Lunch around MOMA

Taking some time to go to MOMA this week. It’s been a long long time since I was anywhere near downtown. The only thing I remember is Mel’s and the Sammovar Tea place in Yerba Buena.

Trou Normand, Acquitaine, Perbacco

Another vote for Trou Normand. Good, solid food with no fuss. It’s also very, very close by - just around the corner. Easy to get into.

Mourad right next door has some pretty interesting cocktails, but as far as the food goes, the dinner-only family style Moroccan dishes are much better, in my opinion, than their New American plates.

Another option, a quick 5 minutes’ walk from MOMA, is Hakkasan (for dim sum lunch). I think their dim sum is best; the larger dishes were OK in my opinion. But the dumplings and puffs - steamed, baked, or fried - were uniformly excellent.

In Situ in the SF MOMA is pretty good, but I was hoping for more. I’ve been twice and have had mixed results - I think the execution is good; I just wish they chose a better selection of famous dishes to recreate.


The Bird for something casual.

Or In Situ, if you want to carry-over your MOMA experience to your plate.

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There is no restaurant by the name of “Madame Monsieur” near MOMA that I know of (or even in SF). Where is this exactly?

It’s downtown LA.

Is it near a museum? It actually looks really good. Pity I’m off by about 8 hours drive.

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Gonna delete it just realized I posted in SF not LA

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This reminded me I did not post my photos from lunch at Trou Normand the other day.

I went to SFMOMA by accident, I was planning to go to Les Clos for some foie gras but realized it was the day the museum was open late and I wanted to see the Bruce Conner show before it closes.

I forgot all about In Situ, didn’t see any sign of it, still not clear on where it is. I would have stopped in if I’d remembered.

Les Clos is a good option. The Bruce Conner film “A Movie” was great.

In Situ is on the ground floor, on the right of the stairs just as you enter. There are two menus - one for the Lounge, which takes both walk-ins and reservations, and one for the Dining Room, which is reservation only. I went a few days ago, for the second time. I will post my thoughts.

For the record, Les Clos is closing January 15.

I was just at the lounge at In Situ on Monday. Super delish shot of carrot soup.

Fantastic hot dog by way of the U.K. that tasted like Los Angeles.

Salted caramel ice cream that to me was “just OK.” I’m consigned to the fact that the whole New Nordic thing is completely lost on me.

Aside from the delicious food, I had a blast chatting with my neighbors at the communal table. Everyone was sharing notes on their dishes, very wide eyed and enthusiastic about it all. Very fun experience and quite different from when I ate in the dining room a while back.

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I will try the lounge next time. Only been to the dining room twice. The food is well executed but I maintain that they could’ve assembled a more exciting lineup of famous dishes from around the world.

Anyway, some quick photos and notes:

Teriyaki chicken thigh with lettuce, from Gion Sasaki, Kyoto. The sauce was very good, just the right blend of sweetness and saltiness, not overcooked or bitter. The sauce’s thickness and texture was nearly indistinguishable from the onsen egg. But it is teriyaki chicken on lettuce.

Stone crab claw on egg custard in xiaoxing wine, from Fook Lam Moon, Hong Kong. Great custard, but the xiaoxing wine is strong and gives a slightly ammonia-like smell to the crab. Actually a fair amount of crab meat underneath.

Wasabi lobster from Tim Raue, Berlin. Too much near headache inducing artificial wasabi. The Thai vinaigrette was redolent of fish sauce, very pungent, the diced mango had very little taste. Maybe there was lemon or mango aioli/mayonnaise, too? Kind of a hot mess, even if the fried lobster itself was fairly sweet and with a very nice snappy texture. I was hoping that the Thai flavors would complement the lobster’s inherent sweetness well, but the garnish was way too strong and the dish felt disjointed.

“Oops, I Dropped the Lemon Tart!” from Osteria Francescana, Modena. This was the best dish - with the faintly spiced crumble working very well with the lemon gelato and curd. Of the six diminutive sides, the candied bergamot was the best match, in my opinion.

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sorry wrong city…

Yuck! I sort of had a similar experience when I ate at the dining room in terms of consistency: one outstanding dish (Wylie Dufresne’s shrimp grits), one very good dish (Mauro Colagreco’s The Forest) and one banal dish (Alice Water’s lemon ice cream and sorbet). I think over all, I had a better experience in the lounge, but I would like to return to the dining room on my next visit up north, provided that there are some new dishes in the rotation.

I don’t understand why they attribute Lindsey Shere’s ice cream and sorbet to Alice Waters.

I’ll wait for a new rotation. So far, I’ve had:

Shrimp grits, wd-50
Carrot and pine, Amass
Oyster stew, Husk
Octopus, Central
Duck and lentils, The French Laundry
Chicken teriyaki, Gion Sasaki
Crab claw, Fook Lam Moon
Wasabi lobster, Tim Raue
Chocolate vanity, Mugaritz
Sheep’s yogurt and sorrel, Noma
Oops I dropped the lemon tart, Osteria Francescana

The yogurt desert from Noma and the lemon tart from Osteria Francescana were the most successful, in my experience.

Wow! I’m really glad my little question sparked such a great discussion. I almost feel bad now that I didn’t get to try any of the suggestions. Trou Normand was almost the choice, but some other issues meant it was going to have to be another time. But what we did get…

Wally’s Cafe in Emeryville, tucked in behind/beside the Bank Club bar at 3900 San Pablo Ave.

This was a regular on the lunch rotation back when I worked in the neighborhood, and thankfully, it still sits there, unassuming as ever, a tiny kitchen behind a horseshoe counter, with Wally and Mrs. Wally serving up delicious lebanese treats.

Park across the street in the Pak 'n Sav lot. You can enter through the bar, or you can go into the little side alley to the right, which doubles as patio seating when the weather’s nice. Walk in and have a seat at the counter and you will be greeted with a smile, menus, and a warm bowl of homemade lentil soup, gratis, which tastes like a mild bean chilli, cumin and turmeric. Warm and homey and really welcome on a blustery winter day, even in SF.

For me, the garlic chicken sandwich. I’m not sure WHAT they do to the garlic besides whipping it into submission, but this sandwich will kill flowerbeds at 10 paces. It is GARLIC chicken. And yet… it is definitely chicken, and the bread is fresh and toasty and the fries are excellent.

Chicken shwarma wrap for her. The same marinated chicken (delicious all by itself, mind you) tucked with the usual accoutrements.

And presented with your meager check ($24 including tax and tip!), two small bites of homemade baklava (also gratis!), flaky, only moderately sweet, and dusted with pistachios.

Other colleagues give a hearty thumbs up to their falafel. I can personally vouch for their delicious homemade hummus and babaganoush (no pics of these, alas, but check yelp)

If you venture to the east bay for any reason, Wally’s is a fabulous lunch spot. I would actually go out of my way for that garlic chicken, but that’s me.

Isn’t that basically the same dish as Zankou’s is famous for?