Category Archives: Beef

Grillades & Grits, Brenda’s French Soul Food (SF)

Like my earlier review, Brenda’s is the most authentic and delicious Creole and Cajun dishes I’ve found beyond Louisiana in seriously a long time. The fact they have grillades & grits for brunch, and all the dishes cost $10 or less…man, this is a little treasure indeed.

Grillades & Grits, Brenda's French Soul Food (SF)

Grillades & Grits, Brenda’s French Soul Food (SF)

Grillades can be made from beef round steak, or sometimes veal or pork, depending on the local corner store butcher who makes them…and they’re best made at family-run stores with butchery back rooms in Louisiana. The meat’s generally pounded a bit and cooked in a tomato and onion gravy (or local variations thereof) until very soft and tender. Then the meat & dark gravy’s hit with grits. One of the rare occasions when you can lay off the grits butter.

Detail: Grillades & Grits, Brenda's French Soul Food (SF)

Detail: Grillades & Grits, Brenda’s French Soul Food (SF)

The grillades (in this case, beef cutlets) are another awesome dish from Brenda’s. Paired with two unnecessary eggs and addictive, hockey puck-sized buttermilk biscuits that would be a wondrous meal unto themselves, the grillades & grits made my 45-minute brunch wait entirely satisfying. An incredible treat.

The Grade: Excellent / Awesome
The Damage: $10.50
The Tip: Brenda’s is CLOSED TUESDAYS and only open until 3pm
The Skinny: 
Brenda’s French Soul Food
652 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94102-3328
Phone: (415) 345-8100

Brenda's French Soul Food (SF)

Brenda’s French Soul Food (SF)

New York Steak (Annabelle’s Bar & Bistro, SF)

BASEBALL CUT NEW YORK STEAK – ANNABELLE’S BAR & BISTRO

Executive Chef Larry Piaskowy came into Annabelle’s Bar & Bistro not long ago, and has been humbly building a menu of terrific, all-natural meat dishes (and other dishes, of course). It’s about time he got some kudos. From the handful of dishes I’ve eaten there, all were winners.

New York steak (baseball cut) - Annabelle's Bar & Bistro (SF)

New York steak (baseball cut) – Annabelle’s Bar & Bistro (SF)

Recently an evening special was a baseball cut New York steak. (This fist-sized steak comes from the top sirloin, one of the favored and thus more expensive cuts of meat.) Served justly medium-rare, bisected on a bias and leaning toward its other half, it looked like a meaty Richard Serra sculpture. Piaskowy serves all-natural beef sourced from a sustainable ranching co-op called Painted Hills. The tenderness of the baseball cut generated moments of closed-eye bliss as I swirled bites through caramelized onion jus and drippings. Paired with a low stack of spinach to ground the bliss in some earth and crunchy chew, and a gruyere potato cake that’s lighter and more well-balanced than its name implies. It’s a great little gratin that’s not too heavy. The steak was capped with some wispy, crispy onion strips.

I’m generally greeted (or interrogated) by the “So what’s the best steak?” question and I rattle off my short list, depending on what type of steak someone can qualify they like most. Now I get to add Annabelle’s Bar & Bistro to that short list, no matter what steak people like.

The Grade: Awesome (highest grade)

The Damage: $33

The Tip: Annabelle’s has a three-course prix fixe nightly ($33)

The Skinny: Annabelle’s Bar & Bistro
68 – 4th Street, San Francisco CA
Phone: (415) 777-1200
Website: http://www.annabelles.net/

New York steak (baseball cut) - Annabelle's Bar & Bistro (SF)

New York steak (baseball cut) – Annabelle’s Bar & Bistro (SF)

Braised Short Ribs, Annabelle’s Bar & Bistro (SF)

ANCHOR STEAM BRAISED SHORT RIBS

ANNABELLE’S BAR & BISTRO, SAN FRANCISCO

Anchor Steam Braised Short Ribs, Annabelle's Bar & Bistro (SF)

Anchor Steam Braised Short Ribs, Annabelle’s Bar & Bistro (SF)

Annabelle’s Bar & Bistro is a hidden gem in plain view, with a solid selection of all-natural meat dishes that are carefully crafted by Executive Chef Larry Piaskowy. The pork chop is great there, and the steaks are amazing. But I can understand whey the Anchor Steam-braised short ribs might be the dish diners would talk about.

The short ribs have about a 4-hour braising period in the Anchor Steam bath, as it were, and are crisscrossed with a benediction of horseradish creme fraiche. (I think the creme fraiche is probably the right amount from a chef’s perspective, but it’s so good I really wanted a few spoonfuls more.)  The ribs sit folded over a structure of green beans like thick, dark teepee flaps. Actually, it resembles a hiding place of the princess in Kurosawa’s “The Hidden Fortress,” but that’s what you were thinking when you saw this photo anyway, right?

Braised short ribs - Annabelle's Bar & Bistro

Braised short ribs – Annabelle’s Bar & Bistro

These are fuzzy-looking mud flaps, quite unlike any braised short ribs you’re ever likely to see. And the meat’s texture is remarkably like velvet, again unlike the chunky, canyon-like renderings typically seen of short ribs. It’s an extraordinary feeling to the palate and the combination of the ultra-soft ribs in jus, crisp green beans, and a little horseradish pep makes this a really outstanding dish.

The Grade: Awesome (highest grade)

The Damage: $25

The Skinny: Annabelle’s Bar & Bistro
68 – 4th Street, San Francisco CA
Phone: (415) 777-1200
Website: http://www.annabelles.net/

SF Chefs. Food. Wine. – Awesome Meat Dishes

ELIZABETH FALKNER’S PORK BELLY

SHREDDED PORK TACO – SCOTT YOUKILIS

RYAN FARR’S BRISKET & TONGUE SANDWICH

 1. ELIZABETH FALKNER’S PORK BELLY WITH SUMMER MELON

Pulling out all the stops, Citizen Cake & Orson founder Chef Elizabeth Falkner and her crew served lovely pork belly chunks with cubed watermelon and a great, Dr. Seuss-green sauce. Rich and fantastic flavors, with the sweet melon calming the heart, the pork belly’s striation was like a painting in pork. Excellent.

Pork Belly with summer melon - Orson - Elizabeth Falkner

Pork Belly with summer melon – Orson – Elizabeth Falkner

2. SHREDDED PORK TACOS (CARNITAS) – SCOTT YOUKILIS – MAVERICK

Down the aisle, Chef Scott Youkilis of Maverick was cranking out amazing little carnitas tacos on fresh-fried tortilla chips. This was a great bite, enhanced if you so desired, with a piquant dollop of his house-made hot sauce. Youkilis steals away for 4 days once a year to produce the limited run of mouth-burn, and his balance of heat and afterbite and flavor makes the sauce a great addition to the tacos (and lots of other things I can think of). Another excellent dish.

Carnitas tacos from Maverick with house-made hot sauce. Excellent.

Carnitas tacos from Maverick with house-made hot sauce. Excellent.

Notice fire extinguisher? Yeah, Scott had house-made hot sauce!

Notice fire extinguisher? Yeah, Scott had house-made hot sauce!

3. BEEF BRISKET & TONGUE SANDWICHES – RYAN FARR – 4505 MEATS

Ryan’s a food star in the making, and you would be wise to attend any event that he’s cooking at because you will certainly be well fed. Ryan had amazing little brisket and tongue sandwiches on a great roll stuffed with cilantro. A guy asked about the sandwich and when Ryan got to “…and tongue,” the guy pulled his hand back. I chuckled and told him how great tongue is and what a soft, delicious meat it is. Ryan also gave him a soft sell. No dice. Ho hum. More for the foodios who know. Another excellent offering from Ryan.

Ryan Farr (4505 meats) - excellent brisket and tongue sandwich

Ryan Farr (4505 meats) – excellent brisket and tongue sandwich

Dude, it's tongue! It's good for you!

Dude, it’s tongue! It’s good for you!

Filet Mignon Steak Tartare

Filet Mignon Steak Tartare - Lark Creek Steak

Filet Mignon Steak Tartare – Lark Creek Steak

 Steak tartare has been such a rarity that its perennial status as a French delicacy seems even more elevated in recent years. Most places that serve steak tartare do it well, but you’d be hard pressed to find a better steak tartare than at Lark Creek Steak.

The steak tartare at LCS is made of filet mignon, so you’re in the Pantheon of tartare right away. It’s dolled up with capers, chopped onion, fleur de sel and the prerequisite raw egg yolks. It’s meat at its purest and finest, with just a bit of seasoning. It’s rich, meaty, salty, a bit fatty, and absolutely fantastic. This is a meat lover’s dream.

The crostini are likewise perfect, crispy, buttery little trowels to dig out fine chunks of filet mignon. The portion is generously sized to share between two, three, or four friends.  If you’ve never had steak tartare, treat yourself. You’ll love it.

THE GRADE: AWESOME (highest grade)
THE DAMAGE: $13.95 
THE SKINNY: LARK CREEK STEAK 

Westfield® San Francisco Centre
845 Market Street, 4th Floor, Ste 402
San Francisco, CA 94103

Phone: (415) 593-4100

Reservations: http://www.larkcreek.com/larkcreek_steak/index.html

Lunch:
Mon.-Fri. 11:30 am – 2:00 pm
Sat. & Sun. 12:00 pm – 2:30 pm

Dinner:
Mon.-Thurs. 5:30 pm – 9 pm
Fri. 5:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Sat. 5:00 pm – 9:30 pm
Sun. 5:00 pm – 9 pm

Filet Mignon Steak Tartare

Filet Mignon Steak Tartare - Lark Creek Steak

Filet Mignon Steak Tartare – Lark Creek Steak

Steak tartare has been such a rarity that its perennial status as a French delicacy seems even more elevated in recent years. Most places that serve steak tartare do it well, but you’d be hard pressed to find a better steak tartare than at Lark Creek Steak.

The steak tartare at LCS is made of filet mignon, so you’re in the Pantheon of tartare right away. It’s dolled up with capers, chopped onion, fleur de sel and the prerequisite raw egg yolks. It’s meat at its purest and finest, with just a bit of seasoning. It’s rich, meaty, salty, a bit fatty, and absolutely fantastic. This is a meat lover’s dream.

The crostini are likewise perfect, crispy, buttery little trowels to dig out fine chunks of filet mignon. The portion is generously sized to share between two, three, or four friends.  If you’ve never had steak tartare, treat yourself. You’ll love it.

THE GRADE: AWESOME (highest grade)
THE DAMAGE: $13.95 
THE SKINNY: LARK CREEK STEAK 

Westfield® San Francisco Centre
845 Market Street, 4th Floor, Ste 402
San Francisco, CA 94103

Phone: (415) 593-4100

Reservations: http://www.larkcreek.com/larkcreek_steak/index.html

Lunch:
Mon.-Fri. 11:30 am – 2:00 pm
Sat. & Sun. 12:00 pm – 2:30 pm

Dinner:
Mon.-Thurs. 5:30 pm – 9 pm
Fri. 5:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Sat. 5:00 pm – 9:30 pm
Sun. 5:00 pm – 9 pm

Excellent Burgers – Taylor’s Automatic Refresher

THE DISH: BACON CHEESEBURGER

Taylor’s Automatic refresher makes really terrific burgers. There’s probably no weekend time that they don’t have a line of 10 to 30 people waiting to get one. THey use hormone-free beef from Niman Ranch, and grill up a nicely sized portion on bakery-fresh, toasted egg buns that are soft outside and a bit crunchy inside. Their special sauce is like a healthy version of McDonald’s wickedly addictive Big Mac sauce, which works well with iceberg lettuce slivers. The good melt of cheddar cheese plus pickles and bacon, if you get it, that’s crisply cooked. I just wish they were a bit less expensive but they’re a great option when you’re walking to the Ferry Building, around the Embarcadero, or nearby.

Bacon Cheeseburger - Taylor's Automatic Refresher

Bacon Cheeseburger – Taylor’s Automatic Refresher

Taylor's Automatic Refresher SF - The Ferry Building

Taylor’s Automatic Refresher SF – The Ferry Building

THE SPOT: TAYLOR’S AUTOMATIC REFRESHER

Cool, open interior that has a 1950s Americana feeling without being dreadfully cheesy (like Mel’s Diner, ugh). Bit of a challenge at times because doors are open and flies like to buzz about the entrance. Wait staff is young, friendly, attentive.  The one downer of eating outside at Taylor’s Automatic Refresher is the uninvited, bothersome pigeon patrols. You can try to relax on the great picnic tables outside, but you might feel more like Tippi Hedren in a Hitchock film. More spikes on the ledges, Taylor’s, please.

Pigeons like Taylor's Refresher burgers just like you do

Pigeons like Taylor’s Refresher burgers just like you do

THE GRADE: EXCELLENT!

THE DAMAGE: $8.99

THE SKINNY: TAYLOR’S AUTOMATIC REFRESHER

1 Ferry Building (go to the far left of the building)
San Francisco, CA 94111

Phone: (866) 328-3663

Prix Fixe Dinner – Michael Mina

MICHAEL MINA – RESTAURANT REVIEW – PRIX FIXE DINNER

With an atmosphere of contemporary elegance, plus excellent service and trays of succulent small bites coming in spectacularly focused trios, Michael Mina restaurant is certainly worth the special occasion splurge. Tables are distant enough for your group to feel safe and uncrowded. You enter the room–hidden within the Westin St. Francis Hotel on Union Square–by climbing a small flight of stairs, perhaps accurately representational of the culinary temple that Michael Mina has enjoyed since its inception.

Michael Mina has many offerings of multi-course (prix fixe) dinners. The standard three-course dinner sets you back $105. Expensive, to be sure, but it’s a wonderful experience. Six-course tasting menus are $135, and a great three-course pre-theatre meal is $55.

COURSE ONE – PASTA, BRAISE & CONFIT

Course 1 - Michael Mina SF  Prix Fixe Dinner - Pasta, Braise & Confit

Course 1 – Michael Mina SF Prix Fixe Dinner – Pasta, Braise & Confit

LEFT: Fettucine, Rabbit, English Peas

A beautifully rendered meaty pasta, rife and verdant with variegated greenliness. Few American chefs seem to really honor rabbits effectively; the chefs at Mina certainly do. Tastes like Spring and Summer in a dish; simply delicious.

TOP / CENTER: Orecchiette, Pork Short Rib, and Fava Beans

Perhaps the only faux pas moment of the meal. The potentially rich flavor of the pork short rib was nowhere here, and not supported by typically chewy orecchiette (ear-shaped, dense, and spongy pasta), and born-to-be-mild fava beans. Blah.

RIGHT: Ravioli, Duck Leg, Radicchio

Wow; utterly phenomenal. This is a little triumph: rich duck confit, sumptuous in its dark gravy, magical in its layered tones of smell and taste. If you go this season to Michael Mina, request your waiter if you can get a single large portion of this instead of the trio; I surmise they would oblige you. This is the best meaty ravioli I’ve eaten in 2009, and among the best meaty pastas of the year. I’d like to have a big bowl of it and a glass of Super Tuscan; that would be a perfect meal.

Duck Confit Ravioli, Radicchio - Michael Mina SF

Duck Confit Ravioli, Radicchio – Michael Mina SF

COURSE TWO – BRANDT FARM BEEF and SPRING VEGETABLES

At first, the tiny bites of steak on the tri-partite plate seem light. But the incredible flavors from each steak made every bite fulfilling, worth enjoying slowly. Each of the three steak dishes was excellent.

Course 2 - Steak & Spring Vegetables - Michael Mina restaurant

Course 2 – Steak & Spring Vegetables – Michael Mina restaurant

COURSE TWO, LEFT:  FILET MIGNON with Sauce Bernaise, Sacramento Delta green asparagus

Beautiful little stacked portion of filet mignon with a perfect bernaise sauce, paired with slivered green asparagus. Cleverly piled like a double-stack…not sure if this is a wink on a double burger but it was great, either way.

Filet Mignon with sauce bernaise - Michael Mina, SF

Filet Mignon with sauce bernaise – Michael Mina, SF

COURSE TWO, CENTER:  DRY AGED RIBEYE, wilted spinach, morel jus (plus potatoes)

If you’ve ever wondered why people pay so much money to get dry-aged beef, wonder no more. This is a tiny piece of steak that packs a wallop of flavor. Another perfect presentation, and a great piece of steak.

Dry aged ribeye steak, Michael Mina SF

Dry aged ribeye steak, Michael Mina SF

COURSE TWO, RIGHT:  BRAISED TRIO, young leeks, horseradish vinaigrette

Our waiter described this as “Tongue and Cheek,” so there’s beef tongue, beef cheek, and something else equally tender and delicious. A great balance of the beef parts with the earthiness of both the leeks and the brightness of the horseradish vinaigrette.

Braised Trio (beef and cheek), Michael Mina - SF

Braised Trio (beef and cheek), Michael Mina – SF

COURSE THREE: CHEESES – GOAT, SHEEP, COW

For my last course, I opted for the cheese plate and it was again a small triumph of three. Savory with sweet, earthy and salty; everything well paired.

• Minuet, Pear Purée, Hazelnuts

• Pecorino Ginepro, Port Cherries, Juniper Balsamic Vinegar

• Pianoforte, Porcini Syrup, Puffed Wild Rice

There are some great options for sweeter things, but I like cheese to finish a languorous meal. Mina’s renowned for amazing desserts, and anything you order will be pretty great.

THE GRADE: AWESOME (highest grade)

THE DAMAGE: $105

THE INSIDE TIP: Get a very similar three-course meal at Michael Mina for $55. (Each course will be single, not trio, servings but most of the dishes for the regular prix fixe will be available at the beginning of dinner service for the lower price.) Make your reservation for between 5:30 and 6:00 p.m. for their special pre-theatre dinner price. Go-go, early birds.

Free reservations at Michael Mina via OpenTable.com

THE SKINNY: MICHAEL MINA

Inside the lobby of the Westin St. Francis Hotel

335 Powell Street, San Francisco CA 94102

Phone: (415) 397-9222

Website with menus: http://www.michaelmina.net

Hours: Dinner: Tuesday – Thursday 5:30pm – 9:00pm, Friday – Saturday: 5:30pm – 10:00pm

Flatiron Steak (Oola, SF)

Flatiron Steak

Flatiron Steak at Oola, SF
Flatiron Steak at Oola, SF

A flatiron steak is usually compared to skirt or flank steak, but it’s actually a better cut that tends to be much more tender than either. When it’s properly done, it can be great. It’s a cut with nice marbling from the beef shoulder (chuck), and sometimes called “top blade,” a reference to its blade-like shape. The shape resembles a flatiron.  (For more about this cut, visit Certified Angus Beef and click on the “chuck” portion of the diagram halfway down the screen.) 

At $28, Oola’s flatiron steak is priced on par with more expensive steak cuts, but it is definitely the best flatiron steak I’ve eaten in 2009. Baring its flesh like a fashionable summer sunburn, the grilled slices skate up from a pond of peppercorn gravy: simply sumptuous morsels. The peppercorn sauce is wonderful, both rich and surprisingly light. The potato gratin is also great, and well-balanced with cheese that’s mild and doesn’t show up the beef. Again, Chef Ola Fendert takes something that is often traditionally heavy and lightens it without sacrificing any flavor. Some grilled asparagus spears add a jolt of crunch and color. 

The waitress kindly shared that Oola’s medium rare is a bit more rare than usual, which I’ve found to be how French and French-trained chefs interpret medium rare. I recommend the flatiron medium rare (as shown).

The Grade: Excellent

The Damage: $28

The Inside Tip: 

Don’t order a flatiron steak past medium or you will lose the juicy flavors; go for rare to medium-rare.

The Skinny: Oola Restaurant & Bar

860 Folsom Street (between 4th St & 5th St)
San Francisco, CA 94107
Phone: (415) 995-2061
Website: http://www.oola-sf.com/

Make reservations at Oola directly via OpenTable.com

Beef Bavette (Coco500, SF)

Beef Bavette

American Kobe Beef Bavette (Coco 500)
American Kobe Beef Bavette (Coco 500)

You’ll have to excavate the American Kobe Beef Bavette from under the little forest-trap of greens and chopped radish, but it’s a nice discovery. Cooked rare, this beef is terrifically tender and rich. The mizuna (a Japanese salad green) and organic radishes provide a good bright balance with slight bitterness and crunch, and some salsa verde gives a slight, spicy warmth. It’s juicy, tasty, and a bit sloppy. No matter. The beef is wonderful, and the plate well-balanced with flavors. So much so that you may even think you’re having a salad.

American Kobe Beef Bavette (detail)

The Grade: Excellent

The Damage: $25

The Skinny: Coco500

500 Brannan Street (at 4th Street), SF CA 941107
Phone: (415) 543-2222
Hours: Mon – Thurs: 11:30 am to 10 pm
Friday: 11:30 am to 11 pm
Saturday: 5:30 pm to 11 pm
Closed Sundays

Website: http://www.coco500.com