Clement Street’s best
The seven blocks between Arguello Boulevard and 7th Street are heavy with Asian restaurants, produce markets, and bakeries. In fact, this whole stretch is quite exotic and could be called Chinatown West.
Betw. Arguello Blvd. & 24th St., Inner Richmond District.
Clement Street shops
Green Apple Books
506 Clement St.
Unfinished wood floors and tall, tall bookshelves line the walls of this old-fashioned bookstore that has been selling books since the 1960s. Browsing is a quite a treat. Bargain-priced used and remaindered new books abound, along with some discounted new tomes. Music is also in the mix.
Kamei Housewares & Restaurant Supply
525 Clement St..
Out front, bargain-priced flowers attract the eye. Inside, a vast selection of oriental teapot sets and kitchenware line the isles.
New Lien Hing
400 Clement St./5th Ave.
This expansive Asian grocery has an inviting produce selection outside and imported goodies inside, including instant hot-and-sour soup and exotics such as pickled tiny white eggplants. Fresh lobster, crab, and shrimp, plus gigantic clams are also available.
6th Ave Aquarium
425 Clement St.
See and buy koi in all sizes, exotic colorful tropical fishes, and aquarium plants.
Clement Street restaurants
King Thai Cuisine 1
639 Clement St./8th Ave.
This tiny spot is the original location in what has become a mini-chain in the city. Fast, cheap, delicious noodle dishes are the specialty—don’t miss #17, stir-fried flat rice noodles with shrimp (or vegetables and tofu), green long beans, bell pepper, Thai chili, and basil—but rice plates, soups, and salads are also options. Many vegetarian options can be prepared by request. Both Thai iced tea and iced coffee are available.
133 Clement St./2nd Ave.
Offering refined Vietnamese cuisine, this neighborhood favorite has a short-but-sweet menu full of noteworthy dishes. In fact, I met nothing that I didn’t like, and I found several things that I will return to experience again. Sure things among the appetizers include: fresh spring rolls filled with barbeque pork, crispy chicken-wing lollipops, tasty and tender beef carpaccio, two-inch “rice krispies” shrimp cake balls, a crispy fried turmeric crepe with chicken and shrimp that you wrap in lettuce and fresh herbs, a sweet and flavorful quail that is dramatically flambeed at the table, and a strongly flavored shrimp-papaya salad. Moving on to entrées, don’t miss the sweet caramelized sea bass, tender luc lac “shaken beef,” and exquisitely delicious garlic noodles with tiger prawns or crab (my hands-down favorite dish). For dessert, you can’t go wrong with mango sticky rice or a crispy, creamy fried banana with coconut ice cream. Over-order so you can try more items and take home the leftovers. I enjoyed a bottle of Vietnamese B33 beer, and my dining partner savored a glass of Leese-Fitch Pinot Noir, but even the water is tasty–crystal clear, clean tasting, and freshened with citrus slices. The sleek dining room has black wood tables, grey slate floors, and twisty track lighting; wall decorations made by mom showcase working abacuses. The restaurant is family run, with mom taking care of business, dad (and ex-husband) working wonders in the kitchen, and three daughters waiting tables.
521 Clement St.
In business since 1911 and in this spot since the 1940s, this traditional European-style bakery fills it cases with breads, pastries, and cookies galore. Favorites from 1911 such as the Neopolitan and the Opera Cake are still available, but so are tiramisu, mango mousse, and a spectacular marzipan-draped white Swedish Princess Cake. Oh, and did I mention the traditional Black Forest Cake made with chocolate sponge cake and a sour cherry filling, and the delicate Swiss tea cookies? A seating area permits relaxing over coffee-and.
445 Clement St./6th Ave.
Particularly good menu items include Beijing-style boiled pork dumplings, pot stickers, fried yam cakes, red cooked eggplant, dry braised green beans, shanghai noodles, and vegetarian mu shu.
(www.berkeleyandbeyond2.com; copyright Carole Terwilliger Meyers)