As a still-recent New York transplant, I crave smoked fish on a nearly daily basis. That can be a problem, since comparatively speaking, there just aren’t that many places in San Francisco to find it. Which is a big reason why I’m feeling grateful this week for the smoked trout salad at the Golden West, the little Trinity Alley take-out window located under a big gold “Au” sign. (For those of you not of the Walter White persuasion, that’s gold’s periodic table symbol.) It’s comprised of everything a good smoked trout salad should be, namely a lot of smoked trout, shavings of fennel and apple, and just enough mayo to flavor it all without making you feel like a grease bomb. There are also some strategically-placed golden raisins, which I know will disgust some folks but are perfectly fine in my book (come on, what did raisins ever do to you?). This is a salad whose makers understand that the devil is in the details, right down to the actual salad greens: instead of de rigueur sad, flaccid iceberg lettuce, you get a springy bed of very fresh mesclun. All in all, it’s a salad worth its trout. —R.F.M.
Chaat is one of those things I always plan to eat more of (the fact that I make plans to eat anything should tell you something about my line of work) but never do, in part because, well, there aren’t a great many places to do it around here. That’s why I jumped at the chance to drive across the Bay the other day to hit up Vik’s, the renowned purveyor of the savory Indian snack, which is typically served by the side of the road. I quickly fell in love with the dahi batata puri, a plate full of dollhouse-size puris (crispy semolina shells) filled with chickpeas, yogurt, and tamarind chutney. Eating it was like taking my mouth to a carnival fun house: you’re hit simultaneously by savory, sweet, spicy, and cooling flavors, a gloriously disorienting experience that will leave you blowing your nose and trying to remember your own name. The fact that the little puris look like alien pods pregnant with extraterrestrial life only adds to the fun, as does the temptation to lick the plate, regardless of who’s watching. —R.F.M.
Surprise, surprise, I darkened the threshold of yet another ice cream shop this week. This time it was Mitchell’s on Saturday night, and the flavor was grasshopper pie, a.k.a. peppermint ice cream harboring chocolate chips, Oreo chunks, and streaks of fudge. If you’re looking for subtlety, look elsewhere. If you’re looking for a portal to all that is joyful in this world, look here. —R.F.M.
I'm not one to usually moan with delight over pork fat (I might do some sighing), but the thick cut, slow-cooked rounds of pork shoulder swirled in fat like a lollipop that I just finished in Hapa Ramen's ramen had me making some noise. It's good to see a chef get better, and Richie Nakano definitely has upped his ramen game. When Hapa first started its stand at the Thursday Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, I found the ramen to be too full of stuff—too many slices of random things like butternut squash, the broth not bold enough. But I think what I just experienced was ramen perfection. Even Richie admitted that he's changed up his recipe, pulling back rather than adding more. It worked. —S.D.