Tuesday, April 08, 2014

San Francisco Round Up - Wayfare Tavern, Absinthe, Osha Thai, Caffe Cento: San Francisco, CA

A recent work trip found me touring and eating in San Francisco.  I attempted to eat healthfully on this trip, especially coming off of our other California adventure.  And l mostly succeeded.  (Note: No burgers, this time!)

I will be in SF again soon, so please send me any suggestions. I would love to check out some of your favorite spots. 

The Round Up:

Caffe Cento – An early morning flight from New York left us famished.  The doorman at the hotel recommended a lunch spot down the hill.  I had no idea what “down the hill” meant.  Luckily it was just one block down hill because this is San Francisco and these are HILLS.  This unassuming takeout shop housed in the bottom of the Fairmont Hotel served me my best meal in San Francisco.  It’s true, my favorite thing in a foodie city, was a takeout salad of all things.  I’m not sure what made this quinoa, tomato, feta, spinach salad so appealing.  It may have been the lemon vinaigrette dressing that did it.  Or the way the ingredients were so perfectly proportioned.  Whatever it is, if you are up for a walk up or down Nob Hill – try it.  Bonus is that there is a trolley stop right in front, if you want to experience that true "San Francisco treat" kind of feeling. 

801 Powell Street
San Francisco, CA

Osha Thai – When I travel, I crave Asian food and usually Thai since that is so limited in my neighborhood.  This trip was no different.  We had a lot of Thai restaurants to choose from but selected something probably a little more mainstream since this was our first night in San Fran and we were tired.  Next time, I will find that authentic hole in the wall.  Though Osha was truly good, with moments of greatness. 

Osha is a small SF chain in happening neighborhoods with trendy Asian-inspired décor. We visited the Embarcadero location, so the crowd was a mix of tourists and business people.  Drinks were in order.  I chose Brut Rose – Rose and bubbles combined – can’t go wrong with that.

We shared two appetizers – a fresh spring roll and the crunchy tofu.  The spring roll had the requisite shrimp and mint with a tasty peanut dipping sauce.  The crunchy tofu tasted a little like a Tofu McNugget and came with a side of apples.  Not that there's anything wrong with a McNugget. Maybe this was their version of a Thai Happy Meal?

For dinner, I indulged in some angry prawns.  This steaming hot plate of delicious curried prawns and eggplant was my favorite dish of the night.  Spicy yet light. 

4 Embarcadero Center
San Francisco, CA 94111

Absinthe Brasserie -  Lunch was at Absinthe.   Tucked away in Hayes Valley, one the cutest neighborhoods I saw on my two day tour of San Fran, this place was packed, even boisterous for lunch on a Tuesday.  We started with hot bread as we awaited our cheese course.  I know I said that my quinoa salad was my favorite thing in SF, but this cheese course came in as a pretty close second.  A Mt. Tam from California’s Cowgirl Creamery was heavenly when paired with almond brittle.  The Italian Pecorino Ginepro was accompanied by white-wine poached peaches.  And finally a soft, creamy Seastack from Mt. Townsend Creamery in Washington State held its own against a bourbon-caramel pear compote. 

It would have been good to end lunch then.  My little gem lettuce salad with grilled chicken came with raw chicken.  Enough said.

398 Hayes Street
San Francisco, CA

Wayfare Tavern – For dinner on our second and sadly, last night, we stumbled into Wayfare Tavern at 5PM on a Tuesday.  Empty, you’d think, but no, we got a  “Sorry, we are fully committed” from the hostess.  The two-level space was empty, we were shocked.  We settled at a tiny bar table and agreed to make the best of this Tyler Florence restaurant. 

First, drinks.  It is a tavern and cocktails were in order (again).  My Pear 75 was a combination of pear cognac and prosecco.   Talk about hitting the spot. 

The menu was filled with interesting takes on some classic dishes.  Instead of Deviled Eggs, there was a Deviled Egg Salad.  And in lieu of French Onion Soup, a French Onion dip.  Neither of which I liked.  What I did like though was the baked macaroni and cheese which was flavored with smoked olive oil.  The smoked olive oil added a palate teasing flavor that made me keep taking more and more bites, just because I was trying to fully understand the flavor.

For my main, I went with the braised short rib.  Note “rib” not “ribs”.   When JB makes short ribs at home they are fall off the bone tender.  This was one huge hunk of meat.  Given that, it  required more work than the typical short ribs but still full of flavor.  I really did enjoy the baby carrots and onions in the dish, but could have done without the dressing-soaked cabbage.

My favorite part of the meal was dessert.  We shared the donuts special with a variety of dipping sauces.  But the winner was the Chocolate Cream Pie with chocolate pudding, Devil's food cake and a caramel ganache.  Yum.  This made it all worth it.

On my next visit, I think I need to try to the burger.  And some more of that mac and cheese.  There also seem to be a lot more gems on the menu, so while my experience wasn’t amazing, I think that there is an amazing one waiting to happen here. 

558 Sacramento Street
San Francisco, CA

Until our next Berger,

Round Up Recap:
Caffe Cento: Go
Osha:  Go  
Absinthe:  Go for cheese. Only.

Wayfare Tavern: Go

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