Top Tastes is my usual run-down of tastes over the past two weeks. Rather than a list of all-time favorites (another thing altogether), its highlights since my last newsletter, often from new openings. Many dont make the cut, being a revisit written about before or simply not as stand-out as dishes mentioned.
B Star has done me right since inception, creating what I feel is some of the best creative Asian fusion in town. Though I’ve long adored Salmon Veggie Pot Pie ($10) with green curry in a flaky puff pastry, last week I tried a brunch item that’s a lot more delicious than it sounds: Chicken Croquette Hash ($10), ground chicken and fluffy mashed potatoes formed into a cake, lightly fried in panko bread crumbs, with a perfect over-easy egg on top. Lemon zest in the mash adds a little zing. All-in-all, a beaut.
Alright… you got me. Fish & Farm’s Juicy Lucy Burger ($13) has fast gained a reputation thanks to 7×7 giving it top burger honors. Despite any skepticism on my part, I have to say it’s worthy. New chef, Chad Newton, knows his burgers. Juicy, on an oily, toasted Acme bun, it’s made of Niman Ranch beef, with grilled onions, white cheddar, house pickles and a secret sauce that won’t quit. I found my other dinner dishes a bit lackluster, but their American Box lunch is a delightfully tasty respite where you practically have the restaurant to yourself or can take it to go (and the Juicy Lucy is just $8!) Double tacos, line-caught tuna sandwiches… it’s a fine lunch.
A $12 sandwich is pricey for lunch, especially to go… but in South Beach’s brand new Ironside (love the lofty brick, wood, retro artwork space), the Cubano, a sandwich I particularly love, is mighty fine: tender, slow roasted pork, country ham, gruyere, mayo, accented by crispy bits of pickle.
Though needing more than just pickled onions to cut the generous pile of tender meat (I wished for avocado, sour cream, even tomato), Poc Chuc’s slow-braised pork shoulder Taco de Cochinita Pibil ($2.75) is another of the Mission district’s many stellar tacos. Pair it with a giant glass of fresh Watermelon Fresca ($2.50) and then it’s nap time.
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Despite what anyone says, I’ve been a fan of House of Nanking since the ’90’s, its strong flavors and sauces creating a unique Chinese taste experience, touristy though it may be (and I can’t argue with Nanking Sesame Chicken). Peter Fang’s food may not be traditional, but it’s good. With his sleeker (but similarly priced) second outpost in SoMa, Fang, there’s now a way to eat this goodness minus a trip to Chinatown. Lunch specials make it an affordable work-day stop (I like it for take-out), with flavorful salads like Fang’s Cabbage Apple Salad ($6.95; $8.95 at dinner): purple cabbage, apple, scallions, sweet grilled red peppers, and a tangy, vinegar-rich sesame dressing. At dinner, I savored tender Anise Pork with crispy cooked apples ($14.95) and Pork Dumplings ($8.95 for 6). Service is brusque, but what do you expect from the Nanking crew?
Though the mix and match menu initially looks confusing, it’s pretty simple: get a falafel bowl, platter or sandwich and choose sides. Liba taco truck parks near my work a couple days a week in Potrero (in Emeryville other weekdays). I got a Falafel Bowl with crispy falafel atop lettuce, hummus, tomato/mint/cucumber salad, spiced carrot ribbons and rosemary peanuts. A healthy, refreshing lunch for under $10.
I don’t make it to Hayward much but at least there’s Oakland’s Temescal Farmers’ Market on Sundays (9am-1pm) to pick up Pot Pie Paradise. Flaky little pies you can microwave or bake at home, dessert versions are soothing, but I especially enjoy Sweet Potato Thai Curry Vegan ($5 for 5″, $18 for 10″) with soy and garbanzo beans, carrots, peanuts, curry, coconut milk, cilantro, onion, garlic, ginger and, of course, sweet potato.
Mission Minis are not only a guilt-free size, but after a glut of cupcakes over the years, enough to dilute any fan’s affections, they’re some of the better I’ve had. Not sickly sugary (Magnolia Bakery, I’m talking to you) or weakly flavored, MMs satisfy sweet cravings without overdoing it… unless you have 10 of them, which is tempting. Though I like the Aztec Chocolate, so far it’s a tie between Cinnamon Horchata or Banana with a banana chip on top. Check their website for where to buy.