Last Night: Dish Under the Dome

Categories: Last Night

SF Weekly Dish
Under the Dome
Westfield San Francisco Centre
September 25, 2008

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Words and Photos by Tamara Palmer

A benefit for San Francisco's Project Open Hand, Dish gathered kindhearted souls together to enjoy a meal reflecting the culinary and ethnic diversity of the city. It was billed as a tasting, but participating restaurants (who came from all over S.F. as well as right there at Westfield) made sure that people would get something far more filling.

Lark Creek Steak welcomed us in with what would be our amuse bouche: A crostini of beef tenderloin tartare.

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Zazil, from nearby in the shopping center, offered a sampling of its coastal Mexican cuisine of spicy ceviche and chips with generous scoops of guacamole that didn't keep us from repeated visits.

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New Delhi won the award for the cutest food of the night with miniature samosas packing big flavor. A gentleman I took to be the proprietor (not pictured) said something to me about the samosas being the dish that got someone (I'm not sure whom) pregnant, so I did eat them with just a little bit of caution.

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Straits, also right there at Westfield, brought their chicken lollipops, which we saw so many people walking around with before we found them.

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Fig season is in full glorious bloom, and Soluna Cafe and Lounge presented luscious black mission figs stuffed with cambozola and drizzled with balsamic reduction. They also had delicate little red potatoes stuffed with sweet potato, Dungeness crab and bacon.

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French bistro Chapeau! (and sister spot Clementine) in the Richmond District had a suitably charming French chef doling out huge heaps of smoked trout and fingerling potatoes on a baguette.

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The International Culinary School at the Art Institute designed a beautiful display to show off their red pepper and pomegranate hummus.

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Potrero's Live Sushi Bar didn't have anything flopping around on its table, but it did find a clever use for those colorful fried shrimp chips: A bowl in which to serve a zingy tartare of shrimp, tuna and salmon.

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S.F.'s green Orchard Garden Hotel cooled off a warm evening with a gazpacho of heirloom tomato and Dungeness crab.

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We circled Polk Street's Modern Thai a few times to gawk at the loveliness of the black sweet rice with mango. It was still a little too soon for sweets, but after trying the coconut shrimp it seemed okay to foreshadow dessert. . .

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A surprising highlight amidst these stellar bites came from Papalote, winners of Best Burrito in this year's Best of SF.

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Note the speaker on the left there, next to Papalote owner Miguel Escobedo. Papalote was parked next to the DJ, who was a tad bland for my adventurous musical palate, and I found myself wishing that Escobedo, who moonlights as well-known S.F. DJ Mr. E, was on the turntables dishing up tunes as spicy and engaging as his famous salsa that I drenched over his plump and tasty carne asada and veggie burritos.

Frisée also stood out, not only for the food but for the presentation. Their brioche bread pudding seemed like the only way to properly kick off dessert, but that didn't keep my companion from then trying their chicken and mushroom meatballs and declaring them one of the evening's most memorable items. We skipped the summer salad of quail egg and rabbit in gelée, which I would have tried had I strategized better.

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Pâtisserie Philippe came complete with a chocolate fountain for dipping strawberries, and also offered a selection of macarons and meringues with big pieces of pistachio and what tasted like rock candy shards. They didn't let us try the Godzilla meringues they brought for a display, but they did tell us a story about a little boy and his father finishing one of them in one very quick sitting.

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Critic's notebook:

Personal bias: SF Weekly hosted this event, but no one told me to cover or promote it in any way. When I saw what it was going to be about, I pretty much shamelessly begged for an invitation.

Random detail: There was a noticeable amount of friendliness in the air among patrons, vendors and volunteers. It was really contagious.

By the way: Project Open Hand has a lot of great volunteer opportunities to serve your community, including food prep, filling grocery orders and meal delivery.

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