Thursday, October 11, 2012

Italy in September

What better way to pass the time than at a great restaurant? 
Eating Italian food.
In Italy.

Introducing More Than A Mouthful - Italy which is my newly created attempt to write about my dining experiences in Italy this last September.  Much like dining in San Francisco, this blog is a work in progress, and I hope to highlight some of the best and worst places to eat in Italy, in case you should ever find yourself there.

Buon appetito, everyone!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


I have not eaten here yet, but I've read about Saison and what Chef Joshua Skenes and his crew have been up to.  Experiential dining where the cuisine is an adventure.  20 courses, don't mind if I do.

Saison.  I'm coming for you.

Saison | 2124 Folsom Street, San Francisco CA |

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Why would anyone eat here?  No, I'm sorry.  Why would anyone eat anywhere else?

A16 is another of my super favorite restaurants.  First, it's Italian, but the good part of Italy, you know, the yummy, cheesy, pizza-making part of Italy.  Named after a stretch of highway in Campagnia, located at about the anklestrap of the "boot", A16 is the cool, Italian version of Route 66.

Second, the restaurant has TWO wood burning ovens, one for pizza and one for facing-melting meat entrees.  Crazy, right?  I'd say it's about right.

Getting a table here, especially on the weekend, isn't easy but it's worth any wait.  Sit at the bar in front, squish in at a squishy table along the wall, or score a seat at the Chef's Counter -- it's all good.  Of course, if you sit at the Chef's Counter there will be lots to watch, however since it is noisy and warm, I wouldn't recommend it for a first-date.  More of a hundreth-date, hand-holding-with-the-one-you-love-but-don't-really-need-to-talk-to sort of scenario. 

To watch the "pizza maven" is a real treat.  She pounds the dough, adds the ingredients, slams things into the oven, and times everything perfectly.  She isn't messing around, and you best not look at her sideways, or else you will learn that the wooden pizza paddle she holds can be used as a weapon.  The chef at the meat oven is a master as well.

Besides the busy kitchen chefs, the food and wine is what really steals the show.  The sommelier is very thoughtful and includes Italian and American wines.  For white wine, try the "Euposia Forastera" from Casa D'Ambra on the Italian island of Ischia.  For red wine, try the "Jellyroll" Syrah from Santa Barbara County.  Bonus Wine Tip:  A16's corkage fee is $20 per bottle, or they will waive it for every bottle of theirs that you purchase.  Nice.

Besides the pizzas, which are a must try, there are other great options.  Order the homemade Burrata, proscuitto tasting, arugula salad to start.  The pastas change seasonally and are superb, but the Berkshire pork chop and halibut are practically staples and are delish.

After the carb load, I've never seem to have room for dessert.  But I will tell you that I nearly always have room for some home-grown Blue Bottle espresso. 

The only other thing I will say (besides EAT HERE) is that the staff loves working here and they are very dedicated, knowledgeable, and accommodating. 

Okay, eat here.

A16 | 2355 Chesnut Street, San Francisco CA |

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Cole's Chop House (Napa, CA)

There are a ton of restaurants in Napa, some of which are worth a visit, almost all of which are pricey or over-pricey.

Cole's Chop House is on the main drag in downtown Napa, and with the excellent service and good food, you won't mind the prices.  In fact, if you've spent the day wine tasting up and down Highway 29, you probably won't be able to focus your eyes and zero in on the prices listed on the menu anyway.

If you go here, you must try the Wedge, the asparagus, the filet mignon, the lamb chops, or the surf and turf.  Skip everything else.  If you follow these simple instructions, you have a 80% of being able to keep down all of that expensive Cabernet you guzzled earlier.  Don't and your odds drop to 35%. 

Bon appetite.

Cole's Chop House | 1122 Main Street  Napa, CA |

Sunday, May 27, 2012

House of Prime Rib

Entropy is a fact of physics, and yet it is hard to imagine a San Franciscan landmark that is in worse shape than House of Prime Rib.

The Bay Area classic has suffered in recent years and it is sadly apparent.

While the outside of the restaurant gives a nod to days of long ago, it's the inside that brings a tear to your eye.  As you enter, you will notice the dark atmosphere where everything is tired, from the servers to the furniture and fixures.  The lounge chairs are dirty and worn, the carpets are dirty and tattered and need replacing, and there is a layer of dust everywhere else.

The most abominable thing I have ever witnessed in a restaurant happened while sitting in the lounge waiting for our table (and believe me, I've seen roaches, rats, and a sneeze in my soup service).  In a pause between the seating rush, a lounge server grabbed a five gallon bucket of mixed nuts, set it on a lounge table and began to refill the miniature glass nut containers by hand, swopping each carafe into the bucket and leveling off the nuts with her bare hand.  She did not dump the old nuts.

But that wasn't the worst of it. 

These containers are not washed between customers, a face evident by the caked on fingerprints on every surface of the container.  REALLY?  Your ware washers can't just run these bad boys on a tray through the dish washing machine and give fresh ones to the lounge servers?  The dirty containers reminded me of an episode of Dexter, where he is collecting latent prints with black fingerprint powder in order to find the killer.  Eww.

As the food, this place is a feeding lot.  People are hurried into their seats, there are only about four options of what you can eat, and everyone gets the same salad, bread, sides, and meat service.  Then you are rushed out about 45 minutes later so they can seat another trove of tourists and wayward diners, but only after you have been thoroughly steamed by the humid meat service, filling every pore and fiber of your skin and clothing.

One admirable note, however.  They sure know how to make a dime, and in a country that esteems capitalism, this is money-making its best.

While our visiting family members loved prime rib and didn't seem to mind the experience, and I am glad to have tried it also, it is not a place I will rush back to anytime soon.  At least, not until they starting washing their nuts.

House of Prime Rib | 1906 Van Ness Avenue San Francisco, CA |

25 Lusk

This restaurant is sophisticated and modern, and has it's own address -- hell, it IS its own address -- and it makes me wish I was just a little cooler. 

I've been to 25 Lusk for brunch and dinner on a few occassions, and nearly each experience was a stunner.

The atmosphere is tony yet approachable.  The open wood beam ceiling is surrounded by concrete, steel, brick, and flowers, and it strikes the perfect balance of industrial meets nature.  Smoky glass frames the kitchen and sectors the chefs away, and they look out onto the dining room, as if from behind large Armani sunglass lenses.

While I have eaten here several times, here's what I remember is extraordinary:  Brunch.  The Lobster and Benedict with hollandaise and prosciutto is out of this world, which is lucky, as your subsequent heart attack after eating this will send you out of this world to heaven, either briefly or permanently.
Oh, hi there, God.  This is what I was doing right before I died.

Combine the Bene with fresh orange juice and French-pressed coffee, and you are fueled and ready to sight-see with your in-laws for the better part of the weekend.  Other favorites are the BLT and the coffee donuts, however I don't remember being a fan of the Farm Egg Scramble (too mushroomy and woodsy for my liking).

For dinner, the scallop starter and the Miyagi oysters are superb, and you can't go wrong with any of their fish entrees, of which I've had the swordfish, tuna, and bass.

The wines and drinks are great also, and I would recommend trying the French 25, SF Yacht Club, and the Hendrick's Margarita.

This is a great restaurant if you want to impress your date or friends, and a great place to start if you need a calorie-load before a big walking excursion, like to Coit Tower or up Lombard or to the nearest Emergency Room.  I will be back, for sure.  Right, Jesus?

25 Lusk | duh, 25 Lusk (at Townsend), San Francisco CA |

Saturday, May 26, 2012


I heart this place.

I like the fact that they are located in Soma near parking. 
I like that they have settled into a comfortable rhythym with their service and cuisine and they always provide a consistent experience. 
I like the dark, split level dining area, complete with burning votives and original oil paintings.
I like that the service is impeccable and it's not arm-twisting to get a reservation.
I like the big heavy door than heaves open when you enter and blasts the first few rows with cool, foggy air.

There are a lot of reasons why I like this place, and not the least is the food.

Oola has the best baby back ribs you will ever eat in your life.  No joke. 

It's a scientific fact that has been proven by my friend, John Merz, who is a scientific expert in baby back rib cooking and eating, and hold's the multi-year title "Best Ribs in Town."  (Well, okay, the title is on his apron, which he wears every summer, and I think that counts.)  Albeit unconventional, these babies are slathering in a ginger soy glaze and braised until they reach that fall-off-the-bone-just-as-it-reaches-your-mouth consistency, and then served with delicious crunchy apple slaw. 

Other winners on the menu:  Scallop on a potato chip, Mac n Cheese, Beet and Watermelon Salad, Chicken and Buttermilk Waffles, Filet Mignon, brussel sprouts, and the Rock Shrimp appetizer.

Chef Ola Fendart sources locally and uses organic produce and natural meats, which is practically mandated in SF by now, and he was classically trained in many of the other kitchens you and I have been to before.

Who knew a Swedish Chef could make such original and delectable Californian cuisine (and not just funny "bleep-da-blork" noises like in the Muppets)?  Ola did.  I do.  And now, you do, too.

Oola | 860 Folsom Street, San Francisco, CA |

Friday, April 13, 2012

Michael Mina

Hey, Jami.  Yeah?  What do you want for your birthday?  Oh, nothing.  No really, what do you want?  Nothing big, anything's fine.  Okaaay, nothing big as in a watch or necklace?  Oh, you know, like maybe dinner for four at Michael Mina's <deep breathe> Oh, boy.

There are a few things I remember from that night.  No, wait.  There are few things I remember from that night.  Yeah, that's it.

Fortunately, there are pictures.  Here's what I do remember, in no particular order.

Lobster pot pie.  Trust me, you will want to eat this.
Champagne.  Pinot Noir.  A bottle of Rosé.  A lobster pot pie.  Me telling the hostess to sit us away from people "so we don't disturb them", and her replying that this place needs to be "livened up" before sitting us in the middle of the restaurant.  Making fun of the French before realizing we were say next to a French couple.  Oysters with frozen accoutrements.  Making fun of the word "accoutrements".  Shabu shabu.  Making fun of the word "shabu shabu".  Desserts that tasted like a Manhattan and another that tasted like an Old Fashion.  Closing down the place.

Oh, and being really, really happy.

Chef Mina, I won't be able to eat here every weekend, or even quarter, but I want you to know that I really appreciate how you make a culinary experience a special occassion, and not the other way around. 

Michael Mina | 252 California St., San Francisco, CA |

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Everyone knows if you are trying to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, you should head to a fancy Mexican restaurant.

The folks at Tres aren't picky.  Give them any country's major holiday and it is celebrated with tequila. 

Besides the cool decor, complete with vaulted ceilings, iron sculptures, brick walls, heavy wooden tables and an open kitchen.  Interior designers eye candy.

Woodstock and me
The cuisine is pretty remarkable, too.  Over the times that I've visited, I've sampled the guacamole, queso fundido, al pastor pollo tacos (chicken), carnitas tacos (pork), carne asade tacos (steak), and the pozole verde.  I highly recommend the queso fundido and carnitas tacos, but I can't remember a tastier pozole I've consumed in the past decade. 

Smuggled in shot glass for tequila flight
The drinks?  Well, there are a couple of winners here.  The house drinks, Tres Margarita and Tres Altos Margaritas, are delicious and smooth.  However, I tried the La Paloma (fresh lime juice, grapefruit soda, and tequila), and then ordered six more just to make sure I liked it.  Me likey.  Me likey a lotty.

I've also done the tequila flight tastings.  Which are supremely fun if you have a full stomach of Mexican and are playing catch up on St. Patrick's Day. 

I have been here many times, and will return again. 

Uno... dos...Tres... viva Mexico en San Francisco, todos!

Tres | 130 Townsend Street (at 2nd), San Francisco CA |

Saturday, December 31, 2011


New Year's Eve, 2011. 

We forgot to make dinner reservations anywhere, and 2012 is breathing down our necks.  Tummies grumbling, we check OpenTable for something.  Anything.  Please, oh, please.

Hmm.  This is interesting.  It seems there is a table available for a new restaurant called Mozzeria... I've never heard of it before, have you... no?... well it's Italian...okay, why not, let's do it!

We head to the Mission and circle the block trying to find a spot near the restaurant, and as the streets are filled with cars parked by sparkly, sequined revelers filing into the bars nearby, I suppose it was lucky to find a spot three blocks away. 

As we are running late, I try to call and hold the table.  The phone rings and rings and rings.  Odd, but I figure the place is hoping so they just can't be hassled to stop and answer. 

We walk in, and there upon occurs the most interesting and funny experience I can remember for some time.

We stand there waiting for someone to greet us for several minutes.  It is oddly quiet.  People are eating, but no one is really speaking.  And no one is coming up to us.  We look at each other and are thinking about leaving, when a hostess comes up.  She is holding a pad of paper and points to "name on reservation?" and then hands over the paper and pen.

Then it dawns on me.  She is deaf, and so is nearly everyone else in the restaurant.  In fact, we learn that the chef (Chef Bryan Baker) and owners (Melody and Russel Stein) are all deaf and are very passionate about having a hearing-impaired friendly restaurant with great cuisine.  Love it!

We sit, we sip prosecco, and enjoy the quiet.  We order several options off of the prix fixe menu, including beet salad, some sort of crostini with onions, pizza Margherita, and gnocci in white sauce. 

Baked in a wood oven, the pizza was phenomenal.  Sadly, it was the only thing.  In fact, the pizza is so great it is worth returning for, and with some menu tweaks, I'm sure everyone would be happy to support a restaurant that is diverse in both its culture and cuisine.

Mozzeria | 3228 16th Street (at Guerrero), San Francisco, CA |