Brenda’s French Soul Food
652 Polk Street
San Francisco, CA
So, now into the final stretch of the trip! (Well, sort of!). So, after our Vancouver food blogger dinner at Incanto with TS/JS, Mijune and Sherman, we were making some final plans in San Francisco. However, despite they were good sports in some things I wanted to do, on this last half day before our flight back to Vancouver, I was a bit selfish and went to do some things by myself, agreeing on meeting before our flight. But, in the usual family Chinese way, “breakfast first”!
Actually, we didn’t have a real breakfast plan considering Sherman and I already had dim sum in Dol Ho (and our initial plan was Yank Sing). So, instead, we agreed to meet and go from there. At first, we wanted to give Dottie’s another chance (the original attempt failed and we ended up going to Taylor Street Coffee Shop) and when we arrived, another 1 hour queue. Seriously??? ARGH!!! So, we started wandering around, going back and forth, including some places closer to Union Square. However, all of those had extremely safe breakfast menu (read: omelette, pancake, hash, sausage, bacon, etc.; basically the same stuff you would be able to get at Denny’s). Then we went to the opposite way and ran into more interesting options, including pho for breakfast (interestingly, with a help wanted sign… In Spanish?!). When we were walking near Polk Street, Sherman’s previous experience in San Fran kicked in: Brenda’s French Soul Food which he had visited previously but was still good for a revisit. Considering this wasn’t the “usual suspect” dishes, I was more than eager to give it a try!
Upon arriving, we were lucky we were able to get a table relatively close to the windows. See, part of the reason Sherman wanted a revisit was because he thought his previous visit pictures weren’t good (he was seated in a somewhat dark place last time) so having some natural light was a bonus. Once seated, the usual question kicked in… What to order? Well, there were some usual suspect as usual as well but, at the same time, there were some interesting options, starting off with…
Beignet, that French fried dough (or, can we say… Doughnut???), which, in the US, is associated with New Orleans. Here, we decided to order their Beignet Flight to share, i.e., one of each, starting with the savoury one in the form of…
Crawfish – Spiced with cayenne, scallions and cheddar. I will have to admit this one caught me a bit off guard. I was expecting something seafood-y but, instead, I got this kick from the cayenne (But in a good way). Then, I was tasting the savoury taste of the crawfish. Cheese? Scallions? Didn’t care, it was the balance of heat, savoury and sweet (slightly from the dough) that made it. Absolutely no complains here.
The second one was the chocolate – Filled with molten Ghirardelli chocolate – which I hope would have served to transition from savoury to sweet (by being something “bitter”). Alas, that felt short: Instead of something bitter, it was borderline a bit too sweet. Milk chocolate? This would have worked well for dessert; didn’t work for me as a (breakfast?!) appetizer.
Grannysmith apple – Oozing with cinnamon honey butter. Didn’t care much for the honey butter (don’t think I tasted it), as the acidity of the apples, again, contrasted with the fried dough. I would have preferred it as a “dessert” but, still, as a breakfast (?) appetizer, it wasn’t offensive as the chocolate one.
The odd ball was the “plain” beignet: By the time we got it, it just felt as a plain piece of fried dough lacking the qualities of the other beignets. I guess we should have started from that one to have a baseline rather than the other way around…. :S
Sherman’s dish, grits and shrimp. I really appreciate Sherman ordered this as this is that quintessential Southern breakfast dish. The fact it was served with shrimp made it even better. And for breakfast??? Yoohooo!!! The grits had a consistency somewhat similar to that of a smooth congee (thought a bit heavier compared to the rice in the congee). But, unlike congee, it was savoury (OK, savour-ier) thanks to the cheese added to it. But, wait… That shrimp/tomato sauce! Yes, that added another level of savouriness to it. The shrimp? Again, that was the topping. The fault of this dish? Too heavy… (Belch!).
As for myself, I had the crawfish and andouille pot pie. You know what? When I ordered this, one thing came to my head: Am I ordering breakfast, brunch or an actual lunch??? I mean, pot pie for breakfast??? Anyway… The pastry on the top was both soft, fluffy and crusty at the same time. I was able to separate a part leaving a more crumbly part at the bottom. That lower half served to soak some of the sauce/gravy form the crawfish and andouille. But wait, when they said crawfish and andoille, they meant it. It wasn’t just two or three pieces of it and then filled with starch (i.e. potatoes) and vegetables. Sure, there was some but it wasn’t predominant by any means. The one thing I only wished was that the andouille was spicier but, otherwise, yes, it indeed made it for me.
I will have to admit that I left the restaurant extremely full. As for the food itself, needless to say, it was heavy in terms of breakfast and would have easily be considered lunch! Was it good? Well, I am tempted to cook some of the dishes by myself one of these days, starting with the grits so that should tell something! Now, did I mention some of these dishes were even cheaper than the ones we had at Taylor Street Coffee Shop? Even if prices were at par, I liked what was served and, if you overlooked its location, the final product was well executed. Too bad we didn’t come here first…