Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 38

Shrimp sate from Warung Siska.
Shrimp sate from Warung Siska.

Warung Siska, Redwood City

One of the few Indonesian restaurants in the Bay Area, Warung Siska opened with a splash this year in downtown Redwood City, providing a real pop of joy in this dismal pandemic.

The space was formerly Nam Vietnamese Brasserie, which was opened by restaurateur Anne Le Ziblatt just weeks before the pandemic hit. Rather than reopen as is, Le Ziblatt decided to team with Chef Siska Silitonga and Ervan Lim, managing partner of Napa’s Live Fire Pizza, to start anew with an entirely different concept.

Perhaps it was kismet that the Indonesia-born Silitonga and Lim would join forces with Le Ziblatt, who fled Vietnam with her family and wound up in a Jakarta refugee camp, where local Indonesian families would help sustain them with homemade food.

Warung Siska is a tribute to the warmth and vivacity of the culture and cuisine, serving up Indonesian dishes full of big, bold, unforgettable flavors you’ll find yourself craving time and again.

The restaurant has no outdoor seating, and requires proof of vaccination to dine indoors. However, if your preference is takeout instead, you’ll be glad to know that the food travels quite well, which I discovered when the restaurant invited me to sample a to-go order recently.

Corn fritters that are to die for.
Corn fritters that are to die for.
Musubi-like sticky rice cakes with shredded chicken.
Musubi-like sticky rice cakes with shredded chicken.

When I interviewed Le Ziblatt for a story in the Nob Hill Gazette earlier this year, she told me one of Silitonga’s dishes that absolutely blew her away from the get-go was the bakwan (corn fritters, $13). I heartily agree. These golden, crisp and lacy fritters, each the size of my entire hand, are chock full of corn kernels, okra, and green onions. Makrut lime leaves give them an irresistible perfume and floral-citrus note. Best yet, they actually stayed crisp until I drove home with them nearly 40 minutes later.

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Dining Outside At La Bande At The Proper Hotel

House-made rabbit terrine shines in this charcuterie sampler at La Bande.
House-made rabbit terrine shines in this charcuterie sampler at La Bande.

I’m sure I’m not alone in mourning the 2019 closure of Michelin-starred Commonwealth in San Francisco due to a rent dispute. With its laid-back vibe, skillful ingredient-driven cooking, and a tasting menu with a price that didn’t leave you shell-shocked, Commonwealth was the kind of place every city would be glad to have.

Its chef-owner Jason Fox moved on — in a big way. He went from overseeing one restaurant to three when he was scooped up by The Proper Hotel in downtown San Francisco. As its executive chef, he now oversees Villon restaurant, the trendy Charmaine’s rooftop bar, and La Bande, formerly a coffee shop that he’s since turned into a tapas place.

The "Do Not Disturb'' sign at The Proper.
The “Do Not Disturb” sign at The Proper.

Fox’s arrival was to have been heralded with a big splash. But because it occurred in January 2020 — two months before all restaurants would be forced to shut down due to a worldwide pandemic — that never really came to fruition. Instead, he was left to deal with navigating an ever-changing roster of health mandates.

With the Bay Area in a much better place than it was last year, Fox has now been able to roll out the plans he had all along.

Executive Chef Jason Fox.
Executive Chef Jason Fox.

A couple weeks ago, I was invited in as a guest to enjoy an overnight stay at the hotel, as well as dinner at the newly revamped La Bande, a compact yet cozy space resembling a Spanish mercado with a few indoor seats, as well as tables outside, which is where my husband and I dined.

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New Mole Sauces From Chef Susana Trilling

Big, beefy ribs get a big hit of spiciness and earthiness from ¡Ya Oaxaca! Mole Rojo.
Big, beefy ribs get a big hit of spiciness and earthiness from ¡Ya Oaxaca! Mole Rojo.

Mexican moles can be an intimidating and time-consuming affair to make from scratch at home, what with upwards of 40 ingredients that need to be prepared and cooked for hours.

But that laborious process can be bypassed easily with new ready-made jarred moles from an impeccable source.

¡Ya Oaxaca! moles are by Chef Susana Trilling, a renowned expert and ambassador for Oaxacan cooking. She started cooking at age 10 alongside her grandmother, a chef from Tampico, Mexico, who ran a small cafe in San Antonio, TX. In 1999, she founded her Seasons of My Heart Cooking School on her ranch in Oaxaca, and has since taught countless lessons both in-person and online.

Her children have inherited her culinary passions. Son Kaelin Ulrich Trilling is the chef de cuisine at Thomas Keller’s La Calenda in Yountville. He’s also involved in ¡Ya Oaxaca! moles, along with his brother Jesse Ulrich Trilling, who is the company’s head of operations, and his half-brother Azul Couzens, who is in charge of marketing, sales and distributions.

Acclaimed chef and cooking teacher Susana Trilling has teamed with her sons on this new mole sauce venture.
Acclaimed chef and cooking teacher Susana Trilling has teamed with her sons on this new mole sauce venture.

The moles, sold in shelf-stable 12-ounce jars, come in three varieties: Mole Rojo, Mole Coloradito, and Mole Negro. They are based on recipes handed down for generations.

Recently, I had a chance to try samples. The ¡Ya Oaxaca! web site includes recipes online, while the jar labels are printed with recommendations for what types of protein or vegetables best go with each mole.

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Shio Koji-Roasted Brussels Sprouts

A hot oven and a rub of shio koji all over the leaves gives these Brussels sprouts extra flavor and crispiness.
A hot oven and a rub of shio koji all over the leaves gives these Brussels sprouts extra flavor and crispiness.

Have you discovered shio koji, the darling ingredient of so many chefs?

Maybe you’ve spotted it at a Japanese store, given it a quizzical look, then moved on.

Next time, pick some up and get cooking.

Shio Koji is rice inoculated with a specific mold commonly used to make soy sauce and miso, then mixed with water and salt, and left to ferment.

Available in the refrigerator section of Asian markets, it comes in whole rice grains, pureed or liquid.

It tastes salty, though less so than miso, with a light sweetness and a moderate pickled sharpness, as well as a slight funkiness.

If you’re wondering what to do with it, pick up a copy of the new “The Modern Larder: From Anchovies to Yuzu, a Guide to Artful and Attainable Home Cooking” (Roost Books), of which I received a review copy.

It’s by Michelle McKenzie, a food writer and professional cook who was formerly the program director and chef at 18 Reasons, a non-profit community cooking school in San Francisco founded by Bi-Rite Market.

This marvelous book will introduce you to 58 ingredients, some familiar and some less so, and show you ingenious ways to use them through more than 260 recipes.

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The Antidote to Pumpkin Pie: Cranberry Linzer Tart

Move over cranberry sauce. Make way for cranberry Linzer tart.
Move over cranberry sauce. Make way for cranberry Linzer tart.

Anyone who knows me well knows that pumpkin pie just isn’t my jam on Thanksgiving Day.

But “Cranberry Linzer Tart,” which actually has a jam-like filling most certainly is.

Over the years, I’ve become partial to cranberry desserts for the big holiday. With their vivid color, the berries add an especially festive look. And after a groaning meal, their wonderful tartness refreshes and resets the palate like nothing else.

This recipe is from the archives of Bon Appetit magazine. It was created by food writer Claire Saffitz, author of the cookbook, “Dessert Person” (Clarkson Potter, 2020), and a former contributing editor at the magazine.

A toasty, nutty crumbly double-crust full of warm spices nestles a jammy filling.
A toasty, nutty crumbly double-crust full of warm spices nestles a jammy filling.

As far as pies and tarts go, this one is fairly easy to do. Best yet, you can make not only the dough and filling ahead of time — always a plus when time is short during the holidays — but the entire tart can be baked the day before, then served at room temperature or reheated in the oven for serving.

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