Saturday, February 26, 2011

Trip Notes

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Normally, I limit my reporting to lunchtime in Manhattan on working days. However, in these extraordinary times, I must take extraordinary measures.

My young bride, her favorite daughter and I went to Sushi Bistro, 431 Balboa Street, for dinner. Although we are staying in Japantown, surrounded by sushi restaurants, this excursion was very worthwhile. Sushi Bistro looks like a neighborhood tavern serving bar food, except for a small sushi bar in the rear. This is deceptive, however, because behind the sushi bar is a large kitchen turning out weird and wonderful combinations. For instance, we ordered, among other things, "Omega-3," deep fried albacore, salmon, avocado and asparagus, topped with fresh albacore, salmon and tobiko, drizzled with spicy soy ($9.75), "Ahi Tower," lightly seared ahi tuna on grilled zucchini and asparagus, served with house spicy sauce ($11.95) and "Magic Mushrooms," chopped salmon and yellowtail mixed with macadamia pesto in mushrooms, flash fried, drizzled with a sweet and spicy fish sauce ($8.95). Each of these were delicious, as were the straight salmon and yellowtail sushi that we used to fill in the gaps.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Yank Sing, 101 Spear Street, is at or near the top of everyone’s best dim sum list and everyone in San Francisco seemed to get there ahead of us this afternoon. Yank Sing is located outside of Chinatown, near the waterfront and the Giants baseball field, whatever its name is this week. It is in the lobby of an office complex, and, at least on a busy Sunday, it doubles its capacity by putting dozens of tables in the atrium. Our timing was near perfect, however, as the atrium space was shutting down as we arrived and we had to wait for a table in the regular restaurant.

Unique among all other Chinese restaurants I know, it limits itself to dim sum in daylight hours. It closes at 3 PM weekdays and 4 PM weekends. As other bloggers and reviewers have observed, Yank Sing is very good and very expensive. Carts buzz around, English is understood, if not mastered, and the women drivers wear headsets left over from Britney Spears’s last tour which they use to get things from the kitchen not immediately available on a cart.

I ate the treyf -- shrimp dumplings ($5.60), BBQ pork steamed buns ($4.50), Phoenix tail prawns ($10.50) (fried, stuffed butterfly shrimp), Szechuan spicy chicken ($7.65) -- and shared the superb honey-glazed walnut and shredded cabbage salad ($9.60). My charming companions had a couple of plates of spinach dumplings and savory vegetable dumplings with the salad. It was all very good and expensive, as promised. I also imagine that weekday crowds would keep me away at lunchtime even if geographically feasible.

Monday, February 21, 2011

We relocated to the Napa Valley and had a nice dinner at Mini Mango Thai Bistro, 1408 Clay Street, Napa. It was a delightful, small, family-run place, downtown, but not easily located. A young local couple at the next table were thoroughly surprised that we found it. Go, enjoy yourself and surprise some other locals.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

We went to Beringer Vineyards for a tour and tasting ($20 includes three wines). Beringer is worth a visit because it has tunnels dug out of volcanic tufa where wine in oak barrels is kept at 58 degrees naturally and the lovely Rhine House, a 17-room mansion, built in 1884 for one of the founding Beringer brothers, with beautiful exterior stonework, stained-glass windows and interior wood paneling.

Lunch was at Bouchon Bistro, 6534 Washington Street, Yountville, Thomas Keller’s casual restaurant, one block from his flagship, French Laundry Restaurant. Lunch at Bouchon today cost us (without wine, I admit) almost exactly 10% of dinner at the French Laundry in 2003. Under the circumstances, I think we enjoyed it more. Oops, let me recalculate because, for dessert, we went into Bouchon Bakery next door, and spent almost $10 dollars for two cups of coffee, a fabulous pistachio macaroon and an excellent chocolate chocolate chip cookie. Together, our entire lunch cost about one-eighth of our French Laundry dinner.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The aircraft that was supposed to depart San Francisco for New York at 11:30 AM on Thursday must have left its heart, and maybe a propeller, in Kansas City. We actually took off after 3 PM and set foot in the Palazzo di Gotthelf after midnight. As a result, I arrived at work at 11 AM today and only had the energy to walk 1 ½ blocks to a sidewalk Halal food cart where I bought a melange of Eastern delights to consume in the office.

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