March 17, 2007

The Ghetto Gourmet [LA]

The Gourmet Ghetto is worth a visit for the experience alone, but the food aint so bad either.

I first read about G.G. in a blog entry on underground kitchens by SF Chronicle's Michael Bauer. I was intrigued, but never managed to make the trip while I was still in the Bay. I was down for St. Patrick's day a few months ago and decided to finally give it a shot.

The formula is simple. A multi-course meal + eclectic location [anywhere from rooftops to garages to artist lofts] + communal seating w/11 strangers + BYOB + local performers = a damn good night doing something out of the norm for a reasonable $45.

An email to the list went out on Wednesday for the Saturday dinner and the address was revealed only the day of. When they say improvisational, they mean it on all accounts. Armed with directions to 624 Moulton Avenue in LA, we began our venture into the unknown.

After exiting the 5, we started driving through some seedy warehouses and spotted G.G.'s characteristic pirate flag. We had arrived and we had no idea what was waiting for us inside the inconspicious building.

We walked in to a cavernous art studio complete with life-sized trees, construction platforms, and a giant movie projection of insects and bugs of all sorts. There were about ten 12-person tables set along the perimeter of the room and we had prepared ourselves duly by bringing our stadium seat cushions with their high backs. We settled in at a central table, uncorked our bottle of wine, and waited to see who would be joining us for dinner tonight.

We ended up meeting a visiting Austrailian, a magazine editor, a freelance writer, and cheating husband among other characters. While the dim lighting allowed us to forgive the occasionally sloppy presentation and misled execution, we were very impressed with the level of sophistication that Chef Cynthia was able to achieve in what was basically the equivalent of an army tent kitchen. The menu was sent out with the address and though there were slight differences in the final product, we were pleased with the food overall. In fact, the ginger beer floats were TDF.

the menu:
Start: Hamachi Poke over Pickled Chiogga Beet Carpaccio with Shiso & Wasabi Caviar
Next: Warm Roasted Fingerling Potato Salad with Lemongrass-Curry Dressing, Scallions & Toasted Coconut
Entree: 5-Spice Pork Medallions with Ginger-Blood Orange Glaze & Forbidden Rice Pilaf
Dessert: Ginger Beer Floats with Coconut Macaroons

pork medallions fingerling potato salad
hamachi poke ginger beer float

In between courses, there is entertainment for your enjoyment and the selection was nothing short of eclectic on the night we were there: a folk singer, a modern dance performance, and the crowd favorite, a man who hooks up an amp to guitar that is made entirely out of balloons.

Jeremy Townsend and his wife run the whole operation from beginning to end and from East Coast to West. They have a host of chefs who help them devise meals in NYC, Chicago, LA, and of course at home in the Bay Area. I'm proud to count Jeremy as a local Berkeleyan. If it's coming to a city near you, don't pass up the opportunity. And if you plan on going again, let's all hop on the bandwagon and make a night of it!

Gourmet Ghetto

Bay Area, LA, Chicago, and NYC locations to be announced

March 6, 2007

Eiji [Mission SF]

Eiji is a tiny hole in the wall smack dab in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the Mission. Make sure you make a reservation because the 10 tables fill up quickly.

They are known for their tofu, which is cooked over a portable gas burner right when you order it. It is served with a variety of condiments for your enjoyment and has a very mellow and subtle flavor.

We ordered a spider roll, which we weren't expecting much from, but were pleasantly surprised. The eel and avocado were cut with an exacting precision, which left for a gorgeous and fresh presentation. The roll was also slightly chilled, which I prefer for my sushi.

The best part of the meal was the homemade ichigo daifuku, which is a strawberry-covered mochi with a thin layer of red bean in between. Between all of my mochi shops, I haven't yet found a version that compares to these heavenly homemade treats.

317 Sanchez Street
(between 16th St & 17th St)
San Francisco, CA 94114 (415) 558-8149