Ask any chef in town—a meatball is an easy sell. At Pizzeria Delfina, the Italian polpette are second only to the restaurant's namesake pizza. Further North at Chotto, a server says the juicy Japanese tsukune are a "must-try." On that note, almost every culture has a meatball, and San Francisco has representatives from more than several camps. Here, a bit of a cultural lesson by way of hand-rolled meat: from fiery Mexican albondigas to pomegranate-speckled Iranian kufteh tabrizi.
Although Bay Area Japanese noodle connoisseurs have long insisted you need to go to the South Bay for great ramen, the popular comfort food is beginning to develop a legion of followers here in San Francisco. Identified by a rich broth—milky with emulsified fat—and long, springy alkaline noodles, there are textbook bowls of ramen to be found from the Marina to the Outer Sunset. Here's where to go when the craving hits.
Remember those pickles from Vlasic with the smiling stork on the front? Well you can forget about them. Pickles may be everywhere in San Francisco right now, but they're way outside the bread-and-butter box. Think pickled baby green tomatoes, turmeric-pickled cauliflower, cabbage in chili paste, or any of the thirty something other pickles Nick Balla will rotate into the dedicated pickle section on the menu at Bar Tartine. He's not the only one up to his elbows in brine these days. Hayes Valley's new Boxing Room has a pickle section on its menu too. And Danny Bowien is serving pickled peanuts to the masses at his flagrantly popular Mission Chinese Food. Why pickles? And why now? Balla thinks the pickle movement springs from a collective new openness to more ethnic flavors in slightly higher end restaurants. After talking to a slew of chefs around town about their best pickle practices, I'd have to agree.
I first heard about cod sperm, and how it's an edible delicacy for the "jet set," back in December. Socialite wrangler Gilt City threw an upper crust mingle fest at Benu. Chef Corey Lee decided to serve a liquified version of cod sperm in shot glasses as a passed appetizer. The well-to-dos knocked it back and liked it with reckless abandon (even though most of them didn't know what they were sipping). And the Chronicle's Beth Spotswood wrote about the affair and her server's insistence that "it's like a thing. It's the male version of caviar."
Ask the average San Franciscan, “What’s an izakaya?” and bet on a blank stare as your response. The word is about as common as “bar” in Japan, but we’re just starting to crack the surface of the notion around here. In its original form, an izakaya is built around alcohol, consumed ad nauseum, and flanked with the necessary protein-heavy small plates to keep peace. Sure there’s sashimi, but skewered meats are the pulse-quickener: hearts, intestines and even chicken feet often steal the show. The protein-heavy barrage ends with a judicious rice bomb of onigiri. Oyaji and Izakaya Sozai have done this forever in the Richmond. And with the past year’s advent of Berkeley’s Ippuku and the Mission’s Nombe, I’d dare say izakayas are a trend.