San Francisco – Absinthe Brasserie

I’ve recently been told to write less, and just add more pictures. So this is my attempt on being a minimalist.The bread and butter was.. well.. just bread and butterSome beautiful and fresh oyster shooters with a spicy Bloody Mary sauce up in the top left.Phenomenal Duck Leg Confit Golden Peaches, Watercress and Goat Cheese.Beef CarpaccioBeef Short Ribs with Mirepoix, German Butterball Potatoes, with a Pinot Noir Jus.Alaskan Halibut with Sweet Shrimp, Mussels, Saffron-Chorizo Broth, Crostini, and Rouille.Grilled Skirt Steak Frites with Green Peppercorn Jus and Caramelized Onions served with Mixed Greens and Fries.Honey Upside Down Fig Cake with Fresh Figs and Ice Cream

Not Pictured: Yellow Watermelon Sorbet

Absinthe Brasserie Scores:
Food: 7/10 – Although all the ingredients in the entire meal were absolutely fresh, there wasn’t a single stand out dish that would expedite my return.

Restaurant Environment: 8/10 – A relaxing brasserie/tavern feel, having a relaxing absinthe based drink at the bar is simply divine.

Service: 7/10 – Nothing over the top, but servers were there when you needed them.

Value: 7/10 – With everything on the menu under $30, it’s affordable but doesn’t scream value.

Overall: 7/10

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San Francisco Megapost

It’s that time again ladies and gentlemen, for me to take you on an extraordinary photograzing journey through another amazing city. This time it’s the hella delicious city of San Francisco.We’ll start with some delicious breakfast/brunch items at Mama’s.

Mama’s Northern Italian M’Omelette is a hearty egg omelette filled with Pancetta, Mushroom, Fresh Basil, Tomato and Garlic Jack Cheese. Next up is their Smoked Salmon Scramble with Green Onions, Home Fries and a Bagel with Cream Cheese. Too be honest, I thought the best part was the bagel. The actual scramble was pretty uneventful. Finally the Piece de Resistance, the famous Monte Cristo. Basically a Ham and Cheese sandwich grilled up french toast style and served with a Raspberry Preserve. This thing is phenomenal! Maybe it’s my love of melding sweet and savory in the early morning, but I’d have to say that it’s one of my all time breakfast faves.

What you need to know that I eventually ended up eating ice cream for breakfast for the final 2 days. How awesome is that? Stop number 1, Bi Rite Creamery. Now I know usually there’s a nice little line that you have to wait in to get your ice cream. Not for me! I’m a pioneer! Cup of coffee for breakfast? No way! Cup of ice cream please!Armed with a unique set of rotating flavors such as crème fraiche, honey lavender, salted caramel, and balsamic strawberry, it’s clear why Bi Rite is such a popular favorite around town.

Me? I ordered up a special known as Kris’ Kombo. A heavenly sundae comprised of 2 scoops of Vanilla Ice Cream, drizzled with Blood Orange Olive Oil, sprinkled with Maldon Sea Salt and finally topped with fresh Whipped Cream. Is it safe to say that this was the best ice cream that I’ve had in my life? Yeah, it sounds mundane with plain Vanilla, but once all the simple flavors marry together. It becomes my favorite ice cream in the world.  Bravo Bi Rite!Another thing to note is that I also got a Snickerdoodle cookie. My advice, just stick with the ice cream.After filling up on delicious sundaes what else is there to do besides grabbing more food? We headed a few blocks up to the famous and now closing (because of neighbor law suits for noise and people complaints, yada yada) Ike’s Place for sandwiches.Things to note about Ike’s Place: Cons: Long line, no dining area, very messy sandwiches. Pros: Great bottled drink selection, helpful staff, you get a free lollipop (the caramel apple one), and lastly, out of this world delicious novelty sandwiches.Did I mention that the sandwiches were also ingeniously named? We ordered their famous Manage a Trois and the (Name of Girl I’m Dating). I know I’m going to catch a lot of crap for not remembering what the third sandwich was, sue me.The Manage a Trois was a sloppy combination of Halal Chicken Breast, Real Honey, Honey Mustard, BBQ, PepperJack, Swiss and Smoked Gouda. Despite the saucy-ooey-gooey-stickiness, the flavor was phenomenal. Maybe I should’ve ordered it on Italian Hero instead of the Sourdough, it could’ve probably kept the sandwich better in tact.Next up, the (Name of Girl I’m Dating) is made with Halal Chicken Breast, Honey Mustard, Avocado, and PepperJack cheese. A fresh, cleaner and just as appetizing sandwich when compared to the Manage a Trois.

So Day 2 of my ice cream for breakfast adventure led me to Humphry Slocombe. Now if you thought Bi Rite had unique flavors (which I did), the ones at Humphry Slocombe will absolutely blow your effing mind. Flavors include Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee, Secret Breakfast (Bourbon and Cornflakes), Red Hot Banana, Balsamic Caramel, and lastly Jesus Juice (a sorbet comprised of Red Wine and Coke, go figure).Another great stop in San Francisco is their weekend Farmer’s Market at Ferry Building. With fresh food and a ton of vendors, it’s one of the biggest outdoor markets that I’ve been to. We ended up stopping at a vendor that created fresh sandwiches with produce obtained from the other purveyors at the market.Their Sockeye Smoked Salmon on Sourdough with Cream Cheese, Onions, Capers, Lemon, and Lavender Salt was jaw-droppingly good. The open face sandwich embodies the pure freshness associated with outdoor markets.Head up a few miles and you’ll hit the famous Pier 33, which you have to stop and grab some Clam Chowder. Lucky for me I bought a sourdough roll right before I left the Ferry Building. So I had something to slop up the warm chowder.Finally, my journey concluded in famous Chinatown. And what do you have to get when you’re in San Francisco Chinatown? That’s right, the Egg Tarts or Dan Ta’s at Golden Gate Bakery. After what seemed liked a half-hour wait (which I’ve been told is relatively short), I got my hands on a couple piping hot Dan Ta’s. Now, I’ve traveled all the way to Macau to grab a few bites of their famous Portuguese style Dan Ta’s, but can I tell you a secret? The ones in SF are better. The custard was perfect, albeit a tad hot, but hey, it kept me warm on a cool San Francisco night. Just thinking about that flaky crust makes me want to ask my pilot to divert this flight up to San Francisco (I’m writing this on the plane by the way). My favorite part of these Dan Ta’s? Standing outside and exaggerating my orgasmic face after slowly savoring each bite and making the people in line suffer while they wait patiently (or at least they try) for the next batch. What an asshole.

San Francisco – Wayfare Tavern

What more can I say about chef Tyler Florence? He is my culinary god that I worship day and night. I can safely say that he is one of the sole reasons that manifested my food obsession. The days of Food 911 and Tyler’s Ultimate were the good days of Food Network, unlike the new-age shows dominated with cupcake decorating and cake building. Maybe it’s all the Bourdain I’ve been reading, and his hatred of everything Food Network. Whatever it is, I’m growing further and further away from this once sacred channel. Sorry about the side rant, where was I? Oh yeah, when I heard Tyler (we’re on a first name basis now ok?) opened his new restaurant Wayfare Tavern in San Francisco, it instantly rose to the top of my restaurant bucket list.As I made my way into restaurant, my jaw literally dropped, flabbergasted. Seeing Tyler stand in the kitchen with his arms crossed, I felt like a young teeny-bopper seeing Bieber for the first time in person. Screw Bieber-fever, this was Tyler’s Ultimate Fever. We’re lucky enough to be seated at a booth next to the open kitchen, I saw Tyler wave at me (not us, just me). However, I thought he was waving at somebody else, disregarded the gesture, and refocused my attention to the waiter. Again, I peeped over at the kitchen, and Tyler waved again. Acting like a dumbfounded idiot, I reciprocated with the most awkward wave that I will remember for the rest of my life. Sigh.

The meal started with warm buttery popovers that were crusted on the outside and ultra soft on the inside, served with some softened butter. Just awesome. I love when restaurants actually are meticulous and put some TLC in the bread they serve.

While sipping on some amazing Napa grown wine, a flurry of dishes is brought out before us.

Beginning with the Seared Sonoma Foie Gras served with roasted plums, tarragon and sea salt on grilled sourdough. What a phenomenal dish. The plums were sweet and succulent and a perfect complement to the buttery foie gras.Next on tap was a pretty similar dish, but something that I always order in the Salt Roasted Bone Marrow. The marrow is plated over a bed of Parsley-Shallot Salad with a Veal Demi-glaze on a Sourdough Toast with Molasses Butter. I’ll have to confess that I do love the foie gras more than this dish, but the bone marrow was no pushover either. I just think it was missing the unique element of something sweet to balance the saltiness.Our final appetizer was the Santa Barbara Sea Urchin from their raw bar. The sea urchin is presented on top of a Sweet Corn Puree, Bread and Butter Pickles, and Chervil. The dish was absolutely superb, and epitomized San Francisco dining with the use of fresh, in season, ingredients. The lightness of the sea urchin and sweet corn paired perfectly with the saltiness of the previous ones.On to the main events! This is Tyler’s rendition of Steak and Eggs. A Petit Filet Mignon topped with Soft Eggs, with toasted Dungeness crab, Asparagus, and a buttery Béarnaise. He should’ve called it the most decked out Egg’s Benedict in the world. Again, you notice the quality of ingredients in every bite and the perfect execution of every dish.The Wood Grilled Chicken Paillard is an artistic masterpiece of colorful ingredients served with Marin Organic Tomatoes, Frisèe, Bacon Lardons, Watercress and a drizzle of Roasted Chicken Jus. Honestly, if this is the kind of dishes that farmer’s eat, you can call me Old McDonald, because I’m putting on my overalls and carrying out my pitchfork.Finally, comes my dish, their Organic Fried Chicken dipped in a Buttermilk Brine, served with Roasted Garlic, Crispy Wood Herbs, and Lemons. To quote Usher, O-M-G! Drop everything you’re doing and fly out to San Francisco, make your way into Wayfare Tavern and order the most amazing Fried Chicken you’ll ever have in your life. The chicken feels as if it’s quickly fried and then finished off in the oven, since there’s no oily residue at all. The herbs and crust are simply divine. Every bite I smear the roasted garlic like it’s butter and squeeze some of the fresh lemon. This is in a whole different class of Fried Chicken, screw Shake and Bake, KFC, Popeyes, even the highly touted chicken at Blue Ribbon doesn’t compare. Mr. Florence, I see you in an even higher light.You might ask yourself, can this meal get any better? And my answer to you would be yes! (emphasis on the exclamation mark). Along with the three entrees, we also ordered a couple of sides, which included the best Macaroni and Cheese in the world. The Baked Mac and Cheese is laced with Jack Cheese, Garlic Breadcrumbs, and topped with Chives and Smoked Olive Oil. The cheese not only had extraordinary flavor but also had the perfect consistency, not too thick and not too watery. The use of larger macaroni pasta was a magnificent touch. Please, no more, this food-gasm is unbearable (in a great way).Our final dish was the Creamed Corn that was also topped with Smoked Olive Oil and Chive Blossoms. Continuing with the theme of the day, flawlessly executed and just marvelous to eat. I honestly think I’m running out of synonyms for this entry.But wait! There’s more! You thought that was all that we ordered? Keep dreaming, I have to end this momentous night with some dessert. Enter Big Papa’s Banana Cream Pie, filled with Banana Custard, Vanilla Wayfares (get it?), and topped with a Toasted Meringue. I’ve always loved banana cream anything, but just imagine Marie Calender’s Banana Cream Pie stepped up a few notches and that’s what we get here. Although it is a bit sweet, sharing this dessert amongst a few friends ends up being the perfect finishing touch.On our way out, we’re even presented with little Ginger Snap cookies that would’ve made the Keebler Elves quit their jobs.

I truly can’t say much more about how utopic the night has been. I enjoyed beyond a doubt one of the best meals of my life with some of the greatest people (Thanks Tiff and Vanessa). My only advice about eating at Wayfare Tavern (which would’ve made my night complete) is what I learned at the end of the meal. Is that Tyler loves meeting his guests and fans and is a very approachable individual. If you were like me and were simply waiting for him to come around and interrupt your meal, you’d be at a loss. Our waiter told us that we should’ve asked him to meet Tyler. But this only gives me more reason to head back to San Francisco and visit Wayfare Tavern Again.

Wayfare Tavern Scores:
Food: 10/10 – My first and quite possibly only perfect score. Not only did I enjoy great food, it was a great experience.

Restaurant Environment: 10/10 – To personally be at your restaurant shows a lot and how much you care about your actually restaurant.

Service: 10/10 – A kind staff and great recommendations, helped garnish a perfect score.

Value: 10/10 – To set this straight, you can’t enter Wayfare Tavern thinking Dollar Menu, but for what you get. I’ll gladly pay my first born.

Overall: 10/10

LA: Sugar Rush Cafe

How sweet it is to have a relaxing month at home. Unfortunately, it’s not sweet that I’ve been packing on the pounds while indulging myself in all the spectacular food home has to offer. Craving a Sunday brunch, a couple of friends and I decided to head over to Sugar Rush Cafe for a nice little bite.The tiny little spot is honestly in the middle of nowhere. Nestled in between a few industrial warehouses, you’ll find the yellow awned cafe.Enjoy your morning brunch with some Intelligentisa brewed iced coffee or latte, or a nice warm pot of tea. The traditional Grilled Cheese sandwich is done perfectly. Not too soggy, not too dry, with the perfect oozy-ness flowing from the cheese (is oozy-ness a word?). I wish I could’ve grown up eating this grilled cheese every day, because I would be the joyfullest little boy in the world. I’d also be the most obese little boy in the world, but hey, as long as I’m happy. I’m always craving breakfast burritos, no matter where I go. I think its from the nostalgic factory of eating one before every swim meet, or something like that. But now that I think about it, how can you really screw up a breakfast burrito? The averageness of the burrito put Sugar Rush a step back, after the awesomeness of the grilled cheese (wow, that sounded like some 2nd grade writing). Finally, we have a Roast Beef Sandwich with Provolone and Caramelized Onions on a Toasted Ciabatta. To be honest, it was pretty “meh.” This sandwich just doesn’t have the umph factor associated with the sandwich at This Little Piggy. However, don’t get me wrong, it is better than Arby’s, and boy do I love Arby’s, so that’s saying a lot.

Sugar Rush Cafe Scores:
Food: 7.5/10 – Simple dishes done right, but the lack of creativity holds Sugar Rush back.

Restaurant Environment: 5/10 – Feels as if they just threw a few tables and chairs together and voila! called it a restaurant.

Service: 7/10 – nothing spectacular.

Value: 7/10 – Not to sound like a cheap ass, but I’d expect cheaper for the location.

Overall: 7/10

Hide Chan Ramen

I don’t know how many times I have to reiterate myself, but I love ramen! It’s definitely one of my most favorite foods ever. Honestly, picture yourself gazing out upon a freezing New York night while enjoying your delicious warm bowl of ramen. Surreal no?After reading an interesting blog post regarding Hide Chan and their unique offering of ramen, a couple of friends and I decided to grab a quick bite there.

The Pork Buns although delicious are nowhere on the same level of the ones served at Ippudo. The pork is grilled and seared which brings out a ton of flavor. However, they’re not as tender as you would’ve expected, I occasionally had a tough bite. Disappointing. The sauce is a perfect medium, where it’s tasty enough to give it an extra dimension, however mellow enough where it doesn’t dominate the flavor of the pork. Also, what’s up with the iceberg lettuce? Kind of ugly no? The chicken wings have a nostalgic texture and flavor that reminded me of something my grandma used to whip up back in the day. So, brownie points for unknowingly striking up memories from my past and serving it up on a dish.Let me introduce you to the Mega Ton, and boy does it live up to its name. I know I should’ve took the picture along with another dish, but just trust me when I say this bowl was HUGE. Those pieces of delicious pork were all the size of a baby’s knuckle. A common downfall with such generous sized dishes is the drop off in flavor and overall quality of the dish, however not so with the Mega Ton.Next up is the Hakata Spicy Miso Ramen. The hot rayu oil poured across the bowl resonates through out the entire dish when it’s stirred in. Although done well, the dish lacks a certain facet of uniqueness and just feels like something that I’ve had in the past.Ahh. The Hakata Kuro Ramen aka the Black Ramen, the sole reason why I actually chose to eat at Hide Chan Ramen in the first place. Although you probably can’t notice much in this black mess, the bowl is packed with individual flavors that marry and become a dish. The first thing that you probably notice flavor-wise is the garlic, which I absolutely love. Another great addition are the black mushrooms (which I don’t know exactly which kind), almost have the texture of seaweed, but taste great!Finally, we have the Hiyashi Tskuke-Men with a dipping soba broth laced with spicy sesame oil. I was impressed by how well all the ramen noodles were cooked, but especially with the cold ramen. Usually, the noodles become too starchy and tend to stick together (you’ve seen it when making spaghetti, and letting the noodles set). However, the ramen still held a brilliant texture and when dipped into the broth, you get hit right in the mouth with a straight haymaker of spicy heat. Unfortunately, this dish was not perfect. The portion when compared to Mega Ton, was absolutely pathetic and felt like a side order. Also, I guess this is general for all ramen, why skimp on the meat? I mean really.. 2 pieces? I love to see my ramen come with a whole blanket of meat, but until that day, I can only sit here and rant.

Hide Chan Scores:
Food: 7.5/10 – The food was well prepared, but maybe I have a ramen bias and always think ramen is prepared well.

Restaurant Environment: 8/10 – I love being able to sit in the tiny tatami and enjoying great time with friends.

Service: 9/10 – Unfortunately, my friend waited by herself for half an hour, and I waited with her for another half an hour, the servers never threw a fit.

Value: 6/10 – Around $10 for the regular bowls of ramen, and $15 for the Mega Ton, seems a little more than average.

Overall: 7.5/10

Paradou

When you think of words that are synonymous with New York City what are some that come to mind? Crowded, rude, freedom, driven, etc. If you ask me, it’s brunch. Not just any kind of brunch, drunk brunch to be exact. And actually, not just drunk brunch, but all-you-can-drink drunk brunch. With an abundance of these all-you-can-drink restaurants in the Greenwich area, that’s where we decided to head, a quaint little place by the name of Paradou.Make sure you either get to Paradou early or have reservations made. Unlucky for us we didn’t do either and had to wait a good hour or two until a table opened up.

For $29 ($35 for parties 7+)  you get your choice of entree with an unlimited champagne brunch. The kicker is not only is it just champagne, but you get your choice of mixer, making it an unlimited mimosa, bellini, etc. fiesta. The Oeufs Paradou or basically a Salmon Eggs Benedict over a piece of shitty toast (which they dare call brioche). Not the prettiest plate of the bunch, and not the tastiest either. So what does that equate to? You got it. A terrible dish.The French Toast with a Fresh Berry Compote was no different. Just tasted very average and not to sound boastful but was something I could’ve probably mocked up by myself. I would’ve never paid the menu price of $12 for it.Finally we get to the $5 supplement. An extra Abe Lincoln would get you this bad ass Duck Reuben with Fingerling Potatoes. Straight from the menu verbatim: “The Height of Decadence!!! The Royalty of Sandwichdom!!!.” And yes, they did have all three exclamation marks, which made me three times as excited. Pieces of Duck Confit, Duck Magret, Choucroute (not gonna lie, I have no idea what the last 2 were), and Arugula. It must’ve been worth it right? Wrong. This concoction was blander than cardboard and oilier/greasier than the Gulf of Mexico. If this was really the height of decadence, then shoot me now.

As a result of the constant pounding of delicious “champagne” cocktails, I wasn’t able to get around and take pictures of the rest of the food. Failed.

Paradou Scores:
Food: 3.5/10 – Although edible, it was nothing close to being enjoyable.

Restaurant Environment: 7.5/10 – Maybe it was because we turned the entire back patio into a playhouse, but we had a great time none the less.

Service: 7/10 – The constant refilling of the drinks might have frustrated most, but the workers at Paradou kept up a good job.

Value: 5/10 – For the food, I’d probably give it a 0, but for the unlimited drinks it deserves a 10, so I’ll meet it half way.

Overall: 6/10

Nolita House

People don’t like being placed in awkward positions (unless you’re the Dos Equis Most Interesting Man in the World), and the same goes for those that work in the restaurant business. While dining out at Nolita House my friends and I were placed in such a predicament and things started to get a bit testy. No thanks to the Yelp app for telling us the restaurant was only open at 4:00pm for dinner and not informing us about their earlier lunch time menu, we decided to wait until 4:00pm to head to the restaurant for an early dinner. But to much chagrin, we quickly noticed they served a similar cheaper lunch menu. After being seated and handed the lunch menus, our server quickly swooped in and removed them from our hands and replaced them with the pricier dinner menu and informed us that the kitchen was in the process of switching between lunch and dinner menus, we obliged since we were there for the dinner anyway. We placed our orders at 3:52pm on the dot and ordered a few BOGO happy hour beers excited to see our neighbors thoroughly enjoy their custom made burgers and fries. My friend had to be at work at 5:00pm, so we had to eat fast!

4:30pm hits, still nothing. Our server comes by to apologize saying that they’re still switching out the back end and that our food would be out in jiff. He presented us with a few complimentary beers that simply masked the hunger frustrations. But wait, are the cooks really cooking our food, because we see them all pow-wowed in front of the kitchen having social hour.

4:45pm: Apparently our dishes are now being plated and will be served up any minute now. We glare back at the kitchen, frustrated, waiting and hoping every desperate minute to see our dishes magically materialize, but still nothing.

5:00pm: My friend calls into work saying that she will be a bit late because she’s finishing up her dinner (that was a lie). They always say never shoot the messenger, and we did feel a bit sympathetic to see how genuinely apologetic our server was, but they’re just toying with our patience now.

5:03pm: The first dish arrives and it’s my BBQ Baby Back Ribs.I’ve got to say, I’ve had better ribs at Chili’s than the one served at Nolita House. The ribs came absolutely cold and had the mystique that it was just zapped in the microwave (which they did a poor job of) and brushed with a bit of BBQ sauce. Even though I was utterly disappointed, the sheer hunger that engulfed me fueled me on to consume the dish.

5:05pm: The second communal dish arrives, Nolita House’s “Famous Baked Macaroni and Cheese” with Bacon.This thing should’ve been made out of bologna, because that’s exactly what it is. $8 for this POS?? Plus an extra $1 for the bacon?? I’ve enjoyed EasyMac more than this dish. The filling was watered down and you don’t ever get the sense of it being warm and hearty that mac and cheese is famous for. To quote one of my favorite movies, F&F Tokyo Drift, “0 for 2, cowboy.”

5:05pm: My friend’s smaller plate of Ribs arrive and it’s completely inedible. It’s cold and absolutely pathetic, he sends it back to the kitchen.

5:06pm: The accompaniment to our rib dishes finally come out. The Serrano Skillet Cornbread. Now don’t let the picture or the name fool you, this thing was donkey crap. I would have rather they go out and run to Boston Market for me and bring me their cornbread instead of serving me their dry, tasteless object that they try to pass off as cornbread. And to think that they put it on the menu as a side order for $5 is a complete outrage.

5:07pm: Finally the last dish appears:A so called salad takes the longest time, go figure. Their Watermelon and Crispy Pork Belly was actually pretty decent. But at $13 and making each of these bad boys roughly $4 and change, I can think of many better things that I would rather enjoy, such as the Hirata Buns at Ippudo. My friend finishes just one as she has to jet for work.

5:15pm: After talking under our breath for a while saying that they should at least serve up a full sized portion of rib, Nolita House delivers and presents a now warm and full plate of their BBQ Ribs. What could have been.. what could have been. At least the meat falls off the bone this time.

What I find absolutely hilarious is that this was my first time at Nolita House, and upon leaving, I guess the manager comes out to greet me, saying that I look familiar and if I’ve been here before. I run with it and say that I have. He tells me, “yea, you definitely look familiar and I’ve seen you around.” (Is it because I’m Asian? And you’re just mistaking me for all the other Asian faces in Chinatown?) He tells me his name is Kyle, shakes my hand and guarantees he’ll help me out better next time. We’ll see about that.

Nolita House Scores:
Food: 1.5/10 – This is only because they came back out with an edible form of ribs towards the end

Restaurant Environment: 4/10 – It just feel’s like your basic pub, but I didn’t like seeing the cooks standing around not cooking.

Service: 0/10 – This was a tough one for me, but in the end Nolita House did not deliver upon their initial service no matter how sympathetic or how many beers they give me.

Value: 2/10 – Although the prices were fairly reasonable for New York standards, this directly correlates with the terrible food that was served.

Overall: 1/10