Japanese, D, $, AE/DC/MC/V.
Sociale serves first-rate Cal-Ital food in bewitching surroundings a heated courtyard, a beautifully upholstered interior that will remind you of some hidden square in some city of Mediterranean Europe. (Staff) 3665 Sacramento, SF. 921-3200. Mediterranean, L/D, $$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Sushi Groove is easily as cool as its name. Behind wasabi green velvet curtains, salads can be inconsistent, but the sushi is impeccable, especially the silky salmon and special white tuna nigiri. (Staff) 1916 Hyde, SF. 440-1905. Japanese, D, $, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Sea Breeze Cafe looks like a dive, but the California cooking is elevated, literally and figuratively. Lots of witty salads, a rum-rich crème brûlée. (Staff) 3940 Judah, SF. 242-6022. California, BR/L/D, $$, MC/V.
So Restaurant brings the heat, in the form of huge soup and noodle and soupy noodle dishes, many of them liberally laced with hot peppers and chiles. The pot stickers are homemade and exceptional, the crowd young and noisy. Cheap. (PR, 10/06) 2240 Irving, SF. 731-3143. Chinese/noodles, L/D, ¢, MC/V.
Tasty Curry still shows traces of an earlier life as a Korean hibachi restaurant (i.e., venting hoods above most of the tables), but the South Asian food is cheap, fresh, and packs a strong kick. (PR, 1/04) 1375 Ninth Ave, SF. 753-5122. Indian/Pakistani, L/D, ¢, MC/V.
Tennessee Grill could as easily be called the Topeka Grill, since its atmosphere is redolent of Middle America. Belly up to the salad bar for huge helpings of the basics to accompany your meat loaf or calf's liver. (Staff) 1128 Taraval, SF. 664-7834. American, B/L/D, $, MC/V.
Thai Cottage isn't really a cottage, but it is small in the homey way, and its Thai menu is sharp and vivid in the home-cooking way. Cheap, and the N train stops practically at the front door. (PR, 8/04) 4041 Judah, SF. 566-5311. Thai, L/D, $, MC/V.
*Xiao Loong elevates the neighborhood Chinese restaurant experience to one of fine dining, with immaculate ingredients and skillful preparation in a calm architectural setting. (PR, 8/05) 250 West Portal, SF. 753-5678. Chinese, L/D, $, AE/MC/V.
Yum Yum Fish is basically a fish store: three or four little tables with fish-print tablecloths under glass, fish-chart art along the wall, and fish-price signs all over the place. (Staff) 2181 Irving, SF. 566-6433. Sushi, L/D, ¢.
*Pizzetta 211 practices the art of the pizza in a glowing little storefront space. Thin crusts, unusual combinations, a few side dishes of the highest quality. (PR, 2/04) 211 23rd Ave, SF. 379-9880. Pizza/Italian, L/D, $.
Q rocks, both American-diner-food-wise and noisy-music-wise. Servings of such gratifyingly tasty dishes as barbecued ribs, fish tacos, and rosemary croquettes are huge. (Staff) 225 Clement, SF. 752-2298. American, BR/L/D, $, MC/V.
RoHan Lounge serves a variety of soju cocktails to help wash down all those Asian tapas. Beware the kimchee. Lovely curvaceous banquettes. (Staff) 3809 Geary, SF. 221-5095. Asian, D, $, AE/MC/V.
Singapore Malaysian Restaurant eschews decor for cheap, tasty plates, where you'll find flavors ranging from Indian to Dutch colonial to Thai. Seafood predominates in curries, soups, grills, and plenty of rice and noodle dishes. (Staff) 836 Clement, SF. 750-9518. Malaysian, L/D, ¢, MC/V.
Spices! has an exclamation point for a reason: its Chinese food, mainly Szechuan and Taiwanese, with an oasis of Shanghai-style dishes, is fabulously hot. Big young crowds, pulsing house music, a shocking orange and yellow paint scheme. Go prepared, leave happy. (Staff) 294 Eighth Ave, SF. 752-8884.