Tag Archives: Restaurant

SF Best: Flock to State Bird Provisions

State Bird Provisions

State Bird Provisions

The genius thing about state bird provions–San Francisco’s hottest new eatery–is their dim sum-style delivery of california cuisine. The open kitchen continually sends out trays and rolling carts of freshly prepared goodness to an intimate dining room of not more than 20 tables. With constant curiosity and the fear of missing something good, I practically gave myself whiplash everytime the cart rolled by. There is a short menu of house “commandables” — items that can always be ordered — but most of what you will see changes frequently and is not written down, adding an element of entertainment and excitement. When they pull up to your table, I dare you to look the waiter in the eye and turn them away after they reveal the newest dish.

Loading Up the Dim Sum Cart

Loading Up the Dim Sum Cart

We ordered one if everything on the menu….because that’s what you do after you get in line at 4:30pm and still wait two hours until you score a table…and it’s also what you do when you lack the ability to say no to someone’s face. Genius. And now for the highlights…

Garlic Bread with Burrata

Garlic Bread with Burrata

It’s a like a state fair treat for adults: garlic bread with burrata.  — warm doughy goodness, rubbed in salt, plenty of pepper and garlicy oil and topped with a heaping dollop of creamy, gooey burrata. A must.

Sweet Corn & Garlic Chive "Shortstack" Pancakes with Mt. Tam

Sweet Corn & Garlic Chive “Shortstack” Pancakes with Mt. Tam

Demand the Commandables: sweet corn & garlic chive “shortstack” pancakes with a Mt. Tam cheese ooze. Heaven. I know why they have earned a spot on the short list of permanent menu items.

Guinea Hen Dumplings with Aromatic Broth

Guinea Hen Dumplings with Aromatic Broth

I’ll take a whole bowl: Shitake Mushrooms and Guinea Hen Dumplings with Preserved Lemon and an Aromatic Broth.

The namesake: the CA State Bird

The namesake: the CA State Bird

The namesake: CA State Bird with Provisions — crispy quail with sliced pecorino was a finger lickin’ good upgrade.

Buttermilk cracker with roasted chanterelles and pecorino

Buttermilk cracker with roasted chanterelles and pecorino

Do try this at home:  buttermilk cracker with roasted chanterelles and pecorino — a rich, earthy spread that would make any happy hour happier.

King salmon 7-min deviled egg with pickled radish and horseradish creme fraiche

King salmon 7-min deviled egg with pickled radish and horseradish creme fraiche

Favorite of the night: king salmon 7-min deviled egg with pickled radish and horseradish creme fraiche — a slightly gooey egg served as the bed for sweet salmon, peppery creme fraiche and refreshingly crunchy radish strips. Everything was right in this bowl.

Sweetbread polpette with fig jam

Sweetbread polpette with fig jam

A fitting dish to enjoy with Chris Cosentino sitting two tables away: sweetbread polpette with fig jam — these sweet, rich bites were not your grandma’s meatballs. Another serious contender for favorite dish.

Duck liver and almond biscuits

Duck liver and almond biscuits

Just when you thought you couldn’t eat anymore: Duck liver and almond biscuits — our bellies were full, our curiosities were sated and then this rolled by. The almond biscuit was more like a sweet mini breakfast muffin and served as the perfect vehicle for the rich duck liver mousse. We called this dessert and gladly welcomed one more dish to round.

The Skim: I would stand in line everyday for this place. The novelty of the dim sum-style delivery provided continuous anticipation for a stream of surprises. And with a menu that constantly changes, the surprises will never die. If you plan ahead you *can* actually get a reservation, but if you decide to show up on a whim, plan to get there by 4:30 for a table around 6:30/7pm. The good news is there are plenty of local watering holes with the same amount of charm and a convenient text notification system that does not tether you to the restaurant walls. Only other advice, go hungry or with the confident conviction to turn away your waiter.

Map: 1529 Fillmore, SF, California
Reservations: Taken! 
Phone: 415.795.1272

Other Places to Leave Your Hungry Heart:
Gone Fish. ‘in Sausalito
SF Best: Bi-Rite Ice Cream Done Right
SF Best: Nopa
SF Best: RoliRoti Rolls Out Revolutionary Rotisserie
SF Best: Cookin’, a Shop of Discord and Recycled Gourmet Appurtences
SF Best: Rosamunde Serves Serious Sausage Selection

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NYC Best: Num Num, Num Pang

num pang spread

num pang spread

Num num num num — ‘nough said. Num Pang is a Cambodian sandwich shop in NYC and is the Cambodian term for bread or sandwich. A midweek lunch excursion took me from our flatiron office down to their union square outpost for one of the better lunch discoveries I’ve had in a long time. Their menu lists several mainstay made to order options, as well as a few special seasonals.

All the sandwiches are served with cucumber, pickled carrots, cilantro and chili mayo on freshly baked bread. My choice? The grilled khmer sausage with asian slaw, a cup of greenmarket gazpacho soup and a blood orange lemonade to wash it all down. I probably don’t need to provide much of a detailed explanation for you to read that list and need more convincing of its deliciousness — the perfect combinations of fresh ingredients, married together with Cambodian seasonings for 15 minutes of simple eating enjoyment. My only advice: go early and midweek to avoid the lines.

Map: 140 East 41st or 21 East 12th Street
Reservations: Not Taken
Delivery: Yes!
Phone: 212-255-3271

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NYC Best: Brooklyn’s Isa is a Trip Not to be Missed

Isa

View from a Cocktail Perch

When you first walk into Isa you are immediately greeted by a strange feeling of comfort — a brightly colored curtain made of pieced together knitted afghans serves as the weather barrier between the door and the inner sanctum of the dining room. But as you enter into the main room and take a glance around, the feeling of comfort changes from grandma’s couch to one of a chill-warming modern camping lodge with stacked logs, candlelight, communal tables and smooth cement walls.

Across the entire back wall of the main dining room is an open kitchen providing free entertainment for the evening. The fun starts with a drink menu as playful as the afghan curtain. To drink: cocktails such as the Enlighten Up, Brain Hammock, Inspector Spacetime or Looking Glass give the feeling that you might be going on a strange strange trip from here on out. If you’re more of a wine drinker, even that list gives the option of ordering up a wine from the “Orange” selection — somewhere between a red and a white and the result of a grape skin soaking to blend the two genres.

The dinner menu is short and straightforward and changes frequently. Simply listed:  artichokes, tartar, mackerel, pork loin. But it was in the fine print descriptions that the intrigue presents itself. When I asked our server if there were any standout dishes not to be missed, she went on to describe everything on the menu individually and ended with saying they were all her favorite. No help there.

I started with the Tartar, presented in three very simple circular disks of ingredients with crunchy flax and a dollop of creme fraiche as its accompaniments. It was simple in presentation and let the ingredients speak for themselves. Tried alone or with a little stab at each, this starter was outstanding.

Isa Tartar

Isa Tartar

I ordered the Mackerel as my main. Another simple dish that was not short on flavor. The fish was slow cooked resulting in a delightfully juicy bite, and was served atop a creamy parsnip puree with sweet peas and covered in a thin blanket of crunchy, peppery radishes. Everything about this was not complicated, but when tasted in one bite, the variety of textures and seasonal flavors confirmed this was not just an ordinary dining experience.

Radish-Blanketed Mackerel

Radish-Blanketed Mackerel

The Skim: I’m in love with this new trend of dining — found at Frej a few weeks back and now at Isa. The art is in the simplicity. Isa is having fun with the decor, the cocktail menu, the quirky touches here and there, but when it comes to the food, it’s about pairing the freshest seasonal ingredients and textures and letting them be the star of the show. What’s more? This menu is accessible to just about anyone — for $50 you can enjoy a three-course prix fix or get away with spending $30-40 if you want to stick with a starter and main. No wonder Isa was nominated for a James Beard award for Best New Restaurant.

Map: 348 WYTHE AVE
Reservations: Yes! Here 
Phone: 347-689-3594

Good Things in BKLYN:
NYC Best: Brooklyn’s Frej Should Be Your New Dining Kinfolk
Do This!: Learn to Forage in Prospect Park for Edible and Medicinal Plants with Expert Leda Meredith

Blue Bottle Coffee Brews One Brilliant Cup at a Time
Rustic Space Features Really Good Wood-Burning Oven Pizza @Roberta’s
NYC Best: Source Your Spices and Specialty Foods @ Sahadi’s 

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At The Meatball Shop, It All Starts With Naked Balls

The Meatball Shop Customizable Menu

We’ve been through the burger, food truck and FroYo craze — is it time for meatball madness? I would fully support more meatball-centric meals. Especially when it involves making your own masterpiece from meat choice to sauce selection. At The Meatball Shop, this is exactly what you can hope for when you sit down to supper. A casual arrangement of communal seating is set with laminated menus and dry erase markers for each diner to peruse and build their meal to taste.

I opted for a white bread hero, sandwiching spicy pork meatballs, pesto sauce and creamy mozzarella. Any of these flavors and textures on their own would be well-received, but when you combine the  fresh crusty bread with a perfectly seasoned tender meatball slathered in the bright herby pesto and creamy mozzarella, you’ve got yourself a handheld creation that you will crave again for days after. For smaller appetites build your flavors on a 1-ball “slider” or a 2-ball “smash”, but don’t forget to add the family jewels — a fried egg for an extra dollar and unparalleled meatball goodness.

My Hero

Maps: 
84 Stanton
170 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn
Reservations: Not Taken
Phone: {212} 982-8895 

More Meaty Meals:
18 Favorite Meat Dishes for Men & Barbeque Heaven @Fette Sau
Al & Ry’s Revolutionary {Meat} Pies
Detroit’s Slows Bar-B-Q is Quickly Becoming a Motor City Beacon
Del Posto Presents Murray’s Cheese & Salumi Wine Party @NYCWFF

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Detroit’s Best: Gemmayze is Gemmayzing

Royal Oak's New Gemmayze: Lebanese Kitchen and Lounge

There is no shortage of Lebanese restaurants in metro Detroit, a region that is the most concentrated area of Arab-Americans in the U.S.  This is quite convenient for someone whose heritage is half Lebanese and loves to come back to Detroit for a traditional meal of grape leaves, kibbe, hummus, tabbouleh and other dishes that evoke childhood memories and are difficult to find as perfectly-prepared as I can enjoy at home. When I do go back to Detroit, there is a shortlist of Lebanese restaurants that my family tends to visit, so it’s rare to get us to break habit, try something new and be delighted by it. But on a recent trip back home, we went to visit a new restaurant in Royal Oak called Gemmayze {pronounced je-maisy and named after the hip SoHo-like district in Beirut,} a kitchen and lounge that is focused on introducing the best of modern Beirut to a community that is already familiar with traditional Middle-Eastern cuisine. The result is outstanding.

The modern atmosphere is a welcomed upgrade to the typically over-decorated, mural-walled Lebanese restaurants we usually visit. With two levels of seating, outdoor dining, a full bar, and an open kitchen with a brick oven for continually produced fresh puffed pita, Gemmayze has created an exciting atmosphere that gives its diners an accessible peek into the secrets of Lebanese cuisine.

But while atmosphere can only get you so far, especially in an area that knows a thing or two about what hummus should really taste like, it’s the menu that really sings an artistic tune.

Gemmayze Hummus

My first point of critique is always with hummus. I’ve eaten my fair share of blended chick peas in my life and there is certainly a wide range of outputs depending on who made it and their chosen ratio of beans:tahini:lemon:garlic. While many fail the hummus taste test, Gemmazye did not disappoint, sending out a smooth and creamy version that is made so by slow cooking the chick peas to tenderize the bean and enable the perfect consistency for flawless blending. There was just the right amount of lemon and garlic to make their hummus a dish that didn’t last long when scooped up with the hot-from-the-oven homemade pita. A successful introduction to the rest of our meal.

Gemmayze Fattoush

We decided to forego ordering any entrees and instead ordered up a varied selection of appetizers. The Fattoush was fantastic — a salad that is typically served with lettuce as the main component, Gemmayze’s version eliminated the leafy green in favor of the other typical toppings: sweet crispy cucumbers, bright red peppers, juicy tomatoes, onions and the all-important crisped pita, all tossed in a lemon-sumac dressing that adds a lovely citrusy-spiced flavor to the otherwise straightforward veg. Amazing.

Gemmayze's Sumac-Encrusted Seared Tuna

The Sumac-Encrusted Seared Tuna was an innovative take on a typical American pepper-encrusted version. It was fresh, light and a welcomed addition what we would ordinarily order when we sit down for a Lebanese meal. A menu must.

Gemmayze's Grilled Baby Lamb Chops

And while we’re on the topic of exciting additions to what we typically think of when ordering Lebanese food, let’s add the insanely succulent Baby Lamb Chops to the list. While lamb is central to the Lebanese diet, it usually takes the form of ground lamb kibbe or kafta. I have never eaten a lamb chop as juicy and flavorful as what Gemmazye served up on their menu. They are available in a small appetizer version — good for a few quick bites, or as a main entree if you’re craving more. These chops are perfect for less adventurous eaters who doesn’t want to try the typical raw lamb dish, kibbe nayee, which also exceeded expectations {a very important thing when you’re venturing into the raw meat world.}

Kibbe Nayee

One of the best surprises on the menu and a menu must: Ara-yes Halabi. Sadly devoured before a photo could be taken, this app consists of kafta stuffed in bread and toasted. Sounds simple, but the spiced kafta in the crispy bread was a new Lebanese dish for our family and we all agreed, it was the best thing on the table.

The Skim: It’s nice to see an innovative food scene on the rise in Detroit. It’s especially nice to see that even though I’m used to mama’s traditional Lebanese food, a place like Gemmayze can take the best of tradition, add a few exciting modern twists and package it all up in an atmosphere that appeals to both the past and next generation of Detroiters. In my opinion, they’ve set the bar very high for Middle-Eastern cuisine.

Map: 310 S. Main St., Royal Oak
Reservations: Taken!
Phone: 248.399.4900

In Detroit? Motown Musts:
Best Breakfast: The Chocolate Gallery Cafe
Best Dessert: The Chocolate Gallery Cafe
Detroit’s Slows Bar-B-Q is Quickly Becoming a Motor City Beacon
Home for the Holidays, Having Italian to Write Home About @Bucci
Going Back to the Old Country @ New Yasmeen Bakery

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