What:Ijji @IjjiSF A microscopic, unmarked, serene sushi den specializing in high-quality nigiri most of which is imported from Tokyo's famous Tsukiji market
Where:Lower Haight / Divisadero Corridor 252 Divisadero St. San Francisco, CA 94117 [wpgmza id="293"]
When:Definitely splurgy in terms of pricing, so save this one for a special, intimate date night.
Break out the confetti and champagne!! It's a perfect ten! Chef Chris Cosentino knows exactly how to work his way into that soft spot in my heart. All it took was a few of his crazy, funky, zany, inventive, and downright delicious over-the-top meat-filled culinary creations. Yes, that's right — I'm giving this place my first and only flawless 10/10 review, so buckle up for a long one as I explain why I'm so obsessed. You may know of Chris from his many stints on food TV, but I've found myself uncontrollably drawn to him because he cooks only the kind of food that he wants to eat. With his cooking, there's no remorse for pushing people's palettes to the edge of fear. Fear? Yeah, most of his food utilizes all of the delicious miscellaneous organs and obscure cuts of meat that many other chefs won't even dare to work with that most people don't ordinarily choose to consume — frequently involving complete nose-to-tail dishes. Fortunately for me, I share his love for well-prepared organ meats.
I love that we live in a time where the modest and familiar burger is treated with the same skill and care as a seared duck breast or other fancy-sounding entrée. These impressive creations are no longer haphazardly assembled by slapping together unwanted scraps and trimmings and are no longer regarded just as greasy pub food. These burgers come a pedigree. Brilliant chefs now utilize custom butcher blends of meat and have truly mastered the art of balancing and enhancing those bold, rich, cheesy flavors while still retaining the burger's undeniably attractive gutbomb essence. These cherished burgers have now become a highlighted menu staple at most high-end restaurants and while many claim to serve the best in San Francisco, I think the title belongs safely to the one I've had at Stones Throw.
On the long drive between Paso Robles and San Francisco, there's not a whole lot of viable places to stop at for a good meal on the road. The 101 is the most efficient route, but it'll still take approximately three hours from start to finish. Before embarking on the drive back from the wonderfully quaint wine town of Paso Robles, we knew wanted to grab a quick meal close to town before really hitting the road. A brief bit of online exploration led me to a place that showed potential for a quick meal. Just a 10-minute drive north of downtown Paso Robles, just off of the 101, there's a dusty little nothing town called San Miguel. In this practically non-existent town, I read about a place with a 4-star Yelp rating that included many stories characterized by its local charm. We had high hopes that The County Diner, a lonely eatery in this desolate trapped-in-time town, would serve as a great place to get a quick and filling breakfast before we headed towards home.
Shanghai Bun is not a place that I can judge fairly. It's only about an eight minute drive from the house I grew up in and was a quintessential part of my culinary obsession's growth during my high school years. The small shop's name is a cue to their most popular dish – a dish that goes by many names. This dish was at the time completely foreign and unfamiliar to me, but quickly became the focus of my ever-growing need to find the best version around. Before my friend introduced me to Shanghai Bun, I had never before had the pleasure of trying freshly steamed Xiao Long Bao (aka soup dumplings, steamed pork buns, tiny steamed buns, Shanghai dumplings, juicy buns, and more). But, all it took was one time – my soup dumpling addiction was triggered and I never looked back.
*Editor's Note 1/6/16: This J-Town location of Ramen Underground has unfortunately shuttered, but their Financial District location still remains open. I, like most food lovers over the past five years, have become obsessed with big, authentic bowls of ramen noodle soup. In my nationwide explorations, I've come across an extremely wide variety in terms of style and quality, but for some reason I have been struggling to find a great, comforting bowl in San Francisco. I've had a number of satisfactory bowls, but I was convinced that if I looked hard enough, I was going to find an outstanding version. For a city so close to Japan and the rest of Asian, I was finding it hard to believe that it would be so difficult to find – especially because I had already found perfection in Silicon Valley of all places.
I didn't set out on this venture necessarily looking to have a full, sit-down brunch. In fact, it was coffee that drew us to this place called Dolce Amore on the cusp of Lower Pac Heights and Lower Nob Hill on this particular morning. We had pulled up Foursquare in search of a new or interesting place to get a quality cup and this cute cafe serving Illy was calling our name.
Unless you live in the Los Altos hills, I'm not sure why else anyone would drive out of their way to go there. It's certainly a cute little town with its own downtown main drag and array of restaurants, but it's definitely an out of the way trek from pretty much everywhere and there are similar downtowns all around Silicon Valley. But, one day at lunch a particular craving struck that I only knew how to fix at a single place. The craving? Oyako-Don. The place? Sumika.
Here's the thing about Napa. It's pretty freaking expensive everywhere. Between the wineries and their extra pricey tastings and the extremely high-end eateries, it's pretty easy to burn through a lot of cash quickly in Napa. Even if you actually want a meal on the cheaper side, it's not so easy to find anything that's actually good so it takes a bit more digging and information than most places and you're still likely to end up disappointed. But, I do actually know of some great meals that can be had in Napa for less than an arm and a leg and I'm happy to share this info with you.