The Cranky Critic
The Lime Tree

Touching down at San Francisco International Airport brought a flurry of excitement. In store for me was a five day food carnival.

After checking into the hotel we ventured out to the nearby Chinatown and found ourselves a comforting bowl of beef tendon pho.  Two hours later, our appetites were knocking on the door again from perusing the local markets and the loud shouts from vegetable sellers hawking their produce, we returned to the hotel for a short rest before dinner.

It was during our brief rest at the hotel that a quick search on the internet turned up a restuarant called the Lime Tree (450A Irving St., San Francisco, CA 94122). Immediately after reading some favorable reviews, I called the restaurant and made reservations for ten with an arrival time of about 30 minutes. Score one point for the Lime Tree management for taking on reservation on short notice.

Upon on arrival, we found the restaurant located in the basement of the building. The location can be a little difficult to locate, but just look for the lime green rays of light reflecting from the walls and emanating into the street outside. Entering the premises we were greeted with the familiar aromas native to the motherland (Singapore). Would the $15 cab ride from the hotel pay off?

From the menu, we ordered (1) Roti pratha with a green curry dipping sauce; (2) Chicken Satay; (3) Beef Satay; (4) Nasi Goreng with shrimp; (5) Nasi Goreng with chicken; (6) Chili crab (based on the house recommendation and reminiscent of my visits to Singapore as a child); (7) Beef Rendang; and a few other dishes not worth mentioning.

Onto the food. The Roti pratha is something worth writing about. The roti embodied fluffiness and crispiness the way it should be and just like the old country. The green curry dipping sauce however was overly salted but had a pleasant kaffir undertone.

Satay portions were generous but that did not make up for not having a certain depth of flavor that only charcoal grilling provides. The peanut dipping sauce for the satay lended a stint of life support to the satay but was not enough to revive it. In short, the satay was nothing more than meat on a stick, in my cranky opinion.

Nasi goreng with shrimp and chicken both had good base flavors but both lacked dimension and were somewhat flat. However, a quick fix at the table was to mix in some belachan which allowed the dish to blossom and elevated its potential to be something more. Passable.

Chili crab was the house recommendation and though a little on the sweet side (versus savory) not a bad pick. I’ve had better but I’ve also had worse. Would I order it again? Possibly.

Beef rendang while monochromatic in color was alive with the flavor of lemongrass. I should note that this was a little salty as well but the lemon grass did a great job of helping one overlook the saltiness.

All in all, the management did a great job of getting us our table on such short notice. The owner and staff were all super friendly. The food while a little salty for my taste was also a little sweet and adjusted for the non-asian palate. I don’t understand how so many Yelp users can rate this with 4 and 5 stars, that is being generous in my opinion. The bottom line, Roti gets a 5 out of 5 but the rest of the menu a 3 ¼ forks.

Sears Fine Food in San Francisco, CA

Sears Fine Food
439 Powell St.
San Francisco, CA 94102

On a recent trip to SF, I had an opportunity to check out Sears Fine Food near Union Square.  Sears Fine Food was established in 1938 and is touted (probably a self-proclamation) as “World Famous.”  Funny, I never heard of this place until someone in my travel party of ten mentioned it.

Upon arriving at Sears Fine Food, the first thing I noticed was that the waiting line was outside on the sidewalk. No, the waiting line was not going out the door, the line started outside the door, on the far side of the sidewalk closest to the street.  After waiting for about 10 minutes, we were ushered into the restaurant and into the basement dining room. 

A bus boy quickly brought waters to our table and after 5 minutes or so, our waiter came to take our drink orders.   After we received our drinks - coffees, teas, and hot chocolates, my parents noticed that their utensils were sticky. Upon further inspection, I noticed that mine were sticky as well. The rest of my family (7) had no problems with their utensils. Our waiter was nowhere to be found, even though there was only our table and maybe two other tables in the basement dining room, so instead of asking for new utensils we just rinsed them in one of our glasses of water. During the course of our meal the waiter never asked how everything was, never refilled our glasses with water or coffee, and only came by at the end of our meal to ask how we were because I was speaking out loud about how bad the service was! He didn’t ask if we wanted dessert either.

What we ordered: their “famous” buttermilk pancakes, Lee’s Eggs Benedict, Eggs Florentine, Smoked Salmon Benedict, Smoked Chicken Apple Sausage and Eggs, Sidney Amber’s Special, Denver Omelet, Joanie’s Special Omelet.

How was the food, you want to know? Well, have you ever been to a place that rests solely on its laurels and makes no effort to maintain standards let alone improve on something (supposedly) good? Sears Fine Food is one of those places, in my opinion. The food was average at best and definitely overpriced. No one in our party raved about the quality of food. Instead the general consensus was one of disappointment and unmet expectations. I can only opine on what I personally tasted – the pancakes and Lee’s Eggs Benedict.  The pancakes, no big whoop. I really couldn’t tell the difference between these and pancakes one would make at home.  The pancakes were light and fluffy but didn’t taste like anything special. The “maple” syrup they served with the pancakes was just ok and tasted like someone mixed 1 part real maple syrup with 2 parts Aunt Jemima; perhaps they were trying to save some money.  Next time they should try saving their reputation.  Lee’s Eggs Benedict was served a little on the cold side and the eggs were slightly overdone with semi-solid centers. Two positive things about the Eggs Benedict was (1) the nice velvety hollandaise sauce and (2) the crunchy non oily hash browns that were served on the side.

If you’re thinking about going to Sears Fine Dining, save your time and money and forget about it. There are other places to eat with better food, such as Mel’s Drive In. Sears is all hype and does not deliver on its food nor its reputation.

The Cranky Critic says, “2 out of 5 forks, and that’s being generous.”