Rustic Italian with Refined Tastes
230 California St., San Francisco
Hours: Mon.–Thu., 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m.; Fri., 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m.; and Sat., 5:30–11 p.m. Closed Sunday.
Reservations, major credit cards accepted
Last week my childhood friend Angel was visiting on business from Chicago and I wanted to show him a San Francisco dining experience. Perbacco, the Financial District restaurant known for its Northern Italian cuisine, has been on my list of must-visit places for awhile. So it was on to Open Table and reservations for two on a Friday night.
You know what that means, right? A late dinner, because you can’t book a reservations at a popular restaurant on a Friday night in San Francisco and expect a normal eating time. But that was fine, because I was going to meet my friend who I went to middle school with in Honolulu and haven’t seen for years!
Our reservations were for 9 p.m. and I met Angel at the bar, which was already packed with after-work professionals munching on all sorts of cured meats with their fancy drinks. The long bar was beautifully lit, accenting the white features giving the place a cozy but chic glow. Angel had already been drinking next door at the Tadich Grill when I arrived, so after one drink, we were promptly taken to our table by the efficient front staff. (They knew who I was even though I didn’t check in because Angel had inquired if I had arrived a few minutes earlier.)
We sat in the dining area under the second floor, which felt like a very big alcove. This was my least favorite thing about Perbacco. I think I read that this used to be the kitchen until it was renovated to add more dining space. It felt dark and drabby and reminded me of a hotel banquet room. I wanted to be out in the bright lights, but I guess that was reserved for the more fabulous people. :(
Perbacco’s menu is quite impressive. In fact, I had studied up and reviewed its menu on its Web site, dreaming about what I wanted to order, only to find when I arrived that the menu had changed to a more summer taste. The chef, Steffan Terje, has created an exciting menu that’s been the buzz in town since the beginning of the year. It seemed he threw much of his creativity into the appetizers and starters, of which there were so many to choose from.
Because it was a late dinner for us, Angel and I decided to start with the “Tasting of Salame,” which included Nostrano, Finocchiona, Suppresata, Toscano and Sanguinato. These were all house-cured specialties and had a velvety texture and excellent tasting profiles. My favorite was the Sanguinato, or blood sausages, which were paired with tiny slices of apple.
For our second course, we had the traditional pasta dish. We shared the hand-cut tagliatelle with the famous five-hour pork sugo with porcini mushrooms. It was fabulous, with the right amount of rich pork that didn’t overpower the pasta and an underlining cheese that defines comfort in pasta dishes done right. My only negative reaction was to the hand-cut pasta because for some odd reason the wiggly (yes, that’s a word) texture reminded me of Cup of Noodles. I know, sounds terrible, but it did. Angel had a bit of the same reaction although he didn’t compare it to Cup of Noodles but to saimin, which is the ramen-like noodles we grew up eating in Hawaii.
There were about six selections for the main entrée dishes. Angel went with the tuna dish that was smothered with summer vegetables such as cherry tomatoes and squash. They had a special rabbit on the menu so I went with that. (FYI, it was from Devil’s Gulch.) Angel’s tuna was a bit disappointing because the dressing wasn’t all that spectacular and the fish was more on the well-done side as opposed to rare, which is how a beautiful fish like tuna should be eaten.
My rabbit was great. It was a braised leg with a light cream sauce with hazelnuts. My only gripe was that there wasn’t enough of it. I expected more for an entrée, but I guess it was a late dinner so probably best not to overeat.
We ended the evening with the warm peach and gelato with summer berries. I wanted something simple, but this came off too simple. It didn’t excite and the gelato had no distinctive flavor.
Still, the overall food experience was great and I’d like to come back to try some of the other more tantalizing appetizers and crudo. Perbacco’s entrees may be a bit pricey, but for most of the menu, the taste is right on point.
Side note: I had a glass of Peter Paul Merlot from Napa Valley that was perfect with the meat dishes we ordered. It was warm and comforting and not at all filled with the taste of tannins. I decided to go with a sure-fire California wine because I’d read mixed reviews about the Italian selections.
Single guy rating: 4 stars (popular expense spot for lunch, definitely expense it for dinner)
Explanation of the single guy's rating system:
1 star = perfect for college students
2 stars = perfect for new diners
3 stars = perfect for foodies
4 stars = perfect for expense accounts
5 stars = perfect for any guy's dream dinner
Above was the couple who were dining next to us Friday night. I asked them how they would rate the restaurant and they both gave it a 4, which is exactly what I was thinking too. So we were all in agreement! BTW, they both said they were “just friends” but from the way the guy was teasing her, I think he thou protests too mucheth. ;-)
Thursday, July 05, 2007
Rustic Italian with Refined Tastes