San Francisco dining

Mandalay was the best Burmese food I’ve had, probably ever (NB: I’ve never been to Myanmar).  Get the noodle dishes and soups, not the meat-based curries.  In the Richmond neighborhood.

Angor Borei is very good Cambodian, I enjoyed the pumpkin curry.  Then you can walk down Mission and spot dozens of other interesting ethnic places.  Along that stretch is Prubechu, the first Guam restaurant I’ve seen (NB: I’ve never been to Guam).

Banana House, Thai food at Kearny and Bush, surprisingly good for such an unfruitful part of town; get the duck salad.

Al’s Place, expensive with one Michelin star, is the best and most original set of vegetables I can recall eating in this country.  But when they tell you to eat the salad with your fingers, is that a sign of pretension or lack of pretension?  If you have to ask, the answer is pretension.  Still, on both the tastiness and originality scale this place ranks highly.

Amawele’s South African Kitchen, serves Durban food more than anything else.  Right in the heart of downtown, charming, imperfect, but where else in this country can you get Bunny Chow (NB: not made of bunnies)?


Dang, I live in SF and never heard of Amawele's. Congrats on getting in at Al's - awesome place.

I've been there twice and haven't found it to be remarkably different from the other ultra-hyped SF Beard-winning/nominated, Eater 38 mainstays like Rich Table or SBP/Progress.

Sidenote: I went there and got the spiel about "how things work here" before ordering, in 2015, easily a decade into small plate dominance. I went back in 2016, answered Yes when asked if I had been there before, and then still got the spiel about "how things work here." This habit at many SF restaurants is so, so annoying.

*talking about Al's. Also have never heard of Amawele's - but Banana House is legit

What is the "how things work" lecture? That the portions are small? I once got rude stares for playing with my food and I've had the chef say he's insulted if we (the people I was with) order steak sauce and ketchup for the meat. Other than that, I've had no big complaints from patrons and staff other than when I follow Ben Franklin's advice and fart proudly (and loudly) on the way out the door.

They aren't complaining about me, I'm complaining about the opening set piece waiters at these places are apparently instructed to use: "we do things differently here" (no you don't) - small plates to share - all locally sourced (long list of names you won't remember) - recommend 3 to 4 person (way too much) - things come out when ready - etc. Just a mildly patronizing waste of time, especially when you've told your waiter you're familiar.

Banana House, good idea. Headed there now.

You can get bunny chow at a few places in New York, including Madiba

I am headed to SF in a few weeks and was recommended Burma Superstar as the solution to my Burmese food needs. The Guamish restaurant seems intriguing but I won't be in the Mission District.

Mandalay was a favorite of mine when I lived in SF almost 20 years ago.

Mandalay was a favorite of mine in the 80s. I always ordered the Tea Leaf Salad but then a meat dish. Live and learn.

Yes, Mandalay is excellent.

I lived down the street from Prubechu and have been there three times, each time was excellent.

I haven't been to the mandalay restaurant (I have been to this city, and the food there is great!) but I love Burma Superstar (also in the Richmond). Have you been to both places and prefer Mandalay?

Its not ethnic, but the best breakfast I have ever had was at Jo Ann's Café in South San Francisco

I've been to both and thought Burma Superstar was better (but with a much longer wait/line).

"Angor Borei is very good Cambodian..." which is itself very mediocre Thai.

Of course, the cuisine of so many of the countries in the far east is heavily influenced by the French (it's the "soooze" that makes the food that makes the difference). I find it amusing that French cuisine has gone out of favor (what happened to those great French restaurants in NYC), while Asian restaurants that are in fact French have become so popular. Bon appetit!

Let's be honest, Asians are more likable than the French.

It's true: a touch of MSG does enhance flavor, at the slightly higher risk of triggering a food allergy. MSGKings would agree.

More trivia: the WSJ yesterday had an article about cooks that use antacids to enhance the fluffiness of their baked goods, even Rx-based antacids.

My father was a chef, so cooking and entertaining at home was a big part of his (and my) life with him. Although I spent lots of time with him at his restaurant, my memory of him is at home entertaining and cooking for friends. I much prefer to cook for friends in my home that go to a restaurant. My nephew (my niece's husband) is a foodie; indeed, his business is brokering the sale and purchase of restaurants in America's foremost food city today. We seldom go to restaurants when I visit them (which is often); instead, we experiment at home, much of our time together spent at his favorite market, considering different dishes to make, different ingredients to use, different recipes to try. It's an active approach to food. It appeals to me because I have always been physically active. I don't understand why anyone would consider restaurants as the place for great food. My father would take my brother and me to very good restaurants when we traveled. And on every occasion my father would end up in the kitchen, talking to and sharing recipes and experiences with the chefs. Food is meant to be an active experience, not the passive experience of a customer in a restaurant.

America’s foremost food city today

Las Vegas?

Salt Lake City. Then Tucson. Then L.A. Las Vegas is the platonic ideal of good cooking in great restaurant kitchens but there are not enough farms and edible varmints in the nearby vicinity to support the really really good chefs we would want to be if we left our jobs to become chefs. Unless it has changed since the last time I was there (Elvis, Sammy Davis, and my beloved Phyllis Diller were still alive. Good times, good times.)

Well despite what all your softies think the Road to Mandalay certainly didn't include three course meals along with wine.

Righto, old boy, certainly not, pip pip.

Maybe the chef at Al's Place reads MR...

Two locations in San Diego that come to mind for Bunny Chow. Although not earth shattering news, it was nice to feel as well heeled as Mr. Cowen's palate, if even for a minute.

Burma Cafe in Daly City is superb, though a bit out of the way. As compensation, there's lots parking. I advise reservations as the place gets crowded.

Have been there several times and have been delighted with every dish. I can never resist their tea leaf salad.

Tyler-style, authentic "ethnic" cuisine is embarrassingly bad in San Francisco (shortcomings especially apparent when compared to Los Angeles or even Chicago) other than Burmese (for some reason), Pakistani and a handful of Vietnamese. The Chinese food is particularly abysmal, which is shocking given the large population. Japanese food has seen rapid improvement the past few years (though much too expensive to fit Tyler's tastes), and SF has arguably the only truly authentic Japanese Izakaya stateside in Kappou Gomi.

Note that the quality of the cheaper "ethnic" food increases dramatically in the East and (especially) South Bay as the rents get cheaper.

Where San Francisco shines is the mid-level (which is considered ~$75 a head here) California-ized takes on this type of food.

As a former resident of SF, this summary is absolutely spot on. Houston and LA both blow SF out of the water at the $ or $$ price point, and $$$ (but not $$$$) is where SF really shines. Also much of the Chinese in SF is Cantonese, not my personal favorite but imagine that our host loves the "everything with four legs but the table" ethos. Dim Sum is pretty great, but Chinese cuisine other than that is totally forgettable.

I can't agree with this at all. I spent many years of my life doing all my dining out at cheap ethnic places in SF and was rarely disappointed. Addressing just the issue of Chinese food, there are lots of good Cantonese places (to name two: New Jumbo on Noriega and Riverside on Vicente), as well as a new crop of northern and western Chinese restaurants (e.g. Shandong Deluxe and House of Pancake on Taraval, Chili House on Clement). If you think Chinese restaurants in SF are bad, you are going to the wrong ones.

In SF the answer is *always* pretension.

I like posts about San Francisco because I have some expertise to contribute, since I live here.

The best place to get food in this town is the Kwik & Convenient on Monterey Blvd, which is open 24/7. I can get frozen dinners and ice cream at any hour of the night, at reasonable prices. Highly recommended!


Bunny Chow has been available for the past couple of years in Seattle, at Nue on Capitol Hill.

Closer to home (for Tyler), the Malanday restaurant in Silver Spring is very good, or at least was when I lived in MD which is now 8 years ago.

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