Friday, August 26, 2005

Limon - Valencia Street - Mission San Francisco - CA

Limon 524 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 415.252.0918
This is a copy of my latest article for SFist in which I eat my way around the Bay Area in alphabetical order and then write about it in SFist style using the 'royal we. This week we are on the letter L.'

You know how it is - sometimes you hear so much buzz about a restaurant, you are not quite sure why you still haven't tried it. The more good things that are written, and whispered, about it, the more you wonder how much of it is hype and how much of the adoration is truly deserved. In the back of your mind you keep meaning to get your butt down to the Mission District to try out this talked about place, but you never quite seem to get yourself into the right gear. Eventually you let somebody else take control of your dining choices and the next thing you know, you are off for a girls night out...

... at Limon.

The space, in the heart of the Mission, is open and bright, lively and buzzing. The cool mandarin and lime coloured walls splashed with huge paintings are slick, modern and smart without being overly showy.

It's noisy and hectic downstairs so prepare to be in a lively mood. Our hispanic waiter, who started us off with an intriguing sounding, but too sweet, purple corn juice blended with cinnamon, apple and pineapple was funny, engaging, knowledgeable and charming as he guided us through the menu and answered our questions.

We were almost full before the appetizers even arrived because we couldn't stop eating the oily, irresistable foccacia that kept our mouths from doing any serious girls' night nattering. Expecting a similar reaction to the bread on our second visit a few weeks later, we were disappointed that this time it was dry, pale and lacking the flavour it has previously displayed. Oh well, at least we could catch up on the gossip instead.

So we wondered, does the novelty of 'new' wear off on a second visit to any restaurant? We have often been blown away on an initial dining experience, only to find a subsequent return less exciting. On our second visit to Limon, the tuna tartare, mixed with diced pears, roasted bell peppers, pine nuts and sesame oil aji amarillo vinaigrette, for example, was good, but somehow not quite the strong favourite it had been the first time round. Sometimes we wish we could experience two review visits side by side and compare a forkful of food from one, then the other, just to be sure.

One thing we are quite sure about, however, is that the Lomo Saltado, a traditional Peruvian dish of Top Sirloin slices with onions, tomatoes and fries, served with a side of rice. The succulent meat tastes overwhelmingly buttery, in a very good way. Fries, cut thick so you are in no doubt they are made of potato and not in the slightest bit crispy are not what you might expect. But if, like us, you have any sympathies towards English food whatsover, you'll love the way they are soaking in the tomato gravy, getting all soggy and sopping up the flavours. We would return for this one dish over and over again.

We'd be even more likely to return if they sub us, as they so kindly did on our second visit, the stir fried coconut rice from the side of the Pargo Rojo, a deep fried whole red snapper basket (pictured above). Although it doesn't actually pair in the slightest bit well with the steak, this rice is so sweet and crave-inducing and the accompanying rocoto curry sauce is so mouthwatering, we would be tempted to order this, the most expensive dish on the menu, again, even though the fish itself tastes like fried cardboard. It looks pretty though, so perhaps we could take it home as a gift for a neigbour (or their cat) and simply indulge in the vegetarian components of the dish instead? It would probably be the world's most expensive plate of rice but it's almost good enough to be worth it.

PS This review was

PPS. What is my problem - I find it much harder to write about a restaurant review when everything is just fine and nothing interesting or out of the ordinary happens. Usually 'things' happen to me which can become a focus of my writing. When they don't, then, well, I think I just get a bit lost along the way...

Mon-Thurs: 11:30-3:00 | 5:00 -10:30
Friday: 11:30-3:00 | 5:00 -11:00
Saturday: 12:00-11:00
Sunday: 12:00-10:00

Other reviews of Limon: Vinography | In Praise of Sardines | Joonblog | Yelp | Citysearch

Archive Alert! On this date in 2004 I went out for my first (and last) Chowhound dinner at Indian Chaat & Sweets in Berkeley.

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Limon - Valencia Street - Mission San Francisco - CA


  • At 26/8/05 10:34, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Ahh, you have just seized upon the trouble with being a writer -- finding a story when one doesn't fall in your lap! Perhaps something to discuss in October...

  • At 26/8/05 10:34, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I've heard that a place called Zoya is opening in the old Midori Mushi spot, so if you're in need of a "Z", there you go!

  • At 26/8/05 10:37, Blogger Sam said…

    catherine - i liked the food a lot and there was little wrong with it - but maybe, looking back on it, I would have to say it was'unispiring' hence my bland review.

    Anonymous - there seem to be so many good choices for Z around. If only the same could be said for N... ( i have only one idea, actually I am off there shortly...)

  • At 26/8/05 11:24, Blogger NS said…

    I had the same general experience with Limon. I was really impressed the first time I went (before the move), but the second time was merely fine and unremarkable.

  • At 26/8/05 15:25, Blogger Monkey Gland said…

    What I find is that things that are novel always taste better. The truly familiar is a comfort but when your after a buzz, the rush of new flavours and smells, the second time round is never quite up there. Especially if it was all a bit superficial in the first place. Ohh, sorry, getting a bit deep there...

  • At 25/1/06 13:38, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I can't believe you think the fried snapper tastes like "cardboard". you're crazy and obviously don't have the palatte you think you do. that is the best tasting, lightest, fried fish I've ever had. i was going to trust your opinion because i thought your blog was interesting, but after that comment, i don't find you credible any longer. Limon's red snapper is the BEST fried fish dish ever. Maybe it's because English people like their food deep friend with so much batter that you can't even taste the damn fish itself.

  • At 25/1/06 13:51, Blogger Sam said…

    Weary sigh... dear anonymous: why do flamers always lack the moral strength to leave their real names and stand up strongly and proudly for the opinions they so ferverently broadcast?

    On the page, you are the one who is looking a little bit crazy and a little bit racist, ill humoured and stupid too.

    Could be when I visited, that the fish was having an off day. Stop to consider that for a second, did you? If you disagree with one of my opinions then you would do yourself and the restaurant you clearly are fond of a better favour to write a comment cooly disagreeing with my take on the fish and explaining why you love it so much. Nively, of course, so the readers warm to you.

    Had you done that I would have been the first to give it another try, especially as my review of Limon is generally good and I like the place.

    We all have off days, the fish had his and you are obviously now having yours.

    Aged wine, young whine: I would love for you to come back to my site, but I'll wait a few years for you to mature a bit first.


  • At 25/1/06 15:42, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    i signed in as annonymous because what difference would it have made that you know my name? i will never meet you, nor do i care to. for thr record it's Maya Sandorcal.

  • At 27/1/06 15:21, Blogger Sam said…

    Maya: Leaving a name on a comment instead of being anonymous isn't for the purposes of meeting in person. This is the internet, where we meet virtually.

    People are free to say what they like on my site. I reserve the right to delete anything that upsets me or my readers.

    Good reasons for leaving a name, or a username and a link to your own website if you have one include:
    a) show the seriousness of your convictions,
    b) show you have considered responsibility before committing a diatribe
    c) to stop you saying things that you might regret saying if they weren't anonymous.
    d) for readers to take your opinions more seriously.

    As you have since left your name, an act I appreciate, thank you, I can only figure you have no shame about making yourself look slightly foolish in public.


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