Thursday, March 20, 2008

Irving Street Eats--UCSF Med Center Dining Guide

This time last week I was spending pretty much all of my time over at UCSF Medical Center waiting, waiting, waiting. It's amazing how exhausting it can be just waiting. Being under stress is disorienting as well. We all seemed to lose track of time and the normal rhythms of life. I took on the daily responsibility of leading the troops out of the hospital and for walks down bustling Irving street for fresh air and well, lunch.

This is no reflection on the hospital cafeteria which my uncle was quite fond of, I just felt a little change of scenery was in order. While we never seemed to feel hungry, it was amazing how much food we managed to eat nonetheless! Irving street in the Inner Sunset is packed with a ridiculous number of inexpensive restaurants. Here are three of my favorite places and dishes:

1. Original Dry Fried Chicken Wings at San Tung
Dry Fried Chicken Wings
I reviewed this Korean influenced Chinese restaurant some time ago. The dumplings are great comfort food and the wet black bean sauce hand-pulled noodles are pure deliciousness but the Original Dry Fried Chicken Wings ($8.00) really are the must-order dish. They are crispy and sweet with garlic and just a bit of red pepper bite. Irresistible! There isn't a table in the restaurant that doesn't seem to order them.

2. Koobideh at Lavash
I discovered this place on Yelp where reviewers are justifiably enthusiastic about the inexpensive and huge portions of Persian kebabs and salads. Except for some of the combination plates, all the kebab plates are under $10 each and come with a pile of fresh herbs, rice, grilled tomato, and lavash bread, of course. I particularly like the Koobideh ($7.99) which is a combination of ground lamb and beef but the lime and spice chicken and vegetable kebabs were equally satisfying.

3. Beef Rendang at Lime Tree Southeast Asian Kitchen
Beef Rendang
This funny little basement restaurant is an Asian fusion spot that serves food from Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Dishes are best shared and you won't likely spend more than about $10-12 per person. We were talked into ordering the Singaporean Curry Noodle which was glass noodles with shredded chicken and mushrooms in a curry sauce. It was terrific, but my favorite dish was the exotic and rich Beef Rendang ($6.99) an Indonesian braised beef dish served with Jasmine rice and garnish of fried coconut. It was meltingly tender with hints of nutmeg, cloves, shallots, garlic, ginger, lemongrass and coconut milk.

Happily we are all home now, each recuperating in our own ways. But I would go back to any of these restaurants in a heartbeat.

San Tung
1031 Irving St
(between 11th Ave & 12th Ave)
San Francisco, CA 94122
(415) 242-0828

Neighborhood: Inner Sunset
507 Irving St
(between 6th Ave & 7th Ave)
San Francisco, CA 94122
(415) 664-5555

Lime Tree Southeast Asian Kitchen
450A Irving St
San Francisco, CA 94122
(415) 665-1415