Sunday, December 28, 2008

Late Nite

I am always searching for late nite spots around San Francisco. One never knows when a 2 AM hunger kicks in and Sparky's (on Church Street) is not a solution. The bay area needs more late nite establishments to be in operation, and I think there would be plenty of clientele just as long the food is decent and priced accordingly. Denny's and other diner establishments who stay open 24 hours are desperate options. Customers want better food choices. If you think San Francisco shuts down early, Alameda is worse. Most eating establishments around Alameda close around 9 PM on weekday nights and 10 PM (if you are lucky) on Friday and Saturday nights. Who is catering to the club and after hours crowd? There are only three places who stay open late, and I am not talking about fast food drive thrus. Those restaurants are: Juanita's, La Pinata 3 and King of Thai Noodle.

My favorite late nite spot is King of Thai Noodle. This place was a former Mexican Taqueria, and the interiors have not changed much since it was a German bakery even before the burrito joint. The menu was long and extensive with noodles, curries, rolls and stir fry dishes. I tasted the spring rolls which were deep fried with vegetables inside. The sauce was tangy and fruity with an apricot color to it. The sauce was slightly sweet and complimented the roll. The chicken satay was tender and flavorful. The peanut sauce was great and not too sweet. The small cucumber salad on the side had been pickled with vinegar and was a great palate cleanser and gave a nice texture. I then ordered a green curry with chicken and vegetables. Green is the hottest curry of the restaurant. (Yellow is the mildest and red is medium heat.) The curry was amazing and not mouth scorching because the coconut milk canceled the heat of the dish. The dish was aromatic and full of flavor. The other entree was a pork and eggplant stir fry dish with thai chillies and basil. The sauce was smokey in flavor and all of the components of the ingredients came out. The dish was great. The Thai beer, Singha is a light lager beer. I highly recommend this restaurant. Another positive of this place is that it stays open until one AM in the morning. Look out La Pinata since this place serves great food and is a competitor with you for the late night crowd.

La Pinata 3 is the party place. The wait may be long for a table, but the food and atmosphere is worth it. Come on a weekend night and the restaurant is a party. Every dining room is full, the tequila bar is always packed and everyone appears to have a good time. Once you are seated, the wait staff is quick and works through the labyrinth of tables. The tortilla chips are warm and the salsa is mild and fresh. The quality and taste of the food is similar to Otaez. The deep fried fish is good, but it's the sauces that make the difference. The garlic and butter sauce is really tasty. The red sauce is also good with a kick of peppers and spices. The fajitas are decent, but the kitchen has a tendency to over cook the vegetables. The end result is that the vegetables are limp and soggy. Portions at this place are quite large and two entrees could serve four people. The combination plates are decent, but nothing really stands out from the menu. The chile rellenos taste good and one is not left with a bloating sensation afterwards. (This actually has happened to me a few times at a certain Mexican restaurant.) What I have noticed is that people who don't want to wait for a table here, walk down the street to Juanita's.

Juanita's Mexican Restaurant is definitely not as popular as La Pinata 3. The food is good and fairly predictable, but not memorable. The menu is basically identical to La Pinata and Otaez. It is food that one would expect at a casual, Mexican restaurant in America. There is little ambiance at this establishment which could be the reason why La Pinata is always busy and they are not.

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