If you've got a car and are willing to drive to strange strip malls in Silicon Valley, there are plenty of interesting Asian foods to find. It's always hard to know if a dingy shop is one of the good ones or the bad ones until you try it for yourself, so as I approached Shanghai Flavor Shop in Sunnyvale, I prepared myself for the whichever side of the coin it was going to land.
One night a few weeks back, a friend who lives in SF called me to up to ask if Amy and I were free that evening. She and her fiancé wanted to go out for a dinner double-date night and it was up to me to pick the place. Amy and I were not feeling particularly great that night so we decided that ramen would be the perfect pick for a low-key double date that could provide us a delicious meal and make us feel great. I had heard particularly good things about a strange, little place in Japantown called Suzu so I selected that as the destination for all four of us to head to that evening.
Offal-lovers, are you listening? Boy, have I got a dish for you. If you're like me, you probably really enjoy eating freaking unusual dishes. This dish I've got is definitely going to interest you. In the The Tenderloin, only a block or two from the other outstanding Thai restaurants I've already written about like Lers Ros Thai and Sai Jai Thai, I've found another place worth venturing through this crackhead-infested neighborhood to. This place is called Zen Yai and they have an off-menu dish I had been meaning to try that drew me in for a visit one morning. You'd probably never even know to order this dish unless you had the ability read Thai or enjoy scraping the internet for food finds as much as I do. I can't read Thai, but I did get word of this crazy dish somewhere and knew I had to see what all the fuss was about. I can't even remember where I first heard about the dish, but one hungover day I was in the mood for soup and wanted to try something particularly funky and interesting. To be honest, I didn't really even know anything about what I was ordering myself except that it involved plenty of offal. I was ready for the gastronomic adventure.
So, I'm back on my quest to find all of the comfort foods I used to rely on in NYC in the Bay Area. This journey's mission: Soup Dumplings aka Xiao Long Bao and Hand-Pulled Noodles. I'd heard great things about the cheap, authentic, Bourdain-approved Chinese food at King of Noodles in the Inner Sunset so one hungover Sunday morning when that particular craving struck, I hoped in my car and headed over to check it out.
What a year!! I did something like this last year too, but oh boy was 2014 a doozy. I started off living in NYC, then a started a new job that whisked me off the San Francisco and Silicon Valley for a few months before ultimately relocating to San Francisco permanently. And along the way, I squeezed in a couple of vacations too. Sooooo, I did a LOT of epic eating this year. And truth be told, I found it particularly difficult to narrow down my list as concisely as last year's, but I somehow managed. So, without further ado, I present the winners (and runner-ups) broken down by category. I tried to cluster similar dish types together, but really they are in no particular order. Let's begin! And if you wanna hear about the 2014's Best Cocktails, read more here.
I told you guys I'd be back. I knew you couldn't keep me away from New York for too long. And Thanksgiving was just the right occasion to come back East for a few days of powering through my old stomping ground. To be honest, this rampage sort of turned into a food and drink greatest hits extravaganza. You'll see what I mean when I get around to publishing everything I ate... Anyway, while in SF, one of the things I've been missing most from my time in NY is access to great, simple, Italian comfort food. I just haven't been able to find a reliable red sauce joint out here yet. So, I made sure that one of my first stops in NY was at one of my old NYC favorites, Fiat Café in Nolita, for a cheap, filling, and reliably delicious meal.
I've talked at length about how challenging it can be to find great lunch spots in Silicon Valley, but one item I've found no shortage of is ramen. And the competition is fierce. I've already been to Orenchi which I claimed to be the very best ramen-ya in the Bay Area, but sometimes I just don't have the luxury or time to kill two hours to drive, wait in line, and eat lunch. Sometime I need something just a bit faster. That's where places like Maru Ichi and nearby Shalala in Mountain View come in handy. Once again Mountain View is coming to my lunchtime rescue!
Who doesn't love Mac & Cheese? Just about every American has a sort of nostalgia towards it. I think there's just something about that dense, cheesy mess of noodles takes us right back to grade school and having Mom whip together a quick after-school snack. But now as an adult living in the Bay Area, I've figured out where everyone goes to relive those childhood memories in the form of boozy brunch. In the mostly residential Oakland neighborhood of Temescal, there's Homeroom – a super-casual schoolhouse themed spot whose name and decor only serve to further the emotional connection between the food and being a little kid.
One random Sunday in San Francisco, I woke up with an awful hangover from a crazy night of drinking the night before. How on earth was I gonna remedy this situation? Then it struck me! Soup! And you know what, I had just the thing from my todo list that would fit the bill, pho at Turtle Tower.