I normally wouldn’t steer people to the Castro for good food. Up until a few years ago, the best you could hope for was a slice of ‘za or greasy-spoon diner fare. Mind you, things have been on the upswing in recent years (I even wrote a story on it a couple years back). Restos like Sumi, Lime and Côté Sud have raised the bar. But my favorite, hands down, is Tallula, in the space of the legendary Ryan’s. Unfortunately, she’s closing.
Restaurateuse Harveen Khera, whom we met back in the early days at Delfina, is smart, fun and makes some rockin’ chow. Raised in England, Harveen projects the flavors of her Indian heritage through the lens of Continental technique, creating a far more refined experience than any curry house you’ve ever been to. Her dhosa are the perfect blend of lightness and richness, luxuriously adorned with lobster, peas and truffle oil. I recently had a heavenly skirt steak with morels and saffron tomato base. (Did I mention that I am not a beef eater?) The frites with mango pickle aioli are epiphanous, the creaminess of mayonnaise offsetting the overpowering sourness of the pickle and elevating its subtle flavors. And best of all are the innovative cocktails with romantic, J Peterman-esque descriptions that merely imply their ingredients. (viz. the Cleo: Flying in from India with cherries in her beak, whispering, "Tamarind, Where are you?")
Tallula closes on Valentine’s Day, and they’re already fully booked that night. If you’ve never experienced this unique and nearly indescribably restaurant, this is last call. I know I intend to keep a keen eye on Harveen’s future endeavors.
4230 18th St, across from Cala Foods
Another Saturday, another in the series of "house parties" that bridge the gap between Epiphany and Mardi Gras. La Trauma got the Euro-dime in the king cake last week, and hence was the host for this week’s installment. He opted for a bar event at Cafe Flore, aka Cafe Whore, Cafe Hairdo and many other snarky queer monikers.
We wanted to grab a bite first so as not to drink on an empty stomach (a lesson well learned after many such attempts). We popped into Lime, one of our regular haunts. The place was hopping, both the lounge space and dining area packed with fun-loving folks, so we sat at the bar for a couple of cocktails and small plates.
I have to admit that I never intended to consider Lime a serious restaurant, but I’ll tell you this: they do a few things brilliantly. The mini-burgers, aside from being adorable, are juicy and perfectly medium-rare — and I am NOT a beef eater, yo. Love the fish tacos as well. In fact, I’ve never been disappointed in the quality of the food.
Last night had its hiccups, atypically. One of the bartendresses lost control of one of the plastic juice bottles — empty, luckily — and sent it careering straight at our heads; at one point I felt a mysterious sprinkling of something or other that we never did figure on the source of; and the waiter that brought our grilled prawns dropped one of the three on the floor behind us. As that accounts for 1/3 of the dish, he graciously replaced it with a fresh one from the kitchen, albeit 20 minutes later.
Nevertheless, we will return, again and again, whether for a full meal or just for the gaze and graze. It’s just a place I like in spite of its self-conscious hipness.
2247 Market St
The other night I somewhat spontaneously corralled a few friends for dinner. M and I were husbandless, his other half being off on a buying trip in England and mine tied up in a board meeting. By contrast, D’s husband was in town, and so a party of four coalesced. A quick trip to OpenTable revealed, unsurprisingly, that our first choice, Range, was fully booked, or at least until 9 pm, which was out of, well, range for us being a school night and whatnot. Perusing our options, I noticed that The Public had availability. The other half and I went there shortly after it opened and greatly enjoyed it, especially upon discovering that one of the chefs was an alumnus from the deli counter at our beloved Bi-Rite Market. We had since been back only for cocktails in the hip, if smallish, lounge space on the main floor. We booked the reservation, noting in the special requests field that we wanted the best table in the house and only cute waiters, please.
I adore the space at The Public. Formerly the irritatingly-named Wa-Ha-Ka! this "resto-lounge" occupies two floors in a quirky, vertical former industrial building. The main floor is the lounge, with tables up in the lofty space above. The tall, willowy hostess escorted us through the clusters of cockatilers mobbing the 250-square-foot lounge up to our table, where we were attended to by a tall, willowy waiter with a sing-song, almost squeaky voice. Being of small stature myself, I mused whether there was a sign in the back that stated you must be THIS TALL to work here. He confessed to being concerned that we would approve of his cuteness quotient, at which point D blushed and we decided thereon always to make silly or even impossible requests in the OpenTable form just to see whether they actually read them.
Despite the hipness of the space and the pleasantess of the service, the food did not stand up as I would have hoped. Mind you, D’s carrot-ginger-coconut milk soup was quite enjoyable, and normally fussy eater M practically licked the plate on his short ribs, which surprised us all, himself included. But D and I both had the pork chop, which was both oversized and overdone, accompanied with a sweet potato mash that was sweet yet insipid, though the collards with baby artichoke hearts and snap peas were right up my alley. The wine list is more than accessible — we ordered the most expensive bottle they had, a Hanna zinfandel at a whopping $40/bottle.
I’ll be back for cocktails, but wouldn’t necessarily rush back for dinner. Makes me wish they did small plates to accompany the cocktaily atmosphere they so carefully cultivate.
The Public Resto-Lounge
1489 Folsom Street at 11th
Sean Timberlake is a professional writer, amateur foodie, avid traveler and all-around bon vivant. Sean lives with his partner, photographer DPaul Brown, in San Francisco. You can contact him at hedonia-at-seantimberlake-dot-com, or send in submissions to the popular Eatsdropper feature at eatsdropper-at-seantimberlake.com.
Praise for Sean and for Hedonia:
"Hedonia is either the food blog of an exceptional person or the personal blog of an exceptional foodie … Sean seems to accomplish more in a day than most of us could in a week,
and judging by the depth and breadth of Hedonia’s wonderful content, he
gets more cooked in a year than most of us do in a lifetime … a trip to Hedonia is a must." – TypePad Featured Blogs
"…Sean at Hedonia has been entertaining me every time I click through to his blog…Sean also has a new feature called Eatsdropper which is keeping us all entertained. Anyone can write in food-related comments that they hear out and around town. The results are very funny, and I look forward to new installments…" – Jen Maiser, Bay Area Bites
"…Sean Timberlake (of Hedonia, and whom we love here at Slashfood)…" – Sarah Gim, Slashfood
"…Hedonia always has great ideas for creative appetizers & drinks…" – Delight.com newsletter, 12/22/06
"…the fabbest man in SF…" – Sarah Gim (again), The Delicious Life
"…always worth reading and he does a lot of inspiring cooking as well…"
– Ilva Sableye-Beretta, Lucullian Delights
"…prolific (and very cute!!)…"
– Shuna Fish Lydon, eggbeater
"…a fresh new voice in the San Francisco – I love it and I hope you will too … I sense a kindred spirit … you need never go hungry again, now that Sean is making his delicious presence felt on the web."
– Sam Breach, Becks & Posh
"…If you’re looking for some spiritual guidance, I suggest the two creations Sean Timberlake posted at Hedonia, both made with Hangar One’s amazing Chipotle Vodka…" – Dan Berkes, The Overnight Broadcast
"…A confession: one of our favorite food blog weekly "events" is the "Eatsdropper" feature at Hedonia…" – Paolo, Menu Pages
"…has enticed and delighted us with his outrageous food finds and delectable blog discoveries…" – Aunt Beep, ThisNext Blog
"…drool-worthy…" – Jacob, SFist
– Po Bronson, The Nudist on the Late Shift
Photo: Sean and DPaul, Bologna, 2004