Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Fleur de Lys (San Francisco) - Q

Woohoo! Today is the first official day of my sabbatical and it's time to celebrate! I can't think of a better way to toast my trip to Europe with a leisurely dinner at Fleur de Lys. J and I debated the menu for a long time - we had wanted to go with the 5-course but decided that it may be too much. And when our server told us that it would be okay for us to share the 4-course and then just share the dessert, that's what we went for, along with the wine pairing of course. Both J and I are big foie gras fans so we basically went for whatever items that had foie gras in it. We both started off with the Duo of Hudson Valley foie gras, which consisted of a baeckeoffe (we had no idea of what it was) of foie gras, truffles, and fingerling potatoes, and "a seared duck burger and foie gras on a brioche bun." The foie gras burger was delicious, the foie gras was juicy and tender, which offsets the texture of the duck burger which reminded me a bit of a fish cake. The baeckeoffe was tasty but for some reason it was a bit cold and it barely had a thin sliver of foie gras in there.

For our fish course, I had the hazelnut-crusted scallops while J got the sea bass. Both were pretty good but we decided they didn't blow us away. For the meat course, I chose the filet mignon topped with seared foie gras (of course), while J decided to have stuffed quail with foie gras (on the side). The filet mignon was perfectly cooked and the foie gras was a perfect complement. My only complaint was that I wish the foie gras could have been bigger but that is always my wish. Then J and I split a course of 5-cheeses and a chocolate souffle. Of course at the end both of us were stuffed too full to walk but when we managed to push ourselves out the door, we were greeted by Hubert Keller himself. He was very friendly and when I told him that I was leaving for Paris in a couple days, he gave me a number of recommendations of his favorite bistros in Paris. He even told me that he was jealous that I get to spend a month in Paris! Imagine that!

Again, I got carried away by the food but I did take a good look around the dining room. It was mostly couples except for a few tables of small groups. I guess it's a romantic place and it was packed for a Tuesday night, which surprised me a bit. A number of the guys were pretty good-looking, but I always wonder if it is because it's a more dressed-up place (and guys who look more put together do have some advantage). Either way, this was a great way to jumpstart my trip. I'll be reporting from Paris soon. A bientot!

Monday, May 28, 2007

I Heart SF

A friend was visiting so I spent the weekend busy playing tour guide. Of course, a tour of San Francisco would not be complete without great food! M loves seafood so I made sure that we hit some of my favorite seafood places. Our weekend adventure included roasted crabs at Crab House (I know it's a bit touristy but their crab is pretty tasty), fresh oysters, clam chowder, and grilled cheese sandwich at Hog Island (always a perfect lunch spot after strolling through the Farmer's Market on a Saturday), wine-tasting in Napa, garlic fries at Giants vs. Rockies game (bummer that we lost), Sushi Ran (see post below), crab ravioli at Steps of Rome (okay but I wasn't expecting much), and roasted suckling pig at Zibbibo (tender and juicy). Of all those places, Steps of Rome probably would have scored the highest in Q ratings but lowest in any food scores. The weekend was so packed though so I really didn't have time to look out for cute guys around but honestly, none of those places had any guys that caught my eye. Again, I am getting really worried that I haven't found good representation of SF men and I only have two days left before I head to Paris... Hopefully Giants' losing streak with the Rockies this weekend isn't a foreshadowing of SF men losing...

Sushi Ran Wine Bar (Sausalito) - Q

(Yes, I know I just complained that I had too much sushi, but this is Sushi Ran!) After an afternoon of wine-tasting in Napa Valley, we opted to have dinner in Sausalito rather than stay in the Napa/St Helena area. I tried to make reservations at Sushi Ran the night before, but I knew there was no way I could get in. Instead, we had to just put our name on the waitlist for the wine bar area. They told us 45 minutes so we venutred downtown to walk around, but they called us within 20 minutes so we rushed back. They seated us pretty quickly even though the restaurant was packed full of people. We proceeded to order some miso soup (clam miso and miso with shiitake mushroom), the seafood trio, a negitoro roll, a spider roll, some nigiri sushi, and hiyayako (cold tofu). I wanted to order some toro but was told that it was only available on the other side (that is, if we had the foresight to call days ahead to book a table). Nonetheless, the meal definitely met, if not exceeded, my expectations - and I had some pretty high expectations given the reputation of this restaurant. The seafood trio of shrimp tempura, ahi tuna tartare, and crab wrapped in smoked salmon perfectly complemented each other. The negitoro roll melted in your mouth (I'm still disappointed that they wouldn't let me order toro on this side though) and the miso soups were very fragrant. The spider roll was just okay and I've had better hiyayako elsewhere. We wrapped the meal up with a "tempura tower" with chocolate chip ice cream (we really wanted green tea but they ran out already), and that also hit the sweet spot. All in all, the food did not disappoint and the servers were very friendly. I can now understand why sushi ran is so highly-rated and next time I must get a reservation at the restaurant side!

Oops, I got too into talking about the food that I almost forgot my real purpose... Unfortunately, in the cute guy department, Sushi Ran Wine Bar can only get 1 Q. The clientele was mostly families and a few couples here and there, none really the attractive type. There was also a group of people (looked like college students) that talked really loudly near our table (granted, the wine bar area is quite small). That was probably the only group (men and women) that were semi-attractive (our table excluded of course). Maybe the restaurant side had better-looking people, but from where I was sitting, I may be too generous with even a 1 Q...

Friday, May 25, 2007

Too much sushi

So I love sushi and everyone has been telling me that the food heaven that is Paris does not have good sushi. So with less than a week before I head to Paris, I decided that I need to stuff myself full of sushi to last me for the next two months. I think I accomplished that. Had lunch with my coworkers (different ones) two days in a row at Sushi O Sushi in Santa Clara. Tonight I had sushi again with friends at Yakko in Mountain View. 3 sushi meals in 2 days... I once thought I would never be sick of sushi - I was wrong. I am now officially sick of sushi, especially mediocre sushi. I'm ready for French food now, especially after having done so much research and reading other people's experience in Paris, I can't wait!

P.S. Oh yeah, I didn't really see any cute guys at either restaurant...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Slanted Door (San Francisco) - QQQ

Probably one of the most popular restaurants in SF, Slanted Door was bustling with people the minute I walked in. I hear the hostess tell the two women in front of me, "Oh you didn't have reservations? You won't be able to get in tonight then." The two women left, looking disappointed. Similar things have happened to me before here but fortunately tonight I was there for a business dinner and they had booked the private room. As I walked past the crowded bar and dining room, I saw just a few guys that looked promising.

The private room in the back has a glass wall so we could look out to the main dining room. At the beginning of dinner, I didn't see that many cute guys. But as we worked through 5 different appetizers and 8 entrees, the scene got better. The popular Shaking Beef was good as usual and this one salmon dish was also quite flavorful. The Claypot Chicken was a bit over-cooked, but everything else was a hit. Before they served dessert, our waiter informed us that we are still $250 short of our minimum so we ordered 2 $150 bottles of dessert wine. Hey, we were forced to! I don't know if it was the alcohol or just that hotter people eat later, people definitely looked more attractive out there. There was a table of really cute guys just right outside of our room, and as we walked out, I saw a few more tables with fairly attractive guys. The bar was still happening, but the people there were definitely not as good-looking as the ones in the dining room.

After much debate, I guess I'm going to give Slanted Door 3 Q's, albeit somewhat reluctantly. It seems like the scene at Slanted Door is probably as good as it gets in SF, but I truly feel that SF could do better...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Bong Su (San Francisco) - Q

I've heard good things about Bong Su and have been meaning to check it out. I only went there tonight for a mixer so I didn't get a chance to sample the food there (except for some appetizers that were served, which were pretty good). The mixer had a great turnout, although I don't know if the attendees were necessarily representative of the type of clientele that normally frequents this restaurant. In order to get a better sense of the restaurant's typical customers, I made a stroll through the main dining hall. It's Tuesday night so it wasn't too busy but there were a number of attractive people - mostly business types. There was a table of four men in suits, probably having some business meeting or just came from a conference at Moscone, but they were all pretty cute. Too bad they didn't come to the bar to join our mixer! Given that there were some cute men, I give Bong Su 1 Q. However, it's not really a place where you can really meet people (unless there is an organized even) since it seems to cater more to business meals.

So far, the general observation from me and my girlfriend at the mixer tonight is that SF is in great danger to lose to the European cities in terms of places with high Q-ratings. Where are all the good-looking men in the Bay Area?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Koo (San Francisco) - Q

So I'm less than two weeks away from my big trip to Paris/Europe and I thought I'd better start doing some "benchmarking" by checking out guys in the SF restaurants first. Lately I've been craving sushi a lot and I wanted to get my fill since I anticipate that I won't be having much sushi in the next two months.

I had made reservations for us at the sushi bar at Koo (408 Irving St) and reservation is a must, especially for a weekend night, since their sushi bar only has 6 seats. They seated us as soon as we walked in and I noticed that there was a cute guy sitting next to me and he was by himself! Score! However, I was with my two girlfriends and we were pretty engrossed in our own conversation, even though I kept stealing glances over to the guy sitting next to me. I have a soft spot for any man who knows how to enjoy good sushi. Sadly, he left shortly after we got there and then I was left with no cute guys in the restaurant...

On the food part, Koo's "Spoonful of Happiness" (1 spoon of monkfish liver wrapped in halibut sashimi and the other spoon is uni with quail egg and truffle oil) is a must and my friends and I all felt very happy after that. We then had various sashimi, ranging from pen shell to Hawaiian amberjack to white tuna belly (our favorite) and of course toro. The service was good too, as they always kept our teacups full and cleared our plates as soon as we finished something.

Koo is a fairly authentic Japanese restaurant ran by very friendly folks, but unfortunately it's going to score low in terms of cute guys. I'm still going to give it a 1 "Q" rating though - thanks to the 1 cute guy that I did see at the sushi bar. This is not a great start for American men, but I will make every effort to check out more places with hot guys before I go!