Observations on Food in the Bay Area
Citisearch review - At the corner of 21st and Valencia in the Mission, Firecracker is a nifty little Chinese restaurant with a very funky atmosphere. One of the first things you'll notice after passing the maroon curtain separating the door from the body of the restaurant are the bar stools along the back, with gauzy red fabric hanging beneath them lit from within by a light bulb. While seated, your eyes might wander up towards the ceiling where various demonic mask-like creations are cutouts lit from within. Certainly an inspiring creation, though the chairs with their pounded metal backs are distinctly uncomfortable. The padded benches along the walls are a much better alternative.
The wine list is exceedingly short. If memory serves me, I counted perhaps 8 bottles. They are nearly all on the slightly sweeter side of white, however, indicating a knowledge of what goes well with spicy Chinese food. Most of them are also available by the glass. We selected a bottle of Fetzer Gewurtztraminer, obscenely overpriced at $25 for what is a $10 or less bottle. It was, at least, reasonably tasty with nice crisp acidity, a pleasant amount of sweet fruit, with a fairly dry finish.
Fresh crab rolls - while not excessively greasy for a standard deep-fried roll, there was a preponderance of roll relative to the amount of crab meat within, and the flavor of the fried roll overwhelmed the light crab rather thoroughly. Even the dipping sauce was relatively unremarkable.
Tofu and Spinach - a fascinating combination somewhere between a sandwich and a salad, this was composed of alternating layers of thin slabs of tofu with piles of fresh spinach, along with a light topping of ginger. Light, refreshing, crisp, and quite tasty!
5-spice Duck - I must first make an admission that duck has never been one of my favorite, or even preferred, dishes. It generally comes in slices accompanied by significant slabs of greasy fat which I happen to find a bit revolting. That prejudice taken into consideration... The 5-spice sauce was a marvel! Combining intersting elements of Christmas nostalgia (likely the cinnamon or nutmeg I believe I tasted) with fruitiness and other unidentifiables, it was great. The duck, on the other hand, was a bit overcooked and tough, making it rather hard to separate from its fatty side-dish with the fork & chopsticks provided. It was accompanied by a pleasant, if mildly bland, sliced veggie whose identity I've forgotten, as it didn't make much of an impression.
Fried salmon with bok choy and asian pears - a very interesting dish, the salmon appears to be enveloped in a light breading of some sort, and had a unique part salmon, part something else flavor I found quite intriguing. The very crisp, crunchy pears and the bok choy made great counterparts in difference of both texture and flavor to the thick hunk of fish.
String beans with garlic - a Chinese staple (and favorite of mine), these weren't seasoned or fried quite as strongly as I tend to like them, maintaining a strong bean flavor while the seared garlic was nearly relegated to the background. Don't get me wrong - they weren't bad; just not as flavorful as I tend to prefer.
They only offer ice cream, which in our case was green tea. It was a very good green tea ice cream, not over sweetened or with the occasional fake flavor one can encounter.
In all, a good dining experience, with generally good food though not exceptional. Service was speedy, helpful, and friendly, and our wine glasses were kept reasonably well topped up. I've had better Chinese food, though, and there are certainly a number of similarly priced restaurants (albeit not Chinese) within a block or two that are much better.
Our total came to a bit over $30/person after tip.