The 10 Best Dishes Under $10 in Russian Hill
Last fall, we published the 10 Best Lunches Under $10 in Union Square. It was so popular, we decided to do it with every neighborhood. Rather than attack this subject as outsiders, we're approaching "hyperlocal" dwellers from each 'hood to give us their picks — in this case longtime Russian Hill resident, cookbook author and Epicurious contributor Amy Sherman. You may know her as the blogger at Cooking with Amy; follow her on Twitter at @cookingwithamy
1. Truffled deviled eggs at La Folie Lounge
The luscious specimens from Triple T Ranch topped with bursting beads of trout roe are just the thing to nibble on while pondering the logic behind serving only three. Not to worry, at this price you can order another round. The super creamy eggs are a perfectly elegant fit for this luxe spot known for all things truffled (there's also truffled popcorn and mac and cheese). The eggs come accompanied with a selection of olives and cornichon and pair particularly well with Champagne or a sparkling wine cocktail. $5 2310 Polk St., 415-776-5577.
2. Grilled squid with aioli at Zarzuela
The corner of Hyde and Union is a bus stop, a cable car stop and a destination for good eats. Anchoring the intersection is Zarzuela, a lively Spanish restaurant where you can easily make a meal out of a selection of hot and cold tapas, the majority under $10 a piece. The must-order is the tenderest smoky squid, served with just a smear of aioli and fresh wedge of lemon. $7.95 10 29th St., 415-970-2428.
3. Mini ice cream sundae at Swensen's
Catty corner from Zarzuela is the original Swenson's shop. You can get a scoop but a sundae is better and all three sizes are reasonably priced. Start with whichever ice cream strikes your fancy. I'm partial to the sophisticated toasted almond, fresh banana or exotic lychee, but sticky chewy chocolate is another popular pick. While other choices are available, you'd be a fool not to choose the hot fudge and go for broke with plenty of whipped cream, chopped nuts and a cherry on top. There's no seating inside so take your sundae for a spin around the neighborhood. $3.75 1999 Hyde St., 415-775-6818.
4. Grilled Japanese eggplant sushi from Sushi Groove
Sure, you go to a sushi bar for fish, but don't miss the silky slabs of eggplant cut on the diagonal doused in garlic, wine and soy sauce. Served nigiri style, an order comes with two pieces, but better order extra, you might not want to share. And be sure to book ahead, this tiny spot fills up pronto. $4.25 1916 St., 415- 440-1905.
5. Orange and sweet ricotta fritters with wild honey at Luella
Like little pillows, these crunchy-on-the-outside soft-on-the-inside puffs are the creation of chef and owner Ben DeVries (a man who truly excels at all things fried). The floral and citrus notes help to cut the richness of the cheese. Best of all, a portion of them is more than enough for two to share. $8 1896 Hyde St., 415-252-9560.
6. Banh xeo at Aux Delices Vietnamese
The Vietnamese crepe is as messy to eat as it is delicious. An enormous crackly crisp pancake made from rice flour comes to the table folded in half and stuffed with shrimp, pork, bean sprouts, and sauteed onions. Served with a knife, you cut it up and eat it wrapped in a lettuce leaf with your choice of condiments--picked vegetables, fresh cilantro and mint--then dip it in fish sauce or spice it up with chile paste. Not only is it a great appetizer but it also makes a very filling entree. $10 2327 Polk St., 415-928-4977.
7. Aushak from Helmand Palace
While all dumplings hold a special place in my heart, I dream about these. They come filled with an herbal mix of almost squeaky fresh leeks and scallions topped with two sauces, one with yogurt and the other a tomatoey beef ragu with mint. The gossamer ravioli are available as an appetizer or as a more expensive entree. A vegetarian option is available as well. $6.95 2424 Van Ness., 415-345-0072.
8. Crispy rice salad at Lemongrass
Thai salads are often bright and tangy, but you won't find this salad at most Thai restaurants. Topping a bed of iceberg lettuce is a mix of toasted peanuts, cilantro, scallions, red onions and simultaneously crispy and chewy chunks of rice cakes that absorb a lively lime and ginger dressing. The contrast of juicy lettuce, pungent herbs and onions, and crunchy nuts and rice cake is a dazzling wake up call for your tongue. $7.95 2348 Polk St., 415-929-1183
9. Lemon rice pudding Loving Cup
A shop just for frozen yogurt and rice pudding? Yes. Though flavors change frequently, the lemon vanilla rice pudding strikes just the right balance of rich, creamy and refreshingly tangy. You may want to grab a lid though, I've yet to finish a whole serving in one sitting. $3.75 2356 Polk St., 415-440-6900.
10. Pescado tacos at Nick's Crispy Tacos
As good as ever, though a bit more expense than it used to be, is the Baja-style fish taco. Crunchy beer batter fried fish, cabbage slaw, and onions are tucked into a taco so juicy with salsa and lime mayo that it needs two tortillas to contain it. Throw in a $3 happy hour margarita and the combo is a reasonable weeknight indulgence. $4.50 1500 Broadway., 415-285-6328.