As the food editor for 7x7, I eat and drink too much to not share all my discoveries with you. Every Thursday, come here to read about the best things I've consumed this week.
I finally got to the relatively new Taste Tea on Octavia Street in Hayes Valley—a charcoal-grey box of modern serenity opened by Rebecca Cheung and Vincent Fung. The husband-and-wife team have clearly poured their hearts into this. Not only can you get tea served in the traditional fashion, but they have little pork buns and sweet treats made for them by a traditional Chinese baker. The wheat bun with a swirl of red bean paste is a soft, comforting little bite. It's perfect paired with a cup of Iron Goddess oolong. For those of you used to a wincingly strong Four Barrel coffee and a sugary Dynamo donut, this is going to feel like getting a spa treatment.
Since moving to the cusp of Noe Valley and the Castro, I've made Contigo one of my go-to's for an easy dinner. Last week I popped in (again) to sit at the wine bar and had one of the best meals I've had this year. I think Contigo is a sleeper. The little bowl of chanterelles and fresh shucked corn was delicious, but the highlight was the calamari a la plancha with black rice, chorizo, allioli, and a little chili oil. I cannot express my love for this dish because I'd have to use my arms to show you how big it is.
Meanwhile, the following week I discovered another serious contender in the cephalopod category is to be found right now at Coco500 in SoMa. The calamari is grilled and served with hot peppers and orange zest, all over soft polenta.
Last night I was reminded how critical good service is—that it trumps everything, from food to design. Sitting at the bar at one of the most buzzy restaurants in town, my husband and I told the bartender we were going to order dinner. He smiled and said, "Great!" Then—while he returned to making a fancy drink for the customer next to us—we waited. Finally, I asked the bar back if we could see a menu. Menus in hand, orders ready, we waited some more. About 20 minutes into it, our drinks polished and no more attention from our bartender, we asked for the bill and headed to dinner at Absinthe in Hayes Valley instead.
At Absinthe, which was packed and full of life, we swooped on a couple of bar seats. An efficient dinner order was taken by a multitasking bartender, and we enjoyed a nicely executed dinner of oysters, great steak frites, braised lamb, and good wine. I don't care that Absinthe still has a sparkly pillar that looks like it belongs in Saturday Night Fever or that it's not in the pages of the latest food magazines. We left full and happy which means we will return. And that—not a menu made of organic ingredients—is truly what makes a sustainable restaurant.