Bar Tartine, Fujiyoshi (San Francisco: Day Two)
I am in San Francisco this week for WWDC (Apple‘s Worldwide Developers Conference). I found out a few months ago I’d be able to attend, so of course, I made a list and asked for advice beforehand. Now that I’m here, I plan on posting a report as quickly as possible for each day, to stave off procrastination. My report for “San Francisco: Day Two” (Monday, June 2, 2014) is as follows:
Unlike my epic Day One experience, requiring a part one and a part two, Day Two was a bit mellower. I needed to get in line early for the keynote presentation at WWDC this morning. I ate some pretty mediocre-but-free pastries at WWDC for breakfast, a pretty mediocre-but-free roast beef sandwich at WWDC for lunch, but I managed to break out of convention mode and grab a dinner in the Mission at…
Bar Tartine was one of those places that was recommended to me by people whose food opinions I respect. It was also recently featured on Eater.com. Those who know my penchants for all things offal recommended a tripe dish that was supposed to be incredible. Unfortunately, tripe is not currently on the menu. (I am striking out on offal on this trip something fierce! I need to rectify that quick! But I digress…) Instead I ordered the following:
Ginger Burns Water Kefir: I love all things ginger, and ginger beers and ales are some of my favorite drinks. If a place has a house ginger brew of some sort, I’ll almost always try it, so when the bartender described this as a fermented ginger drink, ordered it. What came out was a spicy, tart, slightly funky (in a good way), just barely fizzy drink that was not too sweet. It was rather excellent.
Sliced Bread & Cultured Butter: I had heard about the amazing bread at Bar Tartine, and indeed it was. Crusty on the outside, moist and chewy on the inside, it’s the epitome of this kind of rustic bread. The cultured butter didn’t really stand out for me. It was very good, but I didn’t get the extra tang and twang that I would have expected from a cultured butter. It could have used some salt flakes on top (or on the side).
Rainbow Trout with Brown Rice and Asparagus: This was really interesting. The trout is first allowed to be fermented in the brown rice; this is the original method of preserving fish, called narezushi, that eventually evolved into modern sushi. This was quite a dish. It had a lot going on, but everything worked in concert. The fish was tender, a little tangy, reminiscent of ceviche but much more subtle. The rice was still al dente, and had a texture like bulgur in tabbouleh. The asparagus was so tight and crisp and fresh tasting, There was also tzatziki in with everything, some great roasted fiddlehead ferns, and what look like kikuna, chrysanthemum leaves (identified by @foodshutterbug), that had a somewhat floral taste to them.
Unfortunately with the bread, I couldn’t order another dish, I was too full. I had really wanted to try their beef tartare dish. Who knows, maybe I will attempt a walk-in later this week before I go. In the meantime, I retired back to my hotel for a bit. 10:30 PM comes around as I was working on this post, and the already spotty internet connection in the hotel completely craps out. I took this as a sign and decided to hit one more place tonight. I tried going to Chabaa Thai Cuisine, a restaurant that has a no-longer-secret menu with some less usual items, like Yum Naem Kao Tod, the crispy rice salad made with sour sausage. Unfortunately, the Chabaa that’s only two blocks from my hotel is the second, much smaller location, so they did not have those dishes. So I walked a little farther and ended up at…
I had not heeded the warnings by natives not to have Thai in SF, yet I really enjoyed myself at Kin Khao on Day One. I figured might as well try SF ramen at least once. Fujiyoshi had gotten some mixed reviews, but was a relative newcomer, and was open and in proximity to where I was. I ordered the Tonkotsu (pork broth) with the thicker, curly noodles, al dente, with the Kotteri (rich, thick broth) option. What came was definitely not as good as L.A., but it wasn’t bad, just weird!
The first thing that hit me when the bowl was brought to my table was the smell of white pepper. The top of the broth had been dusted with it, yet no sesame seeds?! I’m not a rameniac, but I do not recall encountering white pepper at any of the ramen-ya I’ve been to in L.A. As I dug in, I noticed the the broth was indeed thick, as described in the menu, but it didn’t seem to come from fat. To me, it seemed almost like the broth was thickened with corn starch or something similar. The “texture” of the broth was too uniform, it coated the noodles in a way that I hadn’t seen with other kotteri broth. The menma (marinated bamboo shoots) were also a little different.
Outside the broth, the noodles were cooked “hard” as requested. I probably could have gone harder, but it definitely wasn’t soft. The “white” exterior of the ajitama (flavored egg), which was actually café au lait in color from being marinated, was all uneven and craggy, but the yolk on the inside was perfectly hanjuku (half-cooked). The chashu slices of rolled and stewed pork belly, was sliced not too thin, and were very tender.
But I still couldn’t shake the weirdness, until I finally identified it: The combination of the thick broth, bamboo shoots, and white pepper, all made me think of rou geng, a Taiwanese soup that’s made with meat in fish-paste. The ramen broth really reminded me of the broth in the rou geng, which is often thicken with corn starch and served occasionally with bamboo shoots and almost always with a blast of white pepper. The only thing that kept it from being a perfect imitation would have been some cilantro.
I’ve now spent more time on this bowl of ramen than I probably should have. The truth is that it wasn’t bad by any means, and was actually a good late night meal/snack on a cold night like tonight. But I just can’t get over the fact that it didn’t really taste like ramen broth to me. Strange! I guess I really should have heeded the natives’ advice on ramen in SF…
Onto Day Three!
61 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA 94110
639 Post St
San Francisco, CA 94109