Pagolac – Space and Time Warp to Vietnam

June 20, 2008 at 8:24 am (dessert, food, international, restaurants, review, san francisco)

I went to Pagolac (Yelp, Menupages) in the Tenderloin last night with a fun crew of dinner eaters.  We were in San Francisco, but throughout the whole dining experience, I kept having all these flashbacks to being in Vietnam.  It was an unusually warm night for San Francisco, so that helped.  The rest of the effect is probably from the comfortable, unpretentious atmosphere inside and from the great food.  One result of all this good Vietnam food and the Vietnamness was that I had this flash of worry when one dessert came with ice: “Oh no, we forgot to ask for no ice!  We can’t eat this.” While this is a common thought when traveling in places like SE Asia, I don’t usually have that instinctive reaction in the U.S.  (I should note that this reaction wasn’t because the place looked unsanitary… I think it was because I felt like I was away from home.)  Also, when passing through the tiny, cramped kitchen in the back, because it was extra hot back there, I felt like I was a kitchen in Taiwan or Vietnam or another hot Asian country.

More about the food:  pretty much everything was great.  I especially liked the imperial rolls (with taro inside!).  There was also a really interesting noodle (fat rice noodles) dish with dried shredded pork, coconut milk, and other toppings.  Anything wrapped up in rice paper with noodles, herbs and greens, and fish sauce (assembled ourselves) was great.  The imperial rolls were really yummy eaten this way as was a shrimp ball wrapped around sugar cane.  Such a symbiotic relationship with the sugar cane and the shrimp – both components come out way tastier when cooked together.  (You’re supposed to chew the sugar cane to get the juice out rather than chew to swallow.  But if you’d like a little bit more fiber in your life, it can be eaten, as we all witnessed last night.  Mark, thanks for the demo!)  The best dessert we had was this rice pudding and taro dessert – it also had coconut milk.  It was so warm and pleasant and comforting and yummy!

I’d recommend staying away from the ice cream because while it was flavorful, the texture wasn’t great.  There are way more yummy things to eat at Pagolac so there’s no need to order the ice cream, in my opinion.

I haven’t reviewed the dishes and pottery of a restaurant in a while, probably because I haven’t seen anything memorable.  But Pagolac had some great pieces.  They had this one black bowl with pale yellow flowers carved to look like they were scattered on the inside of the bowl – really pretty.  And they had this four-sided teapot with an amazing glaze job – a tenmoku-like (black/copper/red) top, a narrow yellow band, and most of the base was blue.  The different glazes all flowed together and it was very fiery and organic at the same time.

Happy travels!

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