San Francisco’s Trailblazer Tavern — a collaboration between home-grown Chef Michael Mina, Honolulu chefs and husband-and-wife Wade Ueoka and Michelle Karr-Ueoka, and Marc Benioff’s Salesforce — is full of whimsy from the get-go.
Enter through the Salesforce East building’s lobby and be greeted by a lifelike LED-projection of fish swimming overhead, giving the impression of being at an actual aquarium. There are also playful, cartoon-ish sculptures of a bear, goat, Albert Einstein, and Astro — all part of the official Salesforce Trailblazer Crew, who are meant to represent how the company blazes new trails.
That extends to the restaurant, which opened in late 2018 to serve modern, upscale Hawaiian food in the heart of downtown San Francisco.
It’s the first one that spotlights a recipe that wasn’t tested by me — but instead by my husband.
Because “Pork Curry From the Box” has special meaning for him.
Like so many of us of ethnic heritages, he grew up doing his darndest to disavow his. Wanting to “fit in” and be more “American” as a kid, he turned his back on the traditional Japanese foods his mother would cook. For a spell, he simply wouldn’t eat much of it. Not surprisingly, he never learned to cook any of it, either.
But now, like so many of us, he has deep regrets about that. He misses the aromas and tastes of home-cooked Japanese food. He longs for certain dishes his Mom would make, especially now that she’s no longer alive to cook them. Older and wiser, he now appreciates them in a way that he couldn’t before.
You have to be in the know to find Tapas Tokki. Even then, you may be rather confounded when trying to find the location of this small, tucked-away Korean small-plates restaurant in Santa Clara.
Chef-Owner Jin Jeong says even people who do find their way, sometimes poke their head in the door apprehensively, and timidly ask, “Is this a restaurant?”
Why, yes it is. And a delightful one at that.
Not only is it located in a compact, nondescript strip mall you could easily drive by without a second glance that also houses a beauty salon, a Filipino restaurant and the Eritrean Community Center, but it’s in a spot that you might never think to venture to.
It is located in the alleyway to the side of the mall. The fact that there’s no sign with its name on it doesn’t make it any easier. But once you spot a sign with a leaping rabbit on it, you know you’ve found it.
I know people who subsist on food from delivery services day in and day out, and others who pilfer free food from tech campus cafes to take home even if they’re not supposed to.
Yes, we are all strapped for time these days. But not cooking at all is denying yourself one of the true pleasures in life to create something with your own two hands to enjoy with immediate joy and satisfaction.
Imagine being able to tell yourself proudly as you dig in, “Yeah, I made that!” rather than sheepishly admitting, “Uh, I pulled up an app for it.”
And honestly, a dish like “Chunky Black Pepper Honey Beef” can be put on the table faster than you can order and wait for take-out to be delivered.