Day Nine: San Francisco – Dim Sum Tour

Food Adventures, San Francisco

On our last day of our One Week, Three Cities trip and for our first meal(s) of 2012, we decided to spend the afternoon in Chinatown and have ourselves a dim sum tour. What we hadn’t anticipated was the lack of seating. While there are plenty restaurants that serve the sit-down dim sum brunch we’re used to, a lot of the more popular dim sum places are a grab-and-go sort of joint. Lines out the door and into the sidewalk, steamer baskets stacked high with different types of dumplings and goodies on each level, yelling across the counter in a mix of Mandarin and broken English. It’s definitely an experience!

As our bus approached Chinatown, the signs became increasingly flecked with Chinese characters and the sights and smells became increasingly more reminiscent of home. Conducting your own dim sum tour is simple — just follow your nose and eyes… and bring cash.

Look at all those dumplings and buns! I want all of them!

We had jotted down a few key places to visit and hit Good Mong Kok first. Known for their dim sum staples, we decided to pick up a selection of our go-to dim sum items: har gow (steamed shrimp dumplings with a clear, sticky wrapper), sticky rice steamed in banana leaves, and cha siu pao (barbecue pork filled buns). Unsure of how to proceed, we stood right out on the sidewalk and started munching on the har gow. Yummy morsels with a juicy filling and soft, translucent wrapper, these really hit the spot.

A whole tray of har gow!

We took a gamble and decided to continue on our search for more dim sum (and hopefully a place to sit and dig in!), so off we went toward Wing Sing Dim Sum. Here we found more of the same basics, including dumplings in many varieties, but what caught our eyes were the xia chang fun (steamed rice noodles with shrimp and sweet soy sauce) and dahn tat (egg custard tarts). And just as noteworthy, here we found a place to sit! Wing Sing has some tables available in the back for self-seating; on the way we also spotted ads for some killer lunch specials ($5 for a plate of rice or noodles and sides? Awesome!). The verdict? The sticky rice had a good texture (not mushy nor undercooked) but it was a bit bland. The cha siu pao, which many people seemed to recommend, are good but the filling was a bit too sweet for my liking. The xia chang fun, our favorite dim sum dish, from Wing Sing looked good in its clear clam-shell packaging with the sweet soy sauce in a little container on the side. It would have tasted even better if it were warm. I guess bringing it home to a microwave would have been one advantage of doing take-out dim sum as the locals do. The dahn tat custard middle was delicious but the crust was dense, more like a pie crust rather than the flakier phyllo crusts we prefer. All in all though, our brunch only cost us about $7 total, so we can’t complain!

Dim Sum Staple: Xia Chang Fun (Steamed Rice Noodle Sheets with Shrimp and Sweet Soy Sauce)

A dim sum brunch would not be complete for us without some delicious boba, so we stopped by Ten Ren TeaStation. Note: the term “boba” for those little tapioca balls varies by region. I tried a few Yelp App queries for “bubble tea” and “pearl tea” after “boba” generated few results. Ten Ren is a popular brand of loose leaf and bagged teas, sold in grocery stores and in many retail locations, so I love stopping by TeaStation when I can. I had their sweetened iced black tea with grass jelly and Martin had their iced black milk tea with boba. The grass jelly was a great texture and reminded me of the cans of suong xao that I used to buy at the Vietnamese markets back home.

The rest of our day was spent walking off our dumpling-filled morning, window-shopping for Hello Kitty hats, and making our way toward Haight-Ashbury. By the time we hopped on the BART to catch our flight out of SFO, we were glad to be heading home. Our One Week, Three Cities adventure was full of fun and delicious noms. We hope our blog series will help some of you plan a future trip to Seattle, Portland, and/or San Francisco, or at least give you a chance to live vicariously through our photos and food adventures. Stay tuned as we return to posting recipes and local hotspots!


Check out Good Mong Kok:

1039 Stockton St
(between Washington St & Jackson St)
San Francisco, CA 94108

See their Yelp reviews here.


Check out Wing Sing Dim Sum:

1125 Stockton St
(between Jackson St & Pacific Ave)
San Francisco, CA 94133

See their Yelp reviews here.


Check out Ten Ren TeaStation:

949 Grant Ave
San Francisco, CA 94108

See their Yelp reviews here.

Day Eight: San Francisco – The Codmother and Our Last Meal of 2011

Food Adventures, San Francisco

A short walk away from Fisherman’s Wharf, the Codmother is the an eye-catcher of a food truck with its noticeable pink-puckered lips of a cod. Once “inside”, you’ll meet the very friendly, British-accented owner, Suzanne who greets both regulars and tourist lookers alike.

We shared an order of the fish and chips not because we were skeptical but because we were planning to eat several more times at other places. The fish was great, fried in batter seasoned with salt and black pepper, a simple addition something a lot of fish and chip places tend to overlook. The fish was neither super moist that it melts in your mouth nor overcooked and dry but maintained just a firm enough texture expected from deep fried fish filets. Our only criticism is that the chips were just average and could use some more crunch to them – perhaps a thinner cut version or longer frying time.

Fish and Chips – seasoned with salt and pepper.

With a small menu, the Codmother is able to make whatever they offer taste very good.

We also got a free order of deep fried Oreos from a Yelp! check-in. Thumbs up already for having deep fried Oreos on the menu which is something you can only get either in a theme park or at a fair. The Oreos went into the fryer as sandwich cookies one would buy at the supermarket but emerged as a delicious piece of enveloped cookies and cream that is reminiscent of a tadpole emerging from the water (or rather vat of oil). The batter used for these tasted a lot better than those at a fair where it’s produced for the masses and the oil reused day after day for everything. Suzanne used only a specific deep fryer for just the Oreos so the deep-fried delights wouldn’t pick up the fishy flavor from the fish and potato-ey smell of the chips. These efforts may seem simple but makes a huge difference in keeping flavors separate from each other.

Looks like tadpoles don’t they? Yum!

The water is actually frying oil!


Check out The Codmother Fish and Chips:

2824 Jones St
San Francisco, CA 94133

See their Yelp reviews here.


We waited until the very last minute to book NYE dinner and that was a BAD idea. You would think we would know better but after having eating so much throughout the entire trip, we could barely think about more food nearing the end of our trip. Luckily we made a few calls and managed to find an open table at Le Charm, a quaint French bistro a few blocks from Market St. Although this was a semi-random find, it did not disappoint.

As expected, Le Charm was PACKED but we finally got seated at 9:45 pm, a little more than an hour before their closing.

Trust me the little suckers are hiding in there!

Continuing on with the  escargot in a parsley garlic butter in an escargot dish. It was delicious but so buttery. The escargot itself were soft with a slight crunch to them.

Duck Confit Traditional Cassoulet: White Beans, duck confit, lamb, garlic sausage, and Toulouse sausage and bacon.

We shared the duck confit traditional cassoulet which was very hearty and filling. Ultimately we didn’t end up finishing this dish because there was so many white beans in it. All the parts comprising of this dish, white beans, duck confit, lamb, garlic sausage, and Toulouse sausage and bacon all added different flavors. The sausages, however, were too salty.


Check out Le Charm French Bistro:

315 5th St
San Francisco, CA 94107

See their Yelp reviews here.

Day Seven: San Francisco – Fisherman’s Wharf and North Beach

Food Adventures, San Francisco

Famous sourdough, seafood just off the wharf, local favorite ice cream, touristy chocolatier, hole-in-the-wall truffles, legit Italian tiramisu, award-winning gnocchi, homemade panna cotta, best pizza in San Francisco, and a drink called the Laughing Buddha. Sounds like a long week of partying and going out to eat, but for us, it was just another day in SF. All that food in one day – it’s a good thing we walked to just about all of our destinations and got some exercise. What I enjoyed most about the day was its balance of tourist hot spots and local hidden favorites — and of course, eating our way through San Francisco!

If you’re up for walking and public transit, a good way to spend one day of a trip to SF would be combining Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, and North Beach. Unless our game plan is too gluttonous for you to handle in one day, in which case please feel free to split it among multiple days!

The magnificent bread display at Boudin!

Day Six – San Francisco: Chez Maman and Tropisueno

Food Adventures, San Francisco

After a brutal 19-hour Greyhound ride (never again), we arrived in San Francisco and the first thing we did was pass out in our hotel room. After all was said and snoozed, we made our way out to Chez Maman, actually walking past it to Chez Papa and getting extremely confused before doubling back to the tiny hole-in-the-wall that boasts the best burger in SF.

We lucked out to catch the odd time between lunch and dinner and didn’t have to wait at all to be seated. Service, however, seemed to scale down with the slowdown in customers. We had very high expectations for the aforementioned burger.

Voila! Basic Burger w/ Swiss and Bacon, Side of Frites w/ Garlic Aioli

We ordered it the burger with swiss and bacon, rare. The burger turned out medium, disappointing. Had it been cooked correctly, it could’ve rivaled a lot of LA burgers, as the patty itself was well seasoned. The frites were also delicious with plentiful amounts of garlic in the aioli, perhaps a tad too much.

Crepes being formed then – regrets being formed now at not ordering one.

Next time I would be inclined to try their crepes and the much-raved-about carbonara and other classic French dishes. We saw many batches of moules frites being prepared, one of Alice’s favorite dishes. Definitely will give this place another chance.


Check out Chez Maman:

1453 18th St
(between Missouri St & Connecticut St)
San Francisco, CA 94107

See their Yelp reviews here.


Still drained from our ridiculous Greyhound misadventure and not too long after Chez Maman, we decided to stay close to the hotel and check out Tropisueño. As a caveat, we rarely have Mexican food, especially for dinner, but we thought “sure why not?” – partly out of how tired we were and how conveniently located it was.

Throughout the long trip to the Pacific Northwest I’d been craving sugarcane Coke, commonly dubbed “Mexican Coke,” but hadn’t had the opportunity to grab one. If there were a restaurant to get these, a Mexican restaurant was definitely the place to try, and lo and behold!

To accompany our delicious unsubsidized drink, we had what is purportedly SF’s best chips and salsa. Very fresh, crispy, and homemade – definitely made the same day or even several hours ago.

The chips came with a ménage a salsa: traditional red salsa, green tomatillo salsa, and a spicy chipotle salsa.

Alice ordered the ceviche de pescado – diced opaque cubes of tilapia, finely diced cucumber and avocado, bits of onion and cilantro, and lots of lime juice.

I really could’ve gotten these in LA but for whatever reason I got the street-food-style pork tacos.

Slightly more expensive than the food truck variety but tastes a little better. We shared the Cuban-style platanos fritos with black beans and Mexican crema. We weren’t a fan of the black beans, but then again, we’re not a big fan of beans in general. But the crema was an interesting addition to the crispy-fried plantains.

We finished our dinner with the Mexican flan which was a lot thicker than we anticipated, almost like a cheesecake.

Tropisueño was definitely impressive considering that neither of us are huge fans of Mexican food. We’ll have to check out the Happy Hour deals — and bring 5 friends (they’ll comp the host’s drinks for the whole night if you do!).


Check out Tropisueño:

75 Yerba Buena Ln
San Francisco, CA 94103

See their Yelp reviews here.

Day Five: Portland – Food Truck Tour

Food Adventures, Portland

We only had one day in Portland (literally about 30 hours total), so despite the depressing cold rain, we ventured out into the streets for a familiar LA food trend that has truly taken off in Portland — Food Trucks. While LA has had plenty of organized food truck gatherings and events, we hadn’t seen anything quite like this before. The trucks would rent out the edge spaces of ordinary parking lots, face their storefront to the sidewalk, and open for business more or less every day. They are always there so you don’t need any apps or websites to track them down. Awesome, right? Determined to eat like the locals do, we managed to track down three main clusters of food trucks in downtown Portland.

One of many food truck clusters in downtown Portland!

5th & Oak

– Spoons on 5th: it’s raining cats and dogs, and we were trying to be adventurous in our food selections, but who could possibly turn down a hot bowl of soup? We decided on the chicken barley soup, which comes in a cute wax-lined paper cup with a hunk of rustic bread. The guy behind the counter was friendly and clued us in on where to find shelter (hint: the bank/mall across the street has seating areas, couches, and coffee tables for your on-the-go dining pleasure). The soup itself was hearty with a bit of an unexpected kick from the black pepper. Martin polished it off happily.

Saigon Food to Go at 5th & Oak

– Saigon Food to Go: there is a surprising amount of Vietnamese food vendors in Portland! I was tempted to try their pho but opted for the safer and easier-to-eat goi cuon (“salad roll”) instead at $1.50/each. A bit steep but the rolls were fresh – definitely made that morning because the rice paper was still deliciously soft and supple (every spring roll enthusiast knows how hard and tough the banh trang gets when refrigerated for ANY period of time). The sauce was not particularly special but good nonetheless.

9th & Alder

– Samurai Japanese Cart: I loved the Engrish on their whiteboard announcing that “New Year’s Coming!” – super cute. Their menu boasts a variety of bento perfect for a quick lunch for nearby office workers but one in particular stood out to us – the agedashi tofu bento. This took a bit of time to prepare, but it was AMAZING. The blocks of tofu were fried fresh to order and they were breaded with mochiko which disintegrates in the sauce and becomes a thick, gooey coating. LEGIT. This agedashi tofu comes with a sweet soy sauce rather than the dashi broth I’m used to, but it tasted great. The rice is piled high and the order comes with some steamed veggies (also made to order). They even gave us hot genmaicha while we waited in the rain, and they’ve arranged a place between carts for customers to sit. 5 stars in my book. I’d come here every day if I lived or worked nearby! I also found out after looking them up on Yelp that the famous Japanese animator and film director Hayao Miyazaki likes this place when he visited Portland. If that isn’t a vouch for authenticity, I don’t know what is!

Agedashi Tofu Bento at Samurai Japanese Cart

2nd & Washington

What initially brought us to 2nd & Washington was Built to Grill (which is rated ridiculously highly on Yelp), but they were closed for the day. :( Unfazed, we explored our options and decided to pick up dinner for our impending long (LONG) bus ride to San Francisco.

– Taste of Korea: Reminiscent of the Korean bbq places we left behind in LA (particularly Gushi in Westwood, probably because of its teeny tiny hole-in-the-wall feel), this food truck offers rice plates with meats ranging from bulgogi to kalbi to spicy chicken. Martin decided on the fried tofu platter and I had the kalbi platter. I thought the $10 price tag was a bit steep at first, but then we received the to-go bag and WOW was it heavy! Each plate had a serving of salad (they remembered to leave the dressing on the side for us), a plastic container of kimchi, and a serving of my favorite banchan – japchae (Korean stirfried glass noodles – it is under the little cup of kimchi in the photo below). In the main section, you can’t miss the very generous amount rice. My order came with about 3 or 4 strips of the delicious, slightly sweet barbecue short ribs — almost double the portion you get for a plate at most places — and Martin’s had a few large triangles of breaded and deepfried tofu. Yum!

Kalbi Bento at Taste of Korea

There really is something for everyone when you eat at these food truck clusters. Aside from American fare like soups, sandwiches, and burgers, the ethnic cuisines ranged from Mexican to British to Greek to Thai and much more! We even spotted a teeny tiny booth (literally about the size of a phone booth) where one man set up shop to sell pho along the sidewalk. If only our stomachs were able to handle sampling every food truck/stand we saw!


Check out Spoons on 5th:

SW 5th & Stark
Portland, OR 97204

See their Yelp reviews here.


Check out Saigon Food To Go:

SW 5th and Stark
Portland, OR 97201

See their Yelp reviews here.


Check out Samurai Japanese Cart:

950 SW Alder St
Portland, OR 97205

See their Yelp reviews here.


Check out Taste of Korea:

412-426 SW 3rd Ave
Portland, OR 97204

See their Yelp reviews here.