Grain gets off to a great, fresh start 

Deep in the heart of Daly City, on a hill off Skyline Boulevard, is a small Filipino shopping center called King Plaza.  Hidden in a corner past the laundromat, a Tagalog movie store, and Valerio’s Tropical Bake Shop, nestles Grain, the tiny new restaurant of chef Richard Ju and his wife/partner Cindy Ju.

Light and airy, with big  plate-glass windows, blond wood banquettes, 18 seats and an immaculate white-tiled open kitchen bigger than the dining area, Grain looks and feels as if it were dropped in from another culture.

Richard Ju, working solo, prepares a small menu of comfort food of his own invention, using a pan-Asian pantry of ingredients and as much local and sustainable food as he can find. 

Starters, $6.50 each, can easily become a meal. A colorful oyster crepe, like a thin, round omelet, is topped with beheaded bean sprouts, scallions and drops of red Sriracha chile sauce. Tiny sweet oysters, just warmed through, are held in the coconut-scented batter.

A deep bowl of southeast Asian-style coconut milk broth, tart and fragrant from lemongrass, gets heft from oyster mushrooms and glass noodles.

Pair it with deep-fried Brussels sprouts with deliciously charred leaves, tossed in a lively vinaigrette of lemon and fish sauce in perfect balance, for a satisfying vegetarian meal.

Though all the super-sized starters are terrific, it’s Ju’s short ribs ($11) that get me to Daly City. The boneless meat is moist and buttery, infused with a sweet, brown onion gravy that seeps into the rice. A plate of bright green young beans, wok-tossed with a little garlic, complete the dish.

For pure comfort, you can’t do much better than a plate of soft, flat rice noodles mixed with soft shreds of boiled chicken, whole green beans, bean sprouts and a lot of pungent ginger-scallion oil ($9.50). Sriracha chile sauce, dabbed on every few bites, transforms it.

Though the Jus consider spicy pork noodle soup ($8.50) afloat with chicharrones their signature dish, it’s not my favorite, the one dish in which fish sauce is too assertive.

I do love, however, a classic, barely sweetened chilled egg custard ($5) presented in a square white bowl.

All the food comes on smart, thin, white china. Ju worked at Economy Restaurant Supply before he opened his restaurant, which may be one reason why Grain is so handsomely equipped.

A graduate of the San Francisco City College Culinary Arts Program, Ju externed at Piperade for a year, married, and five months ago opened Grain with his wife. The couple did all the construction themselves and run the whole show with one helper.
Every aspect of Grain works. The food is tasty and fresh — an expression of the cook who prepares every dish.

The small menu matches the small dining room and even smaller staff.

The Jus told me that every day something  unexpected happens and that they had no idea how much they would learn in the process of launching their own operation.

Though Grain may be a starter place, it has delivered an invaluable firsthand experience of the unrelenting, volatile and risky business of giving people pleasure. Aspiring chefs and restaurateurs should get over there to see how one partnership figured it out, and partake of some of that pleasure in the offing. 


Location: King Plaza Center, 950 King Drive, No. 125, Daly City
Contact: (650) 878-8855;
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday for lunch; 5:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday for dinner
Price range: $6.50 to $12.50
Recommended dishes: Oyster crepe; fried Brussels sprouts; coconut soup; beef short ribs; ginger scallion noodles with chicken; egg custard
Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa
Reservations: Accepted

Patricia Unterman is the author of the second edition of “The San Francisco Food Lovers’ Pocket Guide.”  Contact her at

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