Just in time for balmy summer evenings, Farmhouse Oakland is now open in Jack London Square, serving up vibrant Thai dishes (and equally warm hospitality), plus take a look at this month’s Guest Chef Cubano at Media Noche, a visiting chef from Japan is cooking a vegetarian and Buddhist dinner at Rintaro, and here’s your chance for free ice cream at Smitten.
Enjoy a Memorable Thai Dining Experience at the New Farmhouse Oakland
Newly open in Jack London Square is Farmhouse Oakland, the third location from the popular Thai restaurant group behind San Francisco’s Farmhouse Kitchen (view the Check Please Bay Area episode here) and Montclair’s Daughter Thai. The former Jack’s Oyster Bar & Fish House has been transformed into a unique location that feels like a Thai tropical island oasis on the patio (complete with umbrellas and bamboo and room for 40—and it’s right on the waterfront). Inside, it’s like a lively Bangkok restaurant, with fun floral displays (matched by the floral patterned chairs and colorful server attire), a long marble bar, and music from Thai variety shows and more. It’s a playful and uplifting design with room for 65, and just wait for the show when it’s a guest’s birthday!
Chef and owner Kasem “Pop” Saengsawang (with co-owner and wife Ling Chatterjee) have created a very special atmosphere and authentically Thai feeling in their restaurant. For anyone who has traveled to Thailand, the friendly hospitality and kindness here will feel like a good snuggle session with your favorite fuzzy sweater. And for anyone who hasn’t been to Thailand, the warmth and genuine kindness here will inspire you to book a ticket.
The extensive menu is ideal for sharing—that way you can explore more, with dishes spanning from the north to the south of Thailand. Starters include can’t-miss dishes like their springy and flavor-packed Thai fish cake (fried fish cake with white fish, Makrut lime, red curry paste, sliced long bean, cucumber-peanut relish; $10) and their sticky Farmhouse wings (fried organic wings, fish sauce, garlic, chile-plum sauce; $15). Anyone who likes tuna tartare or poke will need to experience the kicky Thai update here: the Esan-style Par Dip fresh tuna ($14), made with diced maguro tuna, green onion, cilantro, dill, long coriander, dehydrated chile, and wonton chips—it’s like a love child of tuna tartare and larb and you will eat every last bite.
If the spice and heat of the dishes are creeping up on you, fortunately, they have a full bar, with refreshing cocktails like the Thai Mule made with ginger and pineapple (on draft, $10) and the Summer Spritz, with Aperol, sparkling wine, pressed grapefruit, and lemongrass simple syrup ($12). You’ll find Thai ingredients and flavors in the House Gin (which is a light blue from its infusion of anchan, the butterfly pea flower; $12) and the zippy Fresh Curry ($13), made with local St. George green chile vodka, ginger puree, lemongrass, lime, and basil.
Thailand is known for their unique salads, and you’ll find four kinds on the menu, from a Bangkok-style herbal rice salad to my personal favorite, Nam Khao Tod, another version of a rice salad made with Thai fermented pork sausage. Noodle soups, yup, they have those too. And if you have to have your Pad Thai, they make an elevated version with grilled river prawns ($24.95).
A couple trademark Farmhouse favorite dishes are on the menu here, like their Hat Yai Fried Chicken ($22.50), made Southern Thai style, with Mary’s organic chicken, turmeric, herbs, fried shallots, blue rice on the side, and the best part is the roti bread that you dip into the silky potato yellow curry. The Panang Neua ($27.50) is a fork-tender, slow-braised short-rib on the bone, topped with a rich Panang curry, a childhood favorite for chef Pop. If you can handle true Thai spice, you need to visit his grandma’s recipe for Run Juan Seafood Sizzling ($24.50), a nose-clearing curry with seafood, from scallops to calamari and shrimp, complete with aromatic green peppercorns and basil.
Feeling a little sweaty? Cool off your mouth with coconut granita for dessert (fresh coconut meat and gelato are hiding underneath).
If you have kids, don’t worry, there’s a spice-free kid’s menu, and if you just want to come in for drinks and some street food bar bites, you can do that too. The wine list extends from local selections to France and Italy to New Zealand, with a focus on sustainably farmed wines, and, of course, there’s Chang beer, and some lovely teas, plus iced coffee served Thai way (with condensed milk) on draft/nitro. The next time you want to relax after work or on the weekend, this welcoming waterfront spot will transport you to another time and place.
This Month’s Chef’s Cubano at Media Noche Says, “Mahalo”
It’s time for another month of a hunger-inducing Chef’s Cubano at Media Noche in the Mission in San Francisco. For the month of August, chef de cuisine Chris Yang of āina in Dogpatch has created the Ono Kine Cubano, with crispy kalua pork, furikake slaw, kimchee vinaigrette, and mac salad aioli on sweet brioche. The whole thing gets pressed into a golden sandwich combo. It costs $13.50 and 10% of proceeds benefit Hui Aloha Aina Momona, an Oahu-based organization working to see kalo (the taro plant) in the form of poi again return as the staple of Hawaii's people. The Ono Kine Cubano will be available through August 31st.
Experience Buddhist Shojin Cooking at Rintaro
Fans of Japanese cuisine (and vegetarians!) will want to take a look at this opportunity to experience a meal from a chef who specializes in shojin cooking, a cuisine originating from Buddhist temples during the 13th century. In accordance with the Buddhist prohibition against killing, shojin cooking doesn’t use meat or fish, requires produce that is both local and in season, and allows for no waste. It’s considered one of the world's most sophisticated vegetarian cuisines.
From August 14–16, chef-owner Daisuke Nomura of Sougo Shojin restaurant in Roppongi, Tokyo, will be coming to San Francisco with his team from Japan. He is a fifth-generation shojin ryori chef, so this is a very special experience. Izakaya Rintaro will be hosting and serving his eight-course menu with a sake pairing.
The draft menu Nomura-san will be cooking (subject to change to local ingredient availability) includes:
HASSUN (assorted side dishes)
NIMONO (cooked dish)
SAKANA (small dish to enjoy with sake)
OSHOKUJI (rice dish)
OSHOKUJI (noodle dish)
If you can’t attend, mark your calendar for September 6–8, when master Kanji Nakatani of Soba Ra in Saitama, Japan, will be joining chef Sylvan Brackett in the kitchen.
We All Scream for Free Ice Cream
I think most of us would agree that three great words together are “free ice cream,” and, if you concur, then you’ll want to come by Smitten Ice Cream in the Marina the evening of Thursday, August 9. From 8pm–10pm, they will be serving their new chocolate ganache ice cream, made with 61% Guittard cacao. The first 100 scoops are complimentary, and the first 100 guests also get a goodie bag with gifts from Smitten, Guittard, and Equator Coffee, so come early!
If you miss the free scoop action, it’s $5 for a small (two scoops) and $6 for a regular (three scoops). They are also cooking up exclusive, one-night-only sweet treats featuring Guittard artisan chocolate and coffee drinks from their friends at Equator Coffee.