Some like it hot. And if they do, they head to Chili House in San Francisco’s Richmond District for Sichuan and Beijing specialties, most of which will make you feel the burn — in an albeit delectable way.
You know what you’re in for when you see menu items such as “Pork Chop with Explosive Chili Pepper.” Even so, when I was invited by the restaurant to try some of its dishes for takeout, I was game — and at the ready with a yogurt drink to douse the flames, just in case.
Chef-Owner Li Jun Han cooked for two Chinese presidents before immigrating to the Bay Area to open Chili House, as well as Z&Y Restaurant in Chinatown.
The Beijing pot stickers (4 for $7.95) are not the usual half-moon shaped ones you’re familiar with. Instead, these are long and slender wrappers rolled around a pork filling. You could even pick them up with your fingers to dunk into the accompanying black vinegar-soy sauce.
Apologies to Chef Anthony Secviar for my plating skills — or lack thereof — on his sublime takeout food from his Protege restaurant in Palo Alto.
Because, yes, it’s possible to enjoy Michelin-starred food to-go in the comfort of your own home.
And getting takeout does offer an alluring plus: the chance to enjoy one of the restaurant’s “family meal of the week” options. I’ve had the pleasure of dining several times pre-pandemic in the lounge of the restaurant, where an a la carte menu is offered. But before, the only way to indulge in a multi-course progressive meal was to book a table in the intimate dining room for the tasting menu.
The “family meal of the week,” however, is a much less expensive variation with typically about four courses or dishes, including dessert. For instance, the one offered last week, which I got, was $75 per person.
It began with shaved Brussels sprouts salad, the crisp julienned leaves tossed with an almost equal amount of grated cheese, as well as pomegranate seeds, walnuts, and crunchy, salty, porky bits of pancetta for a dish that hit every taste bud.
Yeasty, buttery, tightly coiled with generous ripples of Nutella throughout, this babka might very well have stolen my heart, not to mention my stomach.
It’s the handiwork of Shuk Shuka, a San Francisco online marketplace and kitchen specializing in Middle Eastern foodstuffs.
“Shuk” means “market” in both Hebrew and Arabic. Founder Inon Tzadok, who grew up in Israel and Yemen wanted to evoke the traditional flavors of Middle Eastern market stalls in his products. His sister, baker Yael Tzadok is responsible for the wonderful baked goods.
What foods have you missed most during shelter-in-place? French fries, or most any fried foods for that matter, and sushi? That’s the consensus among my friends and family. Understandable, given that those are things most of us rarely prepare for ourselves at home.
Ozumo comes to the rescue on so many of those fronts. Former professional baseball player Jeremy Upland founded the restaurants after falling hard for Japanese cuisine during his time playing in the Japanese Pacific League. Its location in San Jose’s Santana Row is especially convenient because there are plenty of free parking lots just yards away.
To satisfy those fried foods cravings, look no further than karaage ($14) and Ozumo shrimp ($18).
I’m not going to lie — when you get these to-go, their crunchy coatings will suffer a bit by the time you get them home. But the fried white shrimp coated with shichimi can be re-crisped fairly well by just searing them in a hot frying pan on the stovetop. The accompanying yuzu-honey aioli is sweet and creamy like Japanese Kewpie mayo, with a citrusy and spicy edge. Our little plastic container of it got slightly melted when it was tucked inside the to-go container with the straight-from-the-fryer shrimp. But you can always transfer the sauce to your own dipping bowl at home.