I’m a guy who knows a little something about noodles. How could I not, living in San Francisco? From the steamy rice-stick pho of the Tenderloin to the hand-pulled ramen of Japantown (RIP, Mr. Noodle), the Outer Richmond’s squiggly fried delights, and the sauce-smothered delicacies of North Beach, the city’s awash in traditional noodley goodness. As winter’s rain approaches, folks like me start scouring the town for fortifying and unexpected pasta gems. We’re Marco Polos on a mouthwatering mission, searching high and low for pressed dough.
HOÀNH THÁNH MÌ HÀI KÝ
A robust bowl of Vietnamese yum, served at the unassuming Hai Ky Mi Gia in the Tenderloin, this dish ($6.45) is basically an Asian mulligatawny, containing shredded chicken and pork, fish balls, delectable wontons, and strips of Spamlike pressed meat served over a bed of thick or thin egg noodles and doused with one of the most delicious chicken-based broths I’ve ever had the pleasure of slurping down. (Yes, I tipped the bowl.) Also available in an equally slurpable vit tìm version ($6.95), with a whole braised duck leg tossed into the bowl. Difficult to navigate with chopsticks but, I’m proud to tell you, entirely possible.
707 Ellis, SF. (415) 771-2577
MADILLI AL PESTO
Mi dio, mi dio! Served at brand spanking new Italian stunner Farina Focaccia and Cuccina Italiano in the Mission, this is handkerchief pasta smothered in pesto ($15). What is handkerchief pasta? It’s basically one giant noodle uncut, unedited, and layered gently on the plate. But to pasta lovers like me, it’s a dream pillow. The light, garlicky pesto laces each tender bite with a kick of heavenly spice. When it’s accompanied by Farina’s justly famous cappon magro vecchia Genova ($15) chilled salad with halibut, lobster, mussels, shrimp, cauliflower, carrot, green bean, potato, beet, and boiled eggs you’ll float off contentedly into the night.
3560 18th St., SF. (415) 565-0360
SEAFOOD GAN ZAZANG
This one’s only for the truly hardy among us, but incredibly rewarding. Order this at Zazang Korean Noodle in the Western Addition and you’ll be served a bowl of curly yellow flour-based noodles, a side dish of pickled vegetables, raw onions, and gooey duck sauce, and another bowl the main event of black bean pasta sauce so dark it almost swallows the high-beam fluorescent light buzzing about the place. The sauce contains calamari, mussels, shrimp, and chunks of fish and once the squid ink settles in with the black beans, the sauce evokes the flavor and texture of dark chocolate fudge. Mix it with the noodles, swallow a few mouthfuls, and you may never want to leave. Also of interest is the goo choo jap chae ($12.95) clear yam noodles, stir-fried with bell pepper, onion, and juicy beef. Fair warning: each order is enough to stuff four.
2340 Geary, SF. (415) 447-0655, www.zazangworld.com
GEBRATENE REHMEDAILLIONS IN ROTWEIN-PFLAUMENSOSSE MIT ROTKOHL UND SPÄTZLE
Purists will object, protesting that spaetzle reside more in the dumpling wing of the house of pasta, but, hey, I’m a rebel, and in German cuisine these doughy tidbits, or "little sparrows," serve much the same function as noodles. This dish ($18.50), from Suppenküche in Hayes Valley, is a heaping plateful of hearty venison medallions in a thick red wine and plum sauce, accompanied by a pile of savory red cabbage salad and a big scoop of buttery Knöpfle, or button spaetzle. After washing it all down with a giant glass of Köstritzer beer, you may feel yourself sinking through one of Suppenküche’s table-benches into pure Teutonic bliss. Arrive early, though ever since the new Hayes Green opened nearby, this restaurant has been packed to the Germanic gills.
525 Laguna, SF. (415) 252-9289, www.suppenkuche.com
WHOLE ROAST CRAB WITH GARLIC NOODLES
Get that bib on PPQ Dungeness Island in the Outer Richmond is about to soak you in garlic butter like you’ve never been soaked before. First of all, hurray for Dungeness crab season (already reaching full Alaskan swing and about to hit our fair shores in November.) Second, a fond how-do-you-do to PPQ’s prix fixe whole crab menu ($50 for two). Mouthwatering Imperial rolls and piquant shredded cabbage with chicken launch your 90-minute culinary journey, and fried bananas with ice cream bring you back around, but in the middle oh, the middle: a steaming, full-size, whole roast crab drenched in thick butter sauce and spattered with chunks of garlic, served with a generous bowlful of PPQ’s renowned sticky garlic noodles, perfect for dipping into the creamy pool beneath the crab’s soon-to-be demolished shell.
2332 Clement, SF. (415) 386-8266, www.ppqdungeness.com
Hand-crafted thin, flat egg noodles in a blissful roasted tomato sauce with smoked bacon, thickly sliced jalapeños, butter, arugula, garlic, and peccorino and asana cheeses, topped with grated parmesan. Wow. This kicky, diet-busting wonder ($12), created at Aperto in Portrero Hill, rivals any similar North Beach concoction even those available at one of my favorite restaurants of all time, L’Osteria del Forno. If you’re lucky enough to order this for lunch on a day when Aperto is serving its fabulous carrot-fennel soup, you may want to cancel your afternoon appointments, order a couple of glasses of sangiovese, and savor every mouthful. That’s what I did.
1434 18th St., SF. (415) 252-1625, www.apertosf.com