Food, Glorious Food

Sen. Feinstein is encouraging us to implement “responsible encryption”, that which, for our own good, has a backdoor for the government. Next, it will be responsible locks, in which you take to the police department a key/combination for all your locks: front door, back door, file cabinet car, scooter, and don’t forget your diary.

As one of my readers might have noticed, i’ve recently maintained radio silence for the longest period since near the beginning.  Sorry ’bout that, but lots of little problems reached a confluence.  The good news is that i have finally got rid of ten of the twenty pounds i gained upon my return to the city last August.  Too much good food here.  The other good news is that i have discovered some good new restaurants in which i can eat abstemiously.

The last time i saw my friend Carol, she led us to a place in her neighborhood called Dumpling Time.  It’s at 11 Division, in the transition zone as gentrification spreads into the warehousy, semi-industrial area at the north foot of Potrero Hill.  Yes, it’s dim sum where you’d least expect to find it.

I discovered dim sum shortly after i arrived in the city when a Cantonese friend took me to Yank Sing, which at that time was the best dim sum in the city but located in an utterly unprepossessing place on Broadway in Chinatown.  Yank Sing can still claim to have dim sum of the highest quality, but now they’re in a gorgeous setting in the Rincon Plaza.  Over the decades, i branched afield to many other dim sum restaurants, and by now i also really like Ton Kiang, Riverside Seafood Restaurant, and Hong Kong Lounge II with the latter perhaps the best.  It now has competition, and i need to alternate it with Dumpling Time to determine the winner.  Go.  It’s fabulous.  Alas, it’s also very popular, so you need to arrive before the lunch and dinner rushes start.

As much as i love dim sum, though, my favorite cuisine is Thai, but no, i’m not going into another rave review of Basil Thai, my favorite place.  Rather, i’m talking about Esan Classic, a spinoff from Lers Ros.  I know Lers Ros only from their second location on 16th Street because i’ve been taken there on several occasions by friends who swear by it.  I grudgingly admit that the food is excellent, but even though i’m turned off by obsequiousness, i rate the service there as ranging from unveiled impatience, to smug disdain, to downright rudeness.  The last time i was in there, which will be the last time i was in there, the waitress snapped, when i ordered a certain dish, “you can’t send it back if you don’t like it!”  I liked the dish but wanted to send her back.  About Esan Classic, to which i was taken by the same folks who dragged me to Lers Ros, i have to admit that the food was excellent and the waitress, perfectly acceptable.  I wrote earlier that i’d still go back to Esan Classic even though i still thought Basil Thai was the best Thai restaurant in the city.  On more recent visits i’ve been chatting up the manager and the primary waitress and finding them very friendly.

Now let’s spin the globe all the way around to the Middle East.  Gyros is one of my favorite foods, and i mentioned earlier this year having finally found a decent one on 24th Street.  It was good enough that i went back twice even though i uttered a futile plea to my readers to recommend a better place. Well, the other day i was on Castro Street and noticed that Sliders hamburgers had been replaced by a new restaurant with a vertical spit turning in the window.  Yow!  So i pulled a U-turn and went into it.  Oh wow, significantly better than the one on 24th St, and my only complaint is that they didn’t dress it with enough labneh.  And let’s be clear here, i’m talking about Park Gyros at 449 Castro, not that wretched place called Gyro Express at 499 Castro, the corner of 18th Street, that i tried a couple of times when it opened a few years ago and cannot imagine how it has remained in business.

I was already planning my next visit to Park Gyros when i picked up a foyer flyer from Melody Cafe, just two blocks from me at 3401 Mission Street, across from Walgreens, and yes, gyros is on the menu.  So i stopped in at lunch.  Not much effort wasted on decor, but hey, ambiance is well down on my list of requirements for a restaurant.  Of course i ordered the gyro, but before it came to table they brought out a single falafel dressed in labneh as an appetizer.  It was perfect, crisp on the outside while still moist on the inside, so i got off to a good start.

Then they brought the gyro, and the presentation was unlike any other i remember in that they’d split the pita in half horizontally to get two equal pockets that they’d stuffed with the meat, dried tomato, olives, and feta and drizzled with labneh.  The meat was delicious, moister and tenderer than any i’ve had in recent years, and it was accompanied by a small bowl of chopped cucumber and tomato.  This was the best gyros i’ve had in ages.  It, the falafel, and the complimentary piece of baklava were all so good that i want to try other things on their menu, so i know where i’ll be having a lot of my lunches in the immediate future.

Well, i thought i’d be lunching in there a lot, but as i started frequenting it, an issue with the “vibes” arose, which put me off a bit.  Luckily, at that moment i discovered Souvla on Valencia Street, a clean, well-lighted place that serves an excellent gyro.  So far, definitely the best i’ve had in San Francisco and good enough that i don’t expect to find better.

In case there’s any question, i did a bit of research and discovered that “gyros” is the nominative and “gyro” is the accusative.  Not, of course, that places that serve it are likely to correct your grammar.

Meanwhile, for a food shot here’s a strawberry i bought recently for making jam.  I normally go for smaller varieties like the Chandler since in my experience they have more flavor, but the vendor encouraged me to just taste one.  OMG, it was perfect even though, note the quarter in there for reference, it was the size of a jumbo egg.

giant strawberry

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