Appetite: Jerk-spiced duck hearts, kambocha squash spaetzle, mango curry -- the best of Upper Haight and Cole Valley
Parada 22 is a vibrant little space with aquamarine walls and vintage South American food products lining the shelves. The casual eatery feels vacation-like, offering Puerto Rican food. My favorite dish here is camarones a la Criolla: sauteed shrimp, tomato and onions in a dreamy-light cream sauce. Sides like plantains and red or white beans in sofrito-based sauces, are fresh and appealing. The restaurant has recently joined forces with sister restaurant Boogaloos (www.boogaloossf.com) in the Mission, serving Boogaloos' brunch menu every weekend.
1805 Haight, SF. (415) 750-1111, www.parada22.com
THAI DUO: PLOY II AND SIAM LOTUS
Haight-Ashbury has two unexpectedly strong Thai spots serving authentic dishes. Ploy II is upstairs in an old Victorian space, with weathered carpet and decor (elephants, tapestries) straight out of Chang Mai's Night Bazaar. It does standards well, and I crave the mango panang curry: spicy, creamy with coconut milk and peanut sauce. Siam Lotus also is reliable on Thai classics, though it's the daily changing chef's special board that sets it apart. Thankfully on the permanent menu, the Thai tacos are a must. Though the paper thin crepes fall apart at the touch, a filling of ground chicken, shredded coconut, mini-shrimp, and peanuts makes for one of the more fun Thai dishes anywhere.
Ploy II: 1770 Haight, SF. (415) 387-9224, www.ployii.com
Siam Lotus: 1705 Haight, SF. www.siamlotussf.com
Hama-Ko husband-and-wife owners Tetsuo and Junko Kashiyama open only when they feel ready and usually treat regulars best, service is slow, and certainly there are no California rolls. But this nearly 30-year-old classic is one of those neighborhood secrets that locals return to and sushi devotees enjoy. It's straightforward sushi: silky scallops, bright-as-the-sea tai (red snapper), melt-in-your-mouth unagi avocado maki. You won't find the variety of rare fish found at Zushi Puzzle (www.zushipuzzle.com), but you will find impeccable freshness — Tetsuo sources his fish from the same place The French Laundry and Chez Panisse gets theirs, he proudly tells me — from a couple who cares.
108 Carl, SF. (415) 753-6808
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