Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Grain Restaurant and Noodle Bar (shades of Momofuku!)

This is a first glimpse of Grain Restaurant and Noodle Bar in Daly City.

First of all, I can't think of an eatery in the Bay Area remotely resembling the radically new Grain. The closest parallel is Momofuku in New York City, which is apparently an inspiration for Richard Ju, the chef and proprietor of Grain. But, as Richard says, he is definitely heeding the advice of Momofuku honcho, David Chang, to "go do what you want to do". From the looks of his place alone that's exactly what Richard is off to.

Grain is deep in the gritty Asian enclave off King Drive in Daly City, next to the Manila Oriental Market and a host of Filipino and Chinese mom-and-pops. One usually treks in this strip mall if there's a hankering for dim sum, fried lumpia, or Hongkong DVDs. But Grain is discreetly tucked in a corner, with its minimalist name and signage. It's Asian, alright, but it's definitely a destination place in this setting.

I started with the lunch special starter of Deep Fried Silken Tofu ($3) in a puddle of soy vinaigrette with ginger shavings. The skin was crispy, the tofu inside soft and silken, and the vinaigrette and ginger pungent. I scarfed it down in a minute.

Next up, compliments of the chef, as he probably eyed how I made that appetizer disappear, was an amuse bouche of something totally unexpected. Fried yukon gold tater tots and slivers of chorizo in a chipotle-lime aioli dressing. It was like a deconstructed hash brown sausage. One bite was a mouthful of crunchiness and spiciness binded by the creamy, citrusy aioli. Crazy world food, dude!

My lunch was developing into a grazing session now. The bowl of the house specialty Spicy Pork Noodle Soup ($8.50) arrived replete with floating chicharron. Though the bright chili red color of the soup was daunting, it started out quite mild. I squeezed a lemon wedge and added a few drops of patis (fish sauce), then the spiciness started to build and I was slurping with gusto.

Finally to dessert. How can I pass up Mitchell's ice cream? Of course I ordered the trio of mango, ube (taro root), and macapuno (coconut) ($5).

But wait...! The chef asked me if I still had room for a new dessert he just created and would I like to test-drive it? Um, okay (hooray!). It was a slice of Port-poached pear, leaning on a block of goat cheese with a sabayon sauce. A beautfiul dessert that taste just as lovely.

I promised I'll be back Friday, and I'll lug some wines with me. Hey, care to join me?

Grain Restaurant and Noodle Bar
950 King Drive
Suite #125
Daly City, CA 94015
Tues-Sun for lunch
Tues-Sat for dinner
Closed Monday

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