I'm a guy who knows a little something about noodles. How could I not, living in San Francisco? From the steamy rice-stick pho of the Tenderloin to the hand-pulled ramen of Japantown (RIP, Mr. Noodle), the Outer Richmond's squiggly fried delights, and the sauce-smothered delicacies of North Beach, the city's awash in traditional noodley goodness. As winter's rain approaches, folks like me start scouring the town for fortifying and unexpected pasta gems. We're Marco Polos on a mouthwatering mission, searching high and low for pressed dough.
HOÀNH THÁNH MÌ HÀI KÝ
A robust bowl of Vietnamese yum, served at the unassuming Hai Ky Mi Gia in the Tenderloin, this dish ($6.45) is basically an Asian mulligatawny, containing shredded chicken and pork, fish balls, delectable wontons, and strips of Spamlike pressed meat served over a bed of thick or thin egg noodles and doused with one of the most delicious chicken-based broths I've ever had the pleasure of slurping down. (Yes, I tipped the bowl.) Also available in an equally slurpable vit tìm version ($6.95), with a whole braised duck leg tossed into the bowl. Difficult to navigate with chopsticks but, I'm proud to tell you, entirely possible.
707 Ellis, SF. (415) 771-2577
MADILLI AL PESTO
Mi dio, mi dio! Served at brand spanking new Italian stunner Farina Focaccia and Cuccina Italiano in the Mission, this is handkerchief pasta smothered in pesto ($15). What is handkerchief pasta? It's basically one giant noodle uncut, unedited, and layered gently on the plate. But to pasta lovers like me, it's a dream pillow. The light, garlicky pesto laces each tender bite with a kick of heavenly spice. When it's accompanied by Farina's justly famous cappon magro vecchia Genova ($15) chilled salad with halibut, lobster, mussels, shrimp, cauliflower, carrot, green bean, potato, beet, and boiled eggs you'll float off contentedly into the night.
3560 18th St., SF. (415) 565-0360
SEAFOOD GAN ZAZANG
This one's only for the truly hardy among us, but incredibly rewarding. Order this at Zazang Korean Noodle in the Western Addition and you'll be served a bowl of curly yellow flour-based noodles, a side dish of pickled vegetables, raw onions, and gooey duck sauce, and another bowl the main event of black bean pasta sauce so dark it almost swallows the high-beam fluorescent light buzzing about the place. The sauce contains calamari, mussels, shrimp, and chunks of fish and once the squid ink settles in with the black beans, the sauce evokes the flavor and texture of dark chocolate fudge. Mix it with the noodles, swallow a few mouthfuls, and you may never want to leave. Also of interest is the goo choo jap chae ($12.95) clear yam noodles, stir-fried with bell pepper, onion, and juicy beef. Fair warning: each order is enough to stuff four.
2340 Geary, SF. (415) 447-0655, www.zazangworld.com
GEBRATENE REHMEDAILLIONS IN ROTWEIN-PFLAUMENSOSSE MIT ROTKOHL UND SPÄTZLE
Purists will object, protesting that spaetzle reside more in the dumpling wing of the house of pasta, but, hey, I'm a rebel, and in German cuisine these doughy tidbits, or "little sparrows," serve much the same function as noodles. This dish ($18.50), from Suppenküche in Hayes Valley, is a heaping plateful of hearty venison medallions in a thick red wine and plum sauce, accompanied by a pile of savory red cabbage salad and a big scoop of buttery Knöpfle, or button spaetzle.