Uma Casa Restaurant, Ritu Indian Soul Food, Homeroom Mac + Cheese: Check, Please! Bay Area reviews

Uma Casa Restaurant, Ritu Indian Soul Food, Homeroom Mac + Cheese: Check, Please! Bay Area reviews


Announcer:A KQED television production.♫♫ ♫♫ Sbrocco: I’m telling you right now, I amhun-gry.Sbrocco: Hi. I’m Leslie Sbrocco. Welcome to “Check, Please! Bay Area,” the show where regular Bay Area residents review and talk about their favorite restaurants. Now, we have three guests, and each one recommends one of their favorite spots, and the other two go check ’em out, to see what they think. First, fine artist Rubina “Ruby” Kazi left the corporate world to fulfill her passion to paint. It’s been 10 years, and she’s loving her life, traveling, writing, and exploring her culinary heritage while cooking and serving classic Indian meals made from time-honored family recipes. And content marketing associate Angela Marrujo works to make the Internet a safer place. When not at her day job, she’s an avid video gamer and blogger with an appetite for everything from hole-in-the-wall eateries to fine white-tablecloth dining. But first, wardrobe stylist Stephen Candelino moved seven years ago all the way from New York to dress for success here in SF. He’s first-generation Portuguese and has searched from Sonoma to San Jose for a taste of his homeland. There’s only one spot that comes close. In San Francisco, it’s called Uma Casa Restaurant. ♫♫ Faria: Uma Casa Restaurant is a way for me to introduce San Francisco and the Bay Area to Portuguese food and Portuguese culture. My name’s Antelmo Faria, and I’m the executive chef of Uma Casa Restaurant in San Francisco. Uma Casa started as a pop-up, and after a couple of years, we were fortunate to find a wonderful space, and my dream came true. [ Chuckles ] So, I’m the son of Portuguese immigrants that came from the Azores Islands, which are an archipelago of islands off the coast of Portugal. They’re in the middle of the Atlantic and they’re very isolated. And over the years, they’ve developed their own regional specialties, their way of living, their way of cooking. To me, Portuguese cuisine is very special because it’s one of the first cuisines to introduce global elements into its food. So the Portuguese, we’re getting spices from India, and spicy peppers discovered in Africa. And they were getting tomatoes and potatoes from the Americas. In the Bay Area, there’s a large Portuguese-American community, and we’re able to get some of the traditional Portuguese products. Cheese, wines, olive oils, and really, those allow us to incorporate traditional flavors into the Portuguese food. When I was a kid growing up in the Azores, my father owned a restaurant, and it was there that I fell in love with cooking and the vibrancy, the energy, and the way that it connected people. Sbrocco: I’m a huge lover of Portugal, of Portuguese food, especially Portuguese wine. So you are Portuguese. Candelino: I am. I’m a Portuguese citizen. My mother was born in Portugal. My father was born in Italy, and then I had the distinction of being born in New Jersey, so. Growing up, Portuguese food was already around us. It’s my comfort food. I actually didn’t realize how much I was yearning that connection. When Chef Antelmo opened the restaurant, I was, like, one of the first people there. And I was ecstatic. So in my opinion, the menu is true. It has a lot of the dishes that my grandma, Vava, makes, and the Caldo Verde is as traditional as Portuguese can go. Sbrocco: Mm-hmm, it is. A soup, yeah. Candelino: The cabbage soup, basically. It’s very healthy, and when I have it, it just reminds me of my grandmother. The flavors are just so delicious. Also one of my favorites at Uma Casa is the Rissois, which is basically the Portuguese version of like a shrimp empanada, but you just bite into it. And the heat comes out, and the shrimp is just so delightful. That crunchy texture with that warm interior. It just makes me happy, ultimately. Sbrocco: Yeah. Marrujo: We also started with the Caldo Verde, and it was wonderful. A lot of the recipes I’ve had usually have chunks of potato, but this had potato mixed into the broth, and so it was almost like a thickener. Every single bite of that was delicious. It was meaty, but it didn’t get soggy in the soup. We also started with the salt cod fritters. The outside was wonderfully crisp. I loved that, but the fish was a little pasty, I guess I could say. And so that was just a little bit of a disappointment. But the soup followed the salt cod fritters. It did make up for it. Sbrocco: And what about you, Ruby? What did you start with? Kazi: I started with the tuna salad. Beautiful chunks of yellow fin tuna and sprinkled with herbs. It was fabulous, to say the least. The flavors were just intense. The textures were amazing. And then for the main course, we ordered the halibut. The halibut was cooked perfectly. It was crisp on the outside and soft and flaky on the inside, and it had a great balance of sweet and tangy. Sbrocco: Are you familiar with Portuguese food? I mean, if a Portuguese chef can’t do fish, then something’s wrong. Candelino: You’re right about that. Kazi: You know, I am familiar with Portuguese food because we are from India, and Goa in India used to be a Portuguese colony. But the kind of food, the Portuguese food that we grew up with was very different. It was mish and mash. A little bit of Indian, a little bit of Portuguese. So I was really interested to see what the original Portuguese food was. And the food was excellent. The ambiance was fabulous. Candelino: Again, for me, this was my comfort, so I went with just the grilled chicken. There’s just something about the way it’s marinated and the way it’s barbecued. You can taste that smoke, and the way they kind of quarter the chicken, and the meat just falls right off of it. I mean, I started using my fork and knife, and then by the end, I just had my hand. I was having the drum stick. You know, they serve it with French fries. No pretension. Sbrocco: They love potatoes. Candelino: They love potatoes, yes. The rest of my party, they had the mariscada, which is like a seafood medley. Which is saffron rice with bacalao, scallops, mussels, and that’s something that we’ll typically do as a family December 24th, and it was just delightful. Marrujo: I also got the grilled chicken, and that was amazing. That was so good. Candelino: For grilled chicken, there’s something about the way it’s seasoned. Marrujo: Right. It was delicious. The fries were so good. Candelino: Right. Marrujo: We also got the octopus, and I wasn’t expecting how beautiful that presentation was. An octopus tentacle, and it was curled, and it was I think the best octopus I’ve ever had. It was tender, almost melted in your mouth. And taking a forkful of the octopus and dipping it in the sauce. Candelino: That’s what you have to do. Marrujo: That was so good. Candelino: That’s what you have to do, exactly. Marrujo: I loved that. Kazi: And the bread with the olive butter? Candelino: Yes. Marrujo: Oh, yes. Kazi: That was just awesome. Candelino: But they do the olive butter, and then when we went, we got it with the chouriço butter. Honestly, I thought that’s a great twist. Sbrocco: Again, I’m a big Portuguese wine fan, and you can get Luis Pato sparkling Bairadda. Portugal makes great sparkling wines and great white wines from Vihno Verde, of course, to Encruzado, a great, great variety, so really fun. Kazi: The food is very well-paced. You’re not rushed. You really feel like you’re in a vacation. Sbrocco: It’s a bustling spot, isn’t it? Kazi: It is pretty busy, but it’s breezy. It makes you feel like you are sitting somewhere in a Mediterranean café or a tavern. The blue tiles. Sbrocco: The blue tiles. Candelino: Yes. Kazi: Beautiful. The servers were amazing. He even explained to me what the name of the place meant, Uma Casa means home. And they want you to have that feel that you’re dining with a family. Marrujo: It’s an absolutely beautiful space, but I felt like our waitress was a little, I think, off. It was just an off night, but it’s okay because the food was very good. Sbrocco: And let’s talk about desserts because Portuguese are known for desserts. Candelino: Yes. Pasteis de nata. Pasteis de Belém, depending where you are. Sbrocco: If you’re in Lisbon, you have Pastel de Belém. Candelino: That’s right. It’s a custard tart, and it is — Sbrocco: Egg-tastic. Candelino: Yes, it is. For me, that’s just perfect. You have the cinnamon. They give you the cinnamon shaker. You go to town, you pour it on top, and just pairing that with a nice port, I can’t go wrong with it. Sbrocco: All right, your spot, Stephen. Wrap it up for us. Candelino: Save yourself a 13-hour flight to Lisbon. The best Portuguese food in the Bay Area. Sbrocco: All right. Angela? Marrujo: Elegant, beautiful, absolutely exquisitely crafted food. Sbrocco: Okay, and Ruby? Kazi: Gives you a classy, Mediterranean food feel. I loved it. Sbrocco: All right. If you would like to try Uma Casa Restaurant, it’s on Church at 28th Street in San Francisco. The telephone number is 415-829-2264. It’s open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday. Reservations are recommended. And the average dinner tab per person without drinks is around $50. ♫♫ ♫♫ Sbrocco: Ruby is an accomplished home chef. But when she craves papudums and pakoras with a twist, she heads to her newfound favorite. A place that got its start as a cheery little food truck called DUM, now has a brick-and-mortar home in San Francisco named Ritu Indian Soul Food. Man: Thank you. ♫♫ Bhagat: Food is cooking something that is satisfying. That, when you eat a bite of it, you’re, like, “Okay,” you know, “I feel good.” I’m Rupam Bhagat. I’m the chef/owner of Ritu Indian Soul Food here in the Mission. So, I grew up in Mumbai. My family is all about food. We never wished each other good morning. It was, like, what do you want for breakfast? The best meals that I’ve enjoyed is the ones that my mom has cooked for me. I still call her to get recipes. Like, I’ll call her at midnight her time and be, like, “Can you give me the recipe for the shrimp curry that you made?” Ritu means seasons. We want our menu to be inspired by the seasons. Seasons have different feelings, right? Like, for during spring or something, you want something bright. You want something to pop. During winter, we will switch on to something more heavier. Something that is gonna make you feel warmer. Every Indian eats street food. It’s a big part of our culture, so we have a section on our menu which is chaat, which is street food. Also, we draw influences off of the food that’s here in the Mission. There’s taquerias, there’s all sorts of Latin food, Peruvian, El Salvadorian, everything that you can think of, it’s here. We have an open kitchen, so we see the reaction. They take a bite of the food, and they’re, like, “Wow, I never expected this.” There’s very few other things that will bring a bunch of people together. Food always does that. All: Cheers! Sbrocco: All right, Ruby. You, as I just said, are an accomplished home chef. What does that mean? Kazi: So I do cook Indian food mostly, but I also try to throw in a Moroccan or a Tunisian, or a little bit of French here and there. Sbrocco: Right. Kazi: As a family, we don’t really eat Indian food out very much because I cook a lot of Indian food at home, and I grew up with my mom’s cooking. My mother-in-law was an exceptionally good cook. So I still have those flavors in my tongue and in my memory. So nothing else in the Bay Area really came very close to the flavors I grew up with. and this place, it is very authentic. The flavors are not watered down like most Indian restaurants are. They throw in some yogurt and some tomato sauce to water the food down, and that’s not the food that we’re used to. We love the spice. We love the kick. We love the tanginess. Sbrocco: Right. What was your experience, Stephen? Candelino: We were seated right away. The service was great. They were very prompt. Quickly felt at ease. The ambiance, I thought, was really beautiful. It was bright. It was happy. We started with the spare ribs, which were unbelievable. It was fall-off-the-bone amazing. I am not a fan of pickled vegetables, really, but I enjoyed the pickled vegetables, as well. I mean, that really set the pace. Sbrocco: Set the tone? What about you, Angela? Marrujo: We started with the samosas and the tandoori chicken. And the samosas were — they’re a little bigger than I’m accustomed to, which I was all for. There was the kind of more traditional chutney that I expected to see. But then there was, I believe it was a tamarind sauce. That was so good. It was a little fruity, a little savory. Couldn’t get enough of that. But the star of the entire meal was the tandoori fried chicken. Oh, my God. Candelino: I wish I’d got that. Marrujo: That was — oh, man. I’m thinking about it now and wanting it again. It was so tender. It’s super tangy. It’s spicy. It’s bright. When I think of that dish, I think of bright. But even though the chicken was amazing, it was the broccoli that really stood out. The florets were just ever-so-slightly crisped, and it soaked up that sauce. That dish was gone. It was gone in an instant. Candelino: Yeah. Kazi: The last time that I was there, the chef recommended that I try the chef’s menu which is a little bit of everything. As part of the appetizers, they gave us a kale chaat, Just imagine, this is where he’s bringing the east and the west together. Chaat is as Indian or as Mumbai as you can get. And kale, you never even hear of kale in India. So he fries these kales in this very light batter, and they’re just so crisp. And you just bite into them, and you feel like you’re in heaven. And then they have these semolina puffs, which is a very traditional Indian street fare, which is dipped with yogurt, and it has a little bit of paprika,a little bit of cilantro. It just melts in your mouth. For the other appetizers, I had the lamb seekh kebab and the malai chicken. Now, malai chicken is a recipe that was meant for the kings. It’s meant for royalty, and I suddenly felt like royalty. [ Laughter ] I think the chef has probably marinated this meat for a couple of nights. It’s grilled to perfection in an oven. My family just wiped it out in a second. And then the main course, I tried the buttered chicken. Now, the chef comes out. He brings each and every dish, and he talks you through it. And I was asking him what the secret of that texture is. He’s one of the chefs and was ready to give it out, which is — they’re so guarded about their secrets. Sbrocco: Secret alert. Candelino: What is it? Kazi: He said he simmers it, and he strains it twice. And then he barbecues the chicken and then simmers it in the sauce. So it just absorbs the sauces. It was paired with a little bit of basmati rice on the side. That was just a complete finisher. Candelino: We did the same thing. We got the buttered chicken with the basmati rice, and it blew my mind. The flavors were delicious. The sauce there. I mean, we also had the naan, of course. The garlic naan. So again, just dipping it in. Kazi: They also have a healthier take of the naan. They also have a multigrain naan. Marrujo: We got that. It was good. It had this, like, warm, nutty taste. I loved that. We got the pork vindaloo, but it didn’t have enough sauce for my liking. But we also got it with the basmati rice. And it was funny because we ordered the chicken biryani, and I guess ordering a rice dish and then ordering basmati rice on the side kind of tripped up the servers. Oh, no, no, it wasn’t too much rice for it. Sbrocco: You just wanted more sauce. Marrujo: I just wanted more sauce. Marrujo: I’m kind of a rice fiend. I had to explain to them, no, I want the basmati for the vindaloo because I don’t want to mix the distinct flavors of the vindaloo and the biryani, and it turned out great. I mean, the vindaloo was wonderful. That pork was very good, cooked well. I just wanted more of that sauce. Sbrocco: More sauce. What about desserts? Marrujo: I had the rabri. They have the classic Indian kheer, which is paired with crumbled cookies. And you take a little bit of, you know, the creamy kheer, and it’s divine. Sbrocco: All right, Ruby. Your spot, wrap it up for us. Kazi: Classic Indian food with a twist on seasonal vegetables and fruits. You can’t go wrong here. Sbrocco: Stephen. Candelino: Great service, easy environment. I’ll be back for the value and delicious food. Sbrocco: All right. And Angela? Marrujo: Unique flavors and takes on traditional dishes. Surprising, loved it. Sbrocco: All right. If you would like to try Ritu Indian Soul Food, it’s on 24th at Folsom in San Francisco. The telephone number is 415-874-9045. It’s open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday with lunch on Friday and brunch on the weekends. Reservations are recommended, and the average dinner tab per person without drinks is under $30. Who needs a bottle or a box when you can tote your wine in a can? That’s right, a can. This is the hottest trend in wine. Heading to the beach? Grab a tin or two. Out for a picnic? Throw some of these in the cooler. Hosting a tailgate party? You guessed it — bring along a can. Convenience is key when it comes to talking about why canned wines are popping. They’re simple to pack and easily recyclable with a low carbon footprint. Their growth is impressive, too, with sales doubling year over year recently topping nearly $40 million. Wine-in-can comes in red, white, rose, and even bubbly versions. Each can contains up to half a bottle of wine, and you don’t need a corkscrew or even a glass. [ Pop! ] Hmm. Now, that is convenient. See you at the beach. ♫♫ Angela loves comfort food, especially mac and cheese. When she can’t stop and eat at her favorite spot in Oakland, she takes it to go because that’s all they make. Yep, just mac and cheese. And it all came about because of a hard-working attorney’s craving. Step outside the blue box to Homeroom Mac & Cheese. ♫♫ Wade: I was working as a corporate attorney, actually, and super miserable. And I came home one day from work, and I really wanted some comfort food. And so I pulled out my dad’s recipe and started cooking, and that was pretty much the a-ha moment where I was, like, wait a minute. This is the best mac and cheese I’ve ever had, and there’s no restaurant that’s dedicated to mac and cheese. Someone should do this, and that someone should be me. I’m Erin Wade, and I’m the founder and CEO of Homeroom in Oakland. The name of the restaurant is Homeroom. The hope is that it brings you back to Homeroom, which was a class in school that honestly had no real purpose other than just throwing paper airplanes, goofing off with your friends, eating lots of mac and cheese. I mean, mac and cheese is such a simple dish. It’s five ingredients, so if any of them don’t shine, you definitely taste it. So you want to be using whole full-fat milk, butter, flour, really, really good cheese. So our mission is to be the best part of people’s day for both our customers and our staff. My littlest fans are Ellie and Isaac, my two kids, and they are just obsessed. Actually, Ellie asked me the other day. She got into bed with me in the morning, and she was, like, “Mommy, when you die, can I be the boss of Homeroom?” That is how much she loves it. She is just waiting for the day she can take over the mac and cheese empire. [ Laughs ] Sbrocco: Okay, I have to say, in all my years, a restaurant devoted to mac and cheese. Just explain this to me. Marrujo: Okay, carbs rule everything around me, as does cheese. And so I grew up a big mac and cheese fan. My mom was a mac and cheese fan. My grandma and my aunt actually make this kind of mac and cheese with kind of a Mexican twist. It makes me think of home. Once I discovered Homeroom, I was obsessed. [ Laughter ] I’ve been there for my birthday the past two years, and I’ve ordered it more than I care to admit it. Sbrocco: And take it to go. Marrujo: Take it to go. It’s a little different. It gets a slightly different consistency when you get it delivered versus when you go there. It’s real creamy, and it’s hot. Sbrocco: Piping hot? Marrujo: Piping hot. I mean, they serve it to you right out of the oven. I bounced around the menu a little bit, but I keep going back to the classic mac. There’s a mix of cheese. I think there’s some Pecorino, cheddar. You gotta get it with the bread crumbs. Add in the bread crumbs on top just gives it another dimension. It’s both creamy and a little bit crunchy at the same time, but not grainy. It just comes together in this heavenly pot of melty, cheesy pasta. [ Laughter ] Sbrocco: All right, do you like mac and cheese to begin with? Kazi: I’m on the fence. Sbrocco: Do your kids like mac and cheese? Kazi: My kids love mac and cheese, and I always end up eating the leftovers. [ Laughter ] Sbrocco: Yeah, I do that, too. Kazi: I really wanted to like this place for my kids’ sake, so I decided to go in on a Sunday night. Took us an hour and a half once we got there because of the line. It’s a very perky — it’s a very breezy place. The kind of audience that was there really made me feel very youthful. [ Laughter ] Candelino: Good. Kazi: I must have brought the average age of the restaurant up. [ Laughter ] It was, like, all 20-year-olds. it’s called Homeroom for a reason. Candelino: That’s the way it is. Kazi: High-school graduates, young grads. Sbrocco: Yeah, oh, the teacher’s here. Kazi: Good vibe to the place and going with how youthful the audience was. My daughter stuck with the classic, and she really, really loved it. Me and my son were a little more ambitious. I called for the spicy crab. Big-sized portions with a good panko crust, really creamy, and I could taste a lot of different cheeses. For me, it was just too much mac and cheese. Marrujo: Some people might misconstrue it as being a little boring, and some people might not have much love for mac and cheese. And, hey, I get it. Kazi: They do have a good size of vegetables on the side, so I called for the honey-glazed carrots which were amazing. They were in a nice citrus vinaigrette. Very well-roasted with the right amount of crunch. They had some Brussels sprouts which were really good. Sbrocco: But you can get gluten free, right, and some gluten-free options. Dairy free. Marrujo: Vegan, as well. Candelino: You can. I mean, we started with the sides, which there’s not very many of. But what we did have, we had also the glazed carrots, which were delicious. Marrujo: I also recommend the spicy cauliflower. The cauliflower’s cooked perfectly, crunchy, and then you get that spice in there. Very good. Candelino: And then they start bringing in the, like, bowls of mac and cheese, and we did the chicken bacon ranch mac and cheese. It was delicious. I had the crab myself — just the crab, not the spicy crab. It was super crispy. The bread crumbs is the way to go. You’re absolutely right. It creates, like, this nice kind of dome to crack into, and then you start delving in. The flavors were great. There was a lot of crab in there. It was so super yummy. It came out piping out. I have to say, you know, we’re talking, and we’re eating, and we’re having rose. We actually sat — Sbrocco: Which is a great pairing with mac and cheese, I have to say. Candelino: Naturally. Sbrocco: The richness of that, the vibrancy of a beautiful rose. Candelino: Yeah, and we were sitting outside. We got there super early because we had heard about the wait. Sbrocco: So that’s the tip, go early. Candelino: Go early, for sure. Sbrocco: And after all of those carbs, did you have room for dessert? Candelino: Uh-huh. Yeah. So we ordered the peanut butter pie, and I just told the server, “Do me a favor. Just bring out the to-go container for this, okay? Just preemptively so that we can pay the check and leave. So we’re sitting there, and I have a bite of the peanut butter pie, and I’m, like, something went off. I’m, like, okay, this is really good. And I had another bite and another bite. And we’re splitting it. And by the end, there was no to-go container. I loved it. It was so good. Marrujo: Desserts are fantastic here. The grasshopper pie is one of the ones I recommend. The homemade Oreos are really good, too. Kazi: They have a beautiful cookbook of all the classic recipes. I’m gonna try some of that at home. Sbrocco: Oh, nice. Fantastic. Well, this is your spot. Wrap it up for us. Marrujo: Comfort food, definitely come hungry, and just come with an open mind and have fun. Sbrocco: All right, and Stephen? Candelino: I’ll be back for the takeout. Not a sit-down destination for me. Sbrocco: And Ruby? Kazi: It’s for a niche, mac-loving audience. It brings a smile to your face. I would take them back, my kids back, surely. Sbrocco: All right. If you would like to try Homeroom Mac and Cheese, it’s on 40th at Webster and Oakland. The telephone number is 510-597-0400. It’s open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday. Reservations are not accepted, and the average tab per person without drinks is around $20. I have to thank my great guests on this week’s show. Stephen Candelino, who introduced us to the authentic Portuguese flavors at Uma Casa Restaurant. Ruby Kazi, who shared her place with a new twist on traditional Indian fare at Ritu Indian Soul Food. And Angela Marrujo for the mac and cheese and mac and cheese variations at Homeroom Mac & Cheese in Oakland. So, join us next time, when three new guests will recommend their favorite spots right here on “Check, Please! Bay Area.” I’m Leslie Sbrocco, and I’ll see you then. Cheers, everyone! Candelino: Cheers! Marrujo: Cheers! Kazi: Cheers! ♫♫ Sbrocco: So, now it’s your turn. We want to hear from you if you’ve visited any of our “Check, Please!” restaurants. You can post a selfie on Instagram, join the conversation on Facebook, and tweet us anytime. And don’t forget to visit our website. All the shows are there, along with my wine videos and notes about the wines we drink on-set. You’ll also find our fun, new web series “Taste This,” where we celebrate food and drinks around the Bay. Cheers. ♫♫ ♫♫ ♫♫

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