I recently turned 31. To celebrate, I ate all the foods I wanted to eat in the Bay Area (well, not all – there’s still so much to explore), including the best sushi of my life.
San Francisco has its very own Jiro. Though just as adorable and serious about sushi, Chef Nobu seems a bit more easy-going (exhibit 1: he plays concert DVDs of the BeeGees, Tina Turner, and Johnny Cash in the background while he cuts fish). At Tekka, there are 10 seats in the restaurant. They’re open Monday through Friday with seating at 7pm and 9:30pm. There are no reservations, so you must wait in line at least an hour before doors open. No more than four people in a party. No soda. No forks. No teriyaki. No tempura. No take out. No complaining. Cash only. Rumor has it that given Chef Nobu’s seniority among San Francisco sushi chefs, he has first choice at the fish market. After tasting his fish, I am now a believer.
When the five parties of two were seated by Chef Nobu’s wife, I felt like we just got buckled in after a long wait for a roller coaster ride – with an adrenaline rush to boot. Of course we all ordered the sashimi platter with huge pieces of buttery, melt-in-your mouth bluefin tuna, salmon, yellow tail, albacore tuna, mackerel, scallop, octopus and squid. (Okay, the squid and octopus were chewy as they should be.) Even the seaweed salad was amazing.
Chef Nobu’s wife is in charge of the kitchen where she prepares drinks and off-menu appetizers. We ordered the large hamachi-kama – grilled yellowtail collar, arguably the best part of the fish. Also, to eat something other than fish, we ordered the pumpkin appetizer. This was good, but not transcendent like everything else we consumed. Because the scallops were that good – we had to order them again in ngiri form. And, for dessert, sweet, fatty UNAGI. I’ll take Nobu’s eel over any sugar+butter concoction the world has to offer to end my meals.
The following evening, an impromptu birthday dinner with friends brought me to Chibog – more Filipino food in Daly City. Like Tekka, Chibog also has an owner/chef who prides herself on feeding you a lot of food. Chibog means “to eat” in tagolog slang.
two crispy pata (deep fried pork legs); daing na bangus (fried marinated sea grown milkfish); pork+chicken sizzling sisig; kare-kare (oxtail, beef brisket, and tripe in peanut sauce and veggies); adobo chicken; lumpia (not photographed); and all served with garlic rice.
We pretty much exclusively ate animal flesh of a wide variety.For dessert, halo-halo – filipino shaved ice with sweet beans, condensed milk, flan, tropical fruit, andrice crispies – topped with mango and ube ice cream.
On the night of my birthday, I came home to a package from Michigan’s Mid-East Pastry Delight with 36 rhombuses of the best baklava in the world. As a kid, my family regularly ate at a Korean restaurant near our church, Seoul Garden in Sterling Heights, Michigan. Right next to Seoul Garden was Mid-East Pastry Delights. This is how my Korean immigrant family first encountered Persian pastries.
This pistachio baklava is my happy place.
And, at some point during my birthday week I also consumed all of this:
Birthday burgers at Red Robin, Cuban pork at Parada 22, Mediterranean at Dametra Cafe in Carmel, Oysters Rockefeller and the richest clam chowder at Older Fisherman’s Grotto in Monterey, sushi in the park from Suruki Japanese Market in San Mateo, Sunday beignets from Devil’s Teeth Baking Company, and spicy tonkotsu ramen from Sawaii Ramen. Throughout our escapades, Sam and I took ZERO photos together or of one another… only the food.