Saturday, August 11, 2012

Jack In The Box

I accidentally put my e-mail address and birthdate into a site to get free birthday treats.  Well, sorta accidentally.  I thought I was just signing up for one thing ...

Anyway, as a result, I got a bunch of birthday freebie certificates, mostly all things that need to be used this week.  I certainly won't use them all, as some are entirely unappealing (anyone want some free chicken tacos from Del Taco?  Or an appetizer at Chevy's?) and a bunch are BOGOs (if anyone wants to pay for a pretzel at Auntie Anne's or a creation at Cold Stone, let me know, I'll tag along and get the free one!)

But many have no strings attached, like the promise of a free dessert from Jack In The Box.  Now, I've never had a single thing from Jack In The Box, but it said I got my pick of desserts (cheesecake or chocolate cake), and you know I always want more dessert!

I picked the cheesecake, assuming it was easiest to get right.  It uh, was very wrong.  But the girl was friendly and wished me a Happy Birthday!  I won't be returning.
NY Style Cheesecake: "A light and creamy cheesecake with a graham cracker crust".  $1.99.
This was one of the worst slices of cheesecake I've ever had.  It had absolutely no flavor.  I didn't know it was possible to make cheesecake that didn't have even the slightest cream cheese flavor!  The consistency was nice though, very creamy.  The graham cracker crust was totally forgettable, it was there, but also didn't taste like anything.

I heated up some of my mom's strawberry jam and topped it with that, and whipped cream, but even that didn't save it.  Meh!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Milkshake from Roxy's Cafe

It was a beautiful, sunny day in the Mission.  And I had GoPago credits burning a hole in my pocket.  What better way to celebrate than with a milkshake?

I quickly found a place a few blocks away that had milkshakes on the menu.  I cross checked with Yelp, and found a slew of positive reviews.  Sold!

I walked into Roxy's Cafe, and was greeted by a nice man behind the counter.  There were no other customers, but another woman was in there, slicing produce at one of the tables.  Along with a couple tables, there were stools along a counter.  A big menu board advertised some sandwiches and other specials, and listed smoothies and milkshakes, but gave no descriptions.  Almost as if reading my mind, the man presented me with 4 laminated menus, listing out the insane selection of choices.  Basically, any fruits, candies, etc that you could desire, mixed up into your favorite frozen concoction.  So many choices!

I took a few minutes to read over the options, weighing my choices.  Did I want a light, refreshing smoothie?  Or did I want to go all out, and get a decadent, peanut butter cheesecake oreo cookie crumble milkshake?  I settled for something in the middle.  You could also add in malt, or sub out the whole milk for soy milk, and of course top it with whipped cream.

Overall, it was a fine milk shake, but nothing different than what I'd make myself.  Still, it was perfectly satisfying on a hot sunny day, and, like all of my experiences thus far, GoPago worked perfectly!
Shamrock Milkshake, Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream,  Whole Milk, Whipped Cream.  $3.50.
Sweet, minty, with bits of chocolate chips broken up inside for some fun texture.  Pretty standard quality ice cream and milk, whipped cream from a can.  Large size (16 ounces) for $3.50, a decent deal.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Bravado Coffee Bar & Lounge

Last week, I had a horrible cold.  I couldn't swallow anything.  All I wanted was cold liquids to soothe my throat.  I remembered that over a year ago I'd visited a new cafe in the neighborhood, Caffe Pascucci, and that they served some very crazy cold drinks, most topped with all sorts of whipped creams and syrups.  It seemed like a great place to return to perhaps brighten my mood, but I couldn't find it.  Alas, they had changed names, now called Bravado Coffee Bar & Lounge.  And even better, they were on GoPago, so I could try it out for the first time AND get a cold drink.

The drink menu, as I remembered, was extensive.  Tons of crazy sounding, and amazing looking, hot drinks, cold drinks, blended drinks, drinks with yogurt in them even.  The menu is illustrated to help you pick your drink.  They also serve beer and wine in the afternoons, and brunch comes with a free mimosa or sangria.

The food menu changes throughout the day, offering a few breakfast options in the morning during the week, soups, salads, and sandwiches for lunch during the week, and some pizzas and other snacks in the late afternoon.  On weekends, they serve a hybrid brunch menu.  They have daily specials. The pastry case is filled with assorted cookies, croissants, and cakes.  I haven't tried any of the food yet, as quite honestly, it didn't look particularly great.

The cafe has a bunch of seating options, some small tables for 2, some round tables for 3, and some high tops for 4.  There is also outdoor seating.  The decor puts it right at home in SOMA.

They offer wifi, which is necessary, as they happen to be in a cell phone dead zone.  Sigh, San Francisco!  This is particularly problematic if you are trying to use GoPago while actually there.  Obviously, you are supposed to use GoPago in advance and have your drink waiting for you, but if you want to go look at the menu and then order, you need to get on the wifi with your phone to place an order.  The wifi was pretty flaky while I was there.

On my first visit, I also discovered that they were running a LevelUp promotion this week, giving a $10 credit all week!  So I used GoPago my first visit, and LevelUp on the subsequent visits, which was much easier, as it didn't require a network connection.

The staff were all friendly, although very busy.  I think the GoPago giants promotion was leading many people there, and then obviously their own LevelUp promotion was a big hit.  The first time I was there they were out of a bunch of things, like the chocolate confuso cream required for the drink I most wanted, and the icy coffee freddo that I also wanted.  The fourth time they were out of caramel sauce.  Both of these were surprising to me, as they are required components of signature dishes, and I was really disappointed both times because the things I really want to order, I couldn't! The second time I was there the single worker was clearly trying to do too many things at once, and had left the sink on, with it overflowing all over the place, until I pointed it out to her.

Anyway, the drinks were hit or miss.  Some were amazing, some not so much, but all very creative and amazing looking.  They clearly use high quality ingredients, and I was particularly impressed with the assorted whipped creams they used.  I'll definitely return to try more of their concoctions!
Yogurt Cappuccino Caramel: Our Gold espresso with light, Italian style yogurt and caramel sauce, decaf.  $4.25.
From the yogurt section of the menu.  I really had no idea what to expect when I ordered this.  What was Italian yogurt?  And why would I want it with my espresso?  I had no idea, but this sounded vaguely like an excuse at brunch, as it contained yogurt after all!

When it first arrived, I almost thought there was a mistake.  The beautiful treat placed in front of me was clearly a big pile of whipped cream and caramel sauce, right?  Oh well, I wasn't going to complain.  I took a spoonful, and realized ... this wasn't whipped cream, this must be the Italian yogurt!  It was insanely fluffy, lighter than whipped cream even, but it was somewhat tart.  It was fairly amazing.  Drizzled over it, adding just the right amount of sweetness, was a caramel sauce.  It was like eating a greek yogurt and honey parfait ... just, lighter, and really quite different.

On the bottom was the shot of espresso.  I wasn't quite sure how to get to it, but once I was a few spoonfuls in, I was easily able to get some espresso and some of the yogurt at the same time.  Now I was reminded not of a yogurt parfait, but of an affogato, with that same contrast of bitter liquid and sweeter soft part, except without the hot and cold contrast.  Once more of the yogurt was gone, it then started to remind me of a cappuccino, albeit one with some crazy froth.

I really liked this.  It was intriguing and delicious.  I was really into how the experience of it kept changing as the ratio of espresso to yogurt changed as I moved along.

I almost ordered another one immediately, but there were too many other, equally amazing sounding, things to try!  I'd certainly get this again in the future, although I'm also curious about the fruit versions. They seem like they'd be more like a yogurt parfait, but I don't really know how that goes with espresso.  Intriguing!

$4.25 was a perfectly reasonable price for the portion size and beautiful presentation.
Yogurt Cappuccino Frutti Bosco: Our Gold espresso with light, Italian style yogurt and fresh fruits, decaf.  $4.25.
On my next visit, I decided to try one of the fruity yogurts.  They offer two varieties, one with fresh cut fruit and one with fruitti bosco sauce.  The fruit of the day was strawberries, and I asked the barista which she recommended.  She picked the fruitti bosco, so I went with it.

As you can probably tell from the photo, the yogurt was very different this time.  It wasn't nearly as fluffy as before, and there was less of it.  It still had a nice tart flavor, but the consistency wasn't as enjoyable.

The frutti bosco sauce was a sweet berry flavored sauce.  It went ok with the yogurt, but the caramel worked much better.

The espresso was very bitter, and when mixed with the fruity sauce, it just really didn't work for me.

I really didn't like this, and it was a big disappointment after loving the caramel version.  Would not order again.
Fraspuccio Confuso: Gold espresso blended with ice and milk, topped with our signature Confuso cream, decaf, skim. $4.25.
Since I had my "brunch" treat to start, it was time to move on to a "dessert" selection.  And ... a dessert this was!  The menu listed a number of blended beverages, called Fraspuccios.  The first selection I made, the Fraspuccio Meringato, was unfortunately unavailable, as they were out of the dark chocolate cream, so I settled on my second pick, the amazingly delicious looking Fraspuccio Confuso.  The photo was absolutely droolworthy, and the server described Confuso cream as a whipped cream made from sweetened condensed milk that tastes like birthday cake.  Sold!

This drink was another visual stunner.  I almost didn't want to dig in, it was so pretty.

The base layer was the espresso, ice, milk, and some of the confuso cream, blended up.  The ice was nicely blended up, tiny little chunks.  It was fairly bitter, but did have some sweetness from the creme mixed in, just enough to balance it out.  Very, very good.

On top was a ton of the confuso cream.  It was pretty much exactly as she described, thicker than whipped cream, reminding me somewhat of a custard.  Very sweet on its own.  I believe there was also some caramel sauce drizzled on top.

And, to complete the deal, were little bits of crumbled up almond cookies.  Sweet, great flavor, and added a nice crunch.

This was pretty insanely decadent.  I couldn't convince myself it was a drink, it was clearly a full fledged dessert.  And a delicious one at that.  It was better than any Starbucks Frappucino, Peet's Freddo, Dunkin' Donuts Coffee Coolatta.  Not even in the same league.

I'd definitely order again, although I'd love to try the one I originally wanted, with the chocolate confuso cream and the meringue.  But then, there is also one with caramel and regular whipped cream.  So many amazing sounding treats!

$4.25 was again a reasonable price for a large, beautiful concoction.
Fraspuccio Caramel : Gold espresso blended with ice and milk, topped with our caramel sauce, decaf, skim.  $4.25.
On my next visit, I moved on to a different Fraspuccio.  It was late afternoon, so I was avoiding caffeine, so I went with the caramel version rather than the chocolate.

It wasn't very well blended, with the bottom being mostly just the espresso and milk liquid and the middle being the icy mixture.  It separated even further very quickly.  Perhaps the confuso cream helped hold the other one together?  Or maybe it was just not prepared as well?

The liquid and ice parts of this were much more bitter than in the confuso version, presumably because they were just the milk, icy, and a little bit of caramel sauce, rather than the sweet cream mixed in.

It was topped with very delicious whipped cream, albeit too much of it.  I'm not one to complain about too much whipped cream in general as I love the stuff, but the ratio was off here.  I think there was close to a cup of whip on here!  But it was very good, sweet, fluffy, clearly not from a can.

The caramel drizzle on top was delicious, very sweet, with a great caramel flavor.  Again, likely not just a flavor syrup, this seemed like a quality ingredient.

Unfortunately, I didn't like this much either, particularly compared to the confuso version.  The bad blending and the lack of sweetness in the body of it just didn't work for me.  I would not order again.
Fraspuccio Meringato: Gold espresso blended with ice and milk, topped with our dark Confuso cream and pieces of meringue, decaf, skim.  $4.25.
On my fourth visit, I went to order my favorite from my second trip, the Yogurt Cappuccino Caramel, as it was my favorite "drink" overall.  But ... they were out of caramel sauce!  Ahh!!

So, even though it was late in the day, I decided to go for the Fraspuccio Meringato, the one Fraspuccio that I hadn't yet tried, because I'd been avoiding it due to the caffeine content from all the chocolate.

This one was served in a different glass than the other Fraspuccios, and seemed a little larger as a result.  Like the Fraspuccio Caramel, it separated out fairly quickly into an icy layer and then just a cold milk and espresso layer.  I'm really not sure why my first one didn't do this, but I greatly preferred it when it didn't separate!

The chocolate confuso cream had a subtle chocolate flavor and was a nice thick consistency, but I thought that the regular confuso cream was much better, as it was sweeter and a more interesting flavor.  The chocolate flavor in this was strong enough to mask the uniqueness of the confuso cream, but not intense enough to be really interesting.  I would have believed it was just chocolate whipped cream.

The chocolate sauce drizzled on top and throughout was a thin sauce, not really distinguishable from Hershey syrup.

The meringues on top were a nice sweet crunch and added to the ice cream sundae like feel of the drink.

Overall, I liked this more than the caramel Fraspuccio since it had more interesting flavors and sweetness, but it didn't compare to the regular confuso one.  I probably wouldn't order again.
Ciaobella: Our classic cappucino with white chocolate, topped with whipped cream, soy, decaf, togo.  $4.50.
On my way out the door, I decided I wasn't quite satisfied, and would like a warm drink for the walk.  Normally, I just drink black coffee, but I figured that they seem to specialize in crazy concoctions, and I might as well go for it.

This was basically a latte with some white chocolate syrup mixed in, topped with whipped cream, drizzled with more white chocolate, and topped with tiny little meringues.

I forgot that I really dislike lattes.  Back when I drank espresso drinks other than americanos, I always got a macchiato, or occasionally a cappuccino, but I really dislike how milky lattes are.  This was described as a cappuccino, but there wasn't any froth that I could find.  It was sweet, but not with any real white chocolate flavor.  I couldn't taste the soy milk.

The whipped cream was the same delicious stuff I had on the fraspuccio, and I liked it a lot.  The white chocolate drizzle also had a nice flavor.  The little meringues were sweet, and added a fun crunch.

Overall, I didn't like, but perhaps that was just my own preferences.  Seemed like a pretty unremarkable generic white chocolate mocha.  Would not order again.

Iced Americano, decaf, togo.  $2.65.
And another treat to take with me on the way out the door, on a hot afternoon.  I wanted an iced coffee, but they only brew caffeinated iced coffee, so I got an iced americano instead.

It was really strong, stronger than any iced coffee or iced americano I've ever had.  I think it likely had two shots in it.  The flavor was bitter and quite good.

It arrived with only a tiny amount of ice in it.  Perhaps there had been more but it melted quickly against the hot espresso?  I had to ask for more.

I have to give a shout out to their large assortment of sweeteners.  Sugar, raw sugar, splenda, simple syrup, several types of honey.

Overall, good, and if I were in the mood for one again, I'd get it.

[ Not Pictured ]
Cold Chocolate Freddo: Ice blended chocolate.

I was offered a sample of the cold chocolate freddo.  This was a pre-made drink, served from a dispenser.  Very similar to the coffee-free chocolate freddo I had at Peet's last week.  It had a very, very rich chocolate flavor, was nicely icy, but I think it would be too rich to really have a lot of.  A small portion, with some whipped cream to balance out the chocolate, would perhaps be good, but I can't imagine drinking a full portion of it, it was kinda like drinking pudding!  The server also mentioned that they could add espresso to it, which I could see mellowing it out a little, and making it more like a frappucino/freddo.

[ Not Pictured ]
Sorbetto: Ice blended coffee.

I also tried samples of the ice blended coffee, on several occasions.  It was really good!  Like the ice blended chocolate, it was really icy, very well blended.  It had a great coffee flavor, and was slightly sweet.  It was almost too thick to drink, but very, very enjoyable by the spoonful.  If it wasn't for the caffeine, I'd certainly order a full cup of this.  Very good! [ Tried this one more time.  Again, it was delicious!  Icy, well blended, great coffee flavor.  I'd really love to get a full size one of these sometime! ]

[ Originally posted June 26, 2011 ]
Fraspuccio Caramel:  Gold espresso blended with ice and milk, topped with our caramel sauce.  $4.25.
In the bottom of the cup was massive layer of thick caramel sauce, the body was blended cream/espresso/sugar/ice mixture, topped with Confuso cream, crumbled cookies, and a chocolate/nut candy.  The barista described this as the "light" choice ... it was way too sweet and decadent for me though, certainly not what I thought I was ordering!

I *think* this was the fraspucio caramel, although that is supposed to have standard whipped cream and not confuso cream.  But the fraspucio confuso shouldn't have caramel.  So ... I'm not 100% sure which this was, and perhaps the menu has evolved since this visit.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Dessert @ Tuba Restaurant and Grill

After my dessert-less meal at Udupi Palace, I was left craving something sweet.  (Then again, when do I ever NOT want dessert?)  To keep my poor sore throat happy I wanted something creamy, but I wasn't really in the mood for ice cream, as it was fairly cold out.  I pulled up GoPago to see where else nearby I could use my credits and discovered a place that sounded amazing, albeit with a rather unfortunate name: Tuba Restaurant and Grill, a Turkish restaurant.  On the dessert menu, among other fantastic sounding treats, was rice pudding and crème brûlée, both perfectly fitting for my sore throat AND things that I absolutely love.  I settled on the rice pudding, as it fit more in theme with my meal.

I quickly looked up the restaurant on Yelp before ordering, and was stunned by the reviews, all incredibly positive.  The menu sounds fantastic, from the hot and cold appetizers, to the mains, to the rest of the desserts.  I'll definitely be going back for a full meal sometime soon!

I ordered my pudding to go using GoPago when I was two blocks away, and it was ready and waiting when I got there.  Again, GoPago worked like a charm!  Maybe I'll even keep using it once my free credits expire :)
Sütlaç: oven-baked rice pudding.  $5.
This was my first encounter with Turkish rice pudding.  I didn't quite know what to expect, knowing that every culture takes a slightly different spin on rice puddings.  Some sweeter than others, the rice cooked to different doneness levels, different spicing, different amounts of cream, etc.

This was really good.  I'm not sure that I'd ever had a baked rice pudding before, which was a little strange at first.  The top layer was a bit of a film, a little off putting, but I think a result of being baked?  It also had a little scorched area, but again, I think that was intentional.

The pudding had a lot of liquid in it, fairly runny, but not in a bothersome way.  It was a rather perfect level of sweetness, enough to know you were eating a dessert, but not too much at all.  It also had a nice vanilla flavor, and some other spicing that I couldn't identify.  The rice was al dente, big whole grains, nicely crunchy.  Topped with some crushed pistachio, which added another crunch, but I didn't like as I'm not a big fan of pistachio.

I could easily see someone thinking it was too runny or that the rice wasn't cooked enough, but I thought it was quite tasty, and enjoyed the contrasting textures and consistencies.  I'd order it again, but I do want to try their other desserts too!

$5 seemed a little high when I first received it in my little togo box, but when I think about it, if I'd ordered it in a restaurant, that price would seem low, so this really was a fine price.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

After Osha

After Osha is the casual, mostly take-out, version of the popular Osha Thai chain.  Since there are three full service Oshas within a mile of my house, I don't usually venture to After Osha, but I've been fairly intrigued by it since its opening, as every time I walk by, they seem to be doing things a little differently.  I think they are trying to figure out their market, and keep changing up the format every few months to see what sticks.

Currently, when you walk in, you first encounter the appetizer and salad bar.  Here you can grab pre-made rolls, or order rolls to be made to order, or order salads (papaya, mango) to order.  Or ... you can order ice cream, in assorted Thai flavors.  Or, crepes, freshly made to order, of either savory or sweet varieties.  The savory selection includes things like tuna salad with hardboiled egg in it.  The sweet ones are your standard fruit and cream, or nutella and banana, or red bean and ice cream.

Then, you move on to the next section, where there are a bunch of pre-made dishes, ranging from classic pad thai, to pumpkin curry, to volcanic beef.  You can choose to get a box filled up with as many different things as you want.  Or you can order a specific entree made to order.

And then, there are the desserts.  The dessert selection seems different every time I visit, and includes traditional mango with sticky rice, mango pudding, and some Thai baked goods.  And then some not-so-standard items, like macarons.  Today there was a fruit trifle, with sponge cake, mascarpone, and berries.  And an incredible looking layered chocolate dessert.  Or sometimes there is crème brûlée, but sadly, they were out of it today.  The selection is rather incredible.  And then, there are the drinks, Thai iced coffee, Thai iced tea, and a few others.

Phew!  One cannot complain that there are not choices!  The staff are all eager to tell you about your different options, clearly used to people being a little confused by the layout.  There are tables to sit at, but I get the impression that most people take their food and leave.

The food is all of standard Osha quality, but at a cheaper price point, and obviously more casual setting.  If I need to just grab some rolls, or crave some Thai dessert, I'll definitely be back.  The "fill a box with pre-made dishes" option isn't very appealing, as the few things I've sampled from there seem to have been sitting for quite a while.  I'd like to try some of the crepes sometime too.

Also ... they are on GoPago, so I checked them out today, to use up a few more of my free GoPago credits.  Free dessert = win!
 Jade: Pandanus tapioca with kettle corn and coconut cream.  $3.95. 
Since they didn't have my precious crème brûlée, I settled for another dessert category I love: puddings!    One bite of this, and I was instantly transplanted back to the very first Thai restaurant I ever went to, Thai 99, in Charlottesville, VA, when I was a graduate student.  About once a month, we would splurge, and go to lunch there.  The lunch deal was a full $10 once you included tax and tip, which was very significant for us as grad students.  The meal was huge however, starting with a soup, including a crispy spring roll, your choice of entree and rice, and then it always ended with a coconut milk based pudding, with tapioca and random jelly like things we could never quite identify.

After Osha's Jade was really almost identical to that dessert, or at least, to my memory of it.  Sweet, coconut milk based cream, little tapioca balls, and some larger chunks of ... something.  This however, also contained corn kernels.  Now, I love corn.  Particularly sweet corn.  And I'm all for having fun and putting in some savory ingredients into my desserts.  But ... the corn just didn't work for me at all.  I liked the texture it added, but I just couldn't get past the flavor.

Besides the corn however, I really liked this.  The tapioca was particularly notable in how well it was prepared, not clumped together, tender, just nicely done.

Because of the corn, I'd probably opt to try something else next time, but I did like this quite a bit, particularly for the fond memories of grad school it conjured up :)  $3.95 was a fitting price.

Notes from prior visits:
  • Pad Thai: "Rice stick noodles stir-fried with egg, bean sprout, chives, tofu and ground peanut with your choice of chicken or shrimp".  Tasting notes:  Just sweet, kinda mushy noodles, had been sitting out, clearly.
  • Pad See Ew: "Rice noodles pan fried with Chinese broccoli, egg, black soy sauce with chicken".  Tasting notes: This was not good.  Even though I got there at opening, and it was "fresh", the noodles were way over cooked and soggy.  There wasn't much flavor to it either.  Meh.
  • Spring Roll: "Vegetarian wrapped in fresh rice paper with lettuce, mint and homemade peanut dipping sauce".  Tasting notes: Decent, fairly fresh tasting, good peanut sauce on top. [ Spring roll rice paper wrapper good, but overall not much flavor in the other ingredients.  Peanut sauce is a must. ]  [ Fairly generic spring roll, but great peanut sauce. ]
  • Crab Rangoon: Tasting notes: The wonton wrapper was fried up nice and crisp, and was quite tasty.  The inside seemed to be almost all cream cheese though, I wouldn't have known there was any crab in there.  Perhaps I got a dud?
  • Pumpkin Curry: "Kabocha pumpkin in red curry sauce, bell pepper and chicken".  Tasting notes: Fairly sweet curry sauce, decent flavor, mediocre chicken.  Seemed mostly white meat at least.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Christopher Michael Chocolates

Another, not quite local, chocolatier from the SF Chocolate Salon.
  • Raspberry truffle: "Fresh raspberry pate de fruit on top of a dark chocolate ganache that's blended with fresh raspberries."  Tasting notes: Smooth ganache, strange mouthfeel.
  • Sizzling Bacon Bar: "41% Venezuelan milk chocolate with smoked bacon, sea salt and popping candy".  Tasting notes: Salty, strong bacon flavor.

Socola Chocolatier

And another local chocolatier from the SF Chocolate Salon.  They source their ingredients locally, using Straus Family Cream and 72% E. Guittard chocolate.  They make two different styles of truffles, western and eastern.  I got to try some of each.
  • Western
    • PB & J: "The classic peanut butter and strawberry in one bite".  Tasting notes: Nice peanut butter, nice jam, quite successful.
  • Eastern
    • Sriracha: "Savory chili and roasted garlic in every bite.  The famous rooster sauce has the kick to make any rooster crow." Tasting notes: Nice heat!
    • Matcha Green Tea: "A must for any tea lover.  Let the truffle melt in your mouth and feel its milky texture juxtaposed with the dry sensation of powdered sugar on your tongue.".  Tasting notes: White chocolate with green tea.  Reminded me of mochi.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Udupi Palace

As you may recall, I've still yet to find an Indian restaurant in San Francisco that I really like.  But I love Indian food, so I keep on trying!  I continued my quest tonight down Valencia Street, to Udupi Palace.  I *think* they are related to much newer Gajalee, just a few blocks down, which served us some pretty decent Indian food on our last visit.

I had a handful of other reasons for picking Udupi tonight.  First, Indian food is always a good choice on Sunday nights, since fine dining really doesn't ever work on out Sundays, as most executive chefs have the (well deserved!) night off.  I also still have a sore throat, and any food that requires any real effort in swallowing is insanely unappealing.  Soft curry sounded like exactly what my throat ordered!  And finally, I had some GoPago credits burning a hole in my pocket, and Udupi was one of only a few well rated places on there.  Sunday night + sore throat + free = Udupi!

The restaurant was much busier than Aslam's Rosai, a very good sign.  By the time I left, there was a large line out the door.  Decor was simple, wooden tables and chairs.  Everything seemed clean.  Service was efficient.  Water glasses were kept refilled.

GoPago worked like a charm, although they only had the take out option on there, so I used it, but then put in the notes that I was eating there instead.  A little awkward and I wasn't convinced my order would show up at my table correctly, but it did.  They also did not have a section on GoPago listing the desserts, so I couldn't order dessert, and had to go elsewhere to get my rice pudding fix!

Overall, it was decent food, definitely better than most of the other places I've tried, but it still doesn't really leave me rushing to return.  There has to be somewhere good in this city for Indian food, and I'm determined to find it!
Paneer Makhani: Cottage cheese cubes in tomato and cream gravy, served with rice, chapati, pickle, raita and papad.  $10.95.
All curries come on a platter, with rice, chapati, pickle, raita, and papad.  I *love* this fact.  My favorite part about Indian food is mixing things together, particularly having some cooling raita to go with my curry.  And I love having bread to dip into the delicious sauces.  And rice.  Normally I'd have to order all of these components separately, and usually I just pick one of rice or bread, and usually skip the raita, so this was a very welcome presentation!

The rice was very fluffy, rather buttery.  I don't generally eat a lot of rice, but this was pretty good and I ate far more of it than I ever expected to.  It was also warm, clearly not having been plated too far in advance (which I find happens all the time with platters like this!)

The chapati was super poofy, with a nice hearty flavor from the whole wheat.  It was clearly fresh, but more oily than I cared for.  I did enjoy having something to dunk into my sauce though.

I really did not like the pickles.  They were sour with some very off putting spicing.  I'm not sure what it was, but I really, really did not like it.

The raita was really good.  Very refreshing, and complimented the rich sauce of my curry well.  It had cucumbers and onion in it, that were clearly fresh and still crispy, and hadn't been sitting around in the yogurt all day.  My favorite dish on the platter.

The paneer makhani came piping hot.  Almost too hot even.  I really appreciated that it was clearly delivered to me as soon as it was ready.  There was a generous amount of paneer in here, probably 10 cubes, each several bites each.  It wasn't particularly notable paneer though, somewhat rubbery.  The sauce was creamy, tomatoe-y, and decently spiced.  I wish it had a bit more oomph too it though.

The papad ... was missing.  I realized that it was not included almost immediately, but I didn't really want it since it would have likely just scratched my sore throat anyway, so I didn't say anything.

Overall, everything was pretty decent, and at $10.95 it was a really great value.  The other Indian restaurants we've been too lately have all been a few dollars more per entree, and were all served a la carte.  In particular, comparing to Aslam's Rosai, only a block down the street and a similar style of restaurant, the entrees were $13 there, rice an additional $3, and bread another $3, so this same platter would have been at least $19 there (not including raita, pickle, or papad).  And their entrees had far less paneer.  Udupi was much, much better, not only in value, but also in taste.