Pomelo is one our favorite somewhat off the radar restaurants in San Francisco. There are two locations—one in Noe Valley at Church and 30th and one in the Inner Sunset on Judah at 6th—and we frequent the Judah location not just because it’s a few short avenue blocks from our front door, but also because Pomelo’s approach to global cuisine is both ambitious and reliable.
They promise “refreshingly global” food and they specialize in grain-based dishes from around the world. Nearly every main entrée features noodles, rice, beans or grains such cous cous or quinoa, but no matter what the grain staple may be it’s the multi-regional attention that makes the menu so unique.
Most global or ethnic eateries either focus on one central region or go the route of the ever-popular fusion menu. The Pomelo menu achieves a rare accomplishment: it allows guests to taste some of the finest and most exotic flavors from around the world without feeling the need to combine these flavors (a.k.a the fusion route) or sacrifice quality or capability in light of scope and variety.
The menu is seasonal so if you decided to stop by after reading this post you would be enjoying the “early summer” menu. Some of the dishes can be had year round, one of which, the Havana, is our personal favorite. Cuban fried rice, black beans and skirt steak are the main components, but the cilantro, ginger and perfectly sautéed onions give the dish its bold, full flavor. But what really does it for us are the side of plantains and the Cuban avocado salad. The avocado salad is so tangy and refreshing that we’ve been known to phone in a side order for take out just to have it with a home cooked meal. And besides, when is avocado ever bad?
In terms of space, Pomelo self-describes itself as “intimate, simple and undeniably global” and they definitely know what they’re talking about when it comes to intimacy. The Judah location is small, sometimes to a fault, and if all three 2-person tables are occupied in addition to the six or so bar seats it can really heat up. Nonetheless, if it’s not too crowded and you’re in the mood for casual, yet elegant dining, the ambiance is warm and vibrant. What’s more, if you want a little entertainment, sitting at the bar gives you full view of the kitchen and the chef’s impressive culinary feats.
We haven’t been to the Noe Valley location, but we know that they serve brunch on the weekends and we’ve been eyeing the Monte Cristo—a polenta sandwich with prosciutto, mozzarella, sun dried tomato and basil, served with a balsamic reduction, two eggs and field greens—so it seems it’s time for a long overdue visit.
[Photo of Manila dish–filipino style stir fried rice noodles tossed with sautéed prawns and chicken, chinese sausage & vegetables–via frankfarm/Flickr]