Archive for the ‘SF: Castro/Duboce Triangle’ Category

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Sushi Delight

June 19, 2007

The other night, Short Exact and a friend were on the escalator leaving Church Street station on the hunt for dinner, when our friend revealed that we would be eating at her new favorite sushi bar. At that point, Short Exact groaned both inwardly and outwardly, recalling a lackluster experience from the last time we went to her “new favorite sushi bar” (somewhere different at that time) — an opinion, it turned out, was formed exclusively on the basis of a few Yelp reviews, rather than any sort of personal experience. This time we were quick to make sure that a prior visit had occurred at some point.

When it was further revealed that the restaurant in question this time around was next door (and actually connected) to The Mint karaoke bar, and that it had the somewhat corny name Sushi Delight (rather than having a name which is, you know, Japanese or something) — well, suffice it to say that of all the emotions we were feeling at that moment, delight was nowhere on the list.

So imagine our surprise when we walked in to find a white board list of specials that included items such as uni (sea urchin) and ankimo (monkfish liver). Not that these items are particularly rare, but seeing as how this restaurant also has a long list of huge Americanized rolls with “crazy” ingredients, we were expecting lots of fusion, and not as much in the way of our favorite, more traditional items. It was, of course, necessary to try out a few of these specials:

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The hamachi belly (middle, in the above photo) was pretty good quality with a somewhat buttery texture, but it should have had a stronger flavor. The mound of sushi rice on which the fish slice rested was too large, and the rice itself was not very flavorful, and did little to support or complement the fish. An uninteresting sort of ponzu sauce largely overpowered the mild ankimo (on the right), but the liver did have a reasonably nice, creamy texture. The uni (on the left) also had a pretty good texture, but only brief wisps of uni’s characteristically briny flavor. Not a bad sample, though, and best of all, it was not the least bit bitter, which is the usual worry when ordering uni at an unfamiliar restaurant. So, while none of these special items were stunning, they were all of at least decent quality, and as we said earlier, finding them at all was a pleasant surprise.

We also tried the maguro sashimi,

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which, despite the attempt at a slightly creative presentation, was completely unremarkable; the fish was tasteless and was served too cold. For kicks, we sampled one item from the extensive roll menu,

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the “gari saba” roll, consisting of mackerel, ginger, and a little scallion. This was a pretty good roll, but the mackerel was unusually sweet, and the overall flavor of the roll turned out to be surprisingly mild, considerings its core ingredients, perhaps in part due to the outer layer of the rice, which was disproportionately thick. It wasn’t bad, but we probably wouldn’t order it again. (Readers should also note that this is one of the more conservative rolls on the menu. If you’re interested in the more complicated rolls with lots of ingredients, Sushi Delight has plenty of those you can try.)

Service here was fine, although the restaurant was not that full, so we’re not sure how the service holds up under pressure. Still, the number of patrons can be deceiving, because it looks like quite a few people from the karaoke bar next door also put in orders, even if they do not sit in the actual restaurant. The karaoke bar The Mint, which is connected to the restaurant by a door, is a little noisy, but not horribly so; the soundproofing still makes it easy to have a conversation. The restaurant’s late hours are definitely a plus.

Sushi Delight is in a location such that the exact classification of the neighborhood largely depends on who you ask. Upper Market for sure, but is it Hayes Valley? Essentially, but not especially close to the heart of that neighborhood. Duboce Triangle? Close, but it seems just outside of the traditional boundaries of the Triangle. We’ve filed this post in those two neighborhoods, figuring that this restaurant might be of interest to people in both locales. Whatever you call the neighborhood, Sushi Delight is a decent neighborhood joint. For us, it would be a stretch to call it delightful, but it’s a good choice if you’re in the area with a hankering for sushi.

RATING:

COST:

1946 Market Street (between Buchanan St. and Laguna St.)
San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: 415.621.3622
Hours: Sun-Thurs, 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm; Fri-Sat, 5:00 pm – 12:30 am.

Credit cards accepted. Takeout available.

Cuisine: Japanese
Neighborhood: Hayes Valley/Civic Center, Castro/Duboce Triangle

How to get there: Within a few blocks are Muni lines 6, 7, 22, 37, 71, F, J, N. Church Station (lines K, L, M, T) is a short walk away.

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La Castro Taqueria

April 2, 2007

Once upon a time, Short Exact attempted to keep track of Bay Area taquerias just by personal experimentation, and while that led to the consumption of some great tacos and burritos, it also led to the consumption of some rather poor ones, as well. Thankfully, one day, a website was brought to our attention that, once and for all, obliterated the need to consume any inferior burritos ever again. That website is none other than the glorious compilation of the Burritoeater. The Burritoeater uses a numeric rating scale that is an ever so appropriate blend of science and pure taste. We won’t go into any details here, as you can read all it on the site, but we will say that it was a surprise in the Burritoeater’s recommended taqueria list that led to this review you’re reading now.

It was not surprising to see that the mythical Papalote, one of our favorite taquerias in town (though not reviewed here on Short Exact yet), maintained the hefty rating of 8.71 even after being scrutinized on eleven separate occasions by the Burritoeater. What was surprising, however, was that it was not in first place! In an unexpected twist, that honor was given to La Castro Taqueria, once a member of the El Castillito chain. True, the score difference between Papalote and La Castro Taqueria was only 0.01, and the Burritoeater has only visited La Castro Taqueria four times to Papalote’s eleven, thus indicating that Papalote’s rating is the more trustworthy of the two. Still, this upset was enough to convince us that a trip to La Castro Taqueria was definitely in order.

La Castro Taqueria is a pleasant little place. Although the lighting is a bit dark, the seating area is laid out in a more inviting way than what one often finds at similar establishments. A note, though: if you’re squeamish about bathrooms, you may want to use one before coming here, as the bathroom is rather squishy and has a leaky toilet — watch out when you flush! It’s probably best to just leave it at that, but the big question here is: did the food deliver?

The Burritoeater’s very complimentary reviews of the burritos here led us to have quite high expectations going in, and while our burrito was quite good, it did not not live up to our expectations. We ordered the super al pastor:

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As a general rule, one of the most common frustrations we experience with burritos is segregation of the ingredients. If we get five bites of rice, followed by three bites of vegetable, and then four bites of beans, then something is definitely wrong. Thankfully, La Castro Taqueria excelled on this point, as the ingredients were thoroughly integrated, and each each bite we took contained all or a majority of the ingredients used, including the pork, rice, refried beans, fresh chunks of avocado, and pico de gallo. Our primary complaint with the interior of the burrito was the uniform mushiness. Of course, getting refried beans instead of black beans certainly contributes to this, but even so, this was mushier than your average refried bean burrito. Ideally, we would like to pick out the different textures contributed by each of the ingredients. Unfortunately, the textural diversity was missing, as all textures were replaced by mush. The meat was decent, but not extremely flavorful, and while the pico de gallo was solid, it did not furnish quite the level of bite and kick we were hoping it would.

This burrito had some great points though. Fresh avocado chunks scattered throughout added an extra dimension to this burrito, as did the uniformly melted cheese. As you can see in the picture, the tortilla was thoroughly grilled, giving it a flaky texture. In addition, the interior ingredients were quite juicy, and it’s worth noting that despite the juiciness, eating the burrito was not the least bit messy, even though we cut it in half first to take a picture. It held together very well: good, solid construction here.

At any rate, a hearty thanks to the Burritoeater for alerting us to a very promising taqueria that was not on our radar screen. We have only visited La Castro Taqueria once, so it’s best to take this review as just our initial impressions. The Burritoeater’s reviews suggest that this taqueria is capable of some fairly substantial burrito magic, and although we were quite satisfied with our meal, we don’t think we quite experienced that magic yet. You can be sure we’ll be returning to try again, though.

RATING:

COST:

4001 18th Street (at Noe St.)
San Francisco, CA 94114
Phone: 415.621.6940
Hours: Daily, 11:00 am – 9:45 pm.

Cuisine: Mexican
Neighborhood: Castro/Duboce Triangle

How to get there: Easy access via Muni lines 24, 33, 35, 37, F, K, L, M, and T. The restaurant is two blocks from the Castro Muni Station and one mile from the 16 Street Mission BART station.