Ella’s 500 Presidio Ave./California St., Presidio Heights. This cheery spot changes its menu weekly and serves a close to perfect weekend brunch. Grin and bear the wait. It is worth it for the oh-so-simple fluffy scrambled eggs that come with simple home fries and a yummy oversize baking soda biscuit with strawberry preserves. The buttermilk waffles and pancakes, scrambles, and chicken hash are also primo. And parents will be happy to know it is kid central here on weekends, with pacifiers, toys, and baby carriers everywhere. The limited lunch menu includes soups, sandwiches, salads, hot entrees, and a delicious gingery punch made with fresh OJ. After, it’s just a block over to Sacramento Street for some chi-chi shopping.
El Mansour 3119 Clement St./32nd Ave., Outer Richmond District. Upon entering the double doors of this Moroccan restaurant, diners are encased in another world. Cloth is draped from the ceiling in the intimate dining room, giving occupants the illusion of being inside a sultan’s tent. Floors covered with plush oriental carpets and hassock seating at low tables of inlaid wood add to the sensuous feeling. After diners select an entree from the fixed-price menu, a waiter in a long caftan appears to perform a ritual hand washing. Hands are gathered over a large metal pot placed in the middle of the table, then splashed with warm water. When the first course arrives--a tasty lentil soup--diners drink it right from the bowl, since no eating utensils are provided unless requested. A housemade Moroccan bread accompanies it. The next course is a salad plate of spicy marinated rounds of carrots and cucumbers plus a delicious mixture of tomatoes and green peppers and eggplant puree meant to be scooped up with the bread. Then comes bastela--a fragrant pie containing a sweet chicken and almond mixture wrapped in flaky filo pastry and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Entree choices include seafood, rabbit, couscous, and shish kabob, as well as succulent roasted chicken and tender stewed lamb topped with almonds, honey, or prunes. Tangines (stews) are another option. Dessert is fried bananas with honey and a repeat of the hand-bathing ritual. And finally the waiter pours mint tea, skillfully and beautifully, from up high. Belly dancers perform nightly.