Archive for the ‘SF: Parkside/West Portal’ Category

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El Burrito Express on Taraval (Ed Jew Edition!)

June 21, 2007

These days, Short Exact can’t get enough of the scandal surrounding Ed Jew, the recently-elected supervisor for San Francisco’s 4th district. This district consists of the Outer Sunset and Parkside neighborhoods, so it’s all the more surprising that this usually quiet, mild-mannered section of the city has been taking the forefront in terms of local politics. If you haven’t been following along, it’s not too late to get started. Local news blog SFist has done a ridiculously thorough coverage of this story, in their series “Oh No, Ed Jew!”, which typically receives a few updates each day.

Ed Jew claims to live in this bungalow on 28th Avenue, just south of Taraval,

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but neighbors who have been parking in his driveway because it’s always empty are pretty sure that isn’t the case. And of course, it makes perfect sense that very little water is being used in this house, since Ed Jew showers at his Chinatown flower shop!

Even sketchier are the shady business dealings between Ed Jew and Quickly,

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a chain of tapioca milk tea shops that generally serve milk tea which is decidedly mediocre, at best, or in the worst case, essentially inedible. In this case of “Bobagate”, SFist-dubbed “Tapioca Ed” required $40,000 in exchange for help solving a problem relating to permits. Now, Quickly is a huge chain of stores, and their tea is often rather poor. Not only that, but their insistence on distinguishing between “large tapioca” (i.e. standard issue tapioca pearls) and “small tapioca” (a horrible perversion of the first order) is completely misguided. Under no circumstances should we have to utter the words “large tapioca” just to get tapioca pearls. Anyway, sorry for the digression; we do not feel especially sorry for Quickly, but, to say the least, Ed Jew probably could’ve handled this more gracefully. Just to be clear, the above picture is of the Quickly store on Taraval Street, which Ed Jew — “living” as he does on 28th Avenue right off Taraval — no doubt visits quite frequently. However, the specific store exploited by “Tapioca Ed” is actually on Irving.

Given the preponderance of evidence against him, it seems pretty clear that Ed Jew’s house on 28th Avenue has been completely unoccupied, and that the supervisor of District Four has been living with his family in Burlingame — a completely different city, and nowhere near District Four. Anyway, you’ve probably been wondering why we’re talking about Ed Jew instead of a restaurant. To be honest, we really just wanted an excuse to check out this mysterious 28th Avenue house, and also to make fun of Quickly (an activity we like to indulge in semi-frequently). A blog post seemed like just the ticket. Still, this post would be incomplete without mentioning a restaurant in “Ed Jew’s neighborhood,” the Parkside district.

Had Ed Jew actually spent any time at “his” 28th Avenue house, he would have certainly run across El Burrito Express,

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a charming little taqueria at 26th and Taraval. This restaurant is mostly a take-out operation, since it only has a few cramped counter seats. There is often a line here, as it is a popular choice for residents in this not particularly burrito-laden neighborhood. The menu is a little cumbersome in terms of the terminology (regular burrito, super burrito, bronco burrito, super bronco burrito, and “expresso burrito” — to say nothing of tacos and the specials), but it all comes down to choosing the combination of ingredients you want. Rather than describe all the details, we figured it’d be easier to just provide a photo of the menu,

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and, as usual, you can click the photo for a larger, more readable version. On this Ed Jew-instigated visit to El Burrito Express, we ordered the grilled steak bronco burrito,

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which included the grilled steak, tomato, cheese, onion, avocado, and pinto beans; the regular bronco burritos do not include rice — making them somewhat more reasonably sized than the monster super burritos, and a good deal at $3.85 for a bronco burrito with meat. The beans and vegetables here were good (with several chunks of fresh avocado), and the steak was quite flavorful, but there was an abundance of excessively chewy pieces. We would have appreciated more uniformly and thoroughly melted cheese, but at least the tortilla was nice and flaky-grilled. The biggest strike was that in spite of our request for heat, this burrito almost completely lacked all spice and heat. All in all, this burrito was certainly not bad, but it lacked punch and a unification of flavors. In an excellent burrito, the combined effect of the interior ingredients is greater than the sum of its parts, but that was just not the case here. Still, you could do worse, and El Burrito Express is a decent choice for the neighborhood. If you come here with high hopes to find Ed Jew, though — well, let’s just say you may want to catch the next train to Burlingame instead.

RATING:

COST:

1601 Taraval Street (at 26th Ave.)
San Francisco, CA 94116
Phone: 415.566.8300
Hours: Mon-Sat, 11:00 am – 9:00 pm. Closed Sundays.

Credit cards accepted. Takeout available.

Cuisine: Mexican
Neighborhood: Parkside/West Portal

How to get there: Muni lines 66 and L.

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Taraval Okazu Ya

January 5, 2006

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Taraval Okazu Ya has the curious property that the interior of the restaurant is noticeably more bustling than the city street it is located on (the streetcar running directly in front of the restaurant notwithstanding). The people making sushi — who, for reasons which will be explained later, cannot really be dignified by being called sushi chefs, but who we will instead refer to as the People Behind The Counter (PBTC) — ring loudly-resonating bells an average of roughly 8 times a minute, to alert the servers to the fact that a platter of sushi that they have just made is ready to be delivered to a table. The servers — who, unlike the PBTC, are mobile, and hence cannot carry bells — make up for this lack by simply yelling at the PBTC and at each other to determine what needs to be done. The narrow corridor behind the sushi bar has traffic jams that effectively mimic those found on nearby 19th Avenue, and the northern corner of the sushi bar (where Short Exact happened to be sitting for this meal) was a hub of activity: servers’ paths crisscrossed densely, and sushi orders/old receipts piled high atop (and smothering) the cash register — though this structure was torn down every so often so that a bill could be calculated. Definitely do not come to Okazu Ya expecting peaceful repose: this is not a tranquil, idyllic garden in Kyoto; it has all the hustle and bustle of a street in Tokyo. (FYI: I’ve never been to either Kyoto or Tokyo.)

Please don’t think that because of my Kyoto/Tokyo analogies that this is an authentic Japanese restaurant: it is anything but. As you’ve probably figured out from other comments we’ve made, Short Exact very much favors classic, traditional Japanese food, especially with respect to sushi: fresh, subtle nigiri and sashimi, rather than Americanized rolls. You know the ones we’re talking about: these huge, overstuffed, Americanized monsters are bursting at the seam, often filled with cooked items such as tempura (and — God forbid — things like beef and chicken!), mayonnaise, mustard, nuts, lettuce, asparagus, and all sorts of other items that don’t belong in sushi. And they’re so large, it practically takes 15 bites just to eat one roll. These supermaki and megalomaki are all the rage these days, and one can find extensive lists of them at all the “trendy” and “hip” sushi bars — usually sporting locally-resonating names like “49er Roll” and “Castro Rainbow Roll.” We generally don’t hold with this sort of stuff, and unfortunately, Taraval Okazu Ya has made this brand of sushi their raison d’etre.

Even more unfortunately, they’ve done so at the expense of the freshness and presentation of the food. The nigiri fish is average: not unsafe at all (you won’t get food poisoning), but it’s not mind-blowingly fresh either: lukewarm, and almost stale-tasting. Moreover, the PBTC don’t display an extensive knowledge of architecural principles. Some rolls

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are hastily thrown together, and nigiri pieces

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are essentially slabs of fish jammed onto rice — with no attention paid to the crucial symbiosis that exists between the cut of fish and the rice lying underneath it. An excellent sushi chef understands this symbiosis and will craft each piece in a way that highlights the taste and texture of the fish and the rice, to the benefit of both. Okazu’s PBTC don’t work at this level, though; nor do they even seem to be interested in doing so. Instead, they’ve made it their mission to dish out large platters of Americanized rolls. It’s possible you may be a fan of these large, multi-ingredient rolls. If you are, you will probably enjoy Okazu Ya, and anyone can appreciate their price, since they are reasonably priced, and their portions are generously sized. And, in all fairness to Okazu Ya, most Japanese restaurants in the Bay Area do not achieve the level of perfection that we’ve described above, though it’s always a sensational pleasure to find one that actually does. Many places don’t even try to, preferring instead to provide a more Westernized fushion approach — and that’s fine: it certainly adds to our diversity of restaurant choices. In fact, if you are a fan of supermaki, we would probably even suggest that you try out Okazu, as they do have a good selection of these sorts of rolls, and the quality of fish they use is adequate for rolls, which have enough other ingredients that the exact texture and taste of the fish is hidden amongst other flavors. If you share our tastes, though, you probably won’t be so happy here, and in that case it’s better to just skip over this restaurant.

RATING:

COST:

1735 Taraval St. (between 27th Ave. and 28th Ave.)
San Francisco, CA 94116
Phone: 415.759.6850
Hours: Mon 12:00 noon – 10:00 pm, Wed-Sat 12:00 noon – 10:00 pm, Sun 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm. Closed Tuesday.

Cuisine: Japanese
Neighborhood: Parkside/West Portal

How to get there: Taraval Okazu Ya is accessible via Muni’s 66 and L lines.