Thursday, July 2, 2015

Pretty In Pink: Hello Kitty Meets Cioppino In Kyu3 Noodle's Yen Ta Fo

There's something jarring about the Thai noodle soup dish Yen Ta Fo, and I think it has to with the way the unnatural pink color of the broth seems to magnify its dominant sweetness. Having gotten to know it, it's not one of my favorite soups, but curiosity and my blog demand that I experience this eccentric soup from the hands of the best Thai noodle soup mongers I know of; noodlesse oblige, one might say. And who knows, I might experience a revelation.

Having previously sampled the yen ta fo from Lers Ros Thai and House of Thai, I made it an excuse for returning to Kyu 3 Noodles & BBQ today, where it's listed on the menu as Yen Ta Pho (which it certainly is not).

As noted in earlier posts, yen ta fo is known for its plenitude of seafood ingredients, as well as the pink-to-red color which results from use of tofu that has as been preserved with red rice yeast (sometimes assisted by Thai ketchup).  In Kyu 3's version, the broth was a paler pink in color and sweeter (even with my eyes closed) than either LRT's or HOT's. It was almost a DayGlo pink, a shade that would make a LadurĂ©e macaron blush (but I hesitate to call it a macaron-y soup).

This hot pink bath was home to jumbo shrimp, fish balls, calamari rings, sliced fish cakes, cuttlefish and what appeared to be shredded jellyfish (but may not have been). It was like Hello Kitty meets cioppino, the famous San Francisco mixed-seafood chowder.  Topping it off (and providing some color contrast) were dark green water spinach and cilantro, and yellowish fried wonton skins.

Compared to the versions at Lers Ros Thai and House of Thai, Kyu3's version was most similar to the latter's in the generosity of seafood inredients (and in broth color) but sweeter than either of the other two. I'd probably rank it third in preference, with Lers Ros' version first on account of its relative spiciness and lack of sweetness. I'me eager to try at least one more version of this dish, at Amphawa Thai Noodles, which so far has been the most spice-friendly of Thai noodle joints I have encountered.

Where slurped: Kyu3 Noodle & BBQ, 337 Jones St., San Frncisco.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Shandong Deluxe Opens Sister Restaurant On Geary; Will It Be Bested By San Dong Best?

I walked in through the open door past the tiki-ish entryway to the newly remodeled San Dong Best restaurant that was formerly Xi An Gourmet (nee San Dong House). "We're not really open yet," said the young male server who greeted me. "But you can order something anyway." There were a couple of other tables with eaters at 2:00 in the afternoon, and I realized I had stumbled into a "friends and family" soft opening.

From the outset of the restaurant's "Closed For Vacation" remodel I had assumed it was the same owners jettisoning the "Xi'an" aspects of the menu and going back to their Shandong basics (which they covered well) but I was wrong, as I would have realized if I had paid more attention to the Chinese name on the new awning. When the waiter returned with a menu, it was a paper menu from Shandong Deluxe, the three-year old restaurant on Taraval St. which I had made several visits to in the past. Indeed, as I discovered when I walked outside and peered at the signage, the two have the same name in Chinese as well as the same color scheme on the awning.

"Opening day is Monday," said the server, "we'll have new menus then." The menu at San Dong Best will include all, or nearly all of the dishes on the Taraval St. menu (including the Xinjiang dishes, he said) and more. My guess is that at this inner Richmond location, a couple of doors from the fusion-ish new Fajitas Restaurant, they'll be aiming for a slightly more up-market dinner crowd, and I'm eager to see what they come up with for new Shandong-style entrees.

As for my eats today, I ended up ordering the same dish I inaugurated Shandong Deluxe with, the "plain broth" lamb noodles, though I requested wider noodles this time around.  It  turned out to be nearly identical to the dish I had had in 2012, a subtle, meat-infused broth (possibly born of pork bones) that was neither particularly medicinal nor spicy, just comfortingly unctuous, as lamb soups are wont to be. The noodles were excellent, wabe and chewy (and not skimped on).  A couple of the tender lamb chunks had collars of fat on them, but nearly as much as I would like. There were quite a few mushroom slices in the broth, and the obligatory pair of Shanghai bok choi stalks atop.  Ob balance, this was definitely an A-team bowl of noodles.

I accompanied my soup with an order of marinated pigs ears.  These were a disappointment compared to versions I have had elsewhere. They appeared to be a work in progress, pounded but only partially shredded and too chewy. The "marinade" had little character, and I ended up using a healthy dab of chili paste to get me halfway through the dish, at which time I gave up.

One mystery remains: why do they spell it "Shandong" in the Sunset and "San Dong" in the Richmond?

Where slurped: San Dong Best, 3741 Geary Blvd., San Francisco

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Odang Udon Truck Now Currying Favor At San Francisco's SoMa StrEat Food Park

Curry Udon at Odang Udon

Back in January I blogged about the joy of house-made, er, truck-made noodles from Odang Udon,  a food trailer at an obscure small food truck venue, the Duboce Truck Stop. At the time I lamented the relative inaccessibility (to me, at least) of the spot; it's not on a major transit line nor in the vicinity of any of my customary destinations.

Fast forward to Summer, and my prospects for getting to know this noodle venue better suddenly improve.  As of the first of June, Odang Udon has become a regular fixture at SoMa StrEat Food Park, a location where it can get the business it deserves, and that includes mine. It's not only served by the Muni #12 line, which will take me there directly from Chinatown and the #9 line, direct from Market St. but is also across the street from Costco, a frequent destination of mine. Others will find convenient access via the Muni #47 line.

I made my first visit to Odang at its new location on June 1, and was drawn to the Curry Udon ("Fresh-made noodles, sweet Japanese curry sauce, tempura flakes, mushrooms, green onions, seasonal vegetable tempura") pictured above.  The noodles were thicker than the ones I had with the "Classic" udon in January but equally chewy and fresh, and the Japanese curry was characteristically thick and mildly spicy. The tempura was served on the side, as it was with the Classic curry on my first visit, but fresher and crispier than my first encounter, when I found it a little on the limp side  According to Odang Udon's signage, this dish can be made vegan. and I couldn't be sure that what I was served was not vegan or vegetarian.  The curry and its side of tempura is an order that should please vegetarian and carni-bore Japanese curry buffs alike.

"City Odang" at Odang Udon
I returned today (thanks to a Costco run) to try Odang Udon's most popular item, the City Odang ("Fresh-made noodles, chopped marinated skirt steak, cucumber, egg, kimcheee, special city sauce"). This is a "dry" noodle dish (sauced, but not in sou) and served without a complimentary tempura side. It is a protein bomb, with a very generous portion of marinated beef (which appears to have been grilled) as well as a fried egg. The skirt steak was tasty, the fried egg was, well, a fried egg, and the kimchi a mild version..  The noodles were the star, even chewier and thicker than those in Odang's curry udon, and the "City Sauce" they were doused with had a vaguely Italian cast  to it. Fuel it is, and high-powered fuel at that.

Where slurped: Odang Udon Truck, SoMa StrEat Food Park, 428-11th St., San Francisco.