: views from the Hill

Monday, May 17, 2004

[FOOD] Crustacean and more.

Ah, maybe that's the problem. According to GET ORGANIZED NOW! -- KNOW YOUR LIMITS. Some people are at their best when they work in long, marathon sessions. Others can only work for 15 minutes at a time. Determine your limits and set your organizing schedule within that timeframe.

Setting things aside for the Goodwill saps my strength. I can't go on and on and on. His nibs gets a head of steam and can't stop. After a couple hours of sorting through things, I'm ready to crash and he's just getting started. Yesterday afternoon (Sunday) I left him down on the patio sorting out our latest piles into boxes and bags for the Goodwill while I had a beer (dark San Miguel) and a break. Later, after dinner, we continued with the sort. By bedtime we had four large boxes ready to go to the Goodwill today with another box almost full.

Slowly. Surely. Bust off those barnacles.

Friday we headed up to Hill even though we should've stayed at Dale and continued sorting through stuff. The Spring Fling is three weeks from last Friday and we need to get everything stashed away and the place cleaned up before the day.

But we also needed to check out Hill. Our burglar alarm had gone off at Hill Friday morning. Luckily, after e-mail and phonecalls with our neighbors and Bay Alarm, our neighbors let themselves in and turned the alarm off. Why did the alarm go off? A mystery ... but we have our suspicions. We headed up after his nibs got home from work to check through and make sure that everything was fine.

Headed down the Steps to the Ferry Building, intending to eat at Slanted Door (it being almost 9P and far too late to get to Palio d'Asti before it closed), but Slanted Door was packed and people were spilling out onto the piers. I was willing to wait for a table, maybe stop over and browse at Book Passage if they were open, but Slanted Door staff wouldn't even put us on a waiting list for a table. ("We have so many people waiting for tables as it is that we don't know if we'll get them all seated tonight.")

Now where? We headed, as usual, over toward Belden Place, which is such a nice little collection of good restaurants that you really can't miss getting a good dinner no matter where you eat. As we walked across Justin Herman Plaza, though, we changed direction. Why not Boulevard? We hadn't eaten there in years.

1 Mission St

Boulevard too was rocking. Must've been something about being out looking for dinner at 9P on Friday night. We could either wait for a table or eat at a table for two in the bar area. Bar table it was.

For dinner I had boneless quail stuffed with short rib meat, spinach, mushrooms &c., settled on a bed of a yummy risotto-like starch. The quail was rolled like a chicken kiev around the beef and spinach and sliced on a slant. His nibs had rack of lamb. Our starters (we swapped plates half-way through) were foie chaud with grilled partly-ripe apricots and toasty brioche and sweetbreads with smoky pork/bacon chunks and frisee'd vegetables, including artichoke hearts. All the food was tasty, but the bill with wine was $$$++ and that was just for two hors d'oeuvres and two entrees and wine -- no dessert, no coffee.

The total price was on par with what we'd spent at Rubicon last week, where we'd had dessert and malmsey in addition to hors d'oeuvres, entrees and wine. The dishes were tastier at Rubicon as well. We'll return to Rubicon and take a pass on another dinner at Boulevard unless we have friends who want to go. There are just far too many good restaurants in San Francisco to spend time and money returning to restaurants that don't knock your socks off. If price were no object, I'd still choose Rubicon over Boulevard, but given that the Boulevard was so pricey? No question.

Which restaurants are currently on my "didn't sufficiently knock my socks off for the price"? Boulevard, Gary Danko and 500 Jackson are three that pop immediately to mind. The restaurants are worth going to to see what all the buzz is about, but for me aren't worth going back to, not when I haven't checked out Fifth Floor since Laurent Gras took over and haven't dropped by Lüx, Luke Sung's new place on Chestnut. We're planning to walk over for dinner at Isa some time this week and will poke our nose in at Lüx to see what Luke and Kitty have created there.

[see update below]

Saturday we walked over to the Art Store at Bush and Van Ness to pickup a matted frame for a Colin De Guere piece we'd bought years back and never properly framed. Sure there are frame places closer to home, but the Art Store was having their white sale (all blank canvases HALF OFF!) and their selection of papers and papyrus is drool-worthy. I lusted after some of the papers with embedded leaves and seeds, lusted after different papyrus pieces and after the 48x60" (or was it 60"x72"?) stretched/cross-barred canvases.

Ah, well.

We decided we needed to eat as we were heading home about 1P, carrying our frame and a quad journal I couldn't resist. If we waited to get back to North Beach for lunch, we would've spoiled our appetite for dinner. Heaven forefend!

I'd been thinking maybe Hyde Street Bistro or Hyde Street Grill -- neither of which we'd been to, although we'd shared a HSG crab cake sandwich at the Farmers' Market last weekend. As we were walking up Polk and peering in shop windows, we walked by Crustacean and his nibs said, "We really need to try that some time."

Why not now? I asked. We'd never eaten there, although we'd talked about it several times -- Crustacean has the reputation of being the birthplace of fusion cuisine when it opened back twelve years or so ago.

1475 Polk Street

What a wonderful, if pricey, lunch we had. The setting and design are beautiful. Our service was excellent. The third floor view overlooking Polk and California is not the attraction, the food is.

A note by the front desk outlines the dress code: no t-shirts with slogans, no sweatsuits. Simple stuff. No hassle about lack of ties or whatever, but the An family doesn't want folks in sweaty, torn sweatsuits coming by for a meal. Can't say I blame them. Luckily, I was wearing a long-sleeved shirt over my misc.writing ("a marginal newsgroup") t-shirt and I quickly buttoned it up so my slogan'd t-shirt didn't show.

Our server delivered the lunch menu along with the dinner menu and a wine list. He told us we could order from either or both and we had a choice of small plates, large plates or "secret kitchen specialties." The dinner menu had more selections and prices for dishes were the same no matter which menu you ordered from.

As long as it's crab season, we decided to take advantage.

I ordered the Asian crab cake, which came with a mixed green salad with a very light strawberry vinaigrette, grilled vegetables and some wonderful grilled Japanese eggplant with an added flavor element. Five spice maybe? The crab cake was slightly spicy -- Dungeness crab meat, pork and what looked like sweet red peppers. The cake was over three inches in diameter and an inch thick.

His nibs ordered the specialty of the house, a whole roasted Dungeness crab, cooked in garlic butter and spices. The crab was enormous. He was full long before he was done and I took the opportunity to snitch cleaned crab meat off his plate, after I'd finished with my crab cake. (I did give him a taste of my crab cake and the eggplant in exchange.)

We had a bottle of Groth Sauvignon Blanc with lunch. Both dishes were exceptional. The wine was a great match.

For dessert we shared fried bananas and vanilla ice cream. The bananas were battered and fried and HOT. The vanilla ice cream was a perfect accompaniment. I followed with a cup of great coffee.

Another specialty of the house, which I wished I had tried, was An's garlic noodles, egg noodles infused with "An's famous garlic sauce." A young couple eating next to the window shared a roasted crab and each had a bowl of the garlic noodles. That combo might just be the perfect lunch.

We will return to Crustacean even though lunch with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc totaled $100 mas o menos. Not cheap, but heaven.


We'd held back and just had one entree each and a split dessert at lunch because we were booked for the Tel-Hi fundraiser starting at 6:30P. As we walked down the hill with friends to the Tel-Hi Neighborhood Center for the annual dinner, we were disappointed to hear that the week in Abaco had been pulled from the auction -- not that we could've afforded it anyway.

The two high-bid items of the evening were a private cooking class and meal from Mary Risley's Tante Marie for ten and a sleepover for 25 on the submarine USS Pampanito. For both items, the next highest bidder was encouraged to up his bid to match the bid of the highest bidder and two events were scheduled. Generous donors.

We picked up a $100 gift certificate for the House at the silent auction at more or less face value -- some gift certificates went for far beyond their nominal face value. We've eaten at the House twice now and plan to return again and again until we've explored their entire menu.

Our friends won the silent auction for the El Raigon gift certificate for dinner and wine. We'd bid on other items, including a selection of dessert wines and a chocolate truffle experience for ten at XOX Truffles, but were outbid, alas. Winning bid was something like $190.

Other auction lots included a dream Giants evening with signed memorabilia, VIP box and more (donated by the Giants and Jack Bair), pool and beer with Aaron Peskin (our local supe), wine, clothes, jewelry, art. Here's hoping the auctions (silent and live) were a huge success.

Sunday, we skipped the Sunday afternoon Open Houses and headed back to Dale around lunch time to sort through crockery and cutlery and pie plates for the rest of the weekend.

update: Popped by to take a gander at Lüx to see what Luke and Kitty had and discovered that all the news was old. Lüx wasn't operating yet and (after a peek through the gaps in the window coverings), looks like it'll be at least next month before it opens.

Word at Isa was that Luke is less concerned with how quickly the kitchen goes in and the tables are set than with finding top-notch staff for the restaurant.

All good things come with time.

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