The best food of the week from our Bay Area restaurant critic


In this weekly column, I’ll be sharing the best dishes I’ve eaten around the San Francisco Bay Area lately. While the list may include Instagram-only deals or seasonal tasting menu items, I’ll be sure to only include things that you could reasonably get now-ish.

This week’s edition is full of little snackles: a tiny bowl of roe, vegetable empanadas and a pan-seared Chinese Hot Pocket. Check out my recommendations from last week at sfchronicle.com/food
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Hokkaido uni and salmon roe at Hakashi At Hakashi, a low-key sushi bar in SoMa, chef Julio Zapata and his team crank out crowd-pleasing sushi rolls laden with spicy tuna, jalapeños and plenty of avocado; rice bowls that jiggle with softly cooked egg; and a stellar course omakase (around 20 dishes for $160).

The omakase began with an umami-rich clam soup and climaxed with a humble bowl of short-grain rice, apricot-like lobes of sea urchin roe and seasoned salmon eggs. I scooped up mouthfuls with a tiny wooden spoon in silence, letting the eggs pop against my palate. The flavors — and the solitude — brought me back to my first visit to the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, made when it was 5 a.m. and I was impossibly jetlagged. I ducked into a random restaurant nearby and ordered a bowl of rice topped with roe for breakfast; in my mouth, that first bite melted into a briny salve that turned my loneliness into mental ease.

Hakashi Japanese Sushi Bar & Grill. 11:30-2:30 p.m. and 5-8:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday. 474 Third St., San Francisco. 415-872-9589 or www.hakashisushi.com

Empanadas at Chao Pescao in San Francisco, Calif.

Chao Pescao

Empanadas at Chao Pescao Cuban-Colombian Chao Pescao is the new restaurant in the Civic Center space that housed Soluna, also by owner Rene Denis. The brightly painted spot is a welcome addition to a culinary scene that could use some more representation on both the Cuban and Colombian fronts, with traditional ropa vieja, Cubano sandwiches and nontraditional vegan jackfruit lechon.

The deep-fried empanadas ($12 for 3), made in a style popular in western Colombia, have a thick orange exterior made of toothsome masa. (Yep, they’re gluten-free.) The vegetarian rendition includes components that maximize moisture: sweet potatoes, garbanzo beans and tomatoes. Kale and rice keep the filling grounded. I was sharing with friends, but I actually wanted to eat them all — they were that good. If this restaurant just became an empanada store, I wouldn’t mind one bit.

Chao Pescao. 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday. 272 McAllister St., San Francisco. 415-621-2200 or www.chaopescaosf.com

A garlic chive pocket from New Dumpling in El Cerrito, Calif.

A garlic chive pocket from New Dumpling in El Cerrito, Calif.

Soleil Ho / The Chronicle

Green chive pocket at New Dumpling While on my way to the Point Isabel dog park in Richmond, I stopped over at New Dumpling, a spot by the movie theater, that specializes in Chinese boiled dumplings. I noticed a new item on the menu, written in marker on a whiteboard outside of the restaurant: green chive pockets for $6.99.

Called jiucai hezi, the flat, half-moon dough parcels are filled with minced garlic chives, bits of scrambled egg and jelly-like chopped noodles. They’re seared on both sides and take on the flakiness of flour tortillas cooked on a flattop grill. Sesame oil and white pepper make the pungent aroma even more mouth-watering.

New Dumpling. 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. 10064 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. 510-529-4161 or www.newdumplingfood.com

Soleil Ho is The San Francisco Chronicle’s restaurant critic. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @hooleil