If you’re gooinnggggg to San Francisco!

In Uncategorized on September 3, 2011 at 7:14 pm

I spent the good part of my summer studying for the MCAT while Jason was away at art school in San Francisco. So, on the morning after my exam, I flew down to meet him, and we spent 10 days cruising around in California.

The day of my arrival happened to fall on the day of the Mission Food Festival. The Mission, also where we were staying, is the best district (in the world?!) when it comes to good food, in our opinion. The neighbourhood is also teeming with hipsters due to the rapid gentrification of the area, so it’s a prime place to be if you like to hunt hipsters for dinner. (You think I’m joking, don’t you.)

The festival stretched about 6 blocks and a courtyard. You can bet we ate our way through the entire thing. Took about 4 hours.

There was also a spontaneous dance party on the streets. Got pretty wild. (I think the guy on the very left who got partially cut out was doing Elaine’s signature Seinfeld dance, with those very recognizable thumbs!)

I love walking around the Mission (not only for the food but also) to check out the endless street art, murals, and graffiti walls. It gives the place a lot of character and lovely pops of colour.

That was honestly enough good food for any given day, but it turns out Jason had already booked a dinner table for us at Benu in Soma for weeks (that’s how long you wait to get a table there in any case). Benu was recognized as one of the best restaurants in America by GQ, which is what caught Jason’s eye. Then after I read in Bon Appetit that it was a must-visit for any food fanatic, I too was really stoked to try it out. We decided that, despite the decadence, it was suitable for a reunion dinner after 2 months of separation and as a post-exam celebration.

Bring on starter dish #1. Wasn’t on the menu but it had green apple, cucumber, shaved ice, pistachio, walnut, and olive oil. Also, we got some super thin buckwheat lavash with nori & sesame seeds instead of the traditional bread basket, and it too was delightfully delicious. That was a brilliant start to the meal.

Next up was foie gras steamed in sake, peach, kohlrabi, perilla, brioche. This was one of my favourites. The flavour was incredible and of course the texture of foie gras is to die for. Was really happy with this.

Jason had a whole Japanese cucumber stuffed with shrimp, pork belly, cucumber, eggplant, and fermented pepper. The texture of the sea cucumber kind of freaked me out, but he enjoyed it a great deal.

I had some uhh-mazing risotto with sea urchin, corn, lovage, and black truffle. I don’t like mushrooms normally but truffle I can make an exception for. Always.

Next was my pork rib with celery, cherry, and pine nut. An atypical assortment of tastes for a pretty conventional hearty dish.

Jason then had “from the oak – acorn strozzapreti, Iberico ham, Himalayan truffle,” which I didn’t manage to get a good picture of. It smelled like heaven.

We shared dessert, almond brioche with buttercream, apricot, and osmanthus. A perfectly light way to end off the meal. Mmmmmmm.

Lastly, some complimentary chocolates – an assortment of unique flavours and really pleasantly presented in a cute wooden box.

Overall, a great dining experience. Kudos to head chef Corey Lee and all his helpful staff. The service was attentive and formal and yet friendly enough seeing as we were by far the youngest diners there. Ambiance was great (dim… see photos), and I really loved tasting a ton of things without that post-meal heavy weight in stomach feeling.

I couldn’t recommend Benu more to anyone who is in the area and on the prowl for a really cool setting for a really superb meal. When I’m 21 and Jason and I are more “baller” (as he put it), we’ll be back for the tasting menu with wine pairings for sure. (I just can’t imagine these servers even thinking of asking for ID! The place just seems too nice. But I’m sure they must…)

THE NEXT DAY. We continued our food adventure as we set out to brunch at Samovar Tea Lounge in the Mission-Castro with Jason’s friend, Jack. (His real name, I found out later, is John. I honestly am still confused about this.)

On a side note, I have to mention that eavesdropping on restaurant conversation in San Francisco is super entertaining. Especially at slightly nicer eateries, I always almost want to roll my eyes when I hear people talking about their mobile business proposals, their phones, and other people’s online entrepreneurial ventures. How Silicon Valley, right? Funny that Jack, and most of Jason’s other SF friends that I met, were all in the mobile marketing industry. It made for very-hard-to-decipher dinner conversations =P.

The raw honeycomb, blue cheese, and fruits platter from a dream:

And my squash dumplings with spicy sesame-soy sauce.

Jason and Jack both got egg bowls. (Boring!)

Anddd… that’s it for food on the trip.


There was pad thai for lunch at Thai King near Union Square. Even though pad thai is one of my all-time favourite dishes and I will always order (and finish) it  in a Thai restaurant, it always tastes the same to me.


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