We walked through the Mission District looking for Pink Zebra and couldn’t find it.
“It’s supposed to be right here,” I said to Kim, pointing to a Chinese restaurant.
We checked online to see if they closed. Nope. We called their phone number but got a message saying they’d get back to us within two days. What the what?!
“I guess I messed up. Let’s give up and go to that comic shop across the street.”
“Let’s just go inside the Chinese place and ask,” Kim said.
As soon as we walked in, the Greeter recognized confusion on our faces.
“Pink Zebra?” he asked.
“Right this way.”
Turns out Pink Zebra is a pop-up restaurant within this very take-out looking Chinese place (Tao Yin). Had I done even a smidgen of research, I would have known this. I should have my Foodie license revoked.
My girl and I are always down for a culinary adventure (she more than me, let’s be honest) and this place was off to a good start. We chose the regular menu, but you can also sit at the sushi bar and order the Omakase – which I hear is several hours of special sushi off the dome of Chef Jesse Koide (previously of Mission Chinese).
We started with the Hurricane Popcorn & Pig Ears because how could you not? Buttered popcorn, crispy pig ears, a little lime and a sprinkle of powdered furikake. They should replace all the popcorn in every movie theater with this stuff. Fuck you, vegans.*
Next up, the less adventurous, but no less delicious, Menchi Katsu. Nicely fried sliced pork with gruyere, thin and crispy Brussels sprouts, some pickled ginger, a citrus braised endive, and smoked tonkatsu sauce. These are expertly conceived and executed flavors – a far cry from your typical Katsu. The pickled ginger really gave that dish a bright and sweet counterpoint.
If tongue is on the menu, my girl is gonna order it – and here it comes; the most tonguey looking tongue I ever put in my mouth. Well, kinda. A decidedly anatomical yet Tender Beef Tongue served with pear and fennel mostarda, pickled chili with capers, herb salsa, and the most adorable little carrot slivers you ever did see. Probably the ballsiest thing on the menu, next to the spice-rubbed chicken hearts with pickled pineapple. My mom would never eat at this place.
The Crostone may look like a train wreck in a snowstorm but it’s packed with surprises and special guests. Underneath some cheesy goodness lies bitter greens, a happily poached jidori egg, Benton’s bacon, sage brown butter, 20 year balsamico, and some outrageous grilled Tartine bread. It was like working your way through a complex novel where bacon saves the day (again).
This menu is full of the kind of playful yet masterful plates foodies dream about. We don’t just want to eat, we want to have fun, we want to make discoveries, maybe even learn a thing or two. And, of course, take a picture of our meal we can share with friends back home who ultimately hate us for it.
* The writer has the utmost respect for vegans but just likes easy punchlines.