Rustic Casual Dinner by the Bay
One Ferry Building (near Market and Embarcadero), San Francisco
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily (check website for hours)
Major credit cards accepted, no reservations
Original visit: August 2009
On a busy Saturday at the Ferry Building, you can always count on getting a good breakfast or lunch sandwich at Il Cane Rosso, the casual Italian rotisserie from Chefs Daniel Patterson and Lauren Kiino. But the tiny spot across from the Slanted Door also serves up a nightly three-course dinner for the reasonable price of $25.
I've been meaning to check out dinner at Il Cane Rosso (which is now reportedly fully under Kiino's helm after Patterson parted ways to focus on his many other new ventures on the East Bay), and finally made it last week with my friend Hector.
Dinner isn't that much different than lunch, except you don't have to go up to the counter to order. But you still sit at the simple silver-painted metal tables and chairs in the lobby (right outside the restrooms) or outside in the patio with a view of the bay.
Since it was our first time for dinner, we weren't sure whether to just sit down or wait to be seated. There wasn't really a sign, and none of the waiters who kept going back and forth really paid much attention to us. We actually waited for awhile as the sous chefs behind the counter avoided eye contact with us.
Eventually we were seated, and Il Cane Rosso's three-course dinner can be ordered as designed or ala carte, along with additional sides. It was too confusing and our waiter, who admitted it was his first day, kept confusing us more by suggesting the many ways we could order our dinner. I feel that if you're promoting a three-course fixed dinner, just stick with the plan and stop trying to please everyone. (The three courses changes daily and are posted on the website by the afternoon. There's always a vegetarian option to sub for the main entree.)
Hector and I both ordered the set dinner, which started with a plate of roasted Delta asparagus with agretti, capers and dill aioli. This was fresh with a bright flavor. While I'm generally not a fan of dill, it was milder in flavor as an aioli and actually served as a nice binder for all the ingredients in the salad.
Before we got to the second course, we did order a side of roasted potatoes for an additional $5. While these potatoes looked beautiful, it was oddly soft and not much of a crispy edge.
Our main course was a Marin Sun Farms pork and chorizo stew with braised fennel stalks, kale and garlic-rubbed crostini. The stew had a lot of flavor and every bite was filled with chunks of tenderly cooked pork. It was a hearty dish that warmed up the cold night. The only downside was the extremely tough crostini (Hector nearly choked to death on a piece).
The third and final course was dessert, an Angel food cake with strawberries and lemon balm cream. The cake was light and fluffy, with the perfect spongy spring of an Angel food cake. But Hector and I agreed the highlight was the lemon balm cream. The word balm threw us off, making us think we were eating some kind of lip balm, but a server told us that "lemon balm" is actually an herb, and the lovely lemony flavor was infused into a cream that had a pale green color that was very enjoyable. Not so enjoyable was the strawberries, which was served like a jam or compote. For some reason it wasn't very sweet despite the fact that it's strawberry season.
Our dinner at Il Cane Rosso seemed to have a different vibe than lunch. It was less crowded and less bustling, very quiet and a bit mellow. And without the sun over the water, you basically just feel like you're eating at a pop up restaurant or on the sidewalk. Unfortunately on our night, the service wasn't that attentive as well, which didn't enhance our dining experience. In a place so casual and rustic, you expect more friendly charm to make up for the lack of decor or fancy surroundings.
While the food is fun and seasonal, it seems to lack the punch or freshness of lunch. While it's a good option if you need a quick dinner in the neighborhood, I'm not sure if it's worth making a special trip.
Single guy rating: 3 stars (Daily Dinner Basics)
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
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Rustic Casual Dinner by the Bay