There were a lot of things wrong with 2017. Really wrong. So when we turn to food for comfort and escape, we need restaurants to show up for us. Here are 10 ways I’d like to see SF restaurants try harder, do better, make us happier, or just be different. Longtime tablehopper readers know I prefer to ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive in my column, but every year “the bore” is when I get to turn the spigot and get a little ranty (sorry for the swearing, mom!).
If you’re wondering why I didn’t call out unicorn food or toast, you can check out all my past issues in past issues here.
- Last year I was too busy taking on 10 things I didn’t want to see on Instagram anymore to call out poke, but you can trust and believe I was keeping it on watch, and now it’s on blast. How many goddamn poke places do we need? I groan every time I see another “Coming Soon!” sign with a fish and bowl on it. I understand it’s light and a convenient way for all those “carbs are soooo evil” folks to eat, but too much of that tuna is poor quality, overfished, unsustainable, sprayed with dye or carbon monoxide to boost its pink color. It may not even be tuna at all and may actually be some tilapia or escolar that was hit with some FD&C Red No. 4. Yeah, so healthy. If you’re going to eat poke, at least ask about its sourcing and support the places that do it right.
- Since we’re on fish…you know what makes me insane? When a sushi chef tells you, “This is my favorite fish,” and then proceeds to blast it with a torch. Ahhhh, yes, nothing like the taste of the odor manufacturers put into butane and propane now all over that formerly pristine piece of fish you just served me as part of my overpriced $170 omakase experience. Now I’m the one with the torch—watch me as I’m about to torch my bill and walk out the door.
- “Let me tell you how the menu works…” Um, I think I have this: I see things I like on the menu, I order them. End of story. If you have to tell me how it works, your menu is what needs some work. If you want to tell me how many plates you recommend since you’re a shared plates joint, or if things are served family style, great, go for it, knowledge is power, but otherwise I think I’ve got it. Really.
- Man. I was waffling over this one, but I think I’ve finally had it with all the custom pottery, especially now with all the casual places with the faux handcrafted plates. I get it, pottery is beautiful, and personal, and feels good, and supports local craftspeople, and fits a total NorCal aesthetic and legacy we’ve had for a long time. But sadly it has become the latest piece in the omnipresent reclaimed wood/subway tile/Edison bulb SF-style story. What’s wrong with some gorgeous porcelain? Or at least pick some fun glazes and colors. Otherwise I’m gonna start yelling “Opa!” and get smashy.
- As a lover of burrata, it pains me to do this, but we really need to lay off the burrata as a default appetizer. So basic. There really isn’t that much you can do to it to make it interesting that I can’t do my own damn self at home. Maybe we need to relegate it to late summer only, during peak tomato season. (Note: A16 can keep theirs on the menu since they were one of the first to serve it.)
- Okay, this one is personal. There are very few foods I can’t eat, but weirdly shiitakes are one of them. If I eat them, I taste them for 48 hours—they obliterate my palate. And let me tell you, after a few hours of that they are beyond gross. (I have one other friend who shares this odd reaction.) So I guess it’s how those poor cilantro-averse people feel when they find cilantro sprinkled indiscriminately all over everything…because I can’t believe where shiitakes turn up. Shiitakes—especially the rehydrated ones—are so strong and assertive, and when used outside of Asian dishes, they pretty much suck. SHITakes. So why are there fucking shiitakes on an Italian funghi pizza? Unless it’s some kind of Asian fusion disaster pizza, those mushrooms have no business even looking at a pizza. Or in a vegetarian jambalaya? Or snuck into a stuffed pasta? No! (Dumplings, fine.) Personal aversion aside, I just think there are so many other delicious mushrooms for chefs to choose from. Go forage already.
- Crappy prosecco as the default sparkling wine by the glass is so mean, so lazy, so unnecessary. Is that really the best you could do? Was the deal for your restaurant so good you had to sell your bev director’s soul to Mionetto or La Marca? We’re not at some Olive Garden in Fresno, we’re in San Franfuckingcisco.
- Whenever a restaurant hands me a stemless wineglass, there’s a little part of me that dies. As a water glass, fine, go for it, but otherwise it makes me feel like I stepped into a Real Housewives episode and someone poured me a glass of cougar juice and just watch as my glass is going to get all warm and smudged with my fingerprints in about 10 minutes. Please, no basic bitch wineglasses unless we’re poolside.
- I understand that keeping little candles and tea lights lit all night in a restaurant can be a pain. Or open flame may be an issue. But those ugly little battery-powered tea lights are not the answer. You know the ones—the orange or icy blue/white ones that flicker? Yeah, those. They’re obnoxious. They’re artificial and tacky and cheap and have no place at the table. At da club, fine, but keep them away from my food.
- Toxic masculinity. Uh huh, the boys club is being raided and sexual harassment is finally 86’ed from the menu. So all of those abusive, misogynistic, homophobic, racist, oppressive, vile, egotistical, sexually predatory motherfuckers are being outed, called out, ejected, shamed, and need to clean their act up. Check your privilege, listen to HR, hire more women and put them in positions of power and just see how well a healthy business that respects its employees can operate. Otherwise we’re all going to stand here and watch the door hit you on the ass on your way out.
Hey gurl. Sorry about your hair. Looks like it got a little fried. Photo: © tablehopper.com.