nom.

There are a lot of things I have eaten and photographed that I should and need to talk about. I’m going to start with nom.

Ever since I learned about Nom., the student run restaurant at Yale, I have wanted to try it.  I finally organized myself and booked a reservation – unbeknownst to me, I booked a reservation for their last open day.

The pop-up restaurant is located in Davenport College’s buttery, and nom. made use of all of the space there was to offer, using both the kitchen and the buttery countertop, and filling all of the remaining space with tables and chairs for customers. I went in a group of four people and we ordered virtually everything on the menu. The dishes are small, tapas-style.

The flavors were great and the ideas were fresh. Although the execution was not always perfect, the food and the restaurant as a whole far exceeded my expectations for what is a student-run restaurant out of a basement. This kind of idea and project is what makes me oh-so proud and happy to be a part of the Yale community. It is also embodies what makes the Yale experience so yummy – a pervasive passion for food.

We started with a bunch of small dishes (think banchan style, the smorgasbord of small dishes that precede a traditional Korean meal). These included:

The kimchi carbonara

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The tsukune slider – chicken-mushroom burger, red miso, papaya-daikon slaw

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The glazed eggplant

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The tom yum tacos – shrimp, coconut tom yum sauce, mushroom soil, lime

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The chopped chicken salad

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The Cantonese pork belly

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And The nom khao (Laotian fried rice ball)

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The best were by far the Cantonese pork belly and the nom khao. Although the rice of the pork belly was a bit hard and undercooked, the flavors were spot-on. We ordered more and extra of the nom khao to fill our bellies. The glazed eggplant was also a hit, as were the tsukune sliders. The chopped chicken salad was my least favorite.

For dessert, we all split a hodge podge which consisted of frozen pound cake, mixed berry compote, greek yogurt, coconut, nutella, and more. How could you not like?

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We accompanied our meal with yujacha soda, made of Korean citron tea and homemade soda. I loved it, though my dining companions were less keen on it. I grew up with citron tea, however, and already love those flavors.

Overall, my thoughts: nom.

A Respite with Restaurant Week: Ibiza

Last week was New Haven Restaurant Week. I saw the week-long event as an opportunity to try out some of the restaurants in New Haven, where fine dining has blossomed in recent years. On a Wednesday night, I tried Ibiza with a bunch of girl friends. The restaurant is extremely close to campus, and I have passed by Ibiza on many occasions. The restaurant is always crowded late into the night, and I was excited to finally try it.

Dinner was delicious and filling. The menu provided a variety of dishes ranging from those tastefully simple (say mushroom risotto) to those more complex in flavor and concept (the lobster with caramelized endive foam). All in all, the consensus was that the meal was an overwhelmingly positive experience – it was especially nice to taste fresh seafood as opposed to whatever sea-faring animals they serve us in the dining hall.

Here’s what we had:

Ensalada de gamba y aguacate – Grilled shrimp and avocado mixed green salad

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Ensalada de pulpo – Grilled ocotpus salad

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Trio de tapas – Codfish mousse, Boquerón, avocado and cilaniro purée, Grill chorizo sausage and green lentil salad

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Langosta – Steaed Maine lobster off the shell, carmelized endive foam, sautéed oyster and shiitake mushrooms, fingerling potatoes, lobster oil

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Arroz de setas – Mushroom risotto, tetilla cheese, truffle oil

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Raya – grilled skate fish and polenta-cauliflower cake

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Lemon bavaroise with fresh fruit salad

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It’s Always Yummy in Philadelphia: Tria and Morimoto

I spent a few days last week in Philadelphia with my sister. Although the city may be known for its Philly cheese steaks, the City of Brotherly Love also has plenty of gourmet food to offer. I let my sister take me around town to try some of Philly’s finest (or phinest?) foods.

I was excited to be back with my sister, and more specifically, back eating with my sister. We make quite the dining pair, and I can’t quite perfectly order, enjoy, and critique a meal with anyone like I can with my sister. The one unfortunate part of this trip is that I forgot my SLR camera. But alas, the iPhone photos will have to do.

For a shopping break, my sister and I stepped into Tria, my mother’s favorite wine bar in Philadelphia. I love the simple decor and intimate ambiance of restaurants like Tria. My sister and I chose a few delectable dishes and had an enjoyable and relatively inexpensive afternoon snack.

Warm Poached Black Mission Figs with Gorgonzola and Prosciutto di Parma

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Warm Tuscan White Bean Spread with Paprika Toast

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Truffled Egg Toast with Fontina Fontal. Although this dish was quite simple (basically a croque-madame without the ham), it was one of the tastiest snacks I have ever had in my life.

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That night, we went to Morimoto. Coming from New Haven, I was excited at the prospect of some good sushi. Morimoto did not let me down.

The design of Morimoto in Philadelphia is quite bazaar. The lighting is minimal and the white furniture and walls of the room are tinted by purple light. I told my sister, “I feel like I’m in the stomach of a whale.” That’s all I have to say.

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In addition, each table had the most phallic lighting object (candle alternative) built in to the table. I was not a huge fan, especially because it hindered my direct access to all of the dishes on the table.

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Always judge a restaurant by its bathroom décor.

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The food, however, was amazing. We started with the whitefish carpaccio – thinly sliced with yuzu soy, hot oil, and mitsuba leaf.

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For the main part of our meal, my sister and I shared the $85 chef’s combination. The highlights on the platter included the Shrimp Tempura Roll (seen farthest left), which had the best flavor and texture out of any tempura roll I have ever had. The addition of a crisp stalk of asparagus in the roll was surprisingly perfect. The kasetura, or shrimp pound cake, (at the top right of the platter) was also surprisingly amazing, and had a melt-in-your-mouth light texture that was delightful. The sushi all tasted quite fresh as expected.

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For dessert, we had the black sesame mousse cake and yuzu meringue tart. Both were quite good. The taste of the black sesame cake was akin to a peanut butter-chocolate mixture. The yuzu meringue tart had a delightfully original taste.

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Until I’m reunited with my BFF (Best Food Friend) again!

Best Value Meal Swipe: Suvir Saran at Yale

I’ve discovered there is some value in checking my e-mail in college. Free shirts, free cookies, free concerts, and sometimes – an essentially free meal by a Michelin-star chef. When I saw the e-mail from Yale Dining about a “Celebrity Cooking Demo,” I immediately signed up. Supposedly, the sign-up sheet was filled within a matter of minutes.

For my $12 dollar meal swipe, I received a four-course meal on linen tablecloths served by waiters in white – a stark contrast to the usual buffet-style dinners served in the dining hall. Most of all, I enjoyed sitting down for a meal (it lasted over two hours) during a hectic week of midterms. Meals here often feel, and are, rushed. It was nice to take time talk with friends and strangers alike over good food.

When I arrived at the table, I was immediately thrust a basket of warm pita and urged to try the various dips set up. They were delicious. My favorite was the baba ganoush, or as Suvir Saran described it, his “eggplant salsa.” The red salsa on the left also had a great kick to it (and no, it tasted nothing like Mexican salsa). The hummus was nice, but did not come close to the superior texture and taste of the Armenian hummus I enjoy in San Francisco.

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Suvir Saran spoke for quite a while on the dishes we were being served and his interest in producing healthy, sustainable food. Unfortunately, once the dishes were served (as Saran was speaking), the focus was on eating food and not listening to him.

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Shrimp in Curry with Corn. The curry was positively delicious.

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The next few dishes were served family style.  Please excuse the less than ideal photography (a result of the lighting and my distance from certain dishes on the table). They were less satisfying after the fabulous shrimp, but more satisfying than a typical dining hall meal.

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The dessert was definitely the least satisfying dish as the flavors were bland and the texture grainy and foreign. It was a kind of Indian pudding with raisins. I don’t think the Commons dining hall staff knew what they were serving.

ImageThanks Suvir for the best dining hall meal I’ve had yet!

SPQR: The Last Supper

It’s been exactly a month since I’ve relocated from the West to the East Coast. A month since I’ve tasted any food from San Francisco. A month of college food. But it hasn’t been a bad month at all, just a busy month – hence the lack of any activity on this blog.

I do miss my city by the bay, its weather, and its food. So on the anniversary of my relocation, I am nostalgically looking back on my last meal in San Francisco.

My last dining experience in San Francisco was bittersweet (literally). My parents took me out to SPQR the night before my 6 AM flight and we ate our hearts content. SPQR was fabulous. The portions are small, and the prices – well, not small. SPQR highlights seafood caught by one local fisherman. The dishes depend on the supply, which means they are often atypical to what you may find in any other restaurant. The restaurant is beautiful design-wise. The skylights above add a nice glow to the restaurant and make for great photography. Although the restaurant and their prices may seem a bit pretentious, there is something incredibly charming about SPQR, where the quarters are so tight that you can watch the chef chat with customers as he prepares food from your seat. I want nothing more to have a seat at the bar – saved for neighborhood regulars, friends of the chef, and people in the biz (the restaurant and food business, that is).

And finally, here’s what we ate:

“fritto misto’, pesce, eggplant, squash, squid and its ink with smoked chilli

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chicken liver mousse, peach fennel marmellata and balsamic gelatina

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complements of the chef…

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octopus, opal basil, panissa, green chickpea, cucumber and american ham

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monkeyfaced eel, smoked plum, horseradish crisp, plankton – too many different ingredients on one board, so little time.

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lobster tortelli, nantes carrot, lobster brodo and garden herb

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“pyramidi al fungi”, chanterelle mushroom fonduta, espresso rubbed cheese and summer truffle – not my favorite dish, it was far less complex or interesting than the other dishes.

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guinea hen cappelletti, sundried tomato, burrata, cavalo nero and red wine

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smoked fettucini, sea urchin, smoked bacon and soft quail egg – this was by far the best dish. It was amazing. A new twist on what could have been a simple carbonera. All of the ingredients fit the right flavors but added more – a hint of exoticism, a creamier texture, etc.

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And DESSERT! At this point, I can’t remember exactly what we had. But don’t they look great?!?

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For those of you still blessed with living in or near San Francisco, I suggest you get to work on securing a seat at the bar at SPQR.

SPQR
1911 Fillmore St.

San Francisco, CA 94115

(415)771-7779

Outside Lands: Festival for the Foodie

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To assume that Outside Lands is simply a music concert would be a grave mistake. Don’t get me wrong – listening to the performances is the main attraction, but Outside Lands has plenty to offer to the other senses.

The smell of the weekend? The nice wafting smell of weed that comes in intense waves but doesn’t fully depart until you leave Golden Gate Park.

The sights of the weekend? The people of course – while you can find your fair share of expected San Francisco hippies and yuppies, Outside Lands attracts everything from entire families to eccentrics in costume to shrieking teenage girls.

And the food – oh, the food.

Outside Lands collects a wonderful variety of good food from all around San Francisco on one plot of land. Think Off The Grid, but you’ve got food trucks and fancy restaurants and street carts and a whole lot of other food vendors.

On Saturday, the Grizzly Bear front man called out into the crowd: “You guys have the bougiest food stands of any music festival I’ve ever seen.” Bougie. And proud. And delicious.

As my friend Maddie commented:Image

There were two main planning struggles for me this past weekend: 1) how to see all the bands I wanted to see (sometimes sacrifices are necessary because of simultaneous scheduling), and 2) how to eat all the food I wanted to eat (no excuses, the stomach expands). The only excuse that stands in terms of food is the pricing – the prices (although it’s not unexpected, it still surprises me) are a bit outrageous for all of the food and drinks at Outside Lands.

And so, I shall commence with the records of what I consumed.

Charles’ Chocolates Gourmet S’more. Yes, please. A definite crowd favorite.

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American Grilled Cheese Kitchen Grilled Cheese with a whole lot of bacon:IMG_2015

I had a bite of the Breakfast Grilled Cheese as well (with fried egg and bacon). Also delicious.

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This photograph does not do it justice, but the Artichoke & Ricotta Sandwich from Luella was wonderfully simplistic.

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I can guarantee you that these Tater Tots from Q were better than Napoleon Dynamite’s. I get it now though, I did not realize how scarily addicting tater tots are. Another crowd favorite.

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Wild mushroom grits from 1300 on Fillmore:IMG_1977

Gilroy Garlic Mac N Cheese. The SECOND best mac n cheese at OSL.

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The BEST Mac and Cheese at Outside Lands. The Crispy Mac and Cheese from Andalu. Whoever thought of frying mac and cheese was genius. The Mac and Cheese from Andalu almost had a grilled cheese texture to it (the outside breading of the mac and cheese was substantial). Perfectly crispy on the outside, perfectly soft and cheesy on the inside. The Spicy Tomato Vinaigrette was also key.

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To add on to the wonderfully healthy food I had at Outside Lands, I also had a huge slice of sausage pizza from Spicy Pie. I was starving, and it was gone in a few minutes.

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Last but not least, the beef and pork arepas from Pica Pica. Although my sister was excited to try Pica Pica’s arepas, I had no clue what they were. They were a delightful surprise and the best dish I had at Outside Lands.

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Until next year, Outside Lands.

Tastings in Tulum

I spent the last week in Tulum, or rather, Akumal, a small town 15 minutes North of Tulum (South of Playa del Carmen and Cancun) in Mexico. The attraction, of course, wasn’t the food, but rather the scene, the surf, and the sights. The food was simply an added bonus.

Here are some samples of what we ate:

Starting the morning off right with an açai smoothie with granola from Turtle Bay Café in Akumal:

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Tacos and Mixed Seafood Ceviche from Los Aguachiles in Tulum:

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I actually preferred El Cammello Jr., which is just down the block from Los Aguachiles in Tulum. The restaurant was less tourist-y, the servings were larger, and the seafood seemed fresher. Unfortunately, I have no photos – contrary to popular belief, I don’t take photos of everything I eat. This time around, I regret this fact.

Dinner at La Cueva del Pescador in Akumal (this is my recommendation for dinner in Akumal):

Octopus cooked Veracruz style. The octopus was more tender than any other octopus I have tasted, and the flavors were simple and fresh. This was the best dish.

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Mixed seafood – fresh, and simply seasoned and grilled:

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A refreshing Jamaica (Hibiscus) Agua Fresca:

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The scene at La Buena Vida in Akumal, where we sat on swings to enjoy Happy Hour:

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One of the local Mayan dishes, Cochinita Pibil, slow-roasted pork colored with a sauce made red by annatto seed:

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Homemade Flan. Perfecto.

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And finally, CHURROS. For those who know me, you may also know that I have been obsessed with churros since I was a small child. Everywhere I go, churros seem to call out to me. These were by far the best churros I have ever had. Surprisingly (to me, at least), they were from the local supermarket, the Soriana in Playa del Carmen. The churros are freshly made and laid out for customers to douse in cinnamon-sugar themselves. Thin, and perfectly crunchy on the outside. Pure heaven.

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Adios, Tulum. It’s been real.

Taking on Thomas Keller’s Apricot Flan Tart

When I decided to take on the task of baking recently, I immediately went to Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery book. I am a firm believer in all or nothing; if I was going to bake, I was going to bake something delicious.

With experience baking from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery book under my belt, I knew to take out my über-precise, scientific scale before starting this recipe. As some may know, Thomas Keller prefers using grams and weight to measure his ingredients. Although it may seem excessively precise, I must say that Keller has me converted. I love trying to get the perfect amount of weight on the scale so that it reads, for example, exactly “100.00g.” The measuring is pretty easy on an electric scale, but measurements do become more complicated when it comes to ingredients like eggs.

Thomas Keller, for those who are unaware, is a famous chef and restaurateur, known for The French Laundry in Napa. Keller’s father was a Marine drill sergeant, and you can see how influences of precision and order play a part in his sophisticated desserts and recipes.

After much debate, I decided to make the Apricot Flan Tart from the Bouchon Bakery book, which is described as “one of the simplest of all tarts.” The tart, I later (too late) discovered, really requires three days to make. The first to make the dough, the second to make the cake, and the third to be served after a night of chilling. I made it in two days: one for the dough, the second for making the cake and serving it too. It turned out great.

Measuring eggs:

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Apricots and Tahitian Vanilla Beans:

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The Pâté-Brisée is rolled-out and ready for baking (the dough is made the night before and chilled in the fridge overnight):

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Making the custard with vanilla seeds scraped from the centers of the vanilla beans – only the best and most fresh ingredients for Mr. Keller:

Thomas Keller's Apricot Flan Tart

Straining the custard the first time around (out of a total of two times) before cooking it:

Thomas Keller's Apricot Flan Tart

The tart, ready for baking:Thomas Keller's Apricot Flan Tart

I made a shortcut with this recipe and did not chill the ready-made cake overnight before serving. It was fine. The tart crust is meant to be cut off very precisely at the edge of the custard; my cutting was less precise. C’est la vie. It was still delicious.

The baked tart, ready for serving:Thomas Keller's Apricot Flan Tart

Mmmm…

Thomas Keller's Apricot Flan Tart

Mmmmmm….

Thomas Keller's Apricot Flan Tart  

Mmmmmmmmm.

SF Pizza Tour Stop #6: Little Star

On a recent, lazy weekday night my dad, sister and I headed to Little Star on Divisadero St. for some late-night pizza. I had had Little Star before, but only take-out. The pizza was quite good. We were not extremely impressed, however, (it’s hard to compare to my recent experience at Una Pizza) and we left with take-out boxes in hand – not able and not especially wanting to finish the entirety of the pies we ordered.

The scene:

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The simple mixed salad:Image

The Brass Monkey (technically not on the menu, but it is basically the Little Star deep-dish + sausage):Image

We enjoyed the sweetness of the tomatoes in the Brass Monkey (loved the spinach with ricotta and feta and crunchy onions!), but we were disappointed by the sparse amount of sausage.

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The White Pie – garlic olive oil base, mozzarella, roasted zucchini, fresh tomatoes, feta:ImageMy dad and I quite enjoyed the White Pie though my sister thought it was too cheesy. I loved the idea and loved the zucchini on the pie, but again, I wish there was more.

Overall, a solid pizza joint and I would definitely hit up Little Star for some late-night take-out, but I would not expect a spectacular pie.

Little Star Pizza

846 Divisadero St.

San Francisco, CA 94123

(415)441-1118

The Corner Store Chillin’

The Corner Store has mixed reviews in my family.

I had been wanting to go to The Corner Store since the place opened on the corner of Geary & Masonic. I passed by it every day on my way to school, and its red circular sign was an everyday reminder that I had yet to go. Finally, I went one day with my sister and a friend.

First of all, I loved the ambiance at The Corner Store. It’s hip – definitely the hippest place that has occupied its location, but when we went there late on a Friday night there was an eclectic mix of hipsters, young people and couples, and older friends and families. Everybody was conversing, loud, and laughing.

The flavors at The Corner Store are definitely more reserved and subtle. They may not be the most mind-blowingly complex flavors you will ever try, but they do go together nicely and make an enjoyable meal.

I enjoyed The Corner Store. Every dish we had was quite good, and I had no complaints. I would definitely return again. My sister, on the other hand, enjoyed our dishes, but was less excited about the place. Later, when I proposed going back to The Corner Store for a different meal (a while later, mind you), she opposed my suggestion.

We both agree, however, that we want to go back to try The Corner Store’s brunch.

The Spring Salad:

The Corner Store Spring Salad

The White Corn Soup – there was not a drop left in the bowl.

The Corner Store White Corn Soup

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Lamb Shoulder Pasta – also quite good, I loved the texture of the Garganelli, though I must say the watery portion left at the bottom was unappealing.

The Corner Store Lamb Shoulder Pasta

The Scottish Salmon with manila clams, gulf shrimp, baby artichoke, and spring onion:

The Corner Store Scottish Salmon

The special of the day – which I believe was a panko-encrusted poached egg on a bed of asparagus:

The Corner Store Panko Poached Egg with Asparagus

A balsamic strawberry dessert:

The Corner Store Strawberry Balsamic Dessert

The butterscotch pudding – delicious:

The Corner Store Butterscotch Pudding

The Corner Store

5 Masonic Ave.

San Francisco, CA 94118

(415) 359-1800

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