“I may be ugly, but at least I am not a bitch like you.” “Why aren’t you smiling, bitch?” These were the greetings I received on my two most recent trips to the Tenderloin. Other weaker souls may be scared to revisit such parts of town after such verbal attacks. However, I am a food baller, I shrug it off. Nothing can get between me and good food at a great price. After first hearing about Pagolac and their “7 Courses of Beef” for $16, I knew that this was at the top of my restaurants to try list. I just finished the brilliant Patti Stanger’s Become Your Own Matchmaker book and she recommends that you kill two birds with one stone: if there is something you have always wanted to try you add it to a possible date list. That way, when a guy says to you, “What do you want to do on a Friday night?” you have a list full of answers. Examples: I have always wanted to go wine tasting, go horseback riding on the beach, or try that cute Italian restaurant on main street. When my date approached me with the question recently, I had one answer: 7 courses of beef in the T-loin. The date was set and I was starving, excited to cross this restaurant off my list. Walking in, there’s an aesthetically stark (antithesis of Starck) dining room, packed only with people, and you add your name to the list at the front table. We knew what we were ordering far in advance but I wanted to get the night rolling with Goi Cuon (fresh spring rolls). Jdates are always funny because I feel the need to ask, “Are you kosher?” Many of us, Jews, eat pork and shellfish but having the two wrapped in the same roll is doubly bad, which means extra awesome.
I was going on and on to my date about how we got to roll the rolls ourselves and was a little saddened when these babies came out already rolled. However, when the first of the seven courses arrived it became clear that we were the master rollers and cooks for the rest of the evening. The first course was citrus marinated rare (read: raw) beef in onions, basil, and peanuts. All of the classic Vietnamese flavors were present and I was in heaven.
The next five courses were all a bit of a delicious blur. There was rice paper ready to be dunked in warm water to turn malleable, beef ready to be dropped into a broth and later grilled to cook, a bowl of veggies and herbs to use, and a fish sauce to dip it in. I am a strong believer that being tactile with your food increases the enjoyment of the meal and this was my playground. I was rolling out these babies non-stop. I am not sure if I talked to my date during this process, but I am sure that I was doubling up on meat in my concoctions. It is fair to say that my date had one piece of beef for every two that I had. What can I say? I am food baller, I could man the grill and roll like a pro. After the cooking process, courses four, five and six were all served on the same plate. There was onion wrapped beef, beef wrapped onion, and a beef sausage in a pepper leaf. Of course, we devoured all of these but they didn’t come close to my cooking in the second and third courses.
I was overly stimulated and having so much fun that something needed to slow me down and bring me home. Course seven did just that; it was delicious beef porridge. It was lighter than Chinese congee and was delicate while it warmed my tummy and closed my palate. I happily made it through seven courses of beef. It was quite an experience. Sure, I could have asked my date to take me on some other great adventure but in my mouth I just traveled to Vietnam and my childhood in seven courses of beef and for only $16.
Pagolac655 Larkin St
(between Ellis St & Willow St)
San Francisco, CA 94109
Neighborhood: Civic Center/Tenderloin