Is it my imagination, or is the San Francisco Bay area blessed with extraordinary live fire cooking?
Brunch at the Bar Tartine--offshoot of the popular Mission District Bakery, where they smoke Yukon Gold new potatoes over alder, to be served with black garlic jam and pickled ramp (wild leek) aioli.
First dinner at Slanted Door in the Ferry Terminal, where I had honey hoisin BBQ spare ribs; mesquite grilled tamarind pork belly, and grilled octopus with lemongrass chili dipping sauce.
Second dinner (rough work, but someone has to do it) at Hi Lo BBQ in the Mission District in San Francisco. (The "Hi" represents high heat from the oak burning grill in the open kitchen. "Lo" comes from the barbecue pit in the basement. Highlights? Brassicas roasted in the embers. Thai brick chicken. Smoky brisket with spinach oil and micro-greens (hey, this is southern California).
In Berkeley, I ate at a super authentic Japanese yakitori bar called Ippuko. Chicken skin, chicken necks, chicken oysters, even keel bone grilled over a screaming hot bincho-tan charcoal fire. You haven't lived until you've tried the tsukune (grilled chicken meatball served with jidori egg yolk). And plenty of potent shoju (Japanese "vodka") to wash it down.
Where do YOU go for primo barbecue and grilling in the Bay Area?