Go or No Go

One foodie's guide for others to learn the must-tries VS. the don't-even-bothers of the vast culinary jungle.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Wayo Sushi

Wayo Sushi
1407 VanNess Ave. @ Bush St.
Pacific Heights

The evening started at Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a documentary film about the legendary 85 year-old sushi chef.  Some would potentially classify the movie as food porn.  Jiro is pure genius!  His work is certainly art and left me yearning for any version of the delicacy I could get my hands on (so I thought).  Nothing would quite please me like some simple nigiri. 

Wayo Sushi is the epitome of why I do Go or No Go.  The four-star Yelp rating does not help me!  Ultimately, my dining experience here was the definition of not bad.  Miso soup to start was satisfying.  Then again, I struggle to think of a time when miso soup was ever offensive.  I can only recall years ago before I liked tofu.

The main course had its ups and downs.  The unagi, barbeque eel, hot out of the toaster oven, was sweet and crispy.  On the other hand, the amaebi, sweet shrimp, as opposed to ebi, regular shrimp, was succulent but more watery and slimy than I would have hoped.  Is this how amaebi is meant to be?  I imagine it's a measure of the quality of the place and the freshness of the fish, but I have recently learned insightful nuances about sushi that may be surprising.

Thank you to my former classmate, Takeshi, who elevated my sushi knowledge.  We indulged in a sushi feast of a lifetime.  There, I finally learned the proper purpose of the ginger on your sushi plate.  Unlike most Americans wrongly apply the ingredient, the ginger should not be consumed with the individual sushi pieces---neither wrapped around nor atop.  Instead, the ginger is meant as a palate cleanser between different fish types.  News to me!  Furthermore, the fattier the toro, the more expensive and "desirable."  Again, for years, I was dining in Japanese restaurants blindly.  Nothing is more beautiful to me than a perfectly lean, bright redish pink cut of tuna.   

Regardless, I am going to take my sushi lesson to firmly judge Wayo could have been better.  At this moment, to be honest, I have yet to discover any amazing alternative for sushi options.  I'm working on it!  Sometimes Polk Streeters may just crave a sushi spot.  In some sense, this place delivers.  If you live within a three blocks radius, sure, a meal there won't kill you.  But, by no means, should you travel any distance to check this place out. 

Jiro Ono would be disappointed, but then again, Wayo isn't charging 30,000 yen ($300)! 

Go or No Go? No Go.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Bi-Rite Creamery

Mission District 
3692 18th Street
(415) 626-5600

Look, I like ice cream just as much as the next guy, but what idiots wait in line at all hours of the day and night in the rain to pay for ice cream?  It must be spectacular, right?  That's the only feasible explanation I can offer.  This must be the best ice cream on Earth!

Perhaps embarrassingly, I have gone to pretty extreme lengths for the tasty delight (and Tasti D-lite).  In college, I think I convinced my marketing study group to do a project on the local ice cream parlor just to have an excuse for frequent visits and required sampling.  Tales of me getting ice cream shipped in from Ohio for a cousin's birthday celebration in New Jersey still make the Fishman Family storybook of legends.  Anytime dry ice is involved you know it has gotten serious.  More recently, I even made my family trek to Santa Cruz to experience what's supposed to be epic ice cream (and that was)!  I set the bar high, but these icy adventures have always lived up to my wildest imagination.

But, here you wait in line to ultimately arrive at an unimpressive selection of options.  I don't need an Italian gelateria-style display where the flavors go on for miles.  In fact, I am usually a big fan of the simple stuff.  Oldies but goodies are some of my favorites, but they need to pack a punch in some way.  Nothing beats an incredible vanilla, but a boring vanilla is just a boring vanilla.  Do you follow?

So, these uninspired flavors were all I had to work with.  Again, shocking considering that this is the Mission district of San Francisco.  Isn't everything supposed to be uber hip and awesome?  The limited menu once again raised the bar.  Okay, maybe they don't need many choices.  Their focus just means each must be done to perfection.

Nope!  My Cookies and Cream was average, at best.  Granted, average for ice cream is still enjoyable.  However, add a stale cone and no more excuses allowed.  If I'm going to wait in line in the rain, or just in line at all for that matter, I expect something worth the wait.  Better off going to any grocery store freezer aisle.

Go or No Go? No Go.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Ramen Dojo

San Mateo
805 South B Street
(650) 401-6568

What does the unadjusted San Francisco girl want on a summer night? HOT SOUP, PLEASE!

Somewhere, out in the boonies of San Mateo, hides a legit ramen spot. Ramen culture is intense in the Bay Area. The ramen cult intensity almost rivals Bikram yoga - with a similar heat level but fortunately a better smell. The line was substantial but was clearly part of the experience. Dojo vets shared words of wisdom with the newbies. One Googler, in particular, desperately warned us to play the spice card cautiously. You can order on a scale of: no spice, mild, regular spicy, and extra spicy. He advised us that regular spicy is a lot to handle and extra spicy was definitely out of our league. He clearly didn't know who he was dealing with. My brother, once a PB&J (crust off!) kind of guy, now takes down spice like a champ. Heck, he owns a hot sauce business! As for me, I was shaking in my Toms (boots would have been nice).

We started with a couple apps. The seaweed salad was not a favorite, but the boiled potstickers were perfect to tide me over while I anxiously awaited the main act.

The bowl arrived to the table and deserved its moment in the spotlight.  A beautiful sight worth photographing.  Randomness of yummy ingredients were all delicately placed to perfection in their appropriate corner. An adorable little quail egg was as tasty as could be and whole fried garlic was silky and sweet to complement the rich, delicious broth.  The pork was butta.  In fact, a little too much that I pulled off some of the fat and placed it in my napkin (shhhh). I know, a major foodie faux pas. Anthony Bourdain would have rolled his eyes, but straight fat isn't my thing + high cholesterol runs in the fam. On the spice level, I wished Mr. Google didn't psych me out! I'm a wimp - I admit it, but I totally could have at least handled Mild like a tough guy. Peter went Super Spicy (and added more red chili).  Partially to please his crazy taste buds, partially to show Mr. Google who is boss.

Go or No Go? Go.

Monday, May 17, 2010


No question, Farmstead is currently the most underrated, under-the-radar restaurant in Napa. This is hands down my favorite new spot yet I feel like they do not get the buzz they deserve and here is why...

Having the unavoidable experience of interfacing with tourists on a daily basis for the last 5+ months, I have come to observe one possession they all share---an itinerary. Whether they are crazy planners or "fly by the seat of their pants" types, people have picked up pieces of information on Napa before they arrive. I have seen widely varying degrees of these itineraries. One nutjob was elated to show me his three-ring binder. I immediately knew he was heading down the path of psycho when he commented on the printed labels of his favorite wineries he used to adorn the cover. Yikes! Most commonly, I hear, "I told my friends and family I planning a trip to Napa and my brother-in-law told me to go to _____, my co-worker was at ______ in '05 and loved it, or the people we just met said ______ was their favorite." Based on all these tidbits, itineraries are created.

Whether they use Martha Stewart craftsmanship or jot down mental notes of "oh yea, I heard about that place and want to try it," everyone goes off recommendations in Napa! Farmstead has not been around long enough to get on those suggested lists. The cycle perpetuates because then new visitors are not trying Farmstead! The business is certainly not lacking, do not get me wrong, but this place should be blowing everywhere else out of the water!

Executive Chef, Sheamus Feeley (former legend at Rutherford Grill), is a winner. In addition to the best personality of any back-of-house guy I have ever met, you genuinely want him to succeed. His energy spreads through the gorgeous restaurant.

I have been to Farmstead on two occasions. For completely unrelated reasons, I turned vegetarian from the time between my first visit and most recent. This burger is the single reason I may revert. Every ingredient is pure perfection. Namely the mustard is so delicious, I was straight up dipping everything in it. Potatoes, lettuce, anything I could get my hands on! The second time around, I selected the black cod. The fish was just dandy, but the roasted beets and asparagus in Meyer lemon sauce highlighted the restaurant's farm-to-table philosophy and thankfully made me forget any feelings of burger envy.

The chocolate pie is easily the best dessert I have had anytime in recollection. Again, each component stands out with flavor yet blends together to form magic. Determining the winning layer is a tough call, but I will go with the crust.

As you can tell, I am mostly gushing with positivity. I will note the service is just adequate, and I strangely did not enjoy any of the four wines I have tried there. Good thing they have a $2 corkage fee (all proceeds benefit the community), because their outdoor bar is sure to be a big hook in the summer! Regardless, I have nothing but love for Farmstead.

Slowly but surely, Farmstead will see all the success they deserve. In the meantime, I will enjoy being able to get a table there at a decent hour!

Go or No Go? Go.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bouchon Bakery

Man, I love where I live! Drugs have never been my thing, but Bouchon Bakery is about as close as it gets (and probably worse for me). Regularly, on a day off, I will wake up leisurely and join one of my housemates on a lovely stroll to the bakery. I feel very European, and I like it.

Before I lived with them, both my housemates were already well on their way to Bouchon Bakery addiction. Almost every morning, Duncan will go for his ritual coffee cake while Erik opts the blueberry muffin route. Both orders are accompanied by double espressos. Must be nice to have such lenient metabolisms.

I entered the scene as quite the amateur, but I am quickly establishing my roots as a regular. For example, this morning, on my coffee run, I was greeted by four fellow enthusiasts.

I have never had anything there I would not recommend, but the most to-die-for thing I have tried so far is the seasonal fruit croissant. Fuggtaboutit! Any morning that starts with one of those bad boys is bound to be a good day. Personally, any sweet treat with almond flavoring has my seal of approval. Add fresh fruit, particularly when they used the Barlett pears, and you have a home run!

Warning: their pastries are extremely rich. I actually don't enjoy eating that stuff on my own. I suggest splitting most items with another person, if not two. Keep in mind, if you are ever looking for a partner, you know who to call. ;-)

Go or No Go? Go

Monday, March 22, 2010

Auberge du Soleil

Walking to our table, the commanding view virtually locks in that this place will be getting a "go." To me, all sights in Napa are breathtaking, but Auberge's terrace allows you to lounge, imbibe, and soak it all in. A privilege they are happy to provide at a pretty penny, of course.

I am taking quite a risk for my first official Napa entry. Perhaps putting at stake one of my only Napa friendships and my currently ideal living situation, I recognize my flocks of fans are counting on me to deliver the truth. To Duncan's defense, 1) he was not working the night I dined and 2) he cooks exclusively for "the fancy side."

We sat in the bar section, and I will admit we did not eat a lot. I do not have a picture of our pommes frites with aioli. My camera was being repaired due to another dining mishap at Redd and my photographer was new on the job. Honestly though, who screws up french fries??? They were like the leftover french fries accidentally added to your doggy bag when you never had any intention of eating cold, soggy potatoes.

This scary concoction was the hamachi tartare. Usually, I am a huge fan. In fact, Max, my dad's college roommate, made some over the holidays that was so amazing, I have been reliving the blissfulness in my mouth ever since! Keep in mind, Max is a lawyer and does not run a world class restaurant. The dashi gelee almost gives me a gag reflex thinking about the glob now. The texture was mysterious, and the smell was funky, too.

After barely putting a dent into either dish, thankfully Ryan questioned if I thought something was off. That moment fully confirmed Ryan was legit and sealed the deal that we were going to get along.

Fortunately, I have gained a new friend out of the experience as I potentially lose another.

Go or No Go? No Go.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Go or No Go Part 2 - Napa

Go or No Go is finally making a comeback! Burnt-out on all things NYC, even the blog is relocating to Napa.

Former Philosophy: In New York's world of endless options, which destinations are worth a trip to dine. I was so confused by all the subjective ratings and reviews with point systems, stars, letter grading like the restaurants were back in middle school, and Frank Bruni's brilliant prose. Ultimately, I wanted to know...should I go there or not?

New Rationale: In addition to essentially playing Napa Valley concierge at my tasting room gig, I have already started to get visitors out here. If not actual friends or family, I will often get a call that someone's aunt and uncle are planning their anniversary trip to Napa or a co-worker will be here for the weekend. Despite wanting to pretend they are coming just to see me, I was recently told Napa is the #3 most popular vacation within the US (behind Disney and Vegas). Regardless, I am constantly pressured to offer up my insider info as a local to make their limited time special.

When an out-of-towner only has one long weekend to squeeze in all the culinary goodness Napa has to offer, they could use some help to make their decisions wisely.

Game on!

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