Tuesday, June 07, 2005

the window restaurant

i finally made it over to the newly reopened (in it's old space, plus the adjacent shop formerly known as friend's cafe) "the window" restaurant. years ago, before they shut down and i moved away to the badlands of mexico, i used to frequent this tasteful little space for some very decent lunch specials. when i returned to san francisco i was saddened to see that it was gone and wondered what the heck happened. soooo i was pretty excited to see the signs on the old shop front announcing the return of the window (although somehow i remember it being called windows, maybe that's just my creaky-old-age-addled-memory, though). joined by my lunch-special seeking friend "the clown" (not a derogatory term for in fact he is a professional clown and can twist a pretty mean balloon sculpture to boot) we readied ourselves for a walk down culinary memory lane. many a leisurely afternoon has been spent lingering over rice plates and hot tea here.

it's still a very warm, relaxing and light filled space. two pots of towering bamboo flank a small gold buddha that greets you as you walk in the front door. the walls are covered with warm colors and the furniture has a shiny dark wood look. i am of that camp that thinks particle board looks "ok", so i'm no judge of authenticity. it has the same look and feel as the old "window" except that it's bigger.

at 1:15 pm on a tuesday afternoon most of the smaller section (the original space) was filled with diners, both solo and in small group of two or three. it looked like most people were ordering from the lunch menu.

a pot of hot tea was served as soon as we were seated. i always like it when i get a whole pot of tea, especially when it's one of those sunny but freezing-cold and windy san francisco afternoons. we each ordered rice plates: the mixed vegetable tofu in curry coconut sauce and the mixed vegetable with black mushroom (5.95 each). to start we were served cups of soup (vegetarian, the server informed me as i suspiciously sniffed at it like a truffle hunting hog) which seemed to be some sort of corn egg-drop concoction. i found the soup to be bland and overly thickened with cornstarch. while not horribly offensive it had nothing to recommend it.

my rice plate, the mixed vegetables with black mushrooms was a mixture of baby corn, bean sprouts, baby bok choy, celery, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, carrots, black mushrooms, straw mushrooms, fried tofu and sugar peas. cooked tender crisp in a light sauce that struck just the right note, supporting the vegetables without standing out. it was neither soupy nor gelatinous nor greasy. when i saw how plain (yes, code word for bland) it looked i immediately requested an arsenal of flavoring backups (hot sauce, soy sauce, salt, pepper, pumpkin pie spice) just in case. as it turned out nothing but the hot sauce (i like things spicy) was needed. yet another example of looks misleading, although most of my experience has been with beautifully presented food tasting so-so.

my friend the clown ordered the mixed vegetable tofu in curry coconut sauce. this was also very good. the sauce was rich and velvety with a strong curry body that, while not spicy, did leave a little warmth on the tongue afterward. the curry tasted a bit like japanese curry or the burmese curry dish called poodhi. having been raised on japanese curry rice (or cully lice, as some call it) i found it extremely comforting. fried tofu, broccoli, carrots and what seemed to be bits of (fried!) potato bobbed in the sauce. there might have been other vegetables in the pot but i only tasted a small amount. you don't want to anger a clown by hogging all his food. if you do, the red nose and big shoes come off and you're in big trouble.

after finishing every last grain of rice on our plates and complaining about how full we were, we requested a second pot of tea and ordered desert. fried bananas with coconut ice cream. pieces of banana wrapped in wonton wrappers and deep fried until the banana is creamy-smooth and the wrapper crispy light. i don't know how they do it but despite the deep frying, these little artery stopping babies were neither greasy nor soggy. the wrapper was light and crispy, the banana creamy-dreamy. drizzled over the top was, uh, i'm sure of it, aunt jemimah's imitation maple-flavored pancake syrup, in other words, high fructose corn syrup with artificial flavorings and colorings. luckily there was very little of it and easily pushed off to the side and pointedly ignored. there was a selection of a few different flavors of ice cream to choose from: coconut, green tea, and hmmm maybe ginger? our choice, the coconut, had a deep mature coconut flavor (macapuno, they call it at mitchell's) and it had an airy texture, almost whipped (which i really like) with a few bits of dried unsweetened coconut laced throughout. this mound of coconut heaven was crowned with thorns. pure horror. an unsightly blob of reddi-whip and a canned maraschino cherry that trailed a distressing bloodstain of artifically colored high fructose corn syrup in its wake. again, easily shunted aside but an inexplicable choice. moral of the story: never over-accessorize. especially with cheap costume jewelry. unless you're a gum-smacking truck stop waitress named flo.

with twenty nine different rice plates, four noodle dishes and three fried rice dishes on the lunch special menu at 5.95 a pop i'll definitely go back to the window for many a leisurely lunch. hold the maraschino cherry.

window "southeast asia cuisine"
211 valenica street, san francisco
415 626 7750

UPDATEd (1/06): i've been to this place for lunch at least a dozen times and it is consistently very good...have yet to experience a mis-step in food or service. still highly recommended.


Blogger Unknown said...

Hi, what was the Restaurant furniture like?

8:09 AM  

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