San Francisco: Alhamra

The wedding is over. My sister’s that is, not mine. Although through this entire process of helping her plan and execute 5 billion things I’ve wholeheartedly decided NOT to have a wedding of my own. I shall elope! Of course my sister threatens to “shank” me if I actually went through with it. Scary thought. Now that all the holding back on eating out and indulging in junk food is over, I can get back to my regular Ms Fatty self and start cooking more than brown rice and steamed veggies in an effort to fit my ass into a dress. I’m so behind in blogging, I have a ton of back log restaurants I wanted to write about and foods I’ve cooked, taken photos of but never took the time to write actually write down the recipes. I’ll be struggling a bit for content as I try to get my feet wet again, so to speak. I’m excited about a new venture my sister suggested while I’m trying to launch my food stand. A newlywed’s cooking class. Basically taking the idea of my So Simple It’s Silly recipes and teaching new couples who are wanting to be more domestic.. aka my baby sister who can’t cook for crap and wants to impress her new husband. I will be opening the class up to more than friends as the popularity grows and I find a bigger kitchen than mine to teach out of.  Enough of this catch up babbling! I need to actually write about food!

Dining Date: August 5th 2011
I first heard of Alhamra through an episode of Check Please! Bay Area. The baby brother and I are huge fans of the show (I’ve been blamed for his evolving gourmet taste buds) and the profile they did on Alhamra looked so yummy we had to make a pilgrimage out to the Mission district of San Francisco. Being East Bay kids, we don’t usually go out that way simply to eat, but we were in the city doing some shopping for my sister’s wedding and stopped in before leaving the city. It turned out to be a great choice. The food we had was affordable, fantastic, fiery and full of flavors. The parking on the other hand, deep in the Mission district is always crap..err difficult, but I ninja’d my way into a spot 1 block away from the restaurant. Hell yea I’m still patting myself on the back for THAT one.

The one thing that stood out to me right off the bat was the kitchen and all the cooking was done in the front, framed by a huge glass window to entice passersby I’m sure to stop in. I like a place that isn’t scared to show what really goes on in their food prep. I recognized the owner from the show at one of the stoves working his magic and filling in take out orders as well as dine in. The place itself is a good size with about 15 tables that are sometime placed together to accommodate large parties. We waited about 25 minutes for a table to open. It was a bit confusing as they seat you, bring you a menu, but I had to go up to the counter to order our meal. No biggy. The food service was a bit spotty, they didn’t bring out one item until nearly the end of the meal and forgot 2 items until I went up to remind them of one and ended up cancelling another. It’s a mom n pop shop, so I didn’t mind too greatly, I’m used to having to do that in Chinatown.

Lamb Samosa (4.99)
Two crispy puffs filled with ground lamb, onions and herbs

Fried to perfection with minced lamb and herbs throughout, served with a mint chutney and a sweet and sour tamarind sauce. The gamey lamb and tamarind sauce was my favorite combination

Naan (1.00)
All-purpose flour bread baked in a tandoor oven

We got 6 orders and wanted more to sop up all the delicious sauces we had. The bread was crisp and smokey on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside. Did I mention they were also incredibly huge?

Tandoori Chicken (3.99)
Chicken cooked in clay over with charcoal

I usually shy away from tandoori chicken, mostly because I’ve had some BAD ones. My sister wanted a small order and it came towards the end of the meal on a sizzling iron plate with a bed of onions. I had a small bite and I really adore the charred outside and the slight tangy flavor from the yogurt marinade. It was incredibly moist and juicy, dripping down your chin juicy.

Chicken Tikka Masala (8.99)
Barbecued boneless chicken breast in creamy masala sauce

We had two orders because the siblings LOVE tikka masala. It wasn’t spicy enough for me, but the sibs gobbled it down very quickly, sopping up the curry with naan.

Chana Masala (6.99)
Garbanzo beans in a special blend of herbs and spices

One of my favorite curries, I love how the garbanzo beans remain crisp and the herbs and spices complimented their subtle flavor.

Vegetarian Biryani (6.99)
Mixed vegetables cooked with rice and spices

We’re Asians, so of course we needed some sort of rice with our meal! The grains were well cooked and remained beautifully separated with the confetti of vegetables. Subtle in flavor and paired perfectly with all the strong spiced dishes we had.

Chicken Kofta (8.99)
Chicken meatballs braised in a fiery sauce

My favorite dish of the night! It was a special that night, I initially ordered the beef kofta, but they had run out so I settled for chicken. Though the meatballs were fairly pedestrian, it was the sauce that got me. I enjoyed the fiery blend of spices and kept trying to pick out each flavor to try to recreate later, but sadly, my palate wasn’t sensitive enough and my cooking skills below par to even attempt making this dish at home.  I kept spooning that incredible sauce over my biryani and dipping my naan in every chance I got. The sibs said it was way too hot for them after a few bites so I got lucky enough to have the most of the dish to myself.

The after math, we were well satiated and the bill with tax and tip came to a very modest $60.00 (or something like that, I can’t remember!). We decided to get 4 orders of their Sweet Naan (sugar, coconut, raisins added to baked naan, $2.00, not pictured) to go because it sounded so good. Although we were all stuffed, we tore into those bad boys on the car ride home, not overly sweet with that great oven char, finger searing hot with fresh coconut flakes in every bite. Yes we’re Cambodians and proud carb-whores, there’s always room for more bread!

Alhamra
3083 16th St
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 621-3935
www.alhamrarestaurant.net

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