I don't mean Dolls, and my title is also not a nod to that meta show on The O.C. (I've been Netflixing a lot of that these days. Don't look at me like that -- I love Adam Brody!), it's more about the fact that Hayes Street doesn't begin and end in Hayes "getting rather too posh for our britches" Valley. Weary of always looking for good eats and sips beyond my immediate neighborhood, I've decided to recommit myself -- at least for a little while -- to the my little community of Lower Haight/Western Addition/Alamo Square Park/Hayes Valley. The newest slash to hit my immediate consciousness is North of the Panhandle, often referred to as NOPA or NOPH. I've only discovered this rather ignored area because of a brand new hybrid bike and the intense need to work off a career spent eating, sleeping, and breathing food. Last week I wrote about a new bar in the Valley, but this week I write about Abacus, a Cali-Chinese restaurant in NOPA.
Clearly, there aren't nearly as many restaurants, cafes, bars, clubs, or burrito shacks around here as there are in other well-known foodie neighborhoods, but what we do have is not too shabby at all. In fact, I have discovered that NOPA's Abacus is the where you simply must go to taste the best sautéed pea shoots in San Francisco.
About a year ago, after a totally traumatic Tahoe trip, my husband and I soothed our tweaked nerves with a massive take-out feast from Ton Kiang in the Richmond. Among other delights, Ton Kiang always has a fresh vegetable of the day, and it was there that I first had sautéed pea shoots. I was so taken by them that I looked elsewhere for them. Enter Isa. Again, with the love for the shoot of a pea.
Seeking to satisfy a very recent craving, I grabbed a few containers of fresh pea shoots at my corner organic store and tried my hand at them. My husband told me that the few slivers of garlic that I threw in at the end of the quick saute made all the difference in the still emerald green shoots. According to his expert opinion as a professional eater, my pea shoots were better than Isa and Ton Kiang because they were more tender and flavorful. High praise indeed. Do you know why I trust my husband's opinion? Because he leaned over a plate of pea shoots at Abacus and said, "Even considering yours, these are the best yet."
Abacus has many fine dishes that are as delicately and perfectly prepared as their pea shoots. So I say, go for the pea shoots but stay for absolutely everything else. Neighborhood parking is ridiculously easy and the 21 Hayes stops right in front of the restaurant, so really, you have no excuse not to experience this golden NOPA nugget for yourself.
2078 Hayes Street (at Cole)
San Francisco, CA 94102