Day 3 in San Francisco!

March 27, 2013

After two busy days of exploring downtown San Francisco, we knew we wanted to discover more of the city and its offerings by heading down to the bay and Pier 39.

Pier 39, San Francisco Pier 39, San Francisco

To get started we grabbed a simple bagel and fruit plate from the hotel’s Cafe Cento.  Delicious and quick it worked out well as a dine and dash breakfast.

Lucky for us the walk towards the bay was all downhill and a little less strenuous than previous excursions around the downtown had proved to be.  The trek took us through Chinatown, Washington Park, which was holding a Post Office employee protest, and block after block of square stucco housing. Upon reaching Pier 39 it was like reaching an amusement park; there were groups of tourists hurrying onto Golden Gate ferry boats, scuttling in and out of gift shops, and snapping photos of the infamous sea lions, who happily laid about sunbathing or talking loud to the visitors and their snapping cameras.

The mile walk to this attraction was one that worked up our appetites so we tried to find a decent restaurant among the cluster of eateries. Avoiding the touristy restaurants we decided to take our seafood craving to hanaZen, a new Japanese restaurant offering a wide variety of anything from sushi, noodle dishes, and assorted protein filled entrees.  We ordered drinks first to cleanse and refresh our palate, a Sapporo beer and a Ventana Reisling from Soledad,California.  As for the food a good handful of options were set in front of us and my husband satisfied his craving for sushi with three rolls: rock and roll, Spicy tuna, and Sunflower, all of which included avocado, tobiko sprinkled on top and some eel and crab filling.  For myself, I wanted to try some Gyoza pork pot stickers, and was wonderfully surprised by the crisp outside and flavorful pork center; delicious and hot and gone in a few minutes!  For my entree I started with a miso soup that had just the right amount of salty goodness, shreds of seaweed and chunks of tofu.  Small sliced green onions added a little texture to the soup as well. Next I had the chicken teriyaki Dunburi.  It was a served in a bowl with white rice with the chicken placed right on top.  What was really satisfying in this dish was that the chicken had that rotisserie, fall apart tenderness and the teriyaki sauce was not thick or syrupy as some that I have had in the past.  It was quite the ample portion and I think I made quite the valiant effort to finish my plate!

From there, we walked all along the waterfront with our next intended destination in mind-- the Ghirardelli flagship building. All along the way we saw, and quite frankly, sidestepped the tourist traps of Ripley’s Believe It or Not, t-shirt shops and distracting panhandlers. However, we did make a quick stop in Boudin Bakery.  The aroma of sour dough was intoxicating as that is what this place is notorious for baking.  Conveyor belts of baskets lifted loaves of bread over-head, transporting stock from checkout to checkout.  One can purchase just about anything from a traditional sourdough round to breads in the shapes of lobsters, crabs and teddy bears. I opted to purchase the one shaped like a baby turtle and a loaf of chocolate raisin bread--a dream concoction!

As we pressed forward we made it to the Ghirardelli building and we stocked up on much needed chocolate bars, some of which cannot be found in stores and some with proceeds going to help the bay Waterfront.  And I made sure I stood in line to grab one more treat of cold, smooth, vanilla ice cream smothered in Ghirardelli dark chocolate sauce.  It was awesome and with our dinner reservations five hours away I knew it would keep me content for a while.

Our afternoon wrapped up with a trolley ride back to the hotel.  It was worth the hour plus wait to get it because otherwise it would have been all uphill.  I can’t say for certain we even would have made it!  After we relaxed for a few hours back in our room we just had to take an elevator ride down to the bottom level of the hotel to the much anticipated Tonga Room -  a Pacific Rim comfort cuisine restaurant.  The place was dark with a  touch of up-lighting along the walls, tiki huts housed the diners, and flowered decorations were along every pillar.  Right in the middle of the room is a pool that had a live band playing classic pop hits on board a floating covered raft.  Our fabulous server took  great care of us and was delighted to get us anything we needed.  For starters, Andy ordered a Island Margarita and I ordered a Napa Cellars Pinot Noir which was a little dry but was pleasantly fruit forward and jammy.  For dinner we really wanted to sample a lot from their menu as everything looked amazing!  My husband started with a hot and sour soup with bbq pork, and our server was kind enough to bring me some so that I might try a small portion, not to be left out.  Along with the bbq pork the soup was composed of a wonderful savory broth, egg, wood ear mushrooms and julienne carrots for that needed crunch.

For our entree we split the Tonga platter and Mongolian beef.  The platter had bbq ribs-which were a little too sweet for both of our palates; chicken satay- 3 kabobs of roasted chicken smothered in a curried peanut sauce; coconut prawns- butterflied and perfectly deep fried and crispy; and veggie spring rolls served with a dipping sauce. The Mongolian beef plate was really special in that the beef was cubed tenderloin perfectly cooked and juicy.  It had a rich sauce and was served on a bed of white rice accompanied with oyster mushrooms and crispy rice noodles.

The flavors harmonized really well and made me groove in my seat with pleasure as tunes were being sung about “ dancing in September” and dancing “all night long” (maybe it had to do with a fellow diner’s 80th birthday party!)

Another successful culinary exploration has come to an end with a very full belly, but tomorrow holds a whole new adventure waiting for us just an hour north...