Not-to-miss dishes

Lampredotto sandwich: Elmira Rosticceria
154 McAllister Street (at Hyde),

Chef Marc Passetti’s version of this Florentine peasant dish made from the fourth and final stomach of a cow is much tastier than it sounds. Not to be confused with honeycomb tripe, lampredotto becomes meltingly tender when slow cooked. Passetti serves it with house-made salsa verde or salsa picante on a light, airy ciabatta roll.

Linguine with clams: Capo’s
641 Vallejo Street (at Stockton), 415-986-8998,

Even in the North Beach sea of Italian restaurants, no one can make a better linguine and clams than Tony Gemignani. The perfectly al dente pasta, made fresh in house, has just enough bite; the clams are big and briny; and the white wine and garlic sauce isn’t too thick or too thin — it’s just right.

Fried chicken: Out the Door
2232 Bush Street (at Fillmore), 415-923-9575,

The Colonel’s got nothing on Charles Phan! At his Pacific Heights location, Phan serves moist, juicy chicken cloaked in a thin, crispy crust and served with a side of Sriracha butter for dipping. Who would’ve known San Francisco’s most renowned Vietnamese chef would shine on such an American classic.

Wood-grilled octopus: Coqueta
Pier 5, The Embarcadero, 415-704-8866,

Coqueta means “infatuated” in Spanish, and I was so infatuated with chef Michael Chiarello’s grilled octopus the first time I tried it that I ate a second order. Served simply with olive oil potatoes dusted with pimentón (Spanish paprika), the octopus is tender every time, not like at most restaurants that don’t know how to cook it properly (timing is everything — a second too long, and you’ve got rubber bands). This is the best grilled octopus I’ve ever eaten.

Barley risotto with sea urchin: Parallel 37
600 Stockton Street (at California) in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, 415-773-6168,

Chef Michael Rotondo’s barley risotto reminds me of David Kinch’s famous “tidal pool” at Manresa — sea urchin, abalone, and mussels in an earthy broth with mushrooms and scallions — and it’s every bit as good (not to mention you don’t have to make the long drive to Los Gatos). The risotto is topped with sea urchin, crispy Serrano ham, and a medley of mushrooms and seafood (on one visit, it was black trumpet mushrooms and geoduck clam). An earthy house-made dashi broth, poured tableside, creates the elusive umami (the fifth flavor; along with sweet, sour, bitter, and salty) and proves Rotondo is a culinary force to be reckoned with.

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