t order soup, you get the house tofu soup.     Shin Toe Bul Yi does give seconds on the mini trays of appetizers – major plus in my book since I can’t get enough of that fish cake.

Calamari Bok (sautéed rice cake, calamari and vegetables in spicy sauce) – This is my faaaavorite dish at this restaurant. It’s made with 4-5” pieces of the chewy rice cake sautéed in a sweet and spicy sauce. I’m not big on calamari though, so I ate around it.

Pork Bul-Go-Gi (broiled lean pork marinated in spicy sauce) – This is K’s favorite dish. The thin slices of pork are marinated in the same sweet and spicy sauce. The meat is very tender and has great flavor. The only thing that worries me about this dish is the bright red color; it doesn’t seem natural.

Kal Bi (beef short rib marinated in house special sauce) – Koreans make some dang good short ribs. I just love their marinade. It’s sweet, salty and spicy. This Kal Bi was much meatier than other Korean short ribs. Usually, a majority of the pieces are just fat and bones.

Chicken Small Pieces (deep fried) – Last but not least is the fried chicken – hands down, the most popular dish at the restaurant. It’s not your typical fried chicken that you get at KFC or Popeyes. The chicken is very crispy. I’m pretty sure they use cornstarch rather than flour for their batter. The cornstarch brings the crunchiness to a whole other level. After the chicken has been deep fried, it’s sprinkled with a spicy powder. One time I came here, we had a ton of chicken left over and I accidentally dropped 3 pieces on the floor when boxing it up. I was SO devastated!

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My Tofu House – San Francisco

My Tofu House StorefrontMy Tofu House
Neighborhood: Inner Richmond
4627 Geary Blvd
(between 10th Ave & 11th Ave)
San Francisco, CA 94118

Rated: ♣♣♣

I haven’t tried too many Korean places in the city other than Shin Toe Bul Yi and The Spot, but I have to say (although I don’t have much to compare from) My Tofu House serves up really good authentic Korean food.

The scene:

There was a group of 7 of us and we got there before the dinner rush so we were able to get a table right away.

Like every other Korean restaurant, there were a ton of appetizers – kimchi, pickled radishes, anchovies, and pickled zucchini. And, they give refills! We each got a small fried fish which was so good! I think it was fried with some kind of a black bean batter.

The food:

Each person got a soup and the total came to $13 per person.

Tofu and Kimchi Soup – We are all fanatics of the 7×7 Big Eat SF 100 Things You Must Try Before You Die list, so a majority of us ordered the spicy tofu and kimchi soup. When ordering the dish, you pick the level of heat and what kind of meat you want in it. I chose spicy with beef. The soup contained a few thin slices of beef, soft tofu, kimchi and tons of chili flakes. The sizzling hot soup is served in a clay pot with a raw egg in which you crack open and cook in the broth. They also give you a side of short grain rice to put in your soup. The bowl of soup itself looks small, but once you add in the rice and egg, you’ll be loosening your belt.

I thought it was good, but I didn’t see why this particular soup was on the 7×7 list. To me, the soup tasted exactly like the free soup you get at Shin Toe Bul Yi on Taraval. The only thing that stood out of the meal was the fried fish. Yum, I’d come back just for that.

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Kobe Japanese Cuisine and Bar – Foster City

Kobe Japanese Cuisine and Bar
929 Edgewater Blvd
Foster City, CA 94404
(650) 571-879

Rated: ♣♣♣

Every Friday, I go out to eat with my coworkers.  We pick a restaurant in the Peninsula, eat there, and rate it on a scale of one-to-5.  This week, we had the opportunity to try out Kobe Japanese Cuisine and Bar in Foster City.  It’s located in the same complex as some of my favorites such as Waterfront Pizza and Plaza Gourmet.
The scene:

I found this place to be perfect for a business lunch.  Also, if they moved the tables, it would have been perfect for a party with a bar.   The decor is trendy Japanese restaurant.  Parking is super easy since this is within a shopping complex.
The food
Since this was my first time here, I decided to try something special from the menu.  Kobe has bento boxes, sushi rolls, and noodles.  What I found interesting was something that was called Hwe Deop Bap or Sashimi Salad over Rice with Special Spicy Sauce.  When I was ordering it, the waitress mentioned that this was really good as long as I liked fresh fish.  Wow!  I was already getting pretty hyped up about it.  When the dish came, it was literally a salad on top of rice.  On top of the salad was 5 different types of fish, Tobiko, sliced red onions, pickled garlic, and sliced cucumber.  I was told to mix the dish together and enjoy.  So, I did that.  I found that the sashimi salad was a bit bland and needed a little something.  The waitress ran over and said, “Did I forget the sauce”?  So, the sauce is the Korean Sour and Spicy Sauce that’s used in everything.  Bottom line, the sauce rocked this dish like no other.  I loved it!  For $14, you get a salad, miso soup, and this dish.

Want to try making it for yourself?  Make the Jump!
Read the rest of this entry »

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