Work in Progress

Our early responder finds some good things to eat among some chaff at S.F.'s new retail paradise

I returned on Monday with Ruby, who was ostensibly more interested in her Peet's macchiato, which she had wrested with difficulty from the stand, than in dining. But when she tasted the delicious spicy green beans and pork that was part of my combination plate from Coriander Gourmet Thai, she couldn't stop eating them. The combo offers jasmine or fried rice and your choice of two of the dozen or so steam-table but frequently replenished stir-fries and stews. The fried rice was unremarkable, but the tom kha chicken, in a creamy coconut and lemongrass sauce, was rich and soothing. I was bemused when the fresh-looking lemonade I pick up from Pasta Moto ("a quick taste of Italy") turns out to be Minute Maid. Our friend Vera walked by, unexpectedly, with her rice bowl topped with bulkogi (grilled beef, with crispy edges, sweet from its sugary marinade) from the Sorabol Korean BBQ and Asian Noodles. Vera, who's spent at least half the year in Japan for the past decade, was glad that Westfield has colonized a formerly forlorn stretch of Market, but, prompted by the pot of lucky bamboo taking up too much space on all of the Emporium's too-small tables, observes that the Japanese food courts are much more chic and inviting than ours. Still, the interesting mix of cuisines and less-familiar chains makes the food court in Westfield's connected Nordstrom space, home to Rubio's and Jamba Juice, look tired.

A day later, I bring two colleagues here for lunch. We brave horrendous-looking lines that actually move along rather swiftly. Frances, who's a day or so into a cold, opts for tomato bisque served in a sourdough bread bowl from the San Francisco Soup Company, while Eliza gets decent skewered mango lime mahi mahi (a little cool, a trifle dry) on tasty garlic mashed potatoes from the Asquew Grill ("quick sticks"), with an order of the side of the day, which is a huge quantity of really delicious grilled asparagus — big fat spears.

I go for a Niman Ranch Cheeseburger Royale (paging Quentin Tarantino!) from Bistro Burger. It's quite tepid and rather dry when I pick it up, despite my being summoned by one of those vibrating pagers, and if I'd known that the $2-extra avocado was going to be a little condiment cup of mashed fruit rather than slices, I'd have forgone the pleasure. The "frings" (mixed fries and onion rings) are similarly underwhelming, as are the various chocolate chip cookies we try at Tom's Cookies. The star of our lunch is Bistro Burger's thick mint-chip shake.

Holding Court: The basement-level "Restaurant Emporium" at Westfield.
James Sanders
Holding Court: The basement-level "Restaurant Emporium" at Westfield.

Location Info

Map

Details

495-5656, www.westfield.com. Open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m, Sunday until 7 p.m. Reservations not accepted. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: valet maximum $25, otherwise difficult. Muni: 5, 6, 7, 9, 14, 27, 30, 45, F, J, K, L, M, N. Noise level: high.

Split pea soup, San Francisco Soup Companyregular $4.50 large $5.50

Bread bowl$1.50

Combination plate, Coriander Gourmet Thai$8.50

Rice bowl, Sorabol Korean Barbecue$8.50

Grilled asparagus,

Asquew Grill $3.50

Mango lime mahi mahi$7.25 half $10.25 regular

Westfield San Francisco Centre, The Restaurant Emporium 845 Market (at Fourth St.)

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As we walk past 'wichcraft, I am surprised to see that it is not only open for business, but that Edie and her husband and fellow blogger David are sitting in a table right by the window, finishing their lunch. "How is it?" I asked. Edie winces. "The servers know how to make a sandwich pretty, but they don't know stuff like the cheese should be melted. Give it a couple of weeks."

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