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Food & Drink

I finally found a seafood tower in San Francisco that’s worth shelling out for

The best seafood tower in town gives more than boring bivalves. Plus: Going numb over pork dumplings and a 50-layer lasagne that actually tastes … light

A gourmet seafood platter with oysters, ceviche, and garnished dishes on ice.
The tower for two at the Anchovy Bar in the Fillmore topples your seafood tower expectations. | Source: Morgan Ellis/The Standard

This is All Things Consumed, a column by The Standard’s eater-at-large, Omar Mamoon, featuring three great dishes he’s eaten, one thing he’s drunk, and one other food product he’s stoked on.

Seafood tower for two at Anchovy Bar

I typically stay away from seafood towers when I see them on a menu. Too often, they are overpriced and predictable—some oysters with mignonette, a few poached prawns with cocktail sauce, maybe a lobster tail with aioli, a ceviche or a crudo—and $150 later, you’re too full for anything else. However, the seafood tower at Anchovy Bar, from the fine folks who brought you State Bird Provisions and the Progress, is unlike any version you’ve had before.

A two-tiered serving tray holds an array of gourmet appetizers on a marble table.
The two-tier platter features a variety of seafood components, including a half dozen fresh oysters, bay shrimp aguachile, scallop tartare and a squid conserva. | Source: Morgan Ellis/The Standard

Yes—there are bivalves, six exactly, but they’re accompanied by more thoughtful chosen condiments like a dashi-scallion mignonette and a fiery housemade hot sauce. Next up is the “aguachile” made with pomegranate juice that pinkens the plethora of tiny plump bay shrimp. That’s followed by a couple of clams topped with a crunchy jalapeno pistachio salsa macha, and a couple more kimchi-forward oyster shooters.

But that’s just the bottom half of the tower. On top are anchovy “jerky” with Meyer lemon aioli for dip; tender squid poached and marinated in an herby sauce heavy on parsley and preserved lemon; scallop tartare in a creamy green puree of celery root and thinly sliced apples; a smoky black cod dip; and a couple toothpicks containing a salty anchovy, smoked olive and sweet pepper—a chefy take on the popular Basque skewered snack called the Gilda. It’s a tower that’s good from the floor to the penthouse.

💰: $92
📍 1740 O'Farrell St., San Francisco

Numb & spicy pork bao dumplings at Dumpling Story

This new dumpling destination in the old Luna Park space on Valencia Street comes care of Jimmy Shen, who is behind Dumpling Home in Hayes Valley, where you can find my favorite xiao long bao in the city, with its translucently thin skin bursting at the seams, just barely containing the juicy porky goodness within. After a visit to Dumpling Story last Saturday, one week into its opening, I’m happy to report that the sequel equals the original.

Six round, translucent dumplings topped with green onions and black sesame seeds on a plate.
The sheng jian bao, listed on the menu at Dumpling Story as the juicy pork bao, is filled with ground pork, chili oil and a good amount of savory soup. | Source: Omar Mamoon for The Standard

My favorite dumpling on the menu is the sheng jian bao, listed on the menu as the juicy pork bao under the “Pan Fried” section. If you like it hot (like I do), go with the “numb and spicy” version. The dumplings come six to an order and are fried and steamed so the bottom gets golden brown and delicious while the top half stays supple. They’re filled with ground pork, a bit of chili oil spiked with numbing Sichuan chile peppers and a good amount of savory soup. 

Careful—they are piping hot and squirt everywhere if you bite into them too fast. Let them cool a bit, take your time and dip them into the black vinegar for acid to help balance out the bite.

💰: $15.95
📍 694 Valencia St., San Francisco

Lasagnette at Collina

Sometimes food looks photo-friendly and good on the ’gram but doesn’t always deliver on flavor. The lasagnette at Collina does both. The Californian-Italian restaurant opened in Nob Hill at the end of last September and comes care of the same family behind Seven Hills, which is now located a few blocks away on Hyde (Collina is housed in the original Seven Hills location). The lasagnette has been on the menu since the day the restaurant opened, and for good reason.

Grilled fish with charred top on a bed of green sauce, garnished with leafy greens, served on a speckled blue plate.
The lasagnette at Collina is stacked in a pan, chilled, sliced and seared before being plated over a bright green spinach cream sauce and topped with greens. | Source: Courtesy Isabel Baer

This lasagna dish features 50 layers alternating between housemade pasta, a rich Bolognese ragù, and béchamel sauce. It’s stacked in a pan, chilled and sliced, and seared before being plated over a bright green spinach cream sauce and topped with greens. That last flourish of greens does a nice job of lightening up what’s otherwise a hearty, rich (and delicious) dish.

💰: $26
📍 1550 Hyde St., San Francisco

A cocktail I'm loving

I love The Hideout, the bar within a bar in the back of Dalva on 16th Street in the Mission. It feels like a secret (even though everyone probably knows about it) and is only open Thursday-Saturday starting at 8 p.m. It specializes in a small menu of classic cocktails done well. Specifically, its La Batanga is so drinkable—a blend of good, additive-free tequila, fresh limes, a few drops of saline solution and the clincher: Mexican Coke from the glass bottle. $14, 3121 16th St., San Francisco

🥤Mexican Coke at The Hideout
💰: $14
📍3121 16th St, San Francisco

And one more thing I'm stoked on

Brokaw Avocados are grown by Brokaw Ranch Co. in Santa Paula and Soledad, California, and are beloved by chefs and restaurants like the French Laundry for their ultra-buttery texture. They’re almost always perfectly ripe. You can find them at the recently reopened Mission Community Market in the Mission on Thursdays for the going rate of $10 a pound, or approximately $2.50 per avocado. Mission Community Market, 84 Bartlett St., San Francisco

Omar Mamoon is a San Francisco-based writer and cookie dough professional. Find him on Instagram.