By Molly Gore
By Lou Bustamante
By Anna Roth
By Anna Roth
By Anna Roth
By Anna Roth
When I took Jane to lunch at Delica rf-1, a Japanese deli that's the first stateside branch of a popular chain found mostly in major Japanese department stores, we had the same impression: The place had radically simplified its menu from when it first opened, concentrating on bento boxes, and also, we were glad to see, lowered its prices. (It still features the creamy crab croquettes and crispy potato croquettes I'd found seductive on first sampling.) Founder Kozo Iwata, impressed by the philosophy of Alice Waters, here uses all-natural, hormone-free meat and fresh seasonal produce, as well as panko bread crumbs made daily from Acme pain de mie. I chose a four-item bento box, with a freshly fried shrimp cake, steamed rice sprinkled with sesame seeds, and two salads: braised burdock, lotus root, and black konnyaku (mountain yam jelly) mixed with mizuna in a sweetish sauce, and a multitextured, refreshing hijiki seaweed salad with edamame, daikon, wild arugula, and fried tofu. Jane's bento box included a large, dense meatball made of ground chicken, tofu, water chestnut, and shiitake mushroom in a sweet chili sauce, along with steamed rice, a shredded chicken salad, and a wasabi potato salad with spring garlic, edamame, snap peas, and romaine. We grabbed a couple of cold teas from the cooler and two faintly almond-scented, milky puddings called blancmange topped with tiny diced fresh strawberries, and ate our healthy, tasty lunches at a metal table on the promenade overlooking the bay.
It was so delightful that a week later I returned with my goddaughter Anna, who's finishing up her last year at UC Berkeley and continuing her studies next fall in Ireland. She's so close to leaving that everything she does is "the last" -- the last piece she'll write for the Daily Cal, the last time she'll sell books to Moe's, the last time she'll take BART to S.F. (Not that she took BART often; it's too expensive, and Berkeley students get a free bus pass.) I was both a little shocked and a little pleased that she'd never been to the Ferry Building, so this was a first as well as a last. We wandered around, sampling things, and picked up a ham-and-cheese croissant at Acme and some cornmeal cake at Boulette's Larder (so our larder wouldn't be bare), before choosing our bento boxes at Delica rf-1. Anna couldn't resist the shrimp cake, with a piquant rice noodle salad full of shiny black mushrooms; I tried a sturdy tofu and chicken patty with hijiki and carrots in a pearly sauce, topped with grated daikon and chopped green onions, and a salad of slivered asparagus in sesame-miso dressing.
Anna, who hasn't eaten red meat or most types of fish in many years, shocked me by saying she'd decided to broaden her palate in Ireland. "When I'm there I want to try all kinds of different things -- like kipper! And liver! And other things ending in 'er'!"
1 Ferry Building,, No. 41
San Francisco, CA 94111
Four-item bento box $9.50
Crab croquette $3.75
Potato croquette $1.50
Blancmange with strawberries $2
Mistral Rotisserie Provençale, 1 Ferry Building, No. 41, Market & Embarcadero, 399-9751. Open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Thursday until 9 p.m.), Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. No reservations. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: $2 off at adjacent lot, with validation. Muni: 2, 7, 14, 21, 66, 71, F, J, K, L, M, N. Noise level: moderate.
Delica rf-1, 1 Ferry Building, No. 45, Market & Embarcadero, 834-0344. Open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. No reservations. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: $3 off first two hours in adjacent lot, with validation. Muni: 2, 7, 14, 21, 66, 71, F, J, K, L, M, N. Noise level: moderate.
We swung by Mistral, where I chose a three-item plate to go: a thick, chunky pork rib; a ladelful of white beans cooked with diced aromatic vegetables, tomatoes, garlic, and lots of pepper; and roasted sweet potatoes. I got two pleasant surprises. First, I thought I was getting a "special plate" (specialty meats or stew and two sides), priced at $12.50, but it was in actuality a "house plate" (half a chicken or pork rib and two sides), even niftier at $8.50. (The specialty meats include roast lamb and pork; the stews could be boeuf bourguignon or lamb.) The second surprise was that I had enough homey food for an ample supper and some leftovers to greet me when I opened the fridge later. Feral no more.