San Tung (San Francisco, CA)

San Tung
1031 Irving St
San Francisco, CA 94122
Dining date: 12/24/12

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San Tung is consistently one of San Francisco’s most popular Chinese restaurants, known for its long waits almost as much as its food. Located in the Sunset district of the city, the first-come first-served restaurant always seems to have a crowd waiting outside, especially on the weekends. Its 3,000+ Yelp reviews (currently a 4-star rating) place it in the top 10 of most-reviewed S.F. restaurants and I feel like I always hear it mentioned when people talk about “must-try” dishes in the city.

What’s the must-try dish? San Tung is known for noodles and dumplings, but their real signature is their “dry fried” items. Shrimp, calamari, flounder, beef and chicken are fried by the batch here, then glazed in a sweet-savory sauce. The most popular, by far, is the chicken wings.

We came early on a Monday for lunch and got one of the last tables available.

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Evan Funke @ this is not a pop-up (Los Angeles, CA)

this is not a pop-up: Evan Funke
Square One
4854 Fountain Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90029
Dining date: 2/6/13

8483529643 22e867fd40 Evan Funke @ this is not a pop up (Los Angeles, CA)

this is not a pop-up, housed in Hollywood’s Square One Dining space, follows a similar concept to the now-defunct Test Kitchen, housing chefs for a short period of time to cook whatever they want. It’s a concept that I really liked then, and enjoy just as much now as it keeps things new and interesting. Evan Funke, of Rustic Canyon fame (and developed one of LA’s most notable burgers) stepped into the restaurant for one night to preview his menu for upcoming Bucato.

Bucato, developed in the old Beacon restaurant in the Helms Bakery complex (with Father’s Office and Lukshon), has faced a number of delays (first rumored to open in December). While working on the opening of his Italian restaurant and “pasta laboratorio,” Funke started up a food truck serving only one thing – porchetta sandwiches. I recently tried it and, while not exactly a traditional porchetta, it was delicious.

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It convinced us to try more of Funke’s food, bringing us to his pop-up menu of eight courses priced at $65.

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State Bird Provisions (San Francisco, CA)

State Bird Provisions
1529 Fillmore St
San Francisco, CA 94115
Dining date: 12/28/12

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This was one of the restaurants I really wanted to try while I was in San Francisco (probably #1 on my list). Opened on the last day of 2011, it was named to numerous lists for best new restaurants of the year, including being the number one best new restaurant in America according to Bon Appetit. Stories of hours-long lines (yes, multiple hours) and consistently strong reviews fueled the buzz throughout the year.

Not surprisingly, reservations are still very difficult to come by, probably one of the most difficult in the city. I checked their website multiple times per day for a couple of weeks, and the best I could do was a party of 2 at 5:30 (looking for any availability over a week span). The day before, some cancellations yielded a 10:30 table for 4; very late, but it allowed our whole family to dine together.

One of the distinctive features of the restaurant is its use of a dim sum-like cart. It’s loaded up with a variety of dishes and pushed through the dining room, letting diners get a glimpse of the dishes before choosing.  And, if you don’t see what you want, anything can be ordered off the menu to be directly delivered to your table. It’s a fun concept that really works with a small plates restaurant, one I would expect to see duplicated…and not just in Chinese restaurants.

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Oola (San Francisco, CA)

860 Folsom St
San Francisco, CA 94107
Dining date: 12/27/12

8447108234 fb9768c432 Oola (San Francisco, CA)

This past year for my grandmother’s birthday, my cousins and I took her to dinner at Oola in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood. It’s a tradition we’ve been doing a number of years now, and something I look forward to each holiday season. This year, my cousins chose Oola, somewhere they’ve been a number of times and raved about.

Opened in 2004, the restaurant calls its food “San Francisco cuisine” and a blend of chef Ola Fendert’s Swedish background and French/Italian training. The menu appeared to offer a number of upscale takes on American comfort food classics such as chicken and waffles, burgers, and the restaurant’s signature dish – pork baby back ribs.

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Rich Table (San Francisco, CA)

Rich Table
199 Gough St
San Francisco, CA 94102
Dining date: 12/26/12

8440532172 9c63a5396f Rich Table (San Francisco, CA)

Rich Table was one of San Francisco’s bigger restaurant openings of last year and continues to be one of the hot tables in town. Evan and Sarah Rich are the couple behind the restaurant, whose collective resumes include San Francisco’s Quince, Michael Mina and Coi. Reviews about the restaurant have been very positive, including an impressive 3.5 star review from the SF Chronicle’s Michael Bauer.

A decision to dine at Rich Table was kind of a last-minute one. While planning to meet with a friend for dinner the day after Christmas, we scrolled through OpenTable openings and Rich Table popped up with an available table. Knowing that we kind of lucked out finding one, we snatched it up.

8440530712 7e31bc314f Rich Table (San Francisco, CA)

Contrary to what the name of the restaurant may suggest, the food isn’t too rich at all. Of course, ingredients are local and seasonal, and the menu is divided into a number of small ‘bites,’ appetizer plates, pastas and main courses.

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