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Sometimes You Feel Like a 'Nut


Photograph courtesy of Scott Peterson

People continually ask me what my favorite restaurant in the city is, and I’m always at a loss to answer. I have favorite diners, favorite pizza joints, favorite five-stars, favorite neighborhood spots, favorite classics, favorite newcomers, and finally, the most important and difficult category: favorite places to take visiting out-of-towners.

The rotating list changes with my mood. Overall though, there is one restaurant that covers nearly all the bases—it’s affordable and casual, yet the food is stellar, cooked by one of the city’s finest chefs, and truly reflective of the pan-Asian influence that distinguishes SF cuisine from other great food capitals. It’s authentic, delicious and yet accessible—my personal favorite combination. You could take your Midwestern mom here, but you could also go with local hipster friends, and everyone would be equally happy and impressed. I’m talking, of course, about Betelnut. Whether you order the firecracker shrimp with sambal dip, the wok-seared galanga beef with crispy yams, the pork short ribs glazed with Thai basil and garlic, the Szechuan green beans, the chili-crusted calamari or my favorite—the thin, seared salmon filets scattered with Serrano chilies and daikon sprouts—you and your entourage are practically guaranteed to walk away from Betelnut feeling deeply satisfied: in your gut, in your heart and in your wallet. Maybe I do have a favorite SF restaurant after all.