Saturday, August 11, 2007

47 restaurants in 47 days: #23, Straits

Straits Restaurant
Westfield San Francisco Centre
845 Market Street

A restaurant that looks like a trendy nightclub, AND it’s in the middle of a shopping mall? Normally I wouldn’t expect much. But I’d just read a rave review of Straits in a local weekly, praising its Singapore-influenced cuisine, so I settled down on a silk-covered bench and tried to decide how many “small plates” I could sample without being a total pig.

My friendly server was eager to describe any menu item that piqued my curiosity (and couldn’t help asking why I was photographing my food). She assured me that two or three plates wouldn’t be overwhelming.

The Indonesian corn croquettes were a mini-flashback to Grandma O’s recipe for Southern corn fritters, but these crispy discs came with sweet and vinagery chili-garlic sauce, not maple syrup. The corn might have been from a can, but I finished off the plate without coming to a definite conclusion.

I spent several minutes trying to guess what the barbecue sauce on the “Bali-style” spare ribs might be, and finally called the server back. She returned from the kitchen with a list of ingredients that included blue ginger, sweet soy sauce, garlic and honey. I was thinking there might be molasses or even coffee, the flavor was so deep and rich.

I also tried poh pia, a fresh spring roll (not deep-fried) with the interesting addition of Chinese sausage to the more standard bits of shrimp, shredded carrot, jicama, peanuts and cooked egg. The plate included two slashes of plum sauce and sriracha, neither of which was as spicy as advertised.

The food was good, but I really enjoyed the house-made lemongrass-mint soda. Each sip started with citrus flavor, then the herbal note of the lemongrass, followed by refreshing mint. I can’t imagine a more cooling summertime drink.

Straits in San Francisco

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