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Liholiho Yacht Club

Liholiho Yacht Club may have been the peak of my food adventures. Yes, it was THAT good. Nothing can beat it. (Yet?)

Liholiho is another restaurant that is largely famous because of Instagram. However, unlike Media Noche, Liholiho not only serves food that is (almost) too attractive to eat, it tastes f****** BOMB.

The space is larger than I expected, with a completely open floor plan. The kitchen sits in the center, and underneath the restaurant is its sister bar (with food), Louie’s Gen-Gen Room. The restaurant has wait times up to 3 hours (even on a week night!) and reservations can only be made a month in advance and fill up right away, so I would recommend making a res for a random night and going for it! Otherwise, line-up at 5pm and you’ll most likely be seated in the first round.

Liholiho offers a multitude of Hawaiian/Chinese/Indian fusion dishes, from small appetizer size bites to larger entrees with meats and fish. I had done a bit of research before my first meal here, and ordered the Tuna Poke and Beef Tongue Bao to start, as well as a fruity, tropical cocktail.

The Tuna Poke, served on a nori cracker with sesame oil and radish, was phenomenal. It was a generous serving of fresh tuna, and was a light snack before we dove into heavier foods. Get it.

The Beef Tongue Bao, however, might’ve changed my life. I might have an unhealthy obsession with bao (Chairman!!!!), but this bao was unlike anything I’ve tasted. I love beef tongue, and this one was tender, juicy, and there was SO much. It was wrapped up in the soft, warm poppy-seed bao bun like a little cloud, and topped with kimchi and cucumber. It was sweet, it was sour, it was juicy, it was HEAVEN. Get it. Twice.

After the smaller plates, we ordered a couple of medium sized plates.

*Disclaimer: these photos are from two different times, I did not eat all of this in one sitting. Although I probably could have.

Below is the Tuna Belly Misoyaki, with apricot, raddichio, and radish. It was good, sweet, and cooked well, but it didn’t stand out. Especially not after that Beef Tongue Bao.

Next is the Fried Rice with Bay Shrimp, Spam, and Abalone mushrooms. Although I was looking for the Spam & Rice bowl that is one of the highest Instagrammed dishes in SF, I didn’t realize it was off-menu (hint hint) and ordered this thinking it was the same. The shrimp fried rice, however, was REALLY good. I would order this again, as it was topped plentiful with shrimp and had a *tiny* kick.

Here, I redeemed myself. Look at how beautiful this is. I’m drooling. I never would’ve ordered spam before (especially in a restaurant), and have only ever tried it once in my life. However, Liholiho makes their own spam, and the (I think) Sriracha-Mayo drizzle, the pickled cucumbers, and the shower of furikake made this dish incredibly delicious.

This is a MUST when going to Liholiho (’cause if you don’t Instagram it, did you even go?).

One of two entrees we tried (one different occasions!) features the Whole Maine Lobster with preserved black bean sauce. A bit messy, but it was juicy and great! However, we were between the lobster and the next dish…

… which is honestly one of the best things we’ve ever eaten. This is the Grilled Short Rib with mushrooms, served next to the Escargot- Bone Marrow- Twice Baked Potato. It sounds like a mouthful and a weird mish-mash of ingredients but holy s***. The bone marrow potato goodness had escargot under the layers of baked potato and cheese, which melted in your mouth. The grilled short rib, which was topped with chimichurri sauce, was cooked so perfectly, and was so MOIST (I said it!), flavorful, tender, and everything you could ever want from beef.

This next part is crucial.

This first dessert was a chocolate thing with some ice cream and caramel. It was good but not memorable (clearly). It’s also off the menu now so it doesn’t matter.

THIS:

The grand finale of Liholiho Yacht club: the Baked Hawaii. It’s a Hawaiian spinoff from the Baked Alaska, which is an ice cream cake topped with a meringue, and usually torched with some sort of alcohol drizzle. The Baked Hawaii is a caramelized pineapple ice cream surrounded by a hive of ‘vanilla chiffon,’ a.k.a. marshmallow fluff, on top of a shortbread-y type cookie/cake thing (I have no idea but it’s good) and little pineapple chunks. Best dessert I’ve ever had. I love pineapple, ice cream, caramel, and marshmallow. You really can’t go wrong here.

Although it’s difficult to make a commitment for dinner a month in advance, this one is WORTH IT. I’m even making it easy for you and telling you exactly what to order so there’s no excuse. AND giving you the reservation link.

871 Sutter St
San Francisco, CA 94109

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Coqueta

Coqueta, the Spanish restaurant created by Chef Michael Chiarello, has easily become one of my favorite spots in the city. With its unbeatable location on Pier 5 overlooking the Bay Bridge, its exquisite selection of cocktails and wines, and its mouthwatering tapas, Coqueta is the perfect place for a special occasion or entertaining clients and relatives.

Coqueta’s drink menu features a multitude of wines and cocktails, including gin drinks, tequila, rum, whiskey, etc. The cocktails are all light and fresh, with beautiful fresh flowers and fruits as well as subtle spices and flair. The drink on the right is the Barça Gin & Tonic, with fresh grapefruit and thyme, and the drink on the left is the Salt “Air” Margarita (above).

The menu is split into two sections: hot and cold. The cold side features pintxos and tapas such as Deviled Eggs and Lacinto Kale Salad, as well as my personal favorite, the Salmon Ahumado, which is a slice of smoked salmon laid on top of a layer of queso fresco smeared on a crunchy bite of bread, with a drizzle of truffle honey.

The ultimate starter, of course, is the ham & cheese plate, or in fancier terms, the ‘charcuterie’ plate. At Coqueta, diners can order any combination of meats and cheeses they desire, with choices such as the Jamon Serrano (below), Chorizo, Salami, and cheeses such as Manchego (below). The plate comes with Marcona almonds, an olive oil torta, and little breads with tomáquet.

The winning dish of the entire meal, however, may have been the ‘Pulpo a la Parrilla,’ the wood grilled Mediterranean octopus with fingerling potatoes and Pimentón olive oil. The octopus was tender and slightly charred, while the potatoes were savory and soft.

For an entree, we ordered the special of the day: the suckling pig with romesco sauce and a small side salad with watermelon radish and citrus. While the pig was a bit on the dry side, the outer layer of skin was sweet and flavorful, and the jus, with the romesco sauce and flakes of salt, added the perfect level of moisture to the succulent pork.

We also ordered ‘Esparragos Trigueros,’ which were juicy with hints of lemon, laid in a bed of romesco sauce that paired well with the entree.

The dessert could not have been better. We started with the ‘Bizcocho de Arroz con Leche,’ which is a warm molten arroz con leche cake with arroz con leche ice cream and huckleberries. The cake resembled a volcano, that revealed an eruption of rice pudding when sliced through the middle. The cake was sweet, warm, and not too rich in flavor, creating the perfect balanced dessert.

The Manchego Cheesecake, however, with caramel popcorn, was amazing, but a bit too rich. It was very sweet with the outer layer of caramel, but with the thickness of the manchego cheese, proved to be a little too on the decadent side. For sweets and cheese-lovers, this dessert is the way to go!

Whether it’s date night or your parents last night in town, Coqueta is an amazing place to go for dinner and drinks, or even a cocktail with some small bites. You can’t go wrong with the Barça Gin & Tonic, or go big with the massive paella!

Pier 5, The Embarcadero
San Francisco, CA 94111

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Handlebar Coffee Roasters

On a trip down to Santa Barbara for the weekend, I mapped a out a couple of cafés I could visit to get my caffeine fix – and to find a little piece of home. Handlebar Coffee Roasters, located on a side street off the downtown strip of State St., was exactly what I was looking for. With locally roasted coffee and a multitude of hot and cold drinks to choose from, as well as the long line looping outside the building, I knew I was in the right place.

While the café wasn’t necessarily large, it had outdoor seating, a large community table, and massive windows where light streamed in. At the counter, Handlebar sells small pastries and snacks, and on a shelf to the right, offers bags of coffee beans and teas, as well as different flavors of chai.

A macchiato for my father, a latte for me, and a hot chocolate for my little sister:



Everyone loved their drinks, and we regretted not coming here again the next day!
A direct quote from my father:

Handlebar > Starbucks (duh.)

Established by two bikers turned coffee roasters, Handlebar couldn’t go wrong! It’s definitely worth the visit and is only a short turn off of State St, downtown.

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

128 E Canon Perdido St
Santa Barbara, CA 93101

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La Note

La Note is one of the most highly sought-after brunch places in Berkeley. Boasting gourmet French cuisine, La Note most often has wait times of over an hour, and a large crowd waiting outside.

The food was phenomenal. La Note is mostly known for their French pastries, which you can order as a filled basket, and their incredibly fluffy egg dishes, all of which come with their garlic home fries.

Their pastries include croissants, coffee cakes, brioche, tartine, and baguettes. While the basket and a brunch plate might be too much, a select few are great to share – we ordered the Toasted Cinnamon Brioche with Lavender Honey and the Sour Cream Coffee Cake Maison. I was completely taken by the Lavender Honey – the airy Cinnamon brioche dipped in the Lavender Honey was heavenly, with the Lavender leaving a subtle but lasting taste.

The main courses included a variety of egg dishes, pancakes, French brioche (fancy for French Toast), and smaller oatmeal cups. The dishes come with a side of home fries, with meaty garlic cloves as big as the potatoes, and combo dishes include the fluffiest, softest eggs you’ve ever tasted.

Above is the Les Oeufs Lucas, with Scrambled Eggs and Goat Cheese on toast and a side of home fries and roasted tomatoes. Below is the classic Two Eggs + Bacon dish, sunny side up.

I ordered the Cote Est, which was a combo plate with eggs, a pancake, and bacon or home fries. I asked the waitress for the “Swirly Pancake” after seeing multiple people enjoying them. Not only are they incredibly photogenic, but the “Swirly Pancake,” which turned out to be the Creme Fraiche pancake, was creamy and delicious too!

The coffee and eggs completely won me over, and the Creme Fraiche pancake along with the aromatic garlic and potatoes completed this incredible brunch meal. The atmosphere is perfect for family meals and cute dates, with the bustling but gentle wait staff and the romantic French environment. La Note also has a large back patio covered in greenery. This is a place I will definitely be returning to!

2377 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA 94704

 

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Skool

 What brought me and my friend to Skool, tucked into a section of the Design District of San Francisco, was the Uni Flan and our obsession with seafood. Skool offers ‘Seafood with Japanese flair,’ and offers meals all throughout the day, with Vegetarian and Gluten Free menus as well. Many of the dishes they offer are rich and use fine meats and seafood, such as the Roasted Duck, Kobe Beef burger, and Squid Ink Spaghettina.

We had a late brunch, and of course ordered a boozy brunch drink (Hibiscus Prosecco – which was amazing) and the Uni Flan.

It was definitely worth coming here JUST for the Uni Flan. We hadn’t even gotten our entrees and we were already sold. The Uni Flan was a soft, light Sea Urchin flan topped with Ikura (Salmon Roe) and Fresh Uni, the perfect mixture of salt and cream. While Uni can be a hard sell (you either love it or you hate it), spread onto the small bites of crispy baguette, it was the perfect savory appetizer with the ‘seafood flair.’

For my main course, I ordered the Ton Toro Cassoulet, which was almost like a light chili with Braised Pork Cheek, a Poached Egg, white beans, and pickled jalapeños in a tomato sauce. When ordering it, I wasn’t exactly sure what would come out, but the Braised Pork Cheek was incredibly flavorful and tender with crispy outer edges, the egg was poached to perfection, and the pickled jalapeños gave a slight Mexican flavor to the classy bowl of chili I was consuming. I liked it so much that I tried to recreate it at home, but of course it wasn’t the same!

My friend ordered the Smoked Salmon Benedict with Avocado, and I have never seen such a lavish benedict! The English Muffin was topped with Spinach, Avocado, and bright slabs of Smoked Salmon, covered in a Crimini Cream sauce, a rich and creamy twist from the typical Hollandaise sauce. Don’t let the dark color of the sauce turn you off of this decadent benedict!

We were both definitely very impressed with Skool, with its rich flavors and vibrant colors, and are looking forward to coming back for brunch or trying their dinner menu! With a full bar and great patio seating, Skool will be a hot spot for SF brunching and dining.

 1725 Alameda St
San Francisco, CA 94103

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Hawker Eats

With the giant Ramen boom in the Bay Area, it’s difficult to figure out which ramen shops are really worth trying. Many places threw authenticity out the window, and created Western twists of the classic Japanese comfort food. Hawker Eats in the Richmond, however, successfully kept the authentic flavor while introducing slight changes to their menu, creating rich broths and decadent toppings in their noodle soups.

Hawker Eats, crowd wise, can be a hit or miss. There are about six or so tables, and it’s a toss up on when it is super busy or easy to snag a table. Either way, it’s worth the wait!

They have a wide range of appetizers, from Takoyaki (Fried Octopus Balls) to Wagyu Beef, as well as Seared Ahi Tuna, Greens, and other bites of meat. Their full menu offers dishes such as Japanese Curry, Izakaya style skewers, and multiple different Ramen choices with a variety of toppings. The Takoyaki tasted just like the Takoyaki Mom&Pop stands in Osaka, the Ahi Tuna was dripping in a delicious Ponzu sauce, and the Wagyu beef was just… perfect.

Below is the K.O. Ramen, the classic Tonkotsu broth with Pork Belly, Pork Cheek, a poached egg, and garlic sesame oil. As a ramen addict who sticks to the classics, this ramen flavor pleased my desire for authentic broth, but had an extra layer of flavor from the garlic sesame oil and the juicy portions of pork. I would’ve ordered and eaten 5 of these if I could!

Underneath the K.O. Ramen is the Spicy Miso Ramen with tender slices of duck (my favorite!), Brussel Sprouts, corn, and a poached egg. This ramen was definitely erring on the Westernized side, with the unforgivingly red broth and the heaps of non-traditional toppings. The duck, however, was flawless and rich in flavor, and the broth wasn’t overly spicy, giving the noodles a nice kick.

While I do admit that I am hard to please when it comes to ramen, Hawker Eats definitely met my expectations, and the fact that it hasn’t blown up on social media (like Mensho Tokyo in SF and Orenchi Ramen in SJ) makes me hope that it will continue to stay a delicious secret 🙂

1650 Balboa St
San Francisco, CA 94121    

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Wise Sons Bagel & Bakery

Only 3 weeks into its opening, Wise Sons Bagel & Bakery, a derivative of the Wise Sons Deli in the Mission, has accrued a large social media gathering and become an Instagram hot spot, attracting customers from all over the city. With its NY style bagels and drool-worthy Lox photos, its no wonder there was a large line outside of the building this weekend.


Of course, I ordered the Lox Bagel, open faced, on Sesame. Lox bagels are already my go-to for a breakfast splurge, and the photos I had seen only made it that much easier to decide what to eat.

The selection of bagels may seem limiting, only because they don’t have sweet options like Blueberry or Chocolate, but they do have the classic bagel staples, which go with any of the numerous shmears they have. The different toppings make up for the lack of bagel choices, ranging from regular cream cheese to almond butter, fruit, avocado, and smoked salmon shmears. For a bigger breakfast, they make sandwiches, such as the Egg & Cheese Breakfast sandwich, Veggie Sandwiches, and the Smoked Salmon sandwich.

They also serve Intelligentsia Coffee, a popular coffee company in NYC, Chicago, and LA.

For someone who is obsessed with Lox sandwiches, I was easily won over by the thick amount of salmon and the perfect amount of cream cheese, capers, and the sprinkle of dill. However, I felt like the bagel itself was a bit hard, and didn’t have the same fluffiness that bagels usually have. It could be that I’m not used to this style of bagels, but overall the sandwich was very tasty and worth waiting in line for!

I would definitely go here again, and it is gaining a lot of popularity – it’s been open for less than a month but is already on the list for many foodies in the city, and they’ve run out of bagels by 2PM most days!

1520 Fillmore St
San Francisco, CA 94115