401 Taylor Street
(between Geary St & Ofarrell St)
San Francisco, CA 94102 (415) 775-9997
Ponzu, a hotel restaurant/bar in San Francisco’s theater district (Taylor / O’Farrell), just launched a new happy hour that takes place 7 days a week.
The deal that got my attention? $0.50 appetizers and $3 drinks. Raise an eyebrow? I sure did.
The $3 special was just for the debut — usual cocktail prices range from $3 – 5 for happy hour drinks that range from draft beer and house sake to fruity cocktails consisting of sake, soju, run, or plum wine.
I was highly suspicious about the appetizer deal — so I made sure I confirmed the following — for every literal ONE item you order, it will cost you 50 cents. So if you order “shrimp wontonS”, you will be asked how many…and one just costs you, well, 50 cents. There are 5 food items on the menu:
* shu mai (steamed pork dumplings)
* ngau yuk mai (steamed beef meatballs)
* hong kong style “fa goo” tofu (tofu stuffed with roasted mushroom)
* shrimp wontons (a shrimp wrapped in a wonton skin and deep fried)
* “kublai khan” spare ribs (bbq pork)
I sampled all 5 to determine which items were both the most appetizing and the largest.
The shu mai was fair, though not overly unique from shu mai that I could order from any dim sum restaurant in Chinatown. The size was fair — about 1.5x the size of the frozen variety you can buy at Ranch 99.
The meatball was tiny and not overtly tasteful. They did, however, provide 4 dipping sauces (hot mustard, soy sauce, sweet & sour sauce?, and possibly a peanut oil). So if you were on the Atkins diet but somehow let yourself dip the meat into sauces, I suppose this item would suffice.
I was most impressed by the tofu, oddly, given my propensity for meat. However, considering that the thin margins on these specials call for the use of pretty cheap meat in tiny portions, the tofu was a larger portion than the previous items I just mentioned. The flavor was subtle– the tofu was fresh — but I was more focused on the portion size to scrutinize the taste.
The spare rib arrived a bit lukewarm, and the amount of time it took for me to eat the meat off the bone took longer than a fifty cent item, in my opinion. But the time factor was probably only noticeable because my friend and I were sharing all orders first, before going forth and conquering.
Finally, we were most impressed with the shrimp wonton. This was a whole, medium-sized shrimp, deep fried in a wonton skin. So you had to hold onto the crispy shrimp tail, dip the whole thing into a sauce, and then crunch away. The wonton skin was crispy without being overly greasy.
We ended up ordering 2-4 pairs of the tofu and shrimp wontons….and at the end of the happy hour, our bill came out to $3.97 without tip. We each had a complimentary drink that was usually $4. We wondered how to tip the waitron, who was still working hard, despite probably thinking that they’d get screwed on tips for the evening….so we gave her a bit more than “10-15%.” We were full – I was satiated but not rolling myself out the door.
If I could get my friends to go to the happy hour and not get sucked into buying a large quantity of beverages, I would visit Ponzu’s happy hour again. The quality of the food beats some of the other “$2 Tuesday” type specials that I’ve been to — and the atmosphere is hip without being pretentious. Ideally you should hit this if you work downtown but…there are ample parking garages around ($5-15) if you’re a commuter.
Note their times of happy hourness — AND make sure you ask for the special menu – they have a ton of other appetizers and drinks that are NOT happy hour-price compatible…
T-Sat 4:30pm – 7pm
Sun-M 4:30pm – midnight