Category Archives: Chefs

A Visit to Sam Choy’s Poke to the Max

A huge musubi with Spam and green onion omelet at Sam Choy's Poke to the Max.

A huge musubi with Spam and green onion omelet at Sam Choy’s Poke to the Max.

 

At first, you might scratch your head at the fact that Hawaiian celeb Chef Sam Choy picked a sleepy block in San Bruno, right across the street from Artichoke Joe’s Casino, for the first California franchise of his Sam Choy’s Poke to the Max.

But the reason for the unlikely location becomes crystal clear when its head Chef Wade Tamura explains: First, the seafood gets flown in regularly from Hawaii, and San Francisco International Airport is just a short hop away. Second, one of Choy’s favorite vacation spots just happens to be San Francisco.

With poke places seemingly popping up on every block these days, what sets this one apart? I had a chance to find out, when I was invited in as a guest of the fast-casual eatery a week ago.

Chef Wade Tamura.

Chef Wade Tamura.

First, there’s no denying the pedigree of having a James Beard Award-winning Hawaiian chef behind it. Choy comes out to the Bay Area at least four times a year. And Tamura, who was previously at Facebook, Google, and the Slanted Door in San Francisco, also has worked with Choy for more than two decades.

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You Can Never Go Wrong at Rich Table

Broccoli tamale at Rich Table.

Broccoli tamale at Rich Table.

 

Rich Table is one of those restaurants that confounds.

In the best of ways.

What other place thinks of threading whole sardines through potato chips? Or baking levain bread with dough infused with Douglas Fir? Or tossing a tangle of pasta with sauerkraut and pastrami?

Only this San Francisco establishment founded by husband-and-wife chefs Evan and Sarah Rich.

No wonder this casual, relaxed place has earned a Michelin star.

Step inside the casual Michelin-starred restaurant.

Step inside the casual Michelin-starred restaurant.

A little bathroom humor on the bathroom wall.

A little bathroom humor on the bathroom wall.

Even before garnering that honor, Rich Table was always a tough place to get a reservation. It’s even more so now. But plan ahead to score a table and you will be richly rewarded, as my husband and I and our friends were on a recent Sunday night. We paid our own tab at the end, but Chef de Cuisine Brandon Rice did send out a parade of desserts on the house at the end.

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A Taste of Germany In Berkeley

Real-deal Black Forest cake at Gaumenkitzel. (photo by Carolyn Jung)

Real-deal Black Forest cake at Gaumenkitzel. (photo by Carolyn Jung)

 

Gaumenkitzel in Berkeley is named for the old-fashioned German term for “delicious and precious.”

The restaurant is both those things personified.

It was opened in 2011 by husband-and-wife Kai Flache and Anja Voth, who hail from Hamburg, Germany.

You can’t miss the restaurant on San Pablo Avenue, what with its sunny mustard-hued facade. It’s the place for comforting, rib-sticking fare, along with what’s likely the largest selection of German beers and wines in the Bay Area.

Recently, I met my brother and sister-in-law for dinner, paying our own tab at the end.

The happy-hued exterior. (photo courtesy of Gaumenkitzel)

The happy-hued exterior. (photo courtesy of Gaumenkitzel)

Flache revamped and designed the colorful, almost Scandinavian-like, clean-lined space, which used to be a lighting store. Voth is the head chef. She takes great pride in the fact that everything that can be made in house, is. That means even milling her own flour to make bread daily, flaking her own oats for granola, jarring her own jams, and culturing her own yogurt.

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You Don’t Know Babka Until You’ve Tried This Babka

Chocolate (left) and halva (right) babkas by Babka by Ayelet.

Chocolate (left) and halva (right) babkas by Babka by Ayelet.

 

If you think babka is just a sweet yeasted bread swirled with chocolate or cinnamon, then get ready to have your mind — and palate — blown.

After months of delays, Babka by Ayelet finally opened its doors two weeks ago at Palo Alto’s Town & Country Village to serve up babka in a variety of flavors, both sweet and savory.

Babka Logo

Made by Israeli-born Ayelet Turgeman Nuchi, a former private chef on the Peninsula, this Eastern European specialty bread has been transformed.

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