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Start with a truck…

Before he bought the food truck, Akash Kapoor was a mortgage banker and founder of one of the country’s largest debt-settlement firms. But he tired of foreclosures … and in 2009, he bought the truck. Three years later, Kapoor left the debt world behind and focused on feeding Indian street food to Bay Area residents.

Today he owns four trucks, four restaurants and two craft cocktail bars called Mortar & Pestle. They’re based in San Francisco, San Mateo, San Jose and Palo Alto A fifth restaurant is coming soon. Curry Up Now is a mini-chain on its way to becoming a maxi-chain.

The restaurants serve more items than the trucks, but their core is the same. Base sauces, chutneys and curries are cooked at the commissaries and sent to the outlets nightly. Other menu items are prepared in house.

We’ve eaten our way through most of the menu and have yet to find an item we didn’t like. Our fave dishes are the Angry Idli Manchurian ($7), Bhel Puri ($7.50), Sexy Fries ($10), and desserts Hot Balls on Ice ($7) and Gulab Malpua Crepe ($8.50).

The dishes are all street food — mostly Indian street food but with an occasional burrito in the mix. This is San Francisco.

Curry Up Now SF is in the heart of the hyper-hot Valencia Street food zone. Its patrons are hip and young; partly drawn by the exotic tastes, partly by the cheap prices. This is a San Francisco bargain.

What else draws San Franciscans to Valencia Street? The exemplary Marsh Theater. Coffee houses. Bookstores. Art galleries. Taquerias. Hipsters.

Travel Tip: Parking is rough. Walk, bike, taxi or MUNI.

Taste Tip: There’s a fair amount of heat in this spicy food. What cools and soothes is the delicious Mango Lassi ($3)

Comfort Tip: In winter (of San Francisco’s non-summer), add a layer; Despite the spices, Curry Up Now can be chilly.

Curry Up Now. 659 Valencia Street near 18th. 415.504.3631. Sunday-Thursday: 11:30am-10pm; Friday-Saturday till 11:30. http://www.curryupnow.com/san-francisco/

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Transparent brings boldness, braveness and brilliance to American television. Presented by Amazon Prime, it’s about a Los Angeles family whose father one day declares, Don’t call me Mort; from now on, I’m Maura.

Whoa.

I dubbed the first two episodes “Crazy Jews in L.A.” But as the family stories and history unfolded, I came to think of it as, with Breaking Bad, the best series in the history of American television.

But note — Transparent is not for the sexually timid. It is awash in graphic sex of nearly every description with nearly every combination of adult participants. Be prepared.

We’re so taken with Transparent that when members of the cast and crew came to the San Francisco Film Festival, we not only bought tickets, we captured their presence on the Red Carpet. Check out Effin’s photos.

 

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Fresh Eyes

It’s rare when works of art — books, movies, photos — can change your perspective. But Anthony Hernandez, whose photo retrospective is the first special exhibition of San Francisco’s recently re-opened SFMOMA, did just that for me.

Like Ed Ruscha, whose retrospective is featured a few miles away at the de Young, many of Hernandez’s images are from Los Angeles: empty rooms, desolate streets, random people, homeless camps. I’ve always found this school of photography banal and boring, uninspired and uninspiring.

But Hernandez brings these subjects to life. He invites your eye to linger, your brain to process. And, in the end, you see his art of the forgotten, the lost, the abandoned in a new perspective. That’s what he did for me.

The exhibit runs through January 1, 2017 at SFMOMA.

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It’s a fact — San Francisco is the world’s favorite American city. For nearly two decades, it has been ranked America’s #1 city to visit.

Along with the Golden Gate Bridge and little cable cars climbing halfway to the stars, one of San Francisco’s biggest attractions is its food.

At last count, it is home to 3,489 restaurants. Plus maybe that many more beyond the city limits.

Here’s another fact: San Franciscans firmly believe that visitors regularly miss the best of them.

Now there’s a guide to the best of them. Here’s San Francisco Restaurants. And here it is.

We’ve created a two-minute YouTube video about San Francisco Restaurants. We call it San Francisco Restaurants, The Movie

 

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Teo Restaurant & Bar

Remember when “going out for Chinese” meant a Cantonese egg roll, wonton soup and egg fu yung? Then came the hot spice of Hunan and hotter, spicier Sichuan.

Now, there’s another province heard from. Teo (pronounced tee-oh) brings Chaozhou to San Francisco. Chaozhou, a.k.a. Teo Chew, is southern cuisine featuring marinated meats and and seafood rather than spices. The ingredients and the tastes are unexpected.

The unexpected begins with the décor; it’s more Japanese than traditional Chinese: clean, straight lines rather than curves and carves, blues and grays instead of red and gold, spare symmetry trumping decorative abundance.

One unexpected bonus — Teo is much quieter than most San Francisco restaurants. Thank you for that.

Service is cheerful, portions are ample, prices are reasonable, the food is … unexciting.

My favorite dish is the $14 marinated goose meat appetizer. The sauces enhance the mild-tasting meat and tofu slices. Without their sauces, the $6 fried shrimp balls would have almost no flavor, certainly none of shrimp. The $7 carrot and scallop soup tastes more like wonton than scallop; it’s pleasant though bland.

Teo’s $17 oyster and egg omelet is the Chaozhou version of California’s Hangtown Fry. The ingredients are fresh and nicely prepared; the flavor is unexciting. The same can be said for the desserts.

So. To try something new, at a price that won’t break the bank, in a room that won’t rupture your eardrums, with tastes that won’t set your ganglions jangling, by all means give Teo a go.

1111 Mission Street, San Francisco. Lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 to 2 p.m. Dinner nightly from 5 to 9:30 p.m. Weekday Happy Hour from 5 to 6 p.m. Web address is www.TeoSF.com. Phone (415) 626-8366.

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Hiding in plain sight

Though it’s in the heart of downtown, it’s easy to miss.

It’s in an alley. The alley’s at the end of a lane. From the outside, the restaurant looks tiny. You may have walked by it a dozen times and never known it was there.

Surprise! Not only is Le Colonial a San Francisco icon, that tiny exterior is just the entrance. One flight (or elevator ride) up is a long, open-air promenade called the Patio. That leads to the main dining room. Another flight up is the darkened bar and the Lounge, and at the end of that, overlooking the street, is the small Veranda.

It’s all dimly lit, tropically rattanned, ceiling-fanned. Old Hanoi meets San Francisco romance.

Service is smartly informed; food is French-Vietnamese fine, prices aren’t life threatening but aren’t cheap. The appetizer tasting platter for two is $28, as is the coconut poached Alaskan halibut. The flavor-rich steamed seabass in banana leaves is $33; that and the wok-seared filet mignon cubes are the house specialties. Our faves: the tasting platter and two desserts— the rich chocolate cake with peanut butter ice cream and the orange & lime crepes cake.

http://www.lecolonialsf.com   (415) 931-3600.

20 Cosmo Place between Sutter and Post. Open nightly for dinner, Sunday through Wednesday from 5:30 to 10:00 p.m. and Thursday to Saturday, 5:30 to 11 p.m. On busy weekends, the Lounge stays open till 2 a.m. A DJ keeps things lively. Valet parking is available.

 

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The B-Side

Two sister museums, the de Young and the Legion of Honor, are hosting western-themed exhibits. The star attraction, Ed Ruscha and the Great American West, is at the de Young in Golden Gate Park. The B-side, Wild West: Plains to the Pacific, is at the more remote Legion.

But like “I Will Survive” and “Maggie May,” sometimes B-sides are the real hits.

That’s the case in San Francisco. Ruscha has an original eye, but much of his work is neither beautiful nor moving. Many of his subjects, like “ThirtyFour parking lots in Los Angeles”, are intentionally, yawningly banal.

Wild West, by contrast, features brilliant woodcuts by Chiura Obata, stunning photos by Edweard Muybridge, searing screenprints by Ester Hernandez, iconic posters by Michael Schwab, and much, much more.

Triumph of the B-side.

Wild West closes September 11; Ruscha, October 9.

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The latest Zillow report shows median rent in San Francisco has hit $4,528, now the hottest and highest in the country.

That makes our apartment, which we got using the methods in TAKE ME HOME, a mighty bargain only one year later. Looking for an apartment or house in a hot market? This $10 could be your best investment.

 

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