Steakhead in San Francisco
Night 1- Crustacean- San Francisco
I bet a friend who claims to be a Pats fan (he has like 3 or 4 favorite teams, so its tough keeping track) that the Giants would beat them in the Super Bowl. Mind you, the Giants were a 13-point underdog, and being a real fan, I offered the bet straight up. Winner picks the restaurant, loser pays. Karma rewarded my faith, and we hit Crustacean. Crustacean is a family-run Vietnamese seafood house. Their signature dish is their whole dungeness crab prepared 3 different ways- the Roasted Crab (garlic), the Drunken Crab (wine, scallions and black pepper), and the Tamarind Crab (red Vietnamese sweet and spicy sauce). This night, I went with the Drunken Crab, but I have had all three and probably lean toward the Roast Crab. But seriously, it’s not like you can make a bed selection. We started with numerous appetizers- the salt and pepper calamari were excellent. But the absolute must here is getting the An’s Garlic Noodles as a side dish to whatever you get. There is a secret kitchen in each Crustacean location, protecting the family recipes, and my guess is that the Garlic Noodles is the dish they are most concerned with protecting.
Monday night brought me further toward Silicon Valley and Tamarine in Palo Alto. Once again, Vietnamese, but probably a little more traditional (and cheaper) than Crustacean. Tamarine is located right in downtown Palo Alto on University Ave. We started with the tuna tartare appetizer, which is presented more like a ceviche, and served with fried wontons. While the entrees are called “small plates”, that really only means that you order the veggies and starches separately. The dishes are meant to be shared, so for 2, we ordered one entrée and a veggie and rice dish and split everything. So yes, that means Steakhead ordered a vegetable- the black bean asparagus, and they were awesome! Cut up into short pieces, with a terrific Asian black bean glaze and very crunchy. The tamarind shrimp entrée was served over a bed of crunchy noodles and very tasty. The rice dish- the empress rice- came with garlic, leeks and served with a fried egg on top, and mixed tableside. Another winner. When looking for a decent Asian place in the Palo Alto/Mountain View area, I highly recommend it.
This was the meal I was really looking forward to. I discovered Kiss Seafood online- a very intimate sushi bar in Japantown that seats only 13. I was not looking for a run of the mill sushi place- what I would call a “piece and roll” sushi bar. I was looking for a sushi experience where the sushi chef could really show off his skills and introduce me to some new things. Kiss Seafood did not disappoint when judged on that criteria.
As I mentioned, the place is small. The only two employees I saw was the one sushi chef and the hostess (I think it’s a husband and wife team). I was actually able to make a reservation for 1 at the sushi bar a week in advance. Good thing too, as people who tried to walk in were turned away for the night. I had been told the Omakase is the way to go here, and at $60 for the “Special Omakase” (as opposed to $42 for the “Regular Omakase”), this was an easy choice. The meal entailed 6 courses starting out with a tray of octopus, king mackerel, and some kind of Japanese root vegetable. The sushi and sashimi courses were to die for. There was a great mix of fish I was familiar with (tuna, yellowtail, toro, and clam) and some that I was not as familiar with (baby sea bass, halibut, amberjack and the king mackerel). The tuna nigiri already comes having been soaked in soy, so I was given explicit instruction not to use any of my own soy/wasabi with it. All three sashimi/sushi dishes are pictured below.
My only reservation on this Omakase is that 3 courses were some form of soup (including one concoction of custard, broth and clams that I really wasn’t a fan of at all). If I were to go again, I may just order the sushi/sashimi dishes and skip the Omakase completely. The fish was what I came for, and what I really liked about this dinner. The clam custard soup, yeah, not so much.