Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A San Francisco Treat - Day 3

How do you top the one-two punch of Zuni Cafe and Benu from day two? With a combination of Yank Sing, Roli Roti Truck, Boccalone and Michael Mina.

Before I discuss the food of the day, I need to comment on the outstanding coffee that is prevalent throughout the city. Day three started with a solid cup of coffee from the conveniently located Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.  We also had a great cup of coffee on day four from Peet's coffee. Okay, no more coffee talk.

Eating dim sum was very high on my SF must do list since it is a specialty plus it's hard to find in my area without making a special trip. I anticipated having to finagle my way to Yank Sing since Chow P is not a huge dim sum fan but I strategically made a reservation for 10:00 a.m. on my birthday.

We were the first to arrive at the Rincon Center location and had to wait a few minutes for the doors to open.  Once seated and tea ordered, the food wasn't far behind.  First up were unbelievable soup dumplings (xiao long bao). We used our chopsticks to carefully transfer the dumplings onto our soup spoons. The dumplings were nice but the real treat was the broth and kurobuta pork inside.  We could have easily ordered several rounds of just these and left very happy.  But dim sum was flying out of the kitchen and there were more treats to try. A dim sum favorite of mine, stuffed lotus leaf with sticky rice, Chinese sausage, mushrooms and sun-dried shrimp arrived next followed by turnip cakes, another favorite.  Both were fantastic.  We were already slowing down but couldn't resist the steamed pork buns filled with bbq pork that were delivered to our table next. The buns were really fluffy and the bbq pork inside was plentiful and delicious.  Up next was our least favorite dish of the day, shrimp dumplings.  They featured a generous portion of shrimp inside a light dumpling but were nothing special.  We wisely elected to stop at that point knowing that we had more great food waiting for us down the block.

Yank Sing on Urbanspoon

101 Spear St
San Francisco, CA 94105

We were only a couple of blocks from the Ferry Building. (surprise surprise)  It was Saturday morning which meant that the famous Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market was in full swing.  Upon arrival we took a lap around the periphery of the market in order to walk off  "sum" of our breakfast.  Once inside, we immediately passed Acme Bread Company, Cowgirl Creamery's Artisan Cheese Shop, and new favorite,  Blue Bottle Coffee.  I was ready for some Blue Bottle but the line was ridiculously long so we passed.  As we continued to walk around Chow P looked at me and said "you really need to live here."  I started to laugh because we were standing in front of Boccalone.  I was still full at this point but there was no way I was going to skip Boccalone especially after bypassing Incanto. (They're related)  I behaved and only ordered a meat cone which is a cone filled with various cuts of excellent meats. I felt and probably looked like a child holding his first ice cream cone as I walked around the Ferry Building licking picking at my meat cone.  Snacks don't get better than the $3.50 Boccalone Salumi Cone.

As I stumbled outside intoxicated on awesome dim sum and salted pig parts all before noon I ran into another target of mine, the Roli Roti truck.  The Roli Roti truck is a mobile gourmet rotisserie, serving only sustainable farmed meats and organic produce.  Working the grill is Rotisseur Thomas Odermatt.  The Roli Roti tip was courtesy of Chowfatherinlaw who was at the Market a few weeks before our visit.  While there, he noticed the hour long line at the truck and inquired about the draw.  He learned that people were clamoring for their porchetta sandwich.

Fortunately for me, the line was rather short thanks to the on and off rain.  My game plan was to order one and bring it back to the hotel  for an afternoon snack.  Yeahhh riiiiight. The out of this world porchetta sandwich is made from pork loin rolled into the pork belly with crispy skin and spiced with organic herbs and garnished with onions and arugula.  Enough said.

After watching them make and wrap our pork, Chow P said "we need to sit down and take a bite of that now." Good, no great call.  I would have dropped to my knees and proposed right there in front of the rotisserie meats with the Bay Bridge in the background if we weren't already married.  We plopped down on a nearby bench and unwrapped the swine delight.

Phenomenal is the only way to describe this sandwich.  It's easily the best pork/porchetta sandwich you will ever find.  The flavorful combination of pork and seasonings is impossible to describe so I won't bother trying.  If you live in SF and have not had this sandwich, you must go and try it. Tourists should make this a must stop when visiting the market.

Roli Roti on Urbanspoon

We spent the rest of the day playing tourist around the wharf area.  I actually passed my first In n Out Burger but was too full to stop and walked on by.  As the day went on we both started to feel sluggish so we made a mid afternoon pit stop at Blue Bottle Coffee.  This time I ordered an off menu item called the Gibraltar which is a double espresso with steamed milk. It was a great tasting coffee packed with a nice punch.

When we were planning our visit to SF, eating at a Michael Mina run establishment was a priority for several reasons.  First, we were very familiar with Chef Mina's accomplishments in the kitchen as well as the business side of the restaurant world. We are fans of Bourbon Steak (Mia) and wanted to experience a Mina restaurant in SF.  Rajat Parr's enticing wine lists was also a draw.  We were also confident that service would be first class.

RN74 was our initial call but as we got closer to the trip we learned that Michael Mina was moving to the old Aqua space and that they were going to be open in time for our visit.  Thus, we changed our reservation to the new Mina.  I must admit that the menu and wine options sounded great at RN74 and we would have easily paid a visit if we had more time in the city.

What to Eat at Michael Mina 2.0, Opening Tuesday
The new Micheal Mina is a sophisticated and inviting space.  The dimly lit room contributes to its sexy appeal.  Upon arrival, my favorite sommelier and one of the best around, Matthew Turner, immediately served us  two glasses of champagne. Chow P has a very good palate and is always happy with Matt's recommendations whether it is a glass of champagne, rose or a new white. Matt also excels at selecting great wines at good price points that pair well with your meal.  He's down to earth and always aims to please. I wish more restaurants had sommeliers like Matt working the floor. 

Chow P was happy with her bubbles and didn't feel like drinking much more so I was on my own.  She also wasn't interested in the delicious sounding tasting menu since we had French Laundry scheduled for the following night.  When I informed Matt that I was drinking solo and still unsure about my food selections, he immediately recommended going with a half bottle of Calera "Reed" pinot noir which was a good call.    

Chef de cuisine, Jeremy Ravetz was formerly executive sous chef at the "old" Michael Mina and a sous chef at Per Se in New York.

We were started with an amuse-bouche consisting of a small cup of  tomato soup served with a miniature grilled cheese sandwich.  I enjoyed this simple gourmet twist on a childhood favorite.

Instead of the traditional side of butter, bread is served with a tasty combination of ricotta and honey sea salt.

I started with the pork belly & geoduck clam.  Whenever you have geoduck and pork belly on the same plate you are bound to have a winner and this delivered.  The flavors and textures of the accompanying squash and chicharrones rounded out a fantastic dish.

This was followed by a shared kabocha squash souffle with black-truffle cream.  This was a delicious combination. 

For my main course I opted for the "five seas" which was a tasting of five Japanese fish. If I recall correctly, I had braised tuna cheek, miso-glazed cod, poached salmon belly, scallop and an unidentified tempura fish. The fish was very fresh, nicely prepared and a perfect portion size.  I really enjoyed the variety of  fish and preparations and wouldn't hesitate to order it again.  I also tried Chow P's dungeness crab pasta pyramids paired with artichoke and Meyer lemon.  She didn't love the dish and I wasn't crazy about it either.  

Along the way, Matt surprised me with two unbelievable pours, a 1961 Petrus followed by a 1969 Cheval-Blanc. I savored each and every drop of this special treat.  We also met Chef Mina which was a pleasure.
Dessert (no menu) was a tasting of various sweets.  Dessert's not my thing but I made a nice dent in the generous sample of treats. It was an enjoyable way to end a great meal and a great day.

Restaurant Michael Mina on Urbanspoon
252 California St
San Francisco, CA 94111


Frodnesor said...

Well played all around. '61 Petrus BTG? Jeez, Matt's living large.

Anonymous said...

I want to travel with you Chowdaddy