Thursday, August 18, 2005

mi lindo yucatan

on valencia street, wedged between one of my favorite murals in the city (on the north side of the building) and the skanky-looking residential hotel royan on it's right, lies mi lindo yucatan. the inside is spare, colorful, homey and casual with some of the friendliest waitstaff around who will be more happy to converse with you in your stammering, infantile, badly accented spanish.

you won't find the usual mexican food menu items here. as you might have guessed from their name, mi lindo yucatan specialize in yucatecan food. this seems to translate into english as pork. you won't find no stinkin' enchiladas here, nor burritos, nor nachos - if that's what you're hankering for, go to los jarritos. or maybe chevy's.

we've been coming here for the last year or so, since we returned to san franciso after a stint living in mexico, and the food is pretty consistently good. aside from some deep-fried appetizers there is only one vegetarian option, but it is darn tasty and i never tire of it.

this is the poc chuc. it is grilled pork in a black bean puree served with an assortment of garnishes and homemade tortillas. the pork is reported to be succulent and tender. in fact our diner reported that it was a shame to put such good pork in such a heavy sauce. this dish is served with an assortment of garnishes (radishes, pickled onion, lime wedges, diced tomato) and thick homemade tortillas. this is the carnivor's second favorite dish on the menu.

for the humble eater of twigs and bark, mi lindo yucatan offers the plato vegetariano. in the past the vegetables were served brochette style (on skewers), they have since gotten a little more artful in their presentation. this may just look like a pile of vegetables and egg and rice and, hey, i guess it is, but it tastes really good. the vegetables are roasted and have a deep smoky flavor. served over a bed of saffron rice with a couple of hardboiled eggs on the side (if you eat 'em), it makes a satisfying meal for the mouth, the belly and the eyes.

my carnivore always gets the same thing, the conchinita pibil. roasted pork in a banana leaf served in a red achiote sauce. this is served with a garnish of pickled onion and more of those delicious homemade tortillas. the pork is reputed to be out of this world - tender and juicy and succulent, and if my ears didn't deceive me, i think i might have heard it squeal with each bite. the sauce is slightly smoky with the pickled onion adding a nice tart touch.

lastly, we ordered the carne asada. served with seasoned rice, a green salad and a side of black beans this was probably the biggest entree of the night. i cannot report on the quality of the steak but every last shred was eaten by the end of the evening.

the tab came to about 15 bucks a piece for one entree and one drink each, which is a pretty good deal for the quality and quantity of food. don't come here if you're looking for a limon or delfina experience. do come if you want a little po chuc at a good price in a no-nonsense little restaurant wedged between my favorite mural and a residential hotel.

for reviews:
yelp reviews
citysearch reviews

mi lindo yucatan
401 valencia street
san francisco, 415 861 4935

UPDATED (1/06): on recent visits during the winter of 2005 i am saddened to say that it seems that mi lindo yucatan on valencia street may be on an downward trend. although the dishes were not terrible and some were still excellent the overall sparkle and quality has dropped.

Friday, August 05, 2005

yum yum house, lunch special

the other day i met up with my friend the clown for some lunchtime chow. feeling lazy and a little broke, i opted for a near-by cheapie chinese joint called YumYum House. for years i'd avoided the place like the plague for two reasons, the first of which is their name (come on, "yum yum", you gotta be kidding me!), the second of which is their neon sign out front. now don't get me wrong. i like neon. in fact, i love neon. i love las vegas, i love the 500 club's martini sign, i love christmas time just for all the strings of christmas lights and tacky flashing santa and reindeers parked on balcony's across the city. drinks, holidays, strip joints, dens of gambling, all of these go so well with eye searing flashing lights, but not food. no way. food and neon do not mix. so it took me years and more than just a little cajoling from some friends to try the place out. and y'know what, it's not too bad. unlike my friends, who rave about the place, in my humble opinion, it, to quote my moms, is "pretty good".

between 11 am and 3 pm you can score a lunch special for about five bucks. this comes with a bowl of soup (always vegetarian) and an egg roll. on the day of my visit the soup was hot and sour. it was good. not overly gelatinous and nice and spicy.

my clown-y buddy had a prawn and vegetables dish, whose name i can't recall ($4.95). lots of prawns in a flavorful but not spicy sauce, served with a plop of white rice and an indifferent eggroll bathed in a neon sticky sweet sauce. he claimed that he really liked his dish but kept repeating that he would be coming back again and getting what i ordered. i had a childhood flashback of having to bolt down my food as quickly as possible before my brother could finish his dinner and start poaching off my plate. needless to say i had indigestion for dessert.

my other, more carnivorous, dining companion selected the mandarin spicy eggplant with chicken and prawns ($4.95). i don't eat chicken or prawns so i have no idea what this tasted like, but the sauce appeared to be the same as the one on both mine and my clown-y pal's plate. good chicken and prawn to vegetables ratio, also served with an eggroll. for some reason his eggroll was kinda sogga, unlike ours which were very crispy. he also claimed to like his dish but kept stabbing his fork into mine witha distressing freddy kreuger like frequency.

what delicious morsel was on my plate, you might wonder. gold nuggets? banana cream pie? raisinettes? no, nothing more than my humble friend mr. beancurd, known to his pals as to fu. on this day he was wearing his best deepfried crispy coated suit-jacket with the peanut lapels, also known as kung pao vegetable and bean cakes (4.50). boy was this good. the tofu was nice and deepfried without being too greasy, lots of vegetables (zucchini, mushrooms, red bell peppers) cooked to al dente perfection. although the dish touted itself as spicy it wasn't, which annoyed me. all of our dishes were supposed to be spicy but none of us, with the exception of the clown, come to think of it, broke out even a tiny little bead of sweat. maybe it was the red nose, wig and white face paint (you know that stuff just does not breathe!) that got his temperature up. with a small addition of hot sauce i got my dish up to a happy level of heat.

and the verdict: for five bucks you can't go wrong. although i wouldn't come across town to eat here, i wouldn't hesitate to recommend it as a place to grab an uber-cheap and tasty and filling lunch, or for dinner or takeout if you live in the neighborhood. it doesn't commit the number one most frequently committed crime of chinese eateries, that of being too greasy. or greazzie, as they say in texas.

and for dessert, if you have a little room left in your red rubber nose, as did my pal el-clown-0, scoot on over to bombay bazaar and ice creamery for some unique flavors (rose, chai, saffron, etc.). pictured here is the mango ($2.25, single). it was very, very rich, almost buttery tasting (but then again i very rarely eat dairy), but the mango flavor was ka-pow!, or should i say "yum yum" mango-delicious-intense. they give out little tastes if you want to try first.

bombay bazaar and ice creamery
552 valencia street
san francisco
415 861 3995
for reviews, go here and here

yum yum house
581 valencia street
san francisco
415 861 8698
lunch specials from 11am to 3pm
for reviews, go here and here.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

mangetsu (formerly koi sushi) brentwood

mangetsu, formerly koi sushi is tucked away into a newish strip mall on sand creek road in brentwood. the east bay brentwood of gigantic, anonymous housing developments that erupt from the parched earth like zits on a burger-eating, milkshake-gulping, playstation-fiddling teenager.

so koi, i mean mangetsu (which means full moon), is a reasonably pleasant space, much what you might expect from a strip mall. functional, clean, basic. the service is very friendly and well-meaning if not particularly well-polished, but then again they only recently opened and it isn't really that sort of a place anyway.

we wandered in around 1:30 on a monday afternoon. there were a few tables of diners and one fellow at the sushi bar. my moms ordered the sushi don ($7.50), which is basically sushi rice with slabs of sashimi on top.

although the menu specified that only one type of fish could be ordered (both in japanese and english), our server assured us that we could choose more than one. moms chose the hamachi and maguro. with both meals a very nice little green salad of iceberg lettuce and very thinly grated daikon and carrot bathed in a creamy miso dressing was served, followed by a mild bowl of miso soup. the verdict on the fish? "pretty good", which is what she always says, except for when she says "not so good". who knows? it looked good. the portion was about right, not too big, not too small.

because it was probably about 100 degrees that day i didn't order my usual udon or soba, but instead chose the yasai (vegetable) sushi lunch ($8.65), and was plenty glad i did. usually the veggie sushi combos are just so-so with the usual seaweed wrapped suspects blandly lurking on a plate. but just look at this.

what a feast for the eyes! seatbelted onto their little pats of seasoned rice were: pickled carrot, sweet pickled radish, creamy avocado, cool refreshing cucumber slices and a highly seasoned sweet kanpyo.

and the maki was something i've never seen before: thinly sliced strings of daikon and carrot (unseasoned) with spicy radish sprouts and the seaweed on the inside. it was, to be truthful, a little bland with just a hint of spicyness from the sprouts, but i give the chef full points for creativity. it perked up quite a bit once i drizzled a little of the lemon into the center. i assumed that was what it was for...

dinners prices range from $9.25 for a saba shioyaki, to $16.25 for a 2 item combination, to $19.50 for the sushi or sashimi combination dinner. lunches run from $7.65 to $13.00.

the verdict? "better than miraku" moms says.

50 sand creek road
brentwood, ca 94513
925 513 2268
mon - fri 11:00 - 2:30
mon - thurs 5:00 - 9:30
fri-sat 5:00 - 10:00
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