Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Revisiting Bar Bambino in San Francisco

This is an occasional report on return visits to restaurants that I’ve already reviewed.

Wine and Flavor Still Flowing
2931 16th St. (at Capp), San Francisco
Mission District
PH: 415.701.VINO (8466)
Dinner daily, lunch Tuesday through Saturday
Reservations, major credit cards accepted

Original visit: May 2009

My friend Rick likes wine, so I thought it’d be fun to hang out at one of the city’s best wine bars. Even though Bar Bambino has been around since 2007, Rick has never been there. So we visited last week for a light dinner.

The stylish Italian restaurant is popular for its wine and covered garden in the back, which is where we ended up sitting since we didn’t have reservations. Although Bar Bambino wasn’t super packed like its hey days, it still got busy as the evening went on.

One thing I noticed right away was that the seasonal menu seemed to offer fewer selections than in the past (there weren’t that many salads, for example), but still enough to keep you happy and satisfied. On this warm evening, I started with the Chilled Cucumber Soup ($9).

The soup was creamy white from the yogurt, but studded with a scoop of red substance in the center. (I really need to take more notes from the menu.) It was refreshing and the red substance was very similar to cranberry sauce, or it may have been a plum sauce. But the tartness was a nice contrast, adding to the complexity of the soup.

Both Rick and I got the same pasta dish, the Egg Pappardelle with Slow-Braised Rabbit ($17). Anything slow-cooked is a guarantee hit, and this was no different. (I also ordered this the first time I visited Bar Bambino, and it’s just as good as I remembered.) The luscious rabbit meat gave up a rich flavor that totally went well with my glass of 2007 Umbria (a mix of Sangiovese and Sagratino grapes). Although Rick liked the dish as well, he thought the serving size was a bit small for the price.

I wanted to munch some more, so ordered up a small plate of cured meats ($12). The plate was a mix of salumi, prosciutto and other cured meats, some imported and some local. I enjoyed everything I tried, some rich from the fattiness of the meat and others spicy and sweet.

We topped off our dinner with a seasonal dessert, a Pluot and Almond Cake with Sangiovese Sauce ($8). Bar Bambino’s Alyce Shields made an amazing warm cake presented beautifully with hand-crafted flowers from thinly sliced pluots. The light cake had a strong almond flavor, but was so delicate and heavenly. Shields will get to show off her talents with Bar Bambino’s planned café called Pronto that’s going to open a few blocks away, and I will definitely be checking it out to try more of her sweets.

In the end, Bar Bambino was a perfect spot to have a casual dinner or to munch on cured meats or cheese while sipping wine. The friendly staff and the well-made food, from pastas to desserts, make it an old standby that continues to win over newcomers.

Update experience (previously 3.75 stars): Holding strong with good food and atmosphere

Bar Bambino on Urbanspoon

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