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Left Coast Girl

[whitespace] Mandatory Eating

Recently, some friends and i tried out Hoteil, the newest Japanese noodle place to hit San Francisco. I for one am not a big noodle fan, but my boyfriend is, as are many of my friends, and the reviewers just couldn't lavish enough praise on the place, so we went. The appetizers were hands-down delicious. The rest? Well, depending on whom you asked from our party of five, the noodles themselves were good, OK or pretty damn bad.

I'm not a restaurant critic. I haven't acquired the skills that turn a fine dining experience into a cohesive argument for or against a place. If I place something in my mouth, I say, "Hot damn, that's goooood. Gimme more" not "A symphony of flavor burst onto my tongue as I placed the delicately prepared truffle into my ravenous mouth." I'm told, however, I have pretty good taste in restaurants, a skill I perfected after moving to San Francisco, where we have (or so I've heard) more restaurants per square mile than New York City, the Eden of dining-out possibilities.

If you live in San Francisco, you have to eat out. You may love to cook--and even be pretty good at it, spending your afternoons poring over cookbooks and taping episodes of Iron Chef and at night preparing sumptuous feasts for your very appreciative friends and neighbors. Still, a week won't pass during which you don't go out for lunch, brunch (we don't seem to "do breakfast" in San Francisco), dinner or just a quick bite of burrito or pizza.

Eating out is mandatory here. How can you resist when it's impossible to walk a block in this city without some seductive aroma climbing uninvited up into your nostrils, slinking down your throat into your stomach, where it starts to growl so persistently there's nothing you can do but say, "Yeah, maybe dim sum would be good right about now"?

And the restaurant landscape is constantly changing in this city, even while it stays the same. For example my tried-and-true favorite Italian place, Trattoria Contadina, has been inconspicuously whipping up carpaccio to knock your socks off from the corner of Union and Mason streets for as long as I can remember. At the same time, in just over a year of living in the lower Haight, I've seen about half the restaurants change names and cuisines. I'm not thrilled about the Pasta Pomodoro, which rates down there with the Olive Garden with me, but the new sausage place is a fantastic new addition to this bratwurst-craving carnivore.

The fact is, there are enough restaurants old and new in this city to keep you surprised and pleased until your teeth fall out and a certain very cool dentist-to-be I know is making dentures for you on his coffee table and recommending a diet of soup, soup and soup.

I, for one, am convinced we're all going to live longer for the abundance of fine dining in this city, even if our pocketbooks strain as we pluck our last dollars from them to pay for a well-deserved glass of dessert wine and a slice of cheesecake. Food, after all, is what keeps us alive, just after sex, sleep and booze. The better the meals, the better the quality of living. N'est-ce pas?

Something bothering you? Want to bitch? Email Jenn at [email protected].

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From the February 1, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

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