Oola (San Francisco, CA)

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

oola exterior

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.

interior

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Rich Table (San Francisco, CA)

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

exterior

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.

menu

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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Ikemen (Los Angeles, CA)

Ikemen
123 Astronaut E S Onizuka St #108
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dining date: 1/28/13

ikemen exterior

Ikemen is the latest ramen chain to open up shop in Little Tokyo (following other notables Shin-Sen-Gumi and Men Oh Tokushima). Located in Weller Court (the plaza shared with super-spicy Orochon), it kind of replaces the recently-closed Chin-Ma-Ya. Ikemen’s first location opened up in Hollywood in late 2011; I’d read mostly positive things about the shop but never made it out to Hollywood.

ikemen signno ramen no life

Ikemen isn’t your traditional ramen shop; it’s actually kind of weird (modern?). The philosophy is very clear (it’s painted on the wall) – they aim to create edgy and stylish ramen.

philosophy

The specialty is what Ikemen calls ‘dip ramen,’ essentially a tsukemen where you dip noodles into a warm broth before eating. Except, they call the soup au jus here, and an option for the Ghostbuster Dip Ramen combines this jus with heavy cream, truffle oil, roasted marshmallows. Yep. My coworker and I weren’t quite brave enough to go that route, and stuck to some of the slightly more conservative options. Continue reading

Sons & Daughters (San Francisco, CA)

Sons & Daughters
708 Bush St
San Francisco, CA 94108
Dining date: 11/24/12

exterior

Sons & Daughters is a restaurant I’ve been wanting to try for some time. Since I spend a limited amount of time in San Francisco nowadays, it’s always been on my list of places to try but never high enough to the point where I’ve actually gone. Until now.

The restaurant opened up in the middle of 2010 and has garnered quite a few accolades in the ensuing couple of years. Some of the most notable have been its one Michelin star, a 3-star review from the S.F. Chronicle’s Michael Bauer, and chefs Teague Moriarty and Matt McNamara being named 2012 Rising Star Chefs.

A part of a trend in the S.F. fine dining world, Sons & Daughters has continually shrunk the dining room, added more courses, removed a la carte and gotten more expensive. I’m not particularly against that movement (and kind of wish more in LA attempted it), but the increases in price point need to reflect a higher standard of both food and service. Currently, it’s $135 service-inclusive for around 9 courses. Continue reading

The Hart and the Hunter (Los Angeles, CA)

The Hart and the Hunter
Palihotel
7950 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Dining date: 1/6/13

hart and hunter

Formerly the pop-up Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, Brian Dunsmoor and Kris Tominaga opened The Hart and the Hunter last October. It’s quickly become one of the most talked-about restaurants in LA over the last few months for its hearty and flavorful food. The cuisine is an interesting mix, a blend of Dunsmoor’s southern background and Tominaga’s California flair. I first heard the buzz when I was in Japan and was eagerly awaiting a visit to the restaurant. Expectations were high.

chefs

The dining room is fairly small, with a couple of large communal tables in the center. An open kitchen provides a glimpse of the action. Continue reading

Alexander’s Steakhouse (San Francisco, CA)

Alexander’s Steakhouse
448 Brannan St
San Francisco, CA 94107
Dining date: 11/25/12

alexanders signage

I’ve wanted to try Alexander’s Steakhouse for some time. I love a good steak and Alexander’s is one of the more highly regarded steakhouses on the West Coast (and perhaps country). The original location, in Cupertino, garnered a Michelin star in the inaugural Bay Area guide and has maintained it ever since. A San Francisco location opened up in 2010 serving up the same American steakhouse fare with a bunch of Japanese influences. I tend to think my favorite steakhouse is Beverly Hills’ CUT, but figured Alexander’s would be a strong competitor to that.

It took a couple of years, but my family and I finally dined at the restaurant for my grandmother’s (surprise!) birthday. Over the years, this birthday dinner has become a bit of a tradition with previous birthday dinners at The French Laundry, Masa’s, Quince, Murray Circle, Cyrus, and The Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton. Alexander’s seemed to be the ideal choice for our carnivorous family, and the large restaurant was able to accommodate a private party for our extended family and friends.

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