Saturday, April 21, 2012

Ring-a-ding-ding delight of basement and 4 stories

Sam Wo's - No more slam bang theater

San Francisco – Three A.M. comes late if you're out walking one morning for pleasure, and only moderately early if you're headed for work shoveling herring or fileting sole.

Where Wooey Looey Gooey's (Phooey Louie's) stayed open all night just up the street and down the basement on the corner at Grant Ave., Sam Wo's at 813 Washington closed promptly at 3 – and didn't open again until the late hour of 9 or 10, when you could hear the grating and rattling progress of the Powell and Hyde cable car trundling corner to corner, its brassy bell ring-a-ding-dinging up and over Nob Hill to the downslope of Russian and thence to the foggy reach of the dock of the bay.

You entered 813 through Sam Wo's kitchen amid steamy shouting in Cantonese dialect, cleavers chop chopping on butcher blocks and the smells of unknown spices and peppers rising in a redolent, sinus-clearing cloud over the stoves, a world of slam-bang theater, steamed vegetables and thin-sliced beef or shredded pork sizzling in huge woks. (click here for the railroad view)

There was an incredibly narrow, very steep little stairway only wide enough to let drunken revelers climb head to butt - single file - that wound around the shaft of a dumbwaiter connecting the basement to the first-floor kithen, then to second and third-floor dining areas of only two or three tables on each postage stamp landing in this tiny building no more than thirty feet in width, where the waiters yelled their orders down to the cook through the shaft of the little elevator.

Parties traveling the opposite direction – up or down - were obliged, of course, to wait on the landings while the drunks filed by with all due grab-ass respect to the sensibilities which remind one that, "The people you meet on the way up are the same ones you meet on the way down," and words to that effect.

Your breakfast, lunch or dinner arrived in hot crockery with green tea and “no fortune cookies,” slammed on the table by the world-famous world's rudest waiters.

“No fortune cookie! You MUST pay cashier!”

That was Sam Wo's, a restaurant that made the list in “The Undergroud Gourmet,” a 60's-era guide to fine dining at $5 or less penned by a former staffer out of President Kennedy's White House press shop. Sam's served its last meal in the neighborhood of the “death of a thousand cuts” delivered by the likes of the Wah Ching and Joe Boy Hop Sing Tong at 3 a.m., PST. (don't take yourself so seriously)

That's about the time this race horse comes charging out of the starting gate on any given day.

Yes. Indeed.

Always did remind me of wild hickory nuts, and what's more, it's smack dab on the way to Montana. Yippie Yi Kai Yea. - The Legendary (click here for the minority report)

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