September 17, 2005

Ocean Restaurant - Inner Richmond

shark fin dim sum

Rio recently took me to a little restaurant on the beloved Clement St., in the Inner Richmond, for some early lunch dim sum. I've been to Ocean Restaurant with Rio a few years ago, but the memory is fuzzy on our meal that day. I do remember something light, crunchy and delicious though.

That day was a bit chilly, but otherwise perfect. Rio was treating me to lunch for my birthday, and I had the day off, so my mood was elevated on many levels.

Ocean Restaurant is a small to mid-sized restaurant, white tablecloth style, with a large menu, but known to offer an array of dim sum dishes. We arrive to a dining room sprinkled with customers, and get ourselves settled.

Ocean doesn't cart around trays of dim sum dishes to choose from. You are given a list of dishes, which you check off and hand to the server. You then sit back and wait for the goodies to arrive.

I swear we picked one of the best days to eat here, because our dim sum came in courses, instead of all at once. The first thing out were the steamed dim sum: shark fin, pork siu mai, shrimp & leek, and shrimp & cilantro dumplings. We eat these with a small dab of Chinese mustard on the side. Stupendous! Delicious and steaming hot.

Next course was turnip cake that amazingly sustained a grilled crunch on the outside, and a very large shark-fin dumpling in broth with ginger and a dab of vinegar. All the while we have hot tea and a large mound of gai lan (chinese broccoli) with oyster sauce on the side.

Lastly was the fried bean curd sheets with shrimp. This was the dish that made our eyeballs roll back, on the last visit, but this time it was fried a second too long, salty and a disappointment. My guess was if they removed it from the oil a few seconds earlier, it would've been perfect, but alas...

There were some other things we ate, but I can't recall and these were really the top choices of our meal. We ordered a few repeats, shark fin and shrimp, but these are favorites and I didn't feel like we missed out on anything, at least. We passed on the green tea pudding, with plans to pick up a boba tea down the street.

In my opinion, Ocean Restaurant can take on any of the big dim sum houses in San Francisco. The food was fresh, delicious and the service fast and expedient. The prices are crazy! Only $24 for the two of us and a mountain of food; and I noticed most of the customers were local old-timers, which was a big plus in my book. My guess is they've been coming here for years, as most of them seemed to have good repoire with the staff. A positive sign.

Now I have a new spot to add to my Clement St formula:
Green Apple Books
Kamei Restaurant Supplies
New Mei Wah market
Bargain Bank
Boba tea (from the joint near Radio Shack w/the big counter)
Japanese snacks from any of the cute snack shops
and Ocean Restaurant for dim sum

Ocean Restaurant
726 Clement St @ 8th Ave
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 668-8896

Flor de calabaza


The other day, I left work early enough before the sun set and found myself further down Mission St in my old neighborhood. It was still early enough to catch one of my favorite markets, Evergreen, before they closed.

I love Evergreen! It's an Asian-owned grocer that sells a little bit of everything: produce, sundries and snacks. They're also a butcher, but I don't generally shop here for meat purposes. Some of the things I primarily like about Evergreen, is their produce is quite fresh, they sell an array of Brazilian and Asian items outside of the ubiquitous Mission market fare, and they have a nice fresh cheese case. Not to mention they carry a good selection of Cuban, Puerto Rican and Brazilian coffees --- AND sweetened condensed milk. I certainly get my Vietnamese Coffee swerve on here. It's empowering...

The main mission was to get some greens for my "girls" (the guinea pigs that is), and figured I could get some herbs & veggies and call it a day. Well, well, to my delight there were packages of fresh squash blossoms for sale. I was confounded at first. Picked them up and studied them, waiting for some genius recipe to hit me or something.

A latin woman, near me, noticed me staring at the blossoms and asked her daughter to ask me what I planned on doing with them. I told her I might stuff them with cheese and deep fry them. She then excitedly told me she enjoys them fresh, with a little chopped onion, epazote, chilies and queso in a quesadilla. Ding!! My alarm went off. That's exactly what I'll have.

I continued to chat with her in my horrible broken Spanish, but understood the basics:

Flor de calabaza quesadillas

- epazote (a Mexican herb) >> check!
- flor de calabaza (said squash blossoms) >> check!
- saboyas (onions) >> check!
- queso (I got me some queso cremoso - cream cheese) >> check!
- chilis >> check!
- corn tortillas >> check!

Hee hee.. I gleefully head home and await the power of squash blossoms to unfold their secrets to me.

I gently wash my blossoms and pat them dry. I did a bit of Googling on their preparation, and am advised to cut the green stem off, leaving the base intact, and remove the outer peak-shaped tips near the base.

Now onto prepare the quesadilla. Hot pan, lightly greased, tortilla, cheese, chopped epazote & onions, fresh squash blossoms torn, and one more tortilla. Grill till cheese is melted and tortilla is browned. Enjoy!

Very simple and delicious. The flavor is a gentle hit of squash, with the cheese and epazote coming up from the background. The important thing, I've discovered, is not to salt these much (or at all) and use only the faintest of condiments if you must. I had a dab of hot sauce, as I forgot the chilis, which rounded the flavor just a touch.

I might add I had these for breakfast, which intuitively seemed the best time of the day to enjoy them. Lovely and amazing! I now have a bowlfull of these blossoms left, in which I may really try stuffing them and light frying them crisp. Hopefully that's another post.

Evergreen Market
groceries from Mexico, Central & South America, and Asia
2539 Mission St @ 21st St
San Francisco, CA