Last May, I got the approval to attend a Monday seminar in San Francisco. Instead of flying in Sunday night, I decided to come into town Saturday morning just so I can check out whatever food scene I could explore in just two days. During my time there, I also had a chance to re-connect with my Norcal Food Blogger friends, the same ones who I first met through twitter and then in person last March, but not until Saturday night for dinner.
When it came to lunch; however, I decided to stick close to the place I was going to call home for the next 3 days and decided to go for Indian food at the Chaat Cafe.
My meal started well with the arrival of the Strawberry Lassi. Having only had mango lassi in the past, a strawberry version was a refreshing change and it was a change I loved.
When it came to the food, I decided to stick with two items on their "street food menu" starting with the Pakori Chaat which are mixed vegetable pakoras topped with tamarind, mint chutney and spices. Unfortunately,I didn't care for it. The pakora was over-fried. All you have to do is see the photo below and see the dark brown surface to see what I mean. I also found the tamarind sauce to be too thick and a bit cloying.
The other dish I ordered was the Dahi Batata Puri which were crispy shells filled with mashed potatoes and chopped onions, topped with yogurt, spices, chutneys and sev (thin string-like fried snack preparation made out of gram flour). I thought the filling was nice, although I felt that the shell could have been lighter and crispier, but that tamarind sauce again didn't add anything to the Puri.
It was still too thick and cloying and also was just too tangy and this comes from someone who really likes tamarind. I also didn't understand the addition of the sev. It seems like the crunch component of the shell should be enough.
It's safe to say that other than the Strawberry Lassi, I wasn't a big fan of what I ate at Chaat Cafe. It's also fair to say that I shouldn't judge a restaurant based on just two dishes, but first impressions do count. So Chaat Cafe probably wouldn't merit a return visit from me anytime soon.
Thankfully, a really good meal was on my horizon with a dinner at Patio Filipino, which turned out to be the soft opening of Kapamealya, an organization of like minded Filipino foodies and bloggers who are here to promote, highlight, and exhibit Filipino cuisine via various culinary outings. The founders of this group are my Norcal Food Blogger Buddies. So if you're in the Bay Area, be sure to check Kapamealya out.
Now on to my 10 course meal at Patio Filipino, but what came out first was a refreshing and fruity Mango Sangria, which by the way, is not on the regular menu. It was a special drink made just for the evening.
As for the food, the first dish to hit the table was the Calamares Frito which are deep fried squid that came with a Patio special sauce. What a great starter. The squid was light, crunchy with just the right amount of chew without being too chewy. I also liked the sweet and sour sauce that came with the calamari.
Next was the Gambas al Ajillo which was made up of shrimp and bell peppers sauteed in olive oil, garlic, paprika and served on a sizziling plate. I absolutely love garlic and there was definitely enough garlic and even a little kick of heat from this shrimp dish that made me quite happy.
After the Gambas al Ajillo, our table was treated to the Balut ala Pobre, fertilized duck egg in a cream sauce. Actually, the rest of the table was more than happy to take my share since balut is not something I eat, but it was interesting to see this fertilized egg out of the shell and prepared in a way that I've never seen before. This dish was certainly enjoyed by my dining partners.
One of my favorite Filipino soups, a Chicken and Mussels Tinola Soup which is a ginger-infused broth with chicken and mussels, was our next course. I love the taste of ginger and this is one of those soups that is perfect when you're feeling under the weather. I've only had it with chicken in the past, but the addition of the mussels made my eating experience even better.
Pork is definitely a mainstay in Filipino cooking and one dish you'll see in most, if not all Filipino restaurants, is the Crispy Pata, which is a deep fried pork shank. I really wanted to like Patio Filipino's Crispy Pata, but I though it was over fried. The pork meat should have been juicy and instead, was a little too dry.
What came next was the Callos ala Madrillena with tripe, tendon, Spanish chorizo, olives and garbanzos in a tomato sauce. The only time I ever really eat tripe is in Menudo and I'm also not much of a tendon eater, but I have to say, that I really liked this dish. The tendon was soft, not chewy, which worked for me. I also loved how the olives and chorizo added flavor to the tomato sauce.
My favorite dish of the entire meal was the Sizzling Bangus Sisig which is boneless and shredded milkfish cooked with spices and jalapeno. My sisig experience in the past has only revolved around pork, but this Bangus Sisig was amazing. I couldn't stop eating it. In fact, I could have easily eaten the whole fish all by my lonesome.
The last savory dish of the meal was the Lengua Champignon, beef tongue stewed with mushrooms and cream sauce. The sauce rocked and I would have loved it with pasta; however, I had an issue with the tongue. It was cut a little too thick as well as too gamey for my liking.
Two desserts ended our meal. One was the Panna Cotta with drizzled caramelized honey and topped with dry roasted almonds. The panna cotta was light and creamy and with the other components, it's a dessert that wasn't overly sweet, but still hit the sweet spot.
Our second dessert was the Buko Con Seta which has coconut juice that has been made into a jello-consistency with sweet beans and topped with ube ice cream. What a wonderful unique creation. One thing mentioned by the restaurant was that if they didn't have the freshest coconut water available, this dessert wasn't going to be served. I liked that conviction and I loved this dessert. That coconut jello tasted so fresh and refreshing and if that coconut water wasn't fresh, you'd be able to taste it.
Overall, while my lunch experience at Chaat Cafe was quite unsatisfactory, Patio Filipino was another experience altogether. Except for a couple of dishes, Patio Filipino is most certainly worth a return visit and if I find myself up North or in the San Bruno area in the near future, Patio Filipino would definitely be worth a stop.
320 3rd St
San Francisco, CA 94107
1770 El Camino Real
San Bruno, CA 94066