Best Things to Eat

I got pegged with one of those blog-meme things by my friend Humuhumu. I feel obliged to participate, only because GREAT MISFORTUNE will befall ME AND MY FAMILY if I don’t. A blogger from Rome, GA failed to answer and IMMEDIATELY was beseiged by FLESH-EATING BACTERIA. Also, I want to celebrate Humuhumu’s honorable mention almost-win in the Least-Notable Wikipedia Article Contest.

The list is supposed to be “Best Places to Eat” in your area. The problem is that I really don’t get out much. I’ve tried maybe 0.01% of the restaurants in the city alone, much less the whole bay area. And once I do find a place, I tend to order the same thing over and over again. But the things I order over and over again are so awesome that they deserve a mention on the internets. So I’m going to list my five favorite things to eat in the bay area.

First, I’m supposed to include the list of participants:

The list:
Nicole (Sydney, Australia)
velverse (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
LB (San Giovanni in Marignano, Italy)
Selba (Jakarta, Indonesia)
Olivia (London, England)
ML (Utah, USA)
Lotus (Toronto, Canada)
tanabata (Saitama, Japan)
Andi (Dallas [ish], Texas, United States)
Todd (Louisville, Kentucky, United States)
miss kendra (los angeles, california, u.s.a)
Jiggs Casey (Berkeley, CA, USA! USA! USA!)
Tits McGee (New England, USA)
Joe (NE Tennessee, USA)
10K Monkeys (Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA)
Big Stupid Tommy (Athens, Tennessee, USA)
Newscoma (Weakley County, Tennessee, USA)
Russ McBee (Knoxville, Tennessee, USA)
Atomictumor (Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA)
Oh Really? (Oak Ridge, TN, USA)
Mark Steel (Knoxville, TN, USA)
Swanky (Knoxville, TN, USA)
Humuhumu (Seattle, WA, USA, and Silicon Valley, CA, USA)
Spectre Collie (San Francisco Bay area, CA, USA)

And here’s my list of favorite dishes, expanded into the whole bay area:

Manpuku, Berkeley
Katsu Curry Rice
I didn’t know such a thing existed until my friend Matt started ordering it in as take-out while the office was working late. I don’t want to exaggerate or over-sell it, so I’ll just say that katsu curry rice is the single greatest achievement in the history of human civilization.

When I first moved to California, I spent years complaining loudly and frequently that I missed southern food. People would try to help by recommending “soul food” restaurants in Oakland and elsewhere, but they were always a disappointment — heavy on the collard greens and such, but none of what I thought of as real Cracker Barrel-style southern food. (And always with the sweet cornbread. What is it with you people?)

So I was surprised to finally find what I was looking for at a Japanese restaurant. A deep-fried pork chop covered in gravy with potatoes and carrots, served over rice. What could possibly be better? I’ve tried the katsu curry rice in various places all over San Francisco, and in Tokyo and Kyoto, and I’ve never had any as good as what they serve at Manpuku.

Thai Place 2, San Francisco
Panang Beef
The restaurant is pretty unremarkable overall; I wouldn’t have heard of it except that it’s close by and has free delivery. It wasn’t even my favorite take-out place. Until I tried the Panang Beef — stew beef in coconut-based curry sauce. Every time I order it, I spend the second day just eating the post-beef sauce remainder over rice, and it’s even better than the day before.

Casa Mañana, San Rafael
Enchilada Vallarta
Even Lou Dobbs would have to acknowledge the inestimable contributions of the Mexican culture if he were confronted with mole sauce. I don’t buy any of the crackpot theories about alien landing strips in Peru or extra-terrestrials helping to build the pyramids of the Yucatan, but I can believe that the idea of using chocolate in an entree is too ingenious for mere humans to have come up with.

Casa Mañana does it one better by serving plantains wrapped up in tortillas and then covered with mole sauce. It’s like a banana split for dinner. Genius, and eerie.

Sushi Ko, Berkeley
Tempura Fried California Roll
As sushi-ignorant as I am, even I can tell that this restaurant is fair-to-middling at best. I have a hard time recommending it to anybody, and the only reason I ever go is if I’m in the area to visit Comic Relief. But still, it’s the only semi-local restaurant I’m aware of that still sells the tempura-fried California Roll, which is another one of mankind’s greatest achievements.

It’s a well-known fact that dipping anything in batter and deep-frying it makes it better, but the difference between the average California Roll and the senses-shattering bliss of the fried California Roll is so profound, I can only compare it to alchemy.

House of Nanking, San Francisco
I Don’t Know the Name But it’s Beef in Lettuce Rolls
From the looks of things, the House of Nanking got over-hyped a few years ago, and it’s now suffering the backlash. I can’t imagine it actually changed in quality that much; it’s been at least a year since I went last, but every time has been consistent — loud, crowded, aggressive service, with phenomenal low-brow Chinese food. I guess that irritates the people who are sticklers for “authenticity” or “ambience” or “being allowed to order.”

Because they don’t really seem to let you order there, from what I’ve seen. You kind of suggest animals or schools of food, and then they bring you one to three plates that fit the category. So I don’t know what it’s officially called, but there’s something there that’s made of beef and corn and a bunch of stuff I don’t recognize, that you spoon up into a roll of lettuce and eat. And then keep eating, and then mention how good it is, and eat some more. Since they go heavy on the sauce at that restaurant, and everything is kind of syrupy sweet, the beef-in-lettuce-wraps is the closest I’ve had there to “light” fare.

So that serves as my list of five, as well as explaining why I’ve got a weight problem. The next thing I’m supposed to do is tag five other people. I’m not sure I know five people with blogs, or at least ones who wouldn’t hit me for sending them a chain letter. But the thing is, I’m genuinely curious and looking for recommendations on good restaurants. So I’m calling out:
Jess Hutch
Musty TV
Six Seven Six
And anybody else who wants to jump in, but I didn’t think to mention here because it didn’t seem like the kind of thing you’d be remotely interested in.

6 thoughts on “Best Things to Eat”

  1. I agree katsu curry house are so good!!! I must go to Manpuku if I have the chance..Enchilada Vallarta at Casa Mañana sounds heavenly!!! drooling just thinking of it!! I htink someone who did the tag before mentioned Sushi Ko…

    Ps thanks for doing the tag. I hope you enjoyed it.. If you know of anyone else doing it please feel free to send me a message and I’ll update them too on the updated list of tag doers

  2. If you can’t make it out to Berkeley the place I like for katsu curry in San Francisco is The Bridge in Japantown. Enoshima on Chestnut street is also pretty good. And supposedly there is a good katsu curry restaurant in the New Otani hotel but I’ve never been able to find it.

  3. Thanks for the recommendations, Matt. I’ll definitely try Enoshima. I really, really want to like On the Bridge, but every time I eat there, it does bad things to me down below.

  4. Hm. Well I guess that is one inherant danger in eating Katsu Curry. Did you get the Triple XXX hot version they have at On the Bridge?

    And I almost forgot — Iroha on Buchanan (near Japantown) is good. And Hukilau (Masonic/Geary) has great Chicken Katsu Loco Moco. Which isn’t curry, but if you replace “curry” with “brown gravy” and throw a hard boiled egg on top you’d have enough food to kill a lesser man.

  5. Wooo.. I love how you do it. You list out the best of the best.

    Panang beef sounds like very cool. I love asian food and panang beef seems to be just so cool. I can feel the stew beef melt on my tongue.

    Oh.. Thanks for sharing! Love it!

  6. velverse and Nicole: thanks! glad you started the list. (For those interested in this kind of thing: if you follow the link from velverse’s name,you’ll see an exhaustive list that spans continents. Neat idea.)

    Matt: it’s not the heat that gets me, it’s the volume. They always serve twice as much as a normal person can eat.

    And Hukilau is great; when I first moved to the city I was planning on making it my regular Saturday Night Thing, but I never have the energy to walk up Masonic. But every time I go, I get the Kahlua Cabbage, which would be number 6 on this list.

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