hog island oyster co.

9:35 PM sians 0 Comments

since the inception of the big eats by 7x7 (an insider guide to best of SF) in 2009, hog island oysters co. has been a regular feature in 100 things to try before you die in san francisco where in 2009 and 2010 for their clam chowder and in 2011 for sweetwater oysters. the first time i've heard of this place was from food network's best thing i ever ate - obsession edition as recommended by tyler florence for the fresh kumamoto oysters on the half shell. that was when hog island's oysters joined my wishlist of restaurants.

the first time we saw hog island oyster company was during my second visit to san francisco with ryan. we had to pass it up then since we were uber stuffed from brunch (sadly) but was determined to come try this place on our next trip there. that's how we ended up finding ourselves waiting in line a month ago (yup, this post is a lil overdue) for a table. waiting in line seems to be a common scene for this restaurant but the good thing was the line moved pretty quickly.

there were outdoor seating which i was not too keen on that day although dining with the beautiful background of the bay/pier was tempting. it was too chilly and i didn't feel like eating with my jacket on. the interior of the restaurant itself had a nautical theme - kinda what i'd expect the ambience of a seafood place to be, with lights streaming in from the bay through the glass windows. right in the middle of the restaurant,  there is a communal dining table surrounding a shucking station where you can watch the chefs continuously shucking fresh oysters as the orders came pouring in. there were a few other tables that filled the dining space. the restaurant is accented by black&white fishing themed pictures that gave it nostalgic feel. i like the feel of the place :)

while we were waiting in line, a friendly waitstaff came over and handed us a menu so we could figure out what to eat as well as offered to take drink orders. after about 20 minutes, we finally got our table and i was excited that we got a spot at the communal table where i could see the chefs at work. we placed our order and they started the meal with some fresh warm bread with some butter which was great cos i was starving at this point. lol.

bagna cauda | baked oysters . butter . garlic . capers . parsley . anchovy . ($12)

okay, so both ryan and i are not fans of fresh oysters but we do enjoy lightly cooked oysters. since hog island oyster co. is well known for, you know, oysters (i mean...namesake!), we wanted to try one of the baked variety. we were torn between this bagna cauda for what we think would be a great combination of flavors or the simple citrus oysters but based on our server's recommendation, we opted for the former.

when the dish of four oysters came to the table, the oysters were swimming in butter/own juice in its half shell. i couldn't wait to dig into one. however, we were sorta let down because the garlic butter was overpowering and we were searching for the flavors of capers and anchovy. one good thing was i could still taste a hint of the natural sweetness and freshness of the oysters through all that - as some ppl would describe as it tastes like the sea. i decided that i would try my second oyster with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice which actually did wonders in freshening up the flavors. it needed a better balance of the garlic butter with the rest of the ingredients but not bad overall.

grilled cheese sandwich | mezzo secco . cave-aged gruyere . formage blanc . house made pickles . ($14)

i never thought i'd ever order a grilled cheese sandwich at a seafood restaurant but several yelpers swears it to be one of the best they've ever had hence the exception. a few great things that the sandwich had going was the fact that most of the ingredients came establishments within the ferry building itself - the soft focacia-like bread from acme bread and the trio of fresh cheeses from cowgirl creamery.

imagine all these ingredients coming together and grilled on a cast iron pan to give it that crisp crust that encases  the creamy meltiness of the cheese oozing out from between the soft bread. the good combination of cheeses gave it a subtle bitterness that melded with the savoriness - exuding richness but suprisingly light and satisfying to the taste buds. this was definitely awesome stuff. the pickled vegetables however wasn't as pleasant - too much of the dill vinegar-y flavor that it didn't really matter that they pickled a myriad of vegetables cos they all tasted the same - just vinegar. ryan said that this was a solid delicious grilled cheese sandwich although not the best since his favorite is what he grew up as a kid. i personally really liked their rendition of the dish.

clam chowder | manila clams . aromatic vegetables . bacon . potatoes . cream . ($14)

the dish that i wanted to try the most from hog island oyster co. - their popular clam chowder. if you are thinking of a thick, creamy clam chowder with bits of clam meat, you're up for a suprise. when the bowl of chowder was served at our table, the bowl swimming with a generous portion of manila clams, still in their shells. my first spoonful of chowder was greeted by the smokiness and saltiness of the bacon, to which the natural sweetness of the clams' natural juices followed and was finally rounded by the creaminess. this was definitely a lighter version of the clam chowder we are used to but it was at the same time had satisfying layers and depths of flavor you would expect from a clam chowder. i began to understand how it made it to the 100 things to try before you die in sf list by 7x7 SF.

the one thing that was a pet peeve to ryan is also what's great about it is the clams in shell. it is quite a hassle to have to deal with the shells which honestly wasn't much work plus i love the fresh whole clam meat. the potatoes were cooked through and also functioned to thickened the chowder a tad. we both loved it and thought it rivaled the best clam chowder we've ever had. 

hog island oyster company should definitely be on your list of to go restaurants whenever you are in the neighborhood especially if you are in the mood for an awesome meal of fresh seafood or.. well... grilled cheese sandwich :) i know it's been added to my delicious-restaurants-that's-worthy-for-multiple-return-visits list. hehe.

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others
Hog Island Oyster Company on Urbanspoon


wow bao-ing

9:18 AM sians 4 Comments

a member of the lettuce entertain you empire, chicago's very own wow bao offers hot asian buns in the heart of downtown. if you are looking for the traditional chinese steamed bao you might find in chinatown, you might be a lil disappointed. wow bao offers a variety of bao with their personal twist and asian fusion flavors.

few good things to know:
01 | ordering online is possible and bicycle home delivery (so old school! hehe) available for areas around downtown.
02 | you can order at the kiosk at one of the three locations instead of having to wait in line.
03 | wow bao sells frozen baos so you can steam them buns at home on your own.. which also means they ship across us if you're in another state and would like to try them.
04 | they serve breakfast version of the baos.
05 | wow bao has secret word wednesday which they would either post via their facebook or twitter and you could get a free bao and say the word at any locations.
06 | contrary to their name, they also have other things besides baos such as noodle salads, rice bowls and frozen yoghurt if you'd like some variety. my friend's favorite is the spicy peanut noodle salad and i kinda like the rice bowls which is essentially the filling of baos atop rice instead of being inside a bun. not much of a fan of the pad thai salad.

for my lil blog entry, i decided to try all their lunch/dinner baos - all eight of them to see which ones are my favorite. i had them all to go, of course.. i don't need ppl to think i am a pig eating them all! :p

savory | bbq pork bun

needless to say, the taste of this bao resembles the traditional chinese steam bun. sweet bbq (think chinese style) coupled with savory. but still not the same thing you get from those asian bakery in chinatown. it's still lacking compared to the ones i've grown up eating but pretty good. and i wished there was more meat filling in the bun.

savory | teriyaki chicken

this might be my favorite of the wow baos. in the same respect as the bbq pork, it has savory sweetness in filling so the taste profile of the two is almost the same. it probably explains why i prefer these two over the rest of the savory baos.

savory |  spicy kung pao chicken

i'm not a huge fan mainly because it tastes too peanut-y, granted that the textural element is mostly contributed by the peanut as it should since it is kung pao chicken. it has the savoriness and a very slight spicy kick. if you are a fan of kung pao chicken, definitely give this a try. i have several friends who like this a lot.

savory | spicy mongolian beef

a few words: some crunch, some spicy kick, savory and could taste the vegetable in the filling. not bad.

savory | thai curry chicken

the filling is almost bright yellow in color. the predominant flavor i could taste was the kaffir lime leaf flavor and the herbs with some curry flavor. not a favorite of mine but have a few friends who would beg to differ.

savory | whole wheat edamame

their vegetarian option for those who'd like to take a break from meat. (some would sneer at this thought...haha) the bun itself is whole wheat which is different from the other baos. it tasted....healthy and i don't think in a bad way. a whole lot of the slight natural sweetness of edamame flavor which suprisingly went well with the whole wheat bun. personally wouldn't be one that i would automatically go for but not bad.

sweet | coconut custard

a lot of ppl might be weirded out by baos with custard ( i have to admit i was quite apprehensive at first even though now that i think about it, i've  had red paste baos). this was really good. soft, sweet coupled with the coconut flavor and the texture given by the coconut shavings - it was a nice surprise. i actually liked it. the first time i had it was when christina offered me half of hers so i would give it a try and now i would get one for dessert whenever i go to wow bao.

sweet | chocolate ginger coconut

an alternative dessert bao. a friend of mine swears by this and said that it is delicious. i trusted his recommendation so i got one and actually enjoyed it. the bitter-sweetness of the chocolate is mellowed by the bun itself. its chocolate-y-ness is enough to satisfy most chocolate lovers. the chocolate somewhat masks the coconut and the ginger and the other two components are mostly there for textural sake. it's good nonetheless.

with three locations in chicago downtown, you can get a quick asian fusion snack/meal on the go. the buns are slightly smaller than the ones you would get from chinese/asian bakeries so at $1.50 each or $8.50 for a six pack, it can be considered to be slightly pricey. but for the convenience for a quick asian bao fix although not entirely authentic, wow bao is a place to keep in mind.

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others

Wow Bao on Urbanspoon


dynamo donuts & coffee

8:33 PM sians 2 Comments

i blame you, dynamo donuts. you're the reason why i wasn't as hungry as i should have been before i got to chez panisse. but it was worth it because you are so different. :)

dynamo donuts & coffee first caught my attention when i was watching food network's "the best thing i ever ate: with bacon" episode where chris cosentino can't get enough of this bacon-y treat. ryan and i were planning to try this place out back in february but it fell through.

you might think, "wait...what? you said 'with bacon' episode.. but you're talking about a donut shop.."

yup, exactly the reason why it's special! :)

jeny and i were going to meet up in san francisco and i was excited because i haven't met her for ages. i told her of this place and agreed this was a great place to have an afternoon snack and hang out. ryan and i got there a lil early so we sat in the quaint,-vintage-with-touch-of-adorable cafe waiting for them. there were a few tables on the right as you walk in with children books about donuts lined against the wall which is i thought was really cute.

as we were waiting..anxiously (anxious because i was afraid they were gonna be sold out of donuts), there were constant stream of people ordering their coffee and donuts at the shop front which was bright and cheery with green and yellow shades. most of them walked past through the shop, out to the back and we wondered why. ryan followed after them and found that there was an outdoor patio out back where they can enjoy the sun except it was kind of cold that day.

a lot of people say, everything is better with bacon. they've got it right! i am a bacon lover and when i heard about this maple glazed bacon apple donut ($3), i knew i need to somehow fit it into my food itinerary.

this airy, doughy donut glazed with maple and then topped it with salty bits of bacon. oh and they have pieces of  apple baked into the donut itself. it was sweet, it was salty, it was doughy. basically, it was delicious. i love these balanced pairings of sweet and savory salty which is weird but that's what i think is special when it is done right. and they even have a play on the different textures. yummy love! :)

the other donut we shared was the apricot cardamom ($2). another glazed donut with bits of apricot in the dough itself. i personally wasn't as blown away by this, took a bite of two and focused on the bacon donut instead. it was alright in my book. same airy, doughiness with a subtle hint of cardamom.

some of the other donut selections available that day were open hand peanut buddy, bitter queen (grapefruit campari), cornmeal blueberry, vanilla bean and lemon thyme.

i read that the coffee is good here hence we paired both the donuts with a skinny latte ($3.75) since they didn't have soy milk. and i was so happy when i saw a pattern that was made on the foam of the latte (i am easily satisfied). the coffee was warm and good - actually comforting since it was a chilly day.

dynamo donuts & coffee is definitely worth a visit for their maple glazed bacon apple donut if you are in town and see if bacon and donut make a good pairing. though i was a tad sad that they didn't have the other donuts (as listed on their website) that i was hoping to try, the bacon donut was such a delight! just like what a picture suggested: donuts + coffee = <3

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others

Dynamo Donuts & Coffee on Urbanspoon