A few weeks ago, we both headed to San Francisco for the Society of Actuaries Annual Health conference. The plan was that Fausto would attend the sessions and I would work from the hotel, then we’d meet up later on and explore the city. Since I was going to work East Coast hours, I thought I was going to have some time in the afternoon to do some touristy stuff. But alas, things did not turn out the way I planned, work got really busy and both of us spent most of our time holed up in the hotel room. The only thing we had time to do was eat. I’ve been known to eat a lot, so this post will not disappoint. We managed to fit in a lot of food in a little amount of time. Here is a look at our food adventure in San Francisco.
The House – After checking into our hotel, we were hungry and eager to go out and grab a bite to eat. Usually, we decide where to eat in a new city by perusing Yelp and Google. This place had 4.5 stars and over 3,000 reviews on Yelp, so we had to give it a try. Getting there at 9 pm, we were seated immediately, which was nice. The appetizers of rock crab on buttered toast and avocado and grilled scallops with micro greens were satisfying; both well cooked and definitely made me impatient for the main course. We ordered the sea bass with stir-fried noodles, one of their specialties. The fish was flaky and melted in your mouth as it should, but the noodles were too oily for my taste. The food was good because we were starving, but it is like every other Asian fusion restaurants we’ve been to, nothing unforgettable.
Oysters – Second night, we headed to the ferry building overlooking the Bay bridge to try Hog Island Oyster Co. This place comes highly rated on Yelp and recommended by our local friend. We came around 8 pm, an hour before closing and there was no wait. The night was warm enough for us to have our food outside while enjoying the LED light show on the bridge. We had an assortment of 2 dozen oysters and clams, seafood stew, clam chowder, white anchovies and seafood ceviches. It might sound like a lot of food, but it was actually perfect amount for 3 people.
The oysters were fresh but not spectacular, sucking into them I don’t get that rich creamy taste or the salty briny taste. They were just small and bland. The seafood stew on the other hand was amazing and definitely the best part of the meal. The bowl was filled to the brim with various shellfish and covered in a thick tomato broth that was rich but not too salty. It’s quite filing if you eat it with the toasted buttered bread. The breaded anchovies were light but not greasy, perfect size to pop the whole thing in your mouth. The ceviche were covered in a weird white sauce that did not add to the taste. Overall, the food at this place was not memorable except for the seafood stew. The night was saved by the spectacular view and the great company.
Before we left, we headed over to Swan Oyster Depot, another popular place that was supposed to be great for fresh seafood. This was apparently recommended by Anthony Bourdain at some point and got really popular. So, we were pleasantly surprised when we got there around 4 and did not have to wait in line. After checking out the trays of seafood on display outside, we settled on the clam chowder, Blue point oysters, clams and crab cocktail. The clam chowder was runny and and not creamy. It was also filled with potatoes and very little clams. The Blue point oyster though was big, succulent and creamy. It reminds me of the ones I ate in Ireland and kinda make me wish I have a pint of Guinness to wash it down. The crab cocktail was another winner, filled with big chunks of tasty crab meat. It’s the way to eat crab if you’re lazy and don’t want to do any of the work yourself. This place is known for the live sea urchin out of the shell so I was really disappointed when there was none available. If you go, make sure you bring cash.
Pho – Fausto and I don’t purposely seek out Vietnamese food when we go to a new city (OK, I lied, we do!). In San Francisco, we went back to get some pho ga (chicken pho) at Turtle Tower, a favorite from our last visit. This place serves the Northern style pho, so you should expect wider softer noodles and no beansprout or basil on the side. We both enjoyed pho in Hanoi, but for some reason, most pho restaurants on the East coast only serve the Southern style, so this is quite a treat. Another thing to know, the restaurant is located in the infamous Tenderloin area of San Francisco. It is about 10 minute walk from Union Square, but in a completely different world. Last time, we made the mistake of walking there,and passed by a guy who pulled down his pants in the middle of the street and started shooting up in his groin area. In all my time in New York, I’ve never seen anything like that before.
Tin was another restaurant we tried in the SoMa area. Even though they have great reviews in Yelp, most of their dishes were watered down and not authentic. The only thing that stood out was the banana blossom salad with fried freshwater eel, onions, fried garlic, shallots, peanuts and dressed with fish sauce. It had a lot of taste and texture and every bite was a different experience and satisfying for my taste buds.
Truffles – While walking past Little Italy on Columbus Ave, I passed this quaint coffee shop that’s known for truffle chocolate. You get to try a chocolate if you order a drink. So I thought why not, let’s give this a try, besides I was getting tired of walking and I was only about half way to the pier. The truffles are smaller than I am used to, but are creamy and decadent. There are a large variety of truffles, but I choose the dark chocolate which packed a strong taste that’s rich and velvety. They have a few chairs outside for you to sit and enjoy your coffee and chocolate. In fact, it was so good, that on the way back, I stopped by to pick up a box for Fausto. It is quite a steal at 20 truffles for $13.
Seafood in Fisherman’s Wharf – After walking for about an hour, I finally made it to the wharf. Right in the middle of the area, is a seafood market, with little stalls, peddling various seafood rolls. On their windows are big red crabs prominently displayed to pull in the casual tourists. Before we got to San Francisco, a friend told us that we have to try the rock crab on sourdough bread at Fisherman’s Wharf. To be honest, they don’t look too appetizing sitting there all in a row, ready-made. After many minutes of indecisiveness, I ventured back and forth, trying to decide between which stall to grace with my patronage. At the end it didn’t really matter, because they all pretty much looked the same. I carted back my crab roll to the hotel to share with Fausto, and it was surprisingly good. The creamy crab goes well with the hard sourdough. As you take another bite, it grows on you until the minute you’re done and licking your fingers. It’s also quite filing, and a roll shared between the two of us was enough.
Scoma – Another seafood restaurant located in Fisherman’s Wharf, but not quite like the others. The pasta dishes here were generous and topped with many variety of seafood from shrimp, to scallops, to mussels and clams, all perfectly cooked. I am sometimes hesitant to order seafood pasta, because the seafood can be overcooked and the shrimp becomes rubbery; but not here, everything was fresh and succulent.
We enjoyed all the seafood we had in our short time in the Bay area. Next time we are back, I hope we’ll have more of a chance to explore the rest of this beautiful city and not just the tourist areas.
This post is 2 weeks overdue because we just made it back from our Inca trek (in one piece). As we sort through our laundry, photos, and notes there will be more posts going up. We are eager to share our experiences and tips from our excursions to the mountains of Peru. ‘Follow’ us on here or ‘Like’ us on Facebook to get more exclusive pictures from our trips.