SOME RESTAURANT REVIEWS
GW=The Chief Cook & Bottle Washer here at Weimax.
SOME OLD REVIEWS:
RG=Bob Gorman, Weimax staffer and bon vivant...Bob passed away in November of
GB=Greg Bellow, a regular Weimax tasting participant and local Gourmand.
DR. T= A Young, Budding Wine & Food Enthusiast who dines out frequently at
some of the SF Bay Area's top tables. She has since married and moved to
Please Note: The reviews displayed on this site represent only
the views of the author. These are purely personal and written based on a single
visit, so we can present but a mere snapshot of a dining establishment.
Further, restaurants tend to have a short life span, so some of the older
reviews may be of little value.
919 Cortland Avenue
Open for Dinner
Wine by the glass is poured at the table.
Sea Scallop and Pork Belly
booked a Thursday night table at this new little dining spot on
Cortland, a bit off the beaten path for restaurants. They required
a credit card and you can cancel, without charge, 48 hours ahead of your
It's largely a residential neighborhood, so parking at 8pm was slightly
challenging, though there were a couple of spots a block north on
I arrived ahead of my dining companion and was seated at a table just
inside the door behind the receptionist's stand. The place is smallish
with maybe 35 or 40 seats, if that. A menu was presented along
with a single page wine list. No wine glasses were on the table.
The list features four sparkling wines, two Champagnes and two other
French sparklers. The Champagnes are "grower"
Champagnes, not big, famous, industrial brands. A Premier Cru wine
from Colin is $79, while Stephane Coquillette's Brut is $81. A
Cremant de Bourgogne is $16 by-the-glass (BTG) and $64 by the
bottle. A Cremant de Limoux is $13 BTG and $52 by the
We ordered two pours of the Cremant de Bourgogne...it's a fairly
standard example and was nice.
There are twelve white wines offered with three available by the glass.
These range from $44 by the bottle (A dry white from France's Bergerac
or an Alsatian Sylvaner) to $120 for a Premier Cru Mersault
There's a single Rosé from Provence.
Fourteen red wines are available, with six offered by the glass.
These range from $48 (A Sonoma Rhône-styled Blend from the Front Porch
winery) to $140 (A Morey-Saint-Denis from the 2013 vintage). Six
of the red wines are in the triple-digit range.
We asked our server to stage four appetizer selections for us and then
we each ordered a main plate. No problem.
A Foie Gras special, not on the menu, was $27 and a healthy-sized
portion of seared Foie on some sort of spiced bread...very fine!
We selected a Crudo next...Hamachi with celery root, pears, "cranbanero
sauce" with a furikake tuile and black garlic...another
By this time we'd ordered a couple of glasses of white wine: The
Allimant Laugner Sylvaner ($12) and a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc of the
Tablelands label (also $12). These were poured tableside, by the
way, a service we appreciated.
At this stage we produced a bottle of Bordeaux from our cellar bag and
the server brought large stemware appropriate for this wine. He
opened the bottle tableside and poured the "say." We
invited him to bring a glass to join us in tasting the wine, a 2006 La
Lagune (showing remarkably well, by the way).
Next was a Grilled Octopus with Beets, Rucola, Romanesco and a
Sultana-Caper emulsion...this was another delicious plate and the
octopus was tender and mildly smoky.
The final appetizer was a Scallop & Pork Belly dish with Kohlrabi,
Kumquats, Black vinegar and Tarragon. The vinegar was not
especially strong so this worked nicely with the two white wines.
(After finishing our meal, the chef came out to thank us and we asked
about the inspiration for this dish...he explained that since Scallops
are often wrapped in bacon, why not pair them with Pork Belly?
My dining companion could not resist ordering the Venison Loin with Kung
Pao Sprouted Legumes, Savoy Cabbage and Tamarind ($34). I opted
for the Grilled Pork Chop with Celery Root Purée and Bacon-Braised Red
Cabbage ($29). Both dishes were quite good and the wine certainly
Other options were a Skate Wing ($32) and a Short Rib and Bavette Steak
with soft Polenta, Kale, Black Trumpets and Cippolini ($34).
We had no room for dessert, but they brought out a couple of Chocolate
The bill tallied to about $206 and they didn't charge us their corkage
fee (I think $20 or $25?). This was a wonderful meal with good
Their sound system had some eclectic tunes but it was not
The service was professional and courteous and we were not rushed out
despite being about the last table.
We looked forward to a return visit (and the place is about a 25 minute
ride from Burlingame unless you're in traffic).
5403 College Avenue
Mon, Wed, Thurs: 11:30am-10pm
Battuta, Carne Cruda
Olive oil and Bread
We split the pasta courses...this is half an order of the
Brasato...beef braised for 5 hours.
number of wine industry friends have been very positive in reporting
about their dining experiences at this newish Italian trattoria (named
after its chef, Michele Belotti) in Oakland on College Avenue.
My friend booked a table on a Monday night, accounting for my driving
from Burlingame and so she selected a 9pm time slot.
The restaurant is a few blocks from the Rockridge BART station.
Parking on the street within a block from Belotti was rather easy at
8pm, as we arrived early thanks to the smooth traffic flow.
We were seated at a table in the window and were presented a drinks
list, a wine list and a menu. There was a nice, large wine glass
on the table as part of the place setting.
Somewhat bothersome, though, was the smell of chlorine bleach as we
entered the place. Apparently their dishwasher doesn't have hot
water to sanitize glassware, silverware, plates, etc., so they are
obliged to use a chlorine bleach rinse. Unfortunately, its smell
permeated the restaurant.
The wine list is nearly all Italian. They have four sparkling
wines, three of which can be ordered by-the-glass (BTG). Jejo Brut
Rose is $9 BTG and $35 by the bottle, as is La Maschera Prosecco.
La Quercia is listed as an organic Prosecco and it's $11 BTG and $45 for
A Pierpaolo Pecorari Rose from 2014 is $12.50 BTG and $49 for a bottle.
Seven white wines are offered by the glass. Ronco Blanchis' Pinot
Grigio is $11.50 BTG and $41 by the bottle. A Capichera Vermentino is
$15.50 BTG and $60 by the bottle. There were 8 reds by the glass,
plus a special offer for a Sandrone 2011 Barolo at $30 BTG. Other
reds on the regular list included a Braida Barbera ($15 BTG & $58
for a bottle), a 2011 Damilano Barolo ($15.50 BTG, $60 by the bottle)
and a Copain red called Tous Ensemble Syrah for $10.50 BTG and $38 for a
We found 15 white wines on the list of bottles. A Francesco
Rinaldi Gavi is $40, while a 2013 Kuenhof Sylvaner is $38. Ciavolich
Passerina is $42, while a Raina Trebbiano goes for $41.
The California wines all comes from one distributor, that being one
owned by the Kendall Jackson family.
You'll find the Italian reds categorized as coming from Piemonte,
Toscana and "other regions."
There are 13 Barolo or Barbaresco wines on the list, mostly wines too
young to be strutting their stuff. Roberto Voerzio has three 2011
bottlings and these are expensive bottles right from the start.
They cost $305, $310 and $315 a bottle and are ten years away from being
worth opening. A 2007 Produttori del Barbaresco "Rio Sordo"
is a better option for immediate drinking and it's $105 a bottle.
The best buy is Elvio Cogno's 2004 Barolo at $140 if you're spending
that kind of money.
Domenico Clerico's Barbera is $49 for those who don't have the company
Of the Tuscan selections there are three Chianti offerings.
Kendall-Jackson's Arceno Riserva 2011 is $47. There's a Nozzole
2004 Riserva costing around $90...as with the older Cogno Barolo you
might wonder where these venerable bottles came from since the
restaurant opened its doors in early 2016.
Argiano's 2010 Brunello is $120, while their special Super Tuscan
Solengo 2013 is just $85 and a smart buy if you're having some sort of
red meat (it's Cabernet, Syrah, Merlot, etc.).
Scarpone Montepulciano d'Abruzzo is $54, while Niedrist's Pinot Nero is
The list is compact and fairly sensibly-priced (apart from those Voerzio
wines and that's because Voerzio thinks his wines are amongst the
We ordered a glass each of the La Maschera Prosecco ($9 BTG) and asked
the server for an order of their Batutta ($15) which is described as "Hand
cut certified Piedmontese ribeye dry aged beef tartare, carasau bread,
parmigiano reggiano, micro arugula, aged balsamic, truffle caviar, quail
We asked if they could prepare this without the cheese (I can't recall
ever having it adorned with cheese in Piemonte, but I'm a bit allergic).
The glass of Prosecco was nice and mildly fragrant.
We also asked for an order of Vitello Tonnato ($14) described on the
menu thusly: "Slow roasted certified Piedmontese veal eye of
round, Sicilian tuna sauce, capers essence and lemon zests."
We wanted this followed by two of their pasta dishes, Pappardelle
($16.50) which is "Long wide pasta, organic hen of woods
mushrooms, beef reduction. parsley and Grana Padano." We
wanted it without the cheese.
The next dish on our list was the Agnolotti di Lidia ($13.50) which is
"Traditional Piedmontese style stuffed pasta with beef shank,
flat iron, pork loin, sausage, escarole, spinach, parmigiano and a beef
The waiter looked dismayed by our request to have these dishes staged,
so everything did not arrive simultaneously.
It seems he was more interested in having us eat & run, while we
were hoping to have a nice dining experience.
We ordered two glasses of wine, as well, tasting their Abbazia di
Novacella Kerner from the Alto Adige ($12) and the Ca' Rossa Arneis
"Merica" for $12.50.
The Kerner was typically floral and fruity while the Arneis was a more
subdued, quiet dry white...The server brought the two bottles and
quickly poured these at the table, a protocol we endorse.
If you want bread, you have to ask for it. They do not volunteer
this. We asked and it came with a nice, mildly
The Battuta was quite good...and a lovely presentation of Piemonte's Carne
Cruda. The Vitello Tonnato was also appealing to the eye and
delicious. The tuna sauce was a bit thicker than we've usually
enjoyed in Piemonte.
Next they brought the Pappardelle which was cooked perfectly. The
mushrooms and sauce was a lovely little soulful symphony.
The Agnolotti were good, but possibly not quite cooked to al dente
as the pasta dough seemed a bit chewier than the puffy little pillows we
enjoy in Piemonte. But these were still pretty good.
We had placed a bottle of a nice Sangiovese on the table by this stage
and the server brought more stemware to the table. They use the
fairly large "Bordeaux/Cabernet" glass...might these have been
Stölzle like the sparkling wine flutes? In any case, they use
We invited our server to bring a glass for himself and he did.
At about this point in the meal, somewhere between 9:45 and 10pm, we got
another blast of some sort of industrial cleaning product. Were
they washing the floors with something hugely aromatic, we
wondered. My friend got up from the table and pushed their front
door open in hopes of eliminating this distraction.
The restaurant was emptying out and as we finished our main courses, we
were the last guests.
The Brasato ($27.50) is a "5-hour braised flat iron, Italian
polenta, organic hen of woods mushrooms with a Nebbiolo reduction."
This was delicious and the polenta was especially good. My friend
opted for the Maialino ($28.50), described on the menu thusly:
"a 13-hour slow cooked Stone Valley Farm suckling pig,
caramelized apple, corn, green onions, balsamic." I had a
bite and it, too, was very good.
We were enjoying the main plates and at some point the server stopped by
and we mentioned the chlorine and other cleaning product.
We were politely scolded by this fellow who told us that Belotti is a
simple, neighborhood trattoria. We were advised that if we wanted
to have a multi-course meal, booking an earlier table would be a
He and the kitchen crew we more intent on closing the doors and going
home than they were in sticking around much after closing time and
The day after we dined there, I checked on Open Table to see what the
latest reservations they offered on a Monday night (since they're closed
Tuesdays). Here's what we found:
Tables are available, in case you can read the small print, at 9:30,
9:45 and 10pm!
We wrapped up dinner around 10:25 and paid the bill.
I don't recall if they offered us desserts...I don't think so.
Their on-line menu shows Panna Cotta and Tiramisu at $8 each.
The fellow brought us a small glass and poured a nice little Amaro from
the Sibona distillery, a nice gesture.
The bill tallied $167 with the $20 corkage fee and tax. The server
may have forgotten to charge us for the two glasses of white wine as
those were not on the bill. But he neglected to say he had comped
My friend was not enthusiastic to leave the fellow a generous tip and,
having booked a table in the coming weeks, was having second thoughts
Though Belotti is getting good reviews from many people, if it's going
to be a "destination" restaurant, they'll need to be more
hospitable to their customers who arrive in their final hours of dinner
Otherwise, they will be merely a "neighborhood" restaurant
with probably a limited future.
888 Brannan Street
Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30
Dinner: Mon-Sat from 5:30pm
A display of Jamón Iberico
Jamón Iberico with toasted bread and tomate fresco
Pan with tomate fresco
The Amejas with curiously empty clam shells and a pickled, vinegary
assortment of clams, potato bits and onions.
Decanting our 1997 bottle of Alion
The divided Paella Pan.
The Soccarat, properly crusty...
had attended a trade wine tasting at this new restaurant and it looked
promising, so we ventured there early in the week in September of 2016.
We found parking on the street about a block away in a sketchy zone of a
My dining companion selected the date, but she neglected to reserve a
table, so we were seated at a sort of elevated table near the bar. It's
quite popular presently and so booking ahead is advised. A menu
and wine list had been presented.
The wine list is entirely Spanish, so if you're looking for a California
Zinfandel or Chardonnay, you are out of luck. The wine list is
beautifully designed to pair with the food and it offers a good range of
We found two sparkling wines, 7 white wines and 6 reds available
by-the-glass (BTG). There are 22 Sherry selections by the glass
and a few more by the bottle.
There are about 40 white wines available by the bottle. A bottle
of Vevi Verdejo from the Rueda region is $28, while a Gran Reserva from
Lopez Heredia, their Tondonia, is $1800 for a 1973 vintage. Albariños
range from $34 a bottle to $96. But $30-$75 will get you a good
bottle of Spanish white and there are numerous offerings costing north
With about 4 dozen red selections, prices range from $30 for a Tinto
Joven from the Rioja upwards to $3180 for a 1961 Lopez Heredia Tondonia
You can drink well for $40 to $100, though.
Prices are roughly twice retail, which used to be fairly standard, but
these days it seems to be rare in favor of 400% mark-ups.
The place was quite busy and some musicians were tuning up nearby.
This was a bit distracting and adding to the cacophony. I wondered
what was in store musically, but it turns out these guys played
beautifully! We were treated to upbeat Flamenco/Gypsy
tunes. Some of the people were dancing, adding to the frantic
It was unclear who was the server for our table, but finally a fellow
stopped by and we ordered two glasses of Lustau Fino Sherry
"Obregon" ($12). It took more than a few minutes, but
finally we were brought two glasses of a rather dark colored
Sherry. I asked to see the bottle and a while later the fellow
brought Lustau's Almacenista "Fino del Puerto" Obregon Sherry
to the table. This could not have been what we were served
though...and when we paid the bill, we were charged not $12 but $16 for
the Amontillado Sherry.
We ordered a few starters. Pan ($5) is toasted Spanish
styled bread with tomate fresco, garlic and olive oil. It's
a small container of puréed tomatoes and delicious on the fantastic, chewy
bread. Bellota, $30, is about an ounce and a half of
thinly-sliced Iberico Ham...it's a bit extravagant, but was
outstanding. It, too, comes with the tomate sauce.
They have 5 "mar y montaña" offerings.
Individual-sized servings are $11 and you can choose from oysters,
clams, sablefish, octopus or beef.
We opted for one described thusly: Almeja--poached
seasonal clam with pimenton, potato, cippolini. This comes in
a jar or glass nestled in ice and some clam shells and parsley on the
side. Some thinly sliced bread accompanies this. We were
both shocked to find the potatoes and onions, etc., to be pickled.
The level of vinegar here was a bit of a surprise.
Also surprising were the two clam shells in the ice. These were
empty! Luckily they forgot to adorn the dish with potato peelings
and onion skins.
Perusing the wine list, we ordered a half liter carafe of Lopez
Heredia's 2006 Gravonia, a lovely dry white wine. It's $15 BTG, $40 for
a half liter and $60 for a bottle.
This they got right.
There are five paellas on the menu, ranging in price from $36 to
$45. If you want to have them make a divided pan with two
different types of paella, that's $55.
Well, we wanted to try two so we splurged on the "upcharge"
for the divided paella. One side was called Pluma with acorn-fed
Iberico pork shoulder, Jamón Iberico, saffron, garbanzo and
squash. The other was called Fideua and is a paella of rice &
noodle, "the S.F. treat," gulf shrimp, scallop, green bean,
squid & ink.
It takes about 30 to 40 minutes for this and the paellas were very good.
I can't say I detected the use of saffron, though.
They were nicely crusty with the soccarat sort of burnt onto the
bottom of pan. A friend had said he'd dined here and the only problem
was the burnt rice. I explained that's typical and not viewed as a
We had a nicely aged bottle of Tempranillo in the cellar bag and a
fellow stopped by to decant the bottle. He did a fine job and we
offered him a taste. There were suitable, larger stems brought out
for this. The corkage fee is $30, by the way and there's a two
We were joined after dinner by a friend who works late and we had more
of the Bellota. We ordered a bottle of Conde de Hervias
"Torre" Rioja from the 2010 vintage. That was $92 and
it's excellent. It retails for $45-$50.
Our late-arriving guest wanted some sort of sweet Sherry
afterwards. But while their main wine list and menu have all sorts
of Sherries, none are sweet or after-dinner Sherry.
Again we flagged down a Bellota staffer and they DO have a number of
good selections on the dessert card.
The bill for the two of us tallied to $204 before the tip and they
kindly comped the corkage fee.
The additional Bellota, Rioja, Sherries and desserts must have tallied
to another $210, or so.
The place is new and quite busy. To reserve a table, go directly
to their web site and they are linked to Open Table. But if you go
to Open Table's web site, Bellota does not seem to come up.
Overall this was a good meal with a couple of hiccups. We look
forward to returning, though.
Reviewed by GW
We have not posted many new reviews this
Summer, but it's not because we have not been dining out.
We've actually had visitors from overseas and have taken them to some of
our favorite haunts (La
Plate and Marlowe)
in San Francisco.
Even Italian visitors, who cringe when they dine in most restaurants
trying to replicate Cucina Italiana, find the food at La Ciccia
to be sublime.
Visitors have been unanimous in their admiration for the food at NOPA,
Marlowe and Blue Plate.
We've been to Yank
Sing for Dim Sum a number of times. Hard to beat, even
if it is a bit pricey.
We are fans of San Mateo's 31st
Union and out-of-towners and locals alike have enjoyed both
lunch and dinner there.
If you've not had lunch at Johnston's
Saltbox in San Carlos, go treat yourself there...we're fans
of their marvelous Ribeye Burger.
We've enjoyed stops at Tartine
Bakery on the way to winery visits up north...they make the
best Croissant in the world...any French bakery would be proud of such
artistry. If you don't know the Marla
Bakery out on Balboa in The City, that place does a good job,
A Sunday morning stop at The
Mill on Divisadero in The City was good, but certainly
expensive. It's a shared space with Four Barrel Coffee and Josey Baker's
breads, plus Neighbor Bakehouse items and Anthony's Cookies.
We had a fabulous dinner at Burlingame's Sakae
restaurant. It's a Japanese-themed place which pays attention to
detail from everything from sourcing good, fresh food to a beautiful
presentation and great service. It's not much of a venue for wine
at the moment, so we have not posted a review. We had very good
sushi, for one thing. But other dishes were exceptional including
Artichoke Tempura (made with FRESH artichokes and featuring halved
artichoke bottoms done as Tempura and arranged on perfectly steam,
succulent artichoke leaves). We also had wonderful grilled lamb
chops that had been marinated in miso and sake.
GW August 2016
100 Grand Avenue
Lunch Tues-Fri 11:30-2:30
Dinner: Closed Mondays with
Soft Shell Crab
East Bay foodie friend had mentioned AlaMar and we booked a Thursday
evening table on an early August evening.
The drive from Burlingame was impacted by late commute-hour traffic and
we were close to on time for our 8:00 reservation. There is a
parking structure close to the restaurant but I found on-street parking
about a block away.
The restaurant was hopping when I arrived and my friend was already
enjoying a glass of wine.
I don't believe wine glasses are part of the table setting at AlaMar and
the wine program at this place is simple.
All the wines cost $12 for a glass and $46 for a bottle.
The menu is predominantly seafood.
There are 2 sparkling wines, one from Argentina and one from Spain.
Bueyes is a Brut Rosé from Argentina which retails for around
$19-$20. The Spanish Cava of Avinyo retails for $17-$18.
We found six white wines to choose from. Garenne Sancerre retails
for $25 and there are descriptions for each wine to help guide
guests. The Sancerre is described as having "Flavors of
bright melon, warm pineapple, notes of eucalyptus and green tea."
Aphros Vino (sic) Verde Loureiro Ten, which retails for $17, is
described as "Flavors of kefir (sic) lime and orange peel, notes of
chalk and green grass."
There's a nice Godello from A. Coroa, along with Filipe (sic) Pato Vinho
Branco 2013, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc called Middle Earth and a
Chardonnay listed as "Chloine Vineyard" from California.
I wondered if that might be Chalone? An internet search for
"Chloine" brings up a bunch of links to sites with the word
They have half a dozen red selections and these are not especially
ground-breaking selections in my view. There was a Hearst Ranch
California Cabernet from Paso Robles, a Barbera from the Urban Legend
winery (a winery located in Oakland), Luca Pinot Noir from Argentina, a
Viamonte Malbec from Argentina, Hahn's GSM (Grenache/Syrah and Mourvèdre)
and a Project Paso "Lonely Oak Red Blend."
My friend was sipping on the Aphros Vinho Verde when I arrived...a nice,
mildly stony dry white. I ordered a glass of the Godello and this
was similarly styled.
We ordered their Blue Crab Poppers to start ($10) and these are made
with Crab from Maine and they incorporate Shishito Peppers and Black
Radishes. It's accompanied by a Shishito Pepper Aioli. Quite
There was a soft shell crab special that evening and we ordered
that...served on an arugula salad with sliced peaches.
We couldn't resist trying the Roasted Bone Marrow ($16) which were three
large bones accompanied by Moroccan Chermoula, Sourdough Crostini made
with Spanish Anchovies on a bed of Arugula...outstanding!
By this time we needed a bit more wine so I placed a bottle of Wirsching's
Scheurebe on the table. This worked beautifully with the cuisine
and we actually polished off the bottle rather quickly.
Manila Clams with Chorizo and Habañero Spiced Eureka Lemon Pepper ($22)
or Mussels with Saffron, Prime Smoked Bacon Lardons, Orange Bitters,
Ancho Chili, Thai Basil and Toy Box Tomatoes ($20) was a difficult call,
but we thought the Mussels sounded more interesting.
And it was a delicious bowl of shellfish!
You can understand how the wine disappeared so quickly.
AlaMar offered a Whole Chili Crab at "market price."
This is described as having Sambal, Rosemary-Infused Madras Curry,
Coconut Cream and Organic Zucchini. But on this evening they had sold
out the crab and so we had to make do with Lobster!
It was around $50, if I recall correctly.
Before this came to the table, the Chef strolled over to us to
present a little "extra," a beautiful Coconut Sorbet as a
palate cleanser...very nice and quite flavorful.
The Lobster was beautiful and delicious. It's a bit messy to deal
with but we had a hot cloth to clean up afterwards.
At this stage dessert was not necessary but we did look at the menu
offerings. There's a Sorbet of the Week ($5), Green Apple Flan
($8), A Dark Chocolate Mousse Cake ($8) or Malasadas (Portuguese
doughnuts). Several dessert wines are available, including Eberle
Muscat ($5) or Dashe Late Harvest Zinfandel ($10).
We departed after 2+ hours of a memorable meal and they did not hustle
us out the door despite our being there past the closing hour.
The bill tallied to about $189 before the tip.
We look forward to a return visit to AlaMar (and my dining companion
told me she has already been back!).
Reviewed By GW
531 Jackson Street
Open Mon-Thurs 5:30-10:30
Smoked Salmon Salad
Tomato Soup with Burrata
Firebrand Bread...served only upon request
Beef Short Rib
Crispy-Skinned Striped Bass
Devil's Food Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream and Peanut Butter Mousse
Chèvre Cheesecake with Strawberries
friends were so delighted with dinner at this little San Francisco
restaurant, they booked a Sunday night table for us.
It's on the corner of Columbus and Jackson Streets. There's a
garage a few doors from the restaurant, but as it was closing at 11pm
and we had a 9:15 reservation, we looked for parking on the street...and
found a spot across Columbus, just east of Trestle.
The restaurant seats perhaps 48-50 people and on a holiday weekend, the
place was packed. We were seated a few minutes after our
reservation time as they don't hustle people out the door.
We were shown to a 4-top along the east wall. No wine glasses are
on the table as a place setting. The wine list is part of the
board on which you will find the menu.
They have a nice list of wines and beers. They do not serve
cocktails, as they do not have a liquor license.
We perused the list and found a well-conceived spectrum of wines.
There is one bubbly by-the-glass (BTG), a Jacquère from France's Savoie
region at $14 BTG and $56 for a bottle. Four white wines are
available and one Rosé are offered. Five reds are available BTG,
including a Beaujolais from the village of Chènas at $13 BTG and $52
for a bottle. A Mencía from Spain is
$10 BTG and $40 for a bottle, while a Lacrima di Morro d'Alba is $13 and
$52 for a bottle.
The bottle list is deeper and features good selections and some of the
currently fashionable wines aimed at the "hipster" market.
There is a German Riesling from Julien Haart, a quite obscure producer
of good quality ($48). There's an Aligoté from Cruchandeau at
$38, while a Breton Vouvray is $40. Amongst the reds, we find
Failla Pinot Noir at $50, along with a Produttori del Barbaresco
"Nebbiolo Langhe" at $40. Storybook Mountain Napa Zinfandel is
$49, while Ramey Claret goes for $50.
Under the heading of "Refined and Splurge Worthy" we find
Albert Boxler's Grand Cru Brand Pinot Gris at $90. A 2007
Corton-Charlemagne from Bonneau du Martray is well-priced at $170, while
a too-young-too-drink 2012 Vietti Barolo is well-priced at $75. A
Michel Gros Vosne-Romanée "Clos des Reas" is $134.
Corkage is a sensible $20 fee.
The beer list here is remarkable...all sorts of connoisseur-quality
selections. A neighboring table ordered a beer and the server
presented it much like the proper presentation of a wine.
We ordered a glass of two different white wines. One is a Rioja
Blanco made of a white clone of Tempranillo ($10) and the other is a
Bonny Doon Picpoul at $9 a pour. The glasses were presented
without us seeing the bottles, as they brought two large
"Cabernet"-styled glasses. The wines were served at a
very low temperature and the Tempranillo did not show as well as I've
experienced it in the past. Even as it warmed, it was a bit
dull. The Picpoul, on the other hand, was surprisingly good!
The menu is very limited and it changes daily. It's a $35 menu
with a $10 supplement if you want an additional course.
For a starter, we had the choice of a Smoked Salmon Salad with a
Tzatziki dressing (this is made of yogurt) or a Tomato Soup with
Another friend with whom I dine had mentioned Trestle as a possible
dining spot, but each time I'd viewed the menu, it seemed to always
feature cheese/yogurt-themed dishes and I'm simply not a fan of those.
On our visit, the options for an additional course were a Corn Risotto
with Truffles and Grana Padano or a Pappardelle with Chinese
Cauliflower, Prosciutto and a Poached Egg.
We asked if they could prepare those options without cheese, but the
server said they both were prepared ahead and they each had cheese.
What's curious, though, is when you place your order, they ask if anyone
has any food allergies. I wonder why, since they were unable to
navigate around my food phobias!
They did make a Salmon Salad without the yogurt sauce. The salmon
was a bit bland for being smoked or, possibly, the pickled vegetables in
the mix overpowered the salmon.
This also had some shaved fennel, which is a good match, but a tiny
criticism would be the mandolin was set a smidge too thick making the
fennel a bit tough. It's a minor complaint, to be sure.
I did stick a fork in each of my friend's mid-plates. The
Pappardelle did not seem to have a noticeable level of cheese in it and
the pasta was perfectly silky and delicious. The Risotto was also
very good with the corn providing an intense flavor...
We produced a bottle of red from our cellar bag. and the server brought
three large stems and these were identical to those used for the white
wines. He grabbed the bottle of Cabernet and opened it, pouring
the say as is proper protocol.
The main plates were excellent. I had a taste of the Crispy
Skinned Striped Bass with Couscous and this was as described and
delicious. The Braised Beef Short-Rib with Yukon Gold Potatoes and
Chanterelles was also quite good. The portions are perhaps a bit
small unless you've ordered the risotto or pasta.
We also asked for a serving of bread, Firebrand, which is only served by
request. We received one slice for each and it was buttered and
served hot off the grill.
We had pretty much finished the main plates when three glasses of
Marenco's Moscato d'Asti were presented, on the house, to say
"thanks for waiting for your table." This is a very nice
gesture, of course.
One person ordered the Chèvre Cheesecake with Candied Pistachios,
Strawberries and Rose Streusel. I had the Chocolate Devil's Food
with mint powder, vanilla ice cream and Peanut Butter Mousse (which I
suspect had cream cheese as its base).
The place is busy and a bit cramped. The music was sometimes
noticeable and sometimes merely covering the din of the crowd.
I'd consider a return visit, but would be much more enthusiastic if they
could accommodate the cheese/yogurt phobia I have.
In terms of value, this place is a winner.
Reviewed by GW
344 El Camino Real
Lunch Tues-Fri: 11:30-2:30
Dinner Tues-Sun 5-9pm
French Silk Pie
dining on a Sunday, we booked a table for two at this venerable
restaurant on El Camino near the San Carlos/Belmont border.
The restaurant was about half-full at 7pm and it has seating for perhaps
50, or so, guests. We were shown to a window table for two.
The menu is a two-sided document with the wine list, if you want to call
it that, occupying a small portion of a page.
No wine glasses are on the table as part of the place-settings.
The wine list is short and sweet. Nine offerings. Take it or
There's Dibon's Cava from Spain at $9 by-the-glass (BTG) or $36 for a
bottle. This is a ten buck retail bottle, typically.
There's a little Spanish white made of the Palomino grape, Barbadillo's
Fina...It's $8 BTG and $30 by the bottle.
They offer a 2013 Losen-Bockstanz Riesling at $8 BTG and $30 for a
bottle. Listel Rosé from France, a big production wine, is also
$8 BTG and $30. Franciscan Napa Chardonnay is $11 BTG and $38
while a Sanford Chardonnay is $40 per bottle.
They have but three red wine choices for you...a Pinot Noir from Oregon
made by Joseph Wagner, the fellow who founded the Meiomi brand (and sold
it for $315 Million!!!), called Elouan is $12 BTG and $42 for a
bottle. There's a terrific Rioja called Solar de Libano for $9 BTG
and $30/bottle, while "Benzinger" (sic) Cabernet is $12 BTG
and $42 by the bottle.
That's it. Wine is clearly not a priority here.
We I organizing the selections, I'd offer some crisp, tangy Sauvignon
Blancs on this list, a similarly youthful, snappy, more serious Rosé,
some fresh, berryish Zinfandel, Grenache and Syrah...chillable reds to
pair with the cuisine.
The corkage fee is nicely gentle at $15, so bring your own!
The menu features all sorts of Louisiana specialties, short of alligator
dishes. There are seven appetizers, two soups and a
Main plate selections number 9 or 10. These can all be ordered a
They have a 3 course set menu called "Monday's Feast" which is
available every day. It starts with soup or salad, then Red Beans
& Rice, followed by dessert.
The real deal is the $35 prix-fixe menu...a choice of an appetizer,
followed by soup or salad, a main plate and dessert.
We began with a $9 glass of bubbly, presented in a flute stem.
This was good and a terrific start to our evening. The server
brought a small bowl with hot cornbread, another fine welcome.
I chose the Crayfish Hushpuppies to begin, while my guest had an Beef
We both had the Seafood Gumbo, a modest-sized serving of delicious brown
soup with little bits of Shrimp and Andouille Sausage. The menu
indicates it has crab, but I don't recall encountering that.
Her main dish was the Shrimp & Crawfish Etouffee with Jasmine
Rice. As we were finishing our Gumbo, the server came by saying
they were out of the prawns that comprise that dish. They punted,
though, at her request, and made this with smaller-sized shrimp.
This tasted fine to me, but I can see it would have been better with the
My main plate was their version of Jambalaya. This was like
Louisiana "paella" or New Orleans "Fried
Rice." It's a hefty serving of rice with bits of Tasso Ham,
Andouille Sausage and a modest-sized piece of nicely-spiced roasted
We had produced a bottle of wine from our cellar bag and the server
brought an ice bucket to further chill the Sauvignon Blanc. He
brought two good stems, as well.
The main plates had us a the "full" stage, but we soldiered on
with dessert. Probably should have tried the Beignets, but was
enchanted by the French Silk Pie, described as Light Chocolate Mousse
and a Vanilla Wafer Crust.
I expected something like a slice of pie...
Instead they brought a smallish, single-serving disk topped with a mass
of whipped cream...still pretty good, though.
We skipped coffees or after-dinner drinks.
The bill tallied to $93 before the tip.
This was a wonderful meal with good vittles and nice service.
We'll definitely be heading back to try some of their other dishes such
as the Buttermilk Brined Fried Chicken or the Cornmeal Crusted Catfish.
Reviewed by GW
180 El Camino Real
(on the Sand Hill Road side of the
Stanford Shopping Center)
Open Mon-Sat 11am-9pm
Asparagus with Shallots & Garlic
Chow Fun with Angus Rib-Eye
Roasted Duck "off the bone"...
a Sunday with Father's Day and a Golden State Warriors' championship
basketball game and you might expect difficulty in reserving a
table. But this was not the case for this Chinese dining spot
located in Palo Alto's Stanford Shopping Center.
At 7pm we were given the choice of an outdoor table on a warm evening or
indoor seating. The hostess suggested indoors, as it was virtually
empty. That may have been good news except there was an agitated
and loud toddler in the neighboring booth for the first 20 minutes were
Wine glasses are part of the table setting and we were presented a menu
and wine list.
The list offers 5 sparkling wines ranging from $9 to $20. Lamberti
Prosecco is $9 By-the-Glass (BTG), while a 187ml bottle of Segura Viudas
Spanish Cava is similarly priced.
There are short descriptions of each BTG selection. Cleto
Chiarli's Brut de Noir Rosé Lambrusco ($11) is described as
"Brilliant pale rose color with a palate of bright strawberry and
luscious minerality. Italy's oldest and finest Lambrusco. Awarded
the Tre Bicchiere (sic)."
Well, Cleto Chiarli did win a Tre Bicchieri award in the 2016 Gambero
Rosso wine guide, but not for this wine, but for its Fondatore Lambrusco
di Sorbara. Oops.
Charles de Cazanove Premier Cru Brut Champagne is $20 BTG. They
have two Rosés by the glass and 11 White Wines. A sweet Moscato
d'Asti, a wine we might know as a dessert wine, is the first selection
on the white wine page and they even suggest it as an after dinner
selection. A Leitz "Dragonstone" Riesling ($12) is
"Bright and juicy with a hint of sweetness that lingers on the
palate with minerality drenched in flavors of stone fruit, candied orange,
pineapple and spice. The acidity is luscious! A real palate
Each wine is described in a tantalizing fashion and they build up one's
expectations to a level greater than most of the wines can deliver.
They offer ten red wines by-the-glass. Ridge "Three
Valleys" Zinfandel from Sonoma is $16, while Eberle's Paso Robles
Syrah is $15.
From their offerings by the bottle, there are six sparkling wines.
Segura Viudas Cava is $28, while a Lanson Brut Champagne is $85.
There are three Rosés, including a 2010 vintage from a California
producer which is likely past its prime. There are four Sauvignon
Blancs, including a 2014 Preston from Sonoma at $39 and a 2011 Petroni
(likely a bit old) from Sonoma at $45.
Under the heading of "Intriguing White and Aromatics," we
again find the Moscato d'Asti at $39. It's listed as a 2011
vintage which is rather old for Moscato. There's a 2011 Grenache
Blanc from Stark at $68 (the winery currently offers a 2014
vintage). There are four Chardonnays with a price range of $45 to
$51. Why not offer a few wines of higher price and greater
They have 7 Pinot Noirs, most of which are a few vintages behind the
currently available wines. This suggests the restaurant doesn't
move a lot of wine.
In fact, under the Cabernet and Bordeaux Varieties heading, we find Erba
Napa Cabernet from the 2005 vintage at $63. There's a Swanson
Merlot from 2008 at $54.
They have a 2007 Petroni Rosso ($54) under the Syrah and Rhone Varietals
category. There's a 2008 Calstar Zinfandel ($41) and a Stark
2011 Primitivo for $88.
Under the heading of "Exceptional Wines" we find a Chateau
Montelena Calistoga Cabernet from 2010 at $90. Caymus 2011 is $150
and a Silver Oak 2009 Alexander Valley Cabernet is $130.
We ordered a glass of a Vinho Verde made of Arinto ($9) and a glass of
white wine appeared shortly after. We have ranted about this
routinely...the customer almost never sees the bottle of wine and it's
taken on faith they've poured you the wine you ordered.
Corkage fee is $25 per bottle and there's a two bottle maximum per
I placed a bottle of a good Sauvignon Blanc on the table and the server
asked if we wanted an ice bucket for it. We did not.
"Should I bring glasses?"
He looked at the bottle and seemed unsure of the next step.
We wanted him to open it.
"Could you find an opener and take the cork out of this
bottle?" we asked.
He retrieved a corkscrew and finally opened it, but hesitated to pour
Clearly this fellow is not a very experienced waiter.
From there we ordered a few starters...they offer some items at dinner
time which you'd normally encounter only at lunch: dim sum.
Har Gow ($9) and Steamed Pork Buns ($8) were both delicious. To
preclude everything arriving at the table simultaneously, as it's
routinely an issue in Chinese restaurants, we delayed ordering Siu Mai
($9) until after the first two items hit the table.
After ordering those, we asked for Sautéed Asparagus with Minced Garlic
and Shallots ($10), Angus Rib-Eye Chow Fun ($19) and the Roast Duck
Platter ($28 and $5 extra for soft Flour Buns). The duck is
described as "A generous portion of our Slow-Roasted Duck with the
skin on and the bones out."
The Asparagus was cooked perfectly and quite good. The Chow Fun
noodles were nicely presented with some slices of beef (not sure if
these were actually rib-eye) draped on top. The Duck was mostly
boneless, but there were two duck legs on the plate: one was devoid of
meat and I thought my dining companion had eaten it. But in
looking at the snapshot of the plate as it was delivered, the leg was on
the plate with 95% of the meat missing!
As the Asparagus arrived at the table, the server asked if we wanted
anything else, like dessert!
I indicated we would see if we we still hungry in a bit, but he then
informed me the kitchen was closing (7:40 on a Sunday night!).
No wonder the restaurant was not busy at 7pm. Apparently most
people know they close early. I missed the memo on that.
My friend wanted a clean plate after using the small one on the table
for the dim sum. A bus-person removed the plate and
silverware. We waited, as the food was sitting on the table.
One minute...two minutes...three minutes...finally I got up and swiped a
place-setting from the neighboring table. That busser never did
return to our table!
The food was good. If you like the music of Kenny G, the ambiance
is good. Stemware is good.
We noticed a few staffers were involved in closing procedures at this
point in our visit. They cleared our plates away and we were ready
to depart. Of course, since the kitchen had closed, dessert (which
we rarely order anyway) was out of the question. So was coffee.
You might think a crew so anxious to shut down the operation would be
reasonably speedy about presenting the bill, but this did not happen
either. We waited a few minutes and finally stood up and ambled to
the reception desk. A fellow doing some janitorial work in the bar
asked if he could help and we asked for the check. The server
immediately presented the tab and we paid the bill ($144 before the
This was a nice place to dine after a movie, but if you're not here a
couple of hours before closing, you might look for another dinner
restaurant. As Sunday cinema tends to offer a 4 to 5pm start time,
that usually equates to a 6:30-7pm restaurant arrival hour.
You can guess we're not returning on a Sunday for dinner to Yucca de
Lac, but it would be a perfectly acceptable option on any other day of
the week if you arrive during that time frame...and you can deal with
Review by GW
280 East Campbell Avenue
Open Daily at 4pm
Til 10 Sun-Wed
Til 11 Thurs-Sat
French Onion Soup
Caesar Salad with Sun-dried tomatoes and a sourdough
New York Strip with Golden Onion Strings
House Cut Fries without their Parmesan and with Spicy Ketchup and
their Lemon Aioli
The "naked" New York Strip
friend of ours who lives in San Jose often posts on her Facebook page
that she's dining at this little restaurant in downtown Campbell.
East Campbell Avenue seems to be a hotbed of culinary activity...there's
a wonderful Austrian place (Naschmarkt) a block away and a couple of
dining establishments next door to this place.
We booked a table on Memorial Day and arrived at 6:30 to find the place
about two-thirds full with many people ensconced in the TV monitors
showing the Sharks playing in for the NHL's Stanley Cup and the Golden
State Warriors playing for their lives in the NBA division championship.
We found parking on a side street just a few steps from the restaurant.
The host escorted us to a nice four top (we were just two) and presented
a one page menu. The wine list and fancy cocktails and beer are
listed on the reverse side of the document. No wine glasses are on
the table as they make a much higher percentage on mixed drinks than
they do on the wine.
Of course, they may bank more dollars on a bottle of wine than on a
couple of cocktails.
There are five sparkling wines on the list and each is available
by-the-glass (BTG) or by the bottle.
Domaine Carneros Brut is $15 BTG or $38 by the bottle. There seems
to be a curious disparity, though: Veuve Clicquot, which wholesales
typically, for much more than the Domaine Carneros, is $18 BTG and yet a
bottle costs $88!
Eleven white wines are offered By The Glass and there are two other
white choices available only by the bottle. Yet four of those
white wines are not available by the bottle, so I suspect these are
poured from a keg.
Tieffenbruner (sic) Pinot Grigio is $10 BTG and $26 by the bottle.
Stags Leap (we don't know if it's Stags' Leap or Stag's Leap)
Chardonnay, which wholesales for more than the Tiefenbrunner, is $9 BTG
yet it's $35 for a bottle!
Miner Chardonnay is $15 BTG, while Rombauer's goes for $18.
Willard Hicks offers ten Pinot Noirs, with 6 of them available
by-the-glass. Belcreme de Lys, a label from the Treasury Wine Estates
company is $9 BTG and $24 for a bottle. Decoy is $14 and $40 a
bottle, while the same company's Goldeneye is $25 BTG and $85 by the
bottle. Two of the three Merlots on the list can be ordered BTG,
while there's one Zinfandel available BTG. Rombauer Merlot is $15
BTG or $56 by the bottle. Predator Zinfandel from Lodi is $12 BTG
and $35 a bottle. There's a Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel for $40,
while Rombauer Zinfandel, if you have a sweet tooth, is $55.
Curiously they do not support Ridge Vineyards, a benchmark producer of
Zinfandel whose winery is nearby in Cupertino.
Thirteen Cabernets are offered, with 5 being sold By The Glass. Ever
heard of a brand called Notes? It's $8 a glass. Smith & Hook
is $12 BTG as is a brand called Uppercut. Silver Oak's Alexander
Valley Cabernet is $25 BTG and $92 per bottle. BV Tapestry is $105
for a bottle and Opus One goes for $375.
One odd thing is that the glass price doesn't often correspond to the
bottle pricing. A wine costing $10 for a glass goes for $26 a
bottle, while a $9 glass pour is sold for $35 a bottle. A $15 glass pour
is $55 by the bottle, but a $16 pour is $48 for a bottle.
The list doesn't have many surprises. They have their own private
label called Christeni and there's a Cabernet Sauvignon, a blended red,
a Pinot Noir and a Sauvignon Blanc.
They don't charge a corkage fee on a single bottle of wine, with a $15
charge for additional bottles.
Stemware is of good quality.
My friend ordered a Tanqueray Martini and said it was properly
made. I opted for a $12 glass of their Christeni Sauvignon
Blanc. It was well-made, but of ordinary quality...nothing special
with a hint of varietal character. We take it on faith that the
wine ordered by the customer is the wine they bring. That is, they
do not bring the bottle to show the consumer...of course, for wines
dispensed from a keg, how could they bring you the bottle?
The menu offers a dozen "Starters," 5 salads and two
soups. Starters includes Fried Green Tomatoes ($9), a Spicy Tuna
Roll ($12), Crab Cakes ($14) and Coconut Crusted Shrimp ($16).
Salads go from $11 to $18 (more if you add Chicken, Beef or Prawns).
The menu indicates the salads are big enough to share.
Bread basket, perhaps?
Willard Hicks serves no bread, so don't plan on having this while you're
My dining companion has a weakness for French Onion Soup ($9) and she
said it was excellent. I started with their "The Caesar"
$11 which has a red chipotle dressing. It's artistically presented
but with something like 6 or 8 hearts of Romaine leaves, I'm not sure
it's THAT large to split it. The salad, though, was good.
With a couple of sporting events on their flat-screen monitors, there
were periodic cheers and jeers as the local teams were battling in their
respective playoff series. Otherwise, there's a nice ambience to
this place...there are a few tables outside along the sidewalk, if
you're so inclined.
I placed a bottle of a red wine on the table as we were having our
starters and the server came by and asked if we wanted him to open
it...Yes! He brought a couple of nice stems and set about opening
the bottle. He asked if he should serve it immediately or "if
we should let it breathe?"
I inquired what that would do and he was, in fact, a bit lost on the
subject apart from knowing it is sometimes part of the mystical ritual
of wine drinking.
He poured, finally, the "say" and I took a sniff to see if it
was corked...it was not. Then he poured the wine...I had to get
him to stop pouring, as I felt a glass one-third full was sufficient and
he was going for the half-way mark or more.
We each ordered a steak, since the menu says they use a wood fire.
They must have been out chopping up a tree (or something) because the
time between them clearing the starters and bringing the main plates was
long. The place wasn't that busy, but we figured perhaps the
kitchen crew was watching the games, too.
After about 15 to 20 minutes the steaks arrived. Hers was their
"Signature Peppercorn New York Strip (Black Angus), doused in a
brandy and peppercorn "glace," topped with Golden Onion
Strings" ($34). She ordered it without the peppercorns.
The waiter suggested she get the regular New York strip, but she wanted
the Golden Onion Strings. Then she bitched that the onion strings
were not hot...
Sometimes you can't win.
I ordered their regular 14 ounce New York Strip ($32) which comes with a
choice of a side dish. I went with the House Cut Fries. Most
of the sides include cheese or are sweet (Maple Sweet Potato Mash, for
The steak arrived "naked" on a plate. Just the
steak. Not anything else like a garnish of parsley or a lettuce
leaf or something...just a lonely New York strip.
It was quite good, though and well-priced for the quality. The
"fries" were log-shaped potato pieces stacked like, well,
Lincoln Logs! Perfectly okay, but I had hoped for more normal
The bill tallied to $117 with the tax and before the tip.
We enjoyed the meal, though and that little section of Campbell is a
cool business district.
We will certainly make a return visit to this dining spot, especially if
we're taking in a movie in the South Bay.
Reviewed by GW
615 Balboa Street
Open Tues-Thurs 6-9
Amuse Bouche 1...Asparagus in a Caesar Vinaigrette
Amuse Bouche 2...a Crab "cake" in a creamy
Roasted Beet and Cardamom Carrot Salad with Laura
Chenel Goat Cheese in a Phyllo triangle
Shrimp Fritter & Chip
Seared Foie Gras
Salmon topped with a Corn & Brioche
"custard" and festooned with arugula.
Braised Short Rib with a Maine Diver Scallop
customer at Weimax had mentioned this place to me one day, so I took a
peek at their web site and it looked interesting.
We finally made a reservation and had dinner there on a Thursday night
in May. It's on Balboa in San Francisco, maybe 5 or 6 blocks east
of Park Presidio Boulevard. The neighborhood is mostly residential
and the restaurant seems to occupy three former retail
storefronts. There's a laundromat next door. Otherwise,
there are apartments in this area. Good luck finding parking!
We entered and there's a small bar by the entrance with a display of
interesting bottles of wine. We heard the owner telling his wife
they could only accommodate those with reservations...no walk-ins at
this point in time (it was 8pm). And, in fact, we saw them turn
away some people who had not reserved a table.
This seemed a bit strange, but there's a method to their madness and
unlike so many dining spots, these folks are not greedy and looking to
fleece the customer.
Here's a quote from their web site:
Richmond is a small family owned restaurant. Our goal is to
deliver upscale food with personalized service. With this mission
in mind, my wife and I are only taking limited nightly reservations.
The focus at The Richmond Restaurant is on “individual diners”, not
volume. We are trying to create an environment in which it’s
like coming to our house for a dinner party. Please be our special
We were shown to a table in one of the front alcoves with a view of
the street, but curtained off from the rest of the restaurant. In
fact, there are seven little dining areas, each one being curtained off
from the rest of the place. This is part of their idea of
providing a calm, pleasant and personalized meal.
With the menu, there's a little wine list of several pages.
We found six red and six white wines by-the-glass (BTG). No sparkling
wine is offered by the glass, though.
Amongst the whites, there's a California Chenin Blanc called Blue Plate
from Clarksburg-area fruit. That's $7 BTG, while Gallo's
"William Hill" Chardonnay is $8. Dr. Loosen's
"L" Riesling from Germany's Mosel region is $9. A
Yorkville Cellars Sauvignon Blanc is $10 and Palmina's Arneis from
California is $12.
Red selections are somewhat more interesting, with an Easton Zinfandel
costing $12 and Wilfrid Rousse's delightful Chinon being the same
price. A La Follette Pinot is $12. Gallo's Don Miguel Gascon
Malbec is $9.
The list of bottles of sparkling wines features some worthy
selections. Gruet's Brut sparkler from New Mexico is $25.
And that's a full bottle, not a half! Roederer Estate Brut is
$39. Louis Roederer's Brut Premier Champagne is $82, while Krug's
Grande Cuvée is $295. The current vintage of Dom Perignon is $275
and Roederer's Cristal is $450.
You'll find 15 Chardonnay selections. Au Bon Climat's basic
Chardonnay is just $32 and Drouhin's basic Chablis is just $35.
Mount Eden's Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay is $89 and Ramey's Platt
Vineyard is $95. Littorai is $110 and Aubert, another winery which
is allergic to selling its precious wines to retail shops is $130.
They have a handful of Rieslings from dry to slightly sweet.
Trimbach's is $37.
Does any restaurant in the Bay Area offer a decent bottle of Sauvignon
Blanc for $19? None except The Richmond! Pomelo, a wine made
by Randy Mason, is a mere $19. Raptor Ridge Pinot Gris is
gently-priced at $27. Peter Michael's Sauvignon Blanc is $79.
Fourteen Pinot Noirs are offered, with Rhys "San Mateo County"
costing $79, while Chehalem's Three Vineyards is $49. There are 16
Cabernets or Bordeaux-styled blends. Chappellet's Signature
Cabernet is $95, Ramey Claret is $52 and a 2011 Outpost from Howell
Mountain is $120.
You can select some Merlot or Cabernet Franc wines, as well as some
Rhone-styled blends. Monardiere's Vacqueyras is $37. Green &
Red Zinfandel is also $37.
The corkage fee is $20, by the way and the stemware is of good quality.
We ordered a bottle of Maximin Grünhauser 2014
Qba Riesling Trocken ($34). It was a good choice and sufficiently
versatile to pair with the tasting menu we ordered.
There's a Three Course menu for $36 and a Five Course
"Tasting" menu for $67.50. Everyone at the table,
though, must sign up for one or the other. The three course option
allows each person to select from the menu. The Five Course is a
more "set" menu. Though they note "no
substitutions" for this, I informed them of a food allergy (cheese)
and they tweaked the couple of courses which included cheese.
And, of course, the various menu items may be ordered "a la
A few minutes after ordering, the fellow returned to the table with an
Amuse Bouche of Asparagus Spears adorned with a bit of Prosciutto,
little croutons and capers. Mine came without the Piave
cheese. A nice start!
A second Amuse Bouche was presented...a sort of Crab Fritter in a pool
of a velvety soup...Also quite good and the Riesling paired well.
The Richmond's bread plate includes three butter options, two flavored
and one plain.
The show then got rolling with the first course, a Roasted Beet and
Cardamom Carrot Salad with some Laura Chenel Goat Cheese in a Phyllo
Triangle. But to get around the cheese issue, they brought me a
Shrimp Fritter with a Shrimp Chip instead.
Kicking it into high gear, the next course was a generous slice of
Seared Foie Gras on pain perdu and accompanied by some roasted
apples cut into tiny dice. Oh my! This was wonderful!
This was followed by a small piece of beautifully cooked Salmon, topped
with a Corn & Brioche custard and adorned with arugula in an herbed
We were still enjoying the Riesling, but put our bottle of 20 year old
Bordeaux on the table. By this time we were fully introduced to
our chef/server/owner, John Owyang. He managed to extract the cork
from our bottle and brought fresh, larger stemware for the red wine.
The salmon was followed by a Red Wine-Braised Short-rib topped with a
Maine Diver Scallop. This is served on a bed of a creamy polenta
which has cheese in it, so my plate arrived with mashed potatoes
Very good, too, by the way.
We had a bit of wine and we lingered over that for a bit before dessert
hit the table. This was "Coffee Semifreddo." A
coffee cup was filled with Coffee Ice Cream and Coffee Granita and
sprinkled with little bits of Almond Brittle and anointed with cream.
Mr. Owyang was apologetic for their service, but we found no fault on
that score. Apparently they were a bit out of sorts when one party
arrived significantly late for their reservation and another group came
Apparently the restaurant prefers to book each reservation about 30
minutes apart to be able to prepare each table's orders in a well-paced
and comfortable fashion.
This place is serious in offering guests a memorable dining
experience. Unlike so many San Francisco Bay Area restaurants
which have tables crammed together and where they hustle you in and
hustle you out, The Richmond is totally different!
The ambiance is comfortable and, as noted earlier in this review, tables
are curtained off from one another, for the most part. We
appreciated the music being played, too...mildly jazzy along with some
classic pop tunes.
The bill tallied to $184 as they did not charge us the corkage fee.
We left a nice tip, of course and look forward to returning to this
wonderful culinary oasis in The Richmond!
Reviewed by GW
565 Bryant Street
Dinner Tues-Thurs 5-9
The wine list is on a computer and each wine has its
own description, with a tasting note composed by owner/sommelier
Pâté de Campagne
We ordered the steak and the kitchen was savvy enough
to serve this plated individually.
Very fine and thoroughly delicious.
Salade de Fruits Rouge
and a glass of Moscato d'Asti
Palo Alto, even on a Tuesday night, is bustling with activity.
Fortunately, there's a parking garage a half a block away from this
We arrived around 7pm and the restaurant was about half occupied.
The hostess escorted us to a two-top and presented a one-sheet menu and
a wine list. There were no wine glasses as part of the table
setting and the place does not offer cocktails.
This is Silicon Valley country, the land of high tech, so it should not
be surprising the wine list is on a computer tablet!
I'm sure they offer wines "by the glass," but in perusing
their wine list, I missed these. There are no indications of
by-the-glass offerings as a sub-heading or category on the computerized
list, nor did I note these on their dinner menu.
The list is quite good, though, with excellent selections and sufficient
range to complement the cuisine.
There are a few major categories: Top Picks being owner Guillaume
Bienaime's favorite offerings. There's "The List" and
there's a search option.
Below those you'll find Sparkling, White, Rose and Red categories.
Delamotte's Champagne is $84 on the list, while Pouillon's Extra Brut is
$108 per bottle. J. Lasalle's Special Club is $125, while a half
bottle of Geoffroy's Rosé is $62.
Francois Crochet's Sancerre is $66, while Dagueneau's Blanc Fumé is
$116. De Villaine's Aligoté is $62 while a Weinbach Riesling is
Au Bon Climat's Sanford & Benedict Vineyard Chardonnay is $62, while
Mount Eden's Estate Chardonnay is $95. There are well more than a
dozen selections of French White Burgundies, too.
You'll find 6 Rosé selections.
Amongst the red wine selections, producers such as Littorai, Rhys, Ant
Hill Farms, Failla and Big Basin have Pinot Noirs on the list.
These range from $59 to $165. Burgundies from Esmonin, Pousse d'Or,
Mongeard-Mugneret and Huedlot-Noëllat are offered and you might spend
as much as $595 for a bottle of Grand Cru level wine.
Three Cabernet Francs grace the wine list, all from France's Loire
Valley. There's a heading of Cabernet Sauvignon &
Merlot. There you'll find a 1995 Dunn Howell Mountain for
$295. Elementary Cellars Napa Cabernet is $105. The
Bordeaux selections don't match those from Burgundy, though...the most
major wine is Haut-Bergey 2010 at $92. Chateau Musar 2007, a
major league red from Lebanon is $105.
Most of the Syrah wines are fairly young and the French ones are, with
the exception of the 2006 Lionnet Cornas ($92) undeveloped. Two
Bandols are similarly young and these are accompanied by two vintages of
Tablas Creek's Espirit de Beaucastel. Tempier's "La
Tourtine" is $105, while a 2003 Espirit de Beaucastel is $145.
Two older vintages of Beaucastel are on this list, with the 1998 costing
$195 and the 1999 going for $175 (nicely priced, actually).
A Sang des Cailloux Vacqueyras is $64, whereas a Les Palliéres Gigondas
Two Zinfandels make the list...a Turley from Contra Costa fruit is $62
while a nicely-aged bottle of 2007 Ridge Geyserville is $78.
Corkage is $25, unless you bring in a nicely-aged bottle. Wines
ten years and older have a corkage fee of $10.
If you order a bottle from the wine list, they waive the corkage fee
For the third bottle (or more), the corkage fee is $50.
We ordered a half bottle of Pierre Peters Brut Champagne at $56.
The flute-shaped stemware they brought was changed out for a couple of
white wine glasses...these allow the Champagne to get a bit of air and
disperse a bit of CO2.
I ordered their Terrine de Campagne ($9) which is a nice little slab of pâté
accompanied by some nice toasted slices of bread, some pickled mushrooms
(enoki, perhaps?) and a quince mustard. This was delicious and the
Champagne was a good match.
We ordered two Appetizers to share and they brought these one at a time,
allowing us to dine leisurely.
The first was a half a dozen Escargot ($16). These are served in a
fancy little escargot dish, out of their shells, with a bread crumb
topping. I can't tell you precisely what was in there other than
some little morsels of diced carrots. It was not the classic
garlic butter and parsley preparation and, in fact, was very good.
We also ordered a Tuna Crudo dish and we dove into that before taking a
It was more like a seared tuna though and the tuna itself was rather
bland until you lathered the Yellow-fin with the tapenade which
The bottle of Chablis we ordered, Pattes Loup ($64) was also a good
match for the starters.
I brought out a bottle of a 2000 vintage Bordeaux and owner/somm
Guillaume took the foil off the bottle and opened it tableside. He
then properly asked if it would be permissible to decant it away from
the table (the tables are small and a bit close together). He then
returned a few minutes later with a nicely decanted bottle of Claret.
They have good stemware for the Bordeaux, too, by the way.
The server spoke about some special dishes which were not on the printed
menu. The Escargot were a special dish...and they had a 16 ounce
steak with some sort of "fried" mashed potatoes. These
turned out to be some sort of Potato Croquette and were delicious.
The steak was of excellent quality and cooked beautifully to
Further, the kitchen actually split the entree so we did not have to
serve ourselves from a family style plate.
I neglected to mention they brought a nice little basket of excellent
French bread. And they kept our water glasses topped up, too.
My friend was not much interested in dessert, but I asked for their
Salade de Fruits Rouge ($6), a smallish bowl of strawberries,
blueberries and blackberries.
We accompanied this with a couple of sips of a Moscato d'Asti
which was fresh, fruity and mildly fizzy. We also appreciated the
low alcohol level of this option, since we'd imbibed parts of two+ other
Overall, this was a very satisfying dining experience and the ambience
is comfortable, as is the service. The quality of the food was
very good and it's a great alternative to upper level San Francisco
restaurants featuring French cuisine.
The tab tallied to around $225, but in examining the bill it should have
been a few bucks higher...the Moscato was not added to the check.
With such good service, though, we left a nice tip.
We look forward to a return visit...and sooner rather than later!
Reviewed by GW
1614 Alum Rock Avenue
If you order a glass of wine, they bring stemware and
show you the bottle/label and then pour you the wine.
Some sliced bread and olives are brought to the table...the
"dip" or salsa (I think) is made of Lupini beans and is called
Hummus de tremoços.
Tábua de Enchidos...a
Charcuterie or Salumi plate with some little toasted bread slices
resembling crackers, a sprig of fresh rosemary and some sort of Port
Three little Codfish 'cakes' with lovely mixed greens
and a slice of a dehydrated tomato.
Arroz de Marisco
Arroz de Pato...duck "fried rice" with some
slices of duck breast...and a nice little Portuguese red wine served in
a proper glass.
Wines ordered "by the glass" are brought in
bottle to the table and poured in full view of the customer.
Mousse de Chocolate
Portuguese fellow who had been importing wine told me he was changing
jobs and going to open a restaurant in San Jose featuring the cuisine of
Carlos Carreira's dream was to have a place with not only good food, but
a fantastic list of Portugal's best wines. The dream became more
easy to realize when his daughter returned from Portugal where she
polished her culinary skills after studying gastronomy in Los
Angeles. Her boyfriend, David Costa, was born in Portugal and he
worked in a variety of top restaurants there.
The couple moved to California and at the end of 2015, Adega opened its
We booked a table online and dined there on a Sunday night in early May
of 2016. They offer free valet parking during Friday's dinner
service and all day Saturday and Sunday.
We pulled in and a fellow parked our car in a lot adjacent to the
The dining rooms were about 80% occupied when we ambled in around 7pm on
a Sunday. We had made a reservation using Open-Table.
The hostess took us to a table in the main dining room to the left of
the entrance, a bit away from a glass display room of wine bottles and
We were offered a one page menu and a nice little book containing their
voluminous wine offerings. There were wine glasses on the table as part
of the place setting.
On the back of the menu there are some Wines By-The-Glass (BTG).
It's all Portuguese, too, by the way, so if you're looking for Rombauer
Chardonnay to pair with your Cod Fish Cakes or Silver Oak Cabernet for
the Rib-eye Steak, you are out of luck.
We had a choice of two sparkling wines, Luis Pato's "Maria
Gomes" at $13 or Vertice's Brut Rose for $15.
They have six white wines BTG, three of them being Vinho Verde
selections. Quinta de Azevedo is $8, while Anselmo Mendes'
Passaros is $9. Two whites by Dirk Niepoort are available
BTG. One is Redoma ($11) and the other is the wine marketed under
the name "Twisted" ($9).
Reds BTG range from $8 to $16. There's Duas Quintas from Ramos
Pinto at $10, while Esporão Reserva is $16.
As for wines by the bottle, you can find really economical (and
drinkable) wines. For example, they offer the Quinta da Aveleda
Vinho Verde for just $18 a bottle. Dirk Niepoort's "Dócil,"
a Vinho Verde made of Loureiro, is $35 (it's a $15 retail bottle).
Soalheiro, a dynamite Vinho Verde made of Alvarinho, is $45 ($25 retail)
and the "old vines" bottling is $49.
There are 8 whites from the Alentejo and 13 from the Douro. That Esporão
White Reserva is $45. An Arinto (that's the grape) from the
Chocapalha winery near Lisbon is $44.
The list of reds is even more voluminous. There are 22 reds from
the Alentejo, ranging in price from $19 to $199. Five Beiras reds
range from $44 to $280.
Four Dão red range from $29 to $150 and there's a boat-load of Douro
reds, as you might expect. Here you can spend a few serious
dollars. The 2004 Barca Velha is listed as "coming soon"
and for that, $500 bucks comes out of your wallet. Good names such
as Wine & Soul's Pintas are $99 for one bottling and $199 for
another. They have a number of Quinta do Crasto wines starting at
$29 a bottle and topping out at $250. Quinta do Passadouro reds
are $79 a bottle. They also offer some nice reds from Van Zeller.
From other regions, there's the Quinta da Mimosa for just $27 a bottle.
You can drink well in various price levels here.
We told the server we were fans of the Soalheiro wines and she suggested
the Quinta da Lixa Pouco Comum Alvarinho which we could order
by-the-glass for $10. She claimed this is superior to the
Soalheiro wine. It was perfectly nice, but not nearly as complex
as Soalheiro's in my view.
But they have a very fine aspect to service of wine-by-the-glass:
they bring an empty glass and the bottle. The bottle is then
presented and they pour a small taste so you can give it the okay.
We did and she poured. Bravo!
This is how all wine-by-the-glass should be presented.
We ordered a charcuterie plate to start. It's called a Tábua de
Enchidos ($16) and it features a very artistically-presented array of
meats including Iberico Ham, Paio Sausage, Chouriçao and Duck
Breast. They augment the plate with drops of concentrated Port
wine, but I can't say I found this to be an enhancement from a taste
perspective. How can you improve Presunto Iberico (ham)?
My dining companion ordered their Caldo Verde ($8), a potato soup with
Kale and chouriço and this was quite good. I had their Pasteis de
Bacalhau ($9) which was three football-shaped cod cakes, deep fried and
served with beautifully-dressed salad greens. Impressive.
We perused the wine list and the server suggested a red called Papa
Figos from the Casa Ferreirinha winery. It's $34 on the wine list
and typically retails for about $15. This was a nice choice...not
too heavy and not too oaky.
For main plates, my friend ordered Arroz de Marisco ($29), a seafood
rice dish with lobster, scallops, shrimp, clams, mussels and
oysters. It's beautifully presented with a dome covering the plate
as it's brought to the table.
There's less fanfare for the Arroz de Pato ($24) that I ordered.
This is a sort of Duck Fried Rice dish with shredded duck in the rice
and it's topped with a few tasty slices of duck breast.
Mousse de Chocolate ($8) was shared for dessert and we each had a 2
ounce pour of Niepoort's Ruby Porto ($5). Again they bring some
small wine glasses to the table and present the bottle before serving
And the dessert wine list must be the most impressive in the Bay
Area! It has 5 Ruby Ports, 3 Tawnies, 4 Late Bottled Vintage
Portos and 7 Vintage Portos. If you want older Tawny Port, they
have 7 10-Year Tawnies and 8 20-Year offerings. There are 4
30-Year Tawnies and 3 40-Year selections. There are numerous
single vintage Colheitas, as well. And they have three White
You can enjoy a simple dessert wine for $4 or spend as much as $70 for a
glass of Port.
If you're wondering about Madeira, they have 18 selections of those by
the glass. $5 gets you a pour of Justinos 5-Year Reserva or you
can drop $280 for a two ounce pour of Blandy's 1920 Boal.
They also offer a couple of great Moscatels...Setúbal. One is
from Casa Ermelinda Freitas ($5), while José Maria da Fonseca's is $6.
We had a nice meal here and quite a good experience.
We departed and handed our valet parking ticket to the fellow...and we
were surprised and delighted the parking was gratis. We handed the
fellow a nice tip, though.
It will be a pleasure to dine here again and explore some of their other
Reviewed by GW
OF PRIME RIB
1906 Van Ness Avenue
Open Daily for Dinner
friends were interested to dine at one of San Francisco's most venerable
restaurants and so they booked a 9pm Friday night table at The House of
The place has been there for more than 60 years and yet getting a table
requires a bit of planning or late night dining.
We arrived on time and circled the block twice before finally simply
leaving the car with their valet. $11.
There are not many people waiting for a table at the entrance of this
busy place, as most customers are not walk-ins and have reserved a table
ahead of time. We waited all of a minute and a half before being
escorted to our table. The host provided menus and a wine
list. Wine glasses are part of the table setting.
This is a restaurant providing no surprises.
They do Prime Rib and Prime Rib only.
(There is a "fish of the day" notation on the menu, but
otherwise, it's Prime Rib.)
Being that this place is a bit of a throwback to the 1950s and 1960s,
they offer all sorts of classic cocktails. But there are plenty of
wines-by-the-glass (BTG), too.
There are nine white wines by-the-glass, including Sutter Home White
Zinfandel ($6), Rombauer Chardonnay ($16), Conundrum by Caymus ($8) and
La Crema Chardonnay ($10).
There were 19 reds offered by the glass. Clos du Bois Pinot Noir
is $9, while Duckhorn's Goldeneye is $16. Merlots from both
those producers go for the same price. Cabernet, an ideal
accompaniment to prime rib, sees just 4 selections, Clos du Bois ($10),
Conn Creek ($12), Hess Collection ($14) and JAX at $16.
The HOPR wine list, as you can see, features all sorts of mainstream,
"comfortable" selections. They have wines that are
likely to be recognized by the average bear. No surprises.
Now of those $16 BTG offerings, Rombauer's Chardonnay retails for $36,
while the Goldeneye and Duckhorn retail in the neighborhood of $50.
There are 11 "Bright, Crisp Whites" on the bottle list.
This features brands such as Cakebread, Grgich Hills, Frog's Leap,
Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, Trefethen and Chateau St. Jean.
With a Prime Rib-Centric menu, reds should be featured on the list and
they are. They have 11 Zinfandels, including Seghesio "Dry
Creek" Zinfandel at $62 (but they don't identify it as the Cortina
single-vineyard bottling), Robert Biale's Black Chicken Zin ($72) and
Rafanelli at $52 for a bottle and $29 for a half bottle.
They have 20 Pinot Noirs on their wine list, with brands such as
MacMurray Ranch (a Gallo brand), Saintsbury, Sinskey and Clos du Bois.
There are several pages of Cabernets on the wine list and it's here you
can get into real trouble! Screaming Eagle is $4200 a
bottle. This makes Shafer's Hillside Select, at $575, look like a
real bargain. Staglin's 2009 is $266 a bottle, while Silver Oak's
2011 Alexander Valley is $98. Dana Estate is $985 a bottle, while
Duckhorn is $100. A 2011 Harlan Estate is $1250, while the same
vintage of Heitz Napa is $72 (I'd go for the Heitz, thank you!).
There's a page of "Other Reds" and here you'll find Klinker
Brick's Lodi Syrah ($36), The Prisoner Napa Red ($64) and Robert Foley
They don't offer much in the way of imports and no Bordeaux curiously.
But they do have Kendall Jackson's Chianti, Tenuta Arceno for $36 a
bottle and Tomero Malbec from Argentina at $34.
The Corkage fee is $25 for a bottle or two, while the third bottle is
$30. Magnums cost $50 and double magnums are $100.
The Prime Rib is offered in several formats. The City Cut is a
smaller serving and costs $40.45 for the full meal (salad and side
dishes included). The House of Prime Rib Cut is $43.85 (yeah,
what's the deal with the odd cent's pricing?). The English
Cut is the same price, but features several thinner slices instead of
one hunk o'meat. King Henry VIII is a thick cut and guarantees a
rib bone. $46.85 for that. They do offer a Children's
Prime Rib Dinner at $15.85.
Accompaniments include their "Salad Bowl" as a starter.
Alongside the Prime Rib, you have your choice of Mashed Potatoes or a
Baked Potato. Each comes with your choice of Creamed Corn or
Creamed Spinach, too. They all come with a Yorkshire Pudding
that's brought to the table in a small skillet and divided into single
There's a small, warmed Sourdough Bread loaf on a cutting board...slice
We opted for a half bottle of Frog's Leap Sauvignon Blanc at $21.
The server came back a few minutes after we ordered this to say
"Oh, I think that's no longer available...it's been discontinued."
It was the only half bottle of white wine on the list. I was a bit
unhappy with this news and the server went off to confirm the wine being
unavailable. Finally a wine steward brought the half bottle and
opened it for us.
We wondered, since those half bottles of wine are still available from
the winery, was this some sort of method to up-sell us to a full bottle?
A few moments later the server came by with an artistically arranged
salad in a bowl, set in another bowl of ice. The server then gives
the salad bowl a spin and deftly drizzles their slightly sweet dressing
onto the salad...lettuce, beets, chopped eggs, etc.
We placed an aged bottle of Bordeaux on the table and the server saw
this as he brought more wine glasses. They don't have larger red
wine stemware, apparently. A while later the wine steward came
over, picked up the bottle, saw it was a bit older (1989) and whisked it
away to open it. On one hand, they ought to open it at the table,
but the corridor is rather chaotic with servers and bussers running
about. Adding to the chaos is the blimp-like silver trolley with
the prime rib being wheeled to and fro.
We believe he also took this away to open the bottle with the
double-pronged Ah-So cork puller.
He did not offer to decant the bottle, though.
We had stood the bottle upright a week ahead of time, so the sediment
was nicely compacted and, in fact, we were able to pour it damned near
to the bottom without the wine becoming cloudy.
We offered the wine guy a glass. He declined.
Really? A 25+ year old Bordeaux from a First Growth?
The waiter also declined our offer of a pour. Apparently, we
suspect, it's against company policy.
The Prime Rib was spectacular. Wow...that was a good hunk of
beef. The Creamed Spinach and Creamed Corn were quite good, too.
The Mashed Potatoes were fine and the Yorkshire Pudding was good.
We skipped dessert.
The bill tallied to right around $205 before the tip.
Overall this was a terrific meal...no surprises on the menu or wine list
and the restaurant runs like a well-oiled machine.
We'll be back!
Reviewed by GW
JOE'S of WESTLAKE
11 Glenwood Ave
Joe's Caesar Salad
Joe's Burger with Cheese
Steak ala Bruno
being closed for a couple of years for remodeling and renovation, the
old "Westlake Joe's" opened its doors in February of 2016.
As with many newly-opened dining spots, the place is flooded with people
satisfying their curiosity to see if the restaurant is one they will
frequent or say "been there, done that."
With a great review from San Francisco Chronicle restaurant critic
Michael Bauer, in late April of 2016, the place is packed. They do
not presently accept reservations, so unless you're going for dinner in
the late afternoon or, say, after 9pm, be prepared to wait for a table
in this 300 seat restaurant.
We rolled in on a Thursday night at 8:30, or so, and waited maybe 15-20
minutes for a booth for the three of us.
We were escorted to a table in the dining room with the open kitchen and
the host provided menus, but no wine list. Wine glasses were not
part of the table settings, either, so you might get the impression that
wine is not a priority here. There is not a sommelier helping
nudge diners in the direction of a wine selection and our server did not
ask us at the outset if we wanted wine. They are, it seems, more
of an old-school, throwback place where cocktails are more of a
We did have a chance to peruse the wine list, though.
They offer three "House White" wine selections and four
reds. These are offered "by the glass" (BTG) or in
"half carafe" or "carafe" format and it's not stated
as to the size of the latter two servings.
There's a Coppola "Napa Valley" Pinot Grigio for $6/glass ($18
and $30 for half carafe and carafe servings). But the wine carries
a "California" appellation, not Napa and one winery document
indicates the Pinot Grigio comes from Monterey County vineyards while a
"tech sheet" does not provide a clue as to the wine's place of
origin apart from "California." There's a fledgling
brand of Sauvignon Blanc called "Pushback" with a Napa
appellation (the winery has a San Francisco address, though). It's
$8 BTG and $24 & 36 for larger servings. Chalk Hill's Sonoma
Chardonnay is $10 BTG.
The "House Reds" are a bit curious, but we see some irrational
marketing policies on the part of some wineries. There's a
"Bohemian" Pinot Noir on the wine list for $10 a glass and yet
the winery web site offers this wine for $50 a bottle. This
illustrates that someone wholesales this wine for pennies on the dollar
if the restaurant can pour it for ten bucks a glass! Similarly, a
Sciandri Napa Cabernet, typically retailing for $58 on that winery's web
site, is also just ten bucks a glass.
We should point out that numerous California wineries have special
"restaurant pricing" for dining establishments, allowing
restaurateurs to take 300%-500% mark-ups and offer these products at
prices slightly higher than normal retail pricing. For example, a
well-known Napa Cabernet producer puts a $50 retail price on its
Cabernet (normally, then, wholesaling at $33.33 to a store), but is
willing to offer it to a restaurant for just $20 a bottle. A 300%
mark-up makes it $60 in a restaurant, just a small price higher than
It is possible, too, by the way, that some of the BTG wines are
poured from a keg, not from a bottle. No notation on the wine list
is made, though, as to wines offered "on tap."
Under the heading of "Premium Wines by The Glass," there's
Whitehall Lane Sauvignon Blanc is $12, while Frank Family Chardonnay is
$14. David Bruce Pinot Noir is $16 BTG. Gloria
Ferrer's Sonoma Brut Sparkling wine is $10 BTG.
There are, then, a few good, well-priced options for by-the-glass or
There are 8 California Chardonnays offered by the bottle. Robert
Mondavi's Napa is $32, while Kistler's is $105. Honig Sauvignon
Blanc is $34 by the bottle.
There's a modest range of Pinot Noirs, with Thomas Fogarty's costing $62
and a Papapietro Perry going for $100. Amongst the Cabernet
selections, there are some very modest little wines such as "Humble
Pie" ($30) and "Highway 12" ($34). The
higher-priced bottles are of some better-known names (Sebastiani at $56,
Silverado at $70 and Hall at $80), but I'm not hugely enamored with any
of those. Phelps Cabernet is $115 a bottle, while Paradigm is
A number of the Italian selections come from one particular importer, it
seems. We've not been impressed with many of their selections and
the prices are routinely inflated.
The corkage fee is $15 and we brought a nice bottle of Piemontese red
wine to pair with dinner. The server provided some nice, large
stemware for this and we were soon off and running.
A basket of bread (and butter) was brought to the table...commercial
sourdough and this was warmed, so we dove in.
The menu is classic, old-time Joe's. Caesar Salad, Crab Louie,
Cobb Salad, Fried Calamari, Minestrone or Clam Chowder, Garlic Bread and
For main dishes, there's a range of various pastas, veal and chicken
dishes in various incarnations (Parmigiana, Marsala, Piccata, etc.),
Prime Rib ($32.95), Steaks and Chops. They have
"specialties" such as Baked Lasagna ($18.95). Pot Roast
($16.95) or Eggplant Parmigiana ($18.95). They also have a few
seafood offerings, such as Calamari Steak Doré ($21.95), Filet of Sole
Piccata ($21.95) or Char-Broiled Salmon ($24.95). These main
plates are accompanied by either Spaghetti, Ravioli, French Fries,
Vegetables of Mashed Potatoes.
We began with their Caesar Salad ($8.95) and this was impressive!
It's presented in a medium-sized bowl with beautifully dressed Romaine
Lettuce that's quite refreshingly cold. It's adorned with some
croutons and anchovy filets and the dressing does have the
requisite amount of garlic! Bravo!!
My friends finished their salad well before I finished mine, so I was
curious to see if the main plates would arrive on the kitchen's schedule
or on the dinner guest's timetable.
Happily it was the latter.
One dining companion opted for the Joe's Famous Hamburger Sandwich
($13.95) which comes with fries. She added cheese ($2) and this
think was enough to feed a couple of people! Her husband chose the
Baked Lasagna ($18.95) and he was happy with this selection.
I was torn by the multitude of options...should I try the Lamb Chops
($34.95), the 16 oz. Rib eye ($38.95), the Breaded Veal Cutlet ($25.95)
or the Prime Rib ($32.95)? I was curious about one of their
signature dishes, Steak a la Bruno ($23.95). I'm not sure what cut
of beef this is, but someone mentioned it might be something of a neck
slice...? I gather it's marinated in
an effort to tenderize it. This was quite good, though, but not as
"noble" as a New York strip or a Rib Eye. I had their
side dish of Spaghetti...an American take on pasta, for sure.
We split a dessert: Bombolini ($8) which was one of seven
selections, apart from gelato ($5). They brought out three little
"doughnuts" or beignets with a small ramekin of a raspberry
dipping sauce and one of some sort of chocolate or Nutella-like
They do offer a number of dessert wines, too...Fonseca's Bin 27 Port is
$8, while their 10 Year Tawny is $12. Taylor's 20 Year Tawny is
$16. They also offer a Vin Santo and Moscato d'Asti by the glass
and a couple of grappas and a Lemoncello.
The ambience was very pleasant and very retro. Tunes by artists
such as The Andrews Sisters and Sinatra are played at a level loud
enough to buffer the babel of the crowd in the dining room, but not so
loud as to intrude on your conversation at the dinner table.
The bill, with the $15 corkage and a cocktail for one of the guests,
tallied to $115 with the tax and before the tip. But it would be
easy to have had a much more spendy meal here, too.
We will definitely be returning to Joe's.
Written by GW
I went back one night at 9:30, returning home from The City in May of
2016. No problem with having to wait for a seat or table.
The food was good...Caesar Salad was fine and I ordered their Hamburger
Steak ($20) and this was a large "slab" of hamburger, grilled
properly and presented on a plate with a couple of pickled peppers and
499 9th Street
Bread and Tapenade, with a flute of Prosecco
The Piatto della Casa comes with some mixed greens and Mostarda.
Grilled Calamari and Cannellini Beans
The server decanting our bottle of Barolo...
Tagliatta with roasted potatoes and arugula
friend booked a table at this upscale Italian place in Oakland and
requested a "quiet table." I managed to find parking
half a block from the place and was actually on time for our 7:30
The quiet table was easy to find as the place, on a Wednesday night,
with maybe 40% of the roughly 50 seat restaurant being occupied.
The building has apparently been home to several other Italianesque
restaurants. The place is the second restaurant owned by chef
Donato Scotti, who owns Enoteca Donato in Redwood City.
We had a four top along the wall across from the front door. I had
a good view of the area where they have numerous opened wine bottles,
the pizza oven and a bar or counter in front of the kitchen.
Wine glasses are part of the table setting and the wine list was
presented with the menu.
The list has several columns, with many wines being offered by-the-glass
(BTG) and by the bottle. A number of the opened wines are also
offered by "1/3" and "2/3s" of a bottle.
They also have a few selections in half-bottle format.
Six sparkling wines are available, with four of them offered BTG.
Apart from a Moscato d'Asti (Elio Perrone, $9 BTG and $20 for a half
bottle), there's Drusian's Brut Prosecco at $9 BTG and $40 by the
bottle, Veuve Fourny Champagne ($18 BTG, $45 for a half bottle and $85
for a full bottle) and Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco at $8 BTG and $38 by the
bottle. The Lambrusco retails for $11 to $12, while the Drusian
Prosecco retails for about $16.
They offer one Rosato from Piemonte's Ca' Rossa winery...$12 BTG, $19
for a third of a bottle, $37 for 2/3s of a bottle and $55 for a bottle.
There are six opened white wines, with Alois' Falanghina from Campania
costing $8 BTG and $37 for a bottle. Luisa Sauvignon Blanc,
Bucci's Verdicchio and Terlano's Pinot Bianco are all $10 BTG and $46
for a bottle. The Valle Isarco co-op's Kerner is $11 BTG and
Zuani's Collio Bianco from Friuli is $12 BTG and $55 by the bottle.
There are nine other white wines available by the bottle. A
Calabrian Greco is $35, Montenidoli's Vernaccia from San Gimignano is
$38, while Peter Dipoli's Sauvignon from the Alto Adige is $62.
Those are some nice selections!
There's a heading one doesn't usually see on a wine list: Caveat
Emptor and it's a wine from the Damijan winery in Friuli. This is
a blended white, fermented on the skins and then aged nearly two years
in wood and bottled, unfiltered and with sediment. That
risk-of-a-bottle is $85.
Caveat Emptor, indeed!
Nine red wines are available by the glass, carafe and bottle.
These include a modest Sangiovese from the Marche region at $8 BTG and
$37 by the bottle. They have a Nebbiolo from Sandro Fay in Italy's
Valtellina at $15 BTG and $70 by the bottle. Vietti's 2011 Barolo
"Castiglione" $18 BTG and $85 by the bottle. Too
Venturini's excellent 2010 vintage Amarone is $22 BTG and $98 for
The wines-by-the-bottle are categorized not by region or appellation,
but by price range.
The categories are $30-$40, $50-$60 and $70-$90.
Coltibuono Chianti "RS" (I think it's called RS with the
initials of the winemaker, not because it has residual sugar) is $35 and
this retails for about $16. Gulfi's Nero d'Avola is $40 a
bottle. Bartolo Mascarello's Dolcetto is $58, while a Barbaresco
from Albino Rocca is $82. A 2008 Barbaresco from Cantina del Pino
is $87 while a Castello di Verduno Barbaresco from the Rabajà cru is
$95 for the 2009 vintage.
There are 4 high-priced selections, if you're a big spender. $225
will get you a 2001 vintage Brunello from Poggio di Sotto.
The mark-up is higher on the lower-priced bottles, so it makes the more
costly wines a bit more attractive in terms of value. And the wine
selections are good and clearly the work of a savvy wine director.
Corkage is $20 on the first two bottles and $30 for each additional
bottle. Given the wine selections, this seems imminently fair.
We began with a glass of Drusian's Brut Prosecco ($9) and their Piatto
della Casa ($13) which featured three slices each of a smoked duck
breast, "porchetta" and rabbit terrine. They brought a
small paper bag which had a few slices of fresh bread and it was
accompanied by a small ramekin of tapenade. This beats the hell
out of the awful offering, found at so many sketchy Italianesque places,
of cheap oil and even cheaper vinegar (which really kills your palate
We explained to the server that we wanted "to dine," not
merely "eat." He understood and staged the order.
We also asked for a third-of-a-bottle pour of Terlano's Pinot Bianco at
Our second plate was "Monterey Bay Fresh Calamari grilled with
Cannellini Beans" ($12). There was quite a lag time between
the salumi platter and the Calamari...we wondered if the chef was out
trying to catch these? A bowl with loads of beautifully cooked
white beans came with some lettuce leaves and perfectly grilled
With a Bolognese-sauced pasta on the horizon, we pulled a nicely mature
Barolo from our cellar bag and the server brought a carafe and took good
care of decanting the 20 year old Barolo. We shared a glass with
the fellow and he was delighted to taste such a mature Italian red.
The server suggested we consider putting in an order for main plates as
it was closing in on 9pm. There are but three choices, apart from
the various pasta and risotto dishes (which we suppose some people view
as 'main plates') and the 9 pizza offerings.
There's a roasted chicken dish at $23, a Branzino for $22 and the "Tagliata,"
grilled New York Steak at $26.
We might have tried a pizza, but it seemed like time was of the essence,
so we each ordered a main plate. My friend chose the Branzino as
her main course and I went for the Tagliatta.
These each arrived around 9:10-9:15 and as we were just getting started,
the server stopped by to ask if we were going to want dessert
"because the kitchen is closing."
We enjoyed both main plates...good quality food which is prepared with
We finished the mains around 9:35, or so and lingered over the
Barolo. There were perhaps a dozen people scattered around the
restaurant at this stage and we departed a few minutes before 10pm,
having been a bit rushed out of the place.
My friend said she really enjoyed the food, but would not come back
after having been hurried to order, pay and depart.
I can't imagine anyone showing up at 9:15 and hoping to have more than
one quick plate.
Their Open Table app allows patrons to book a table as late as 30
minutes before their posted closing time. Good luck on that!
The bill tallied to about $150 with the corkage fee of $20 and tax
before the tip.
The stemware is good...wine list is good...food is good. But we
might ask that they plan on actually getting out of the restaurant 2
hours after the closing time to allow guests to enjoy their culinary
Reviewed by GW
2704 24th Street
The $2 Bread Plate
Bacon-Wrapped Dates with Cheese
Warm Marinated Olives
Fuji Apple and Brussels Sprouts Salad
Pan Crisped Gnocchi with Mushrooms
Brussels Sprouts with Shallots and Bacon Lardons
Seared Black Cod
Slow Seared Duck Breast
were discussing possible dinner venues on a Tuesday morning and our
friend suggested this relatively new place on 24th Street near Potrero
in The City.
We had a look at their French-themed menu on the restaurant's web site
and decided to see about booking a table. The web site has only an
e-mail address for reservations, but it turns out they are accessible on
It's a fairly quick drive from Burlingame and, in fact, finding a
parking space took more time than the drive up the freeway. I
finally found a spot close by, though.
On a Tuesday night at 8pm the place was sparsely populated. My
dining companions had taken a taxi and were already at the bar when I
arrived. We were escorted to a table close to their open kitchen.
The menus were presented and the rather small wine list is printed on
the page, alongside the food offerings. Wine glasses are a part of the
They offer 5 sparkling wines, two being available by-the-glass
(BTG). There's a simple French sparkler claiming to be made of
grapes grown in the Jura region (really? Ugni Blanc and
Colombard? Sounds more like Gascony to me!) that's $10 BTG or $40
for a bottle. Sous Beurre offers a Spanish Cava at $11 BTG and $44
by the bottle. Duval Leroy Brut Champagne, a $40-$45 retail is $84
by the bottle while a grower's Champagne, which wholesales for roughly
the same price, is $135 on the wine list!
There are six white wines on the list. A simple little white from
France's Gascogne region is $9 BTG and $36 for a bottle. This wine
wholesales for $6.50. A modest Sancerre that retails for $20-$23
is $13 BTG and $52 by the bottle.
For a place that features Provençal-themed dishes, it's curious that
none of the white wine selections come from Provence.
They do have three Rosé wines, though, from Provence. Those will
set you back $40 or $44 for a bottle.
Of the six red wine selections, one comes from close to Provence, a Costières
de Nîmes wine from Mas des Bressades ($9 BTG/$36 for a bottle).
The other offerings include an entry level red Burgundy at $12 BTG/$48
by the bottle, a nice Fronton red which retails for about $16, but costs
$11 BTG and $44 for a bottle.
There's also a Cabernet Franc from the Loire for the same costs, while a
($15 retail) Minervois is $10 by the glass and $40 a bottle.
The wines are sort of "bistro level"-simple, but they could
surely do a better job of selecting wines which would better match the
cuisine and the theme of the restaurant. The Bay Area has a number
of importers who have good portfolios of well-priced wines and wines
from Provence, for that matter.
We opted for a bottle of the Duval Leroy Champagne and the server
brought some nice flutes. We asked, though, to have the wine in
their all-purpose wine glasses that were already on the table.
Another Sous Beurre staffer brought the bottle after maybe 5-10 minutes
and opened it. It's unclear why there was a bit of a delay in
serving the bubbly, as the place was not especially busy.
We ordered a few "bites" to have with the Champagne.
"Levain Bread & House Cultured Butter" is $2. They
brought a small plate with 4 partially-sliced pieces of bread which was
sort of toasted, so it was a bit dried out. I could be wrong, but
this made it seem as though it was not exactly fresh, but maybe from the
"Marinated Olives" ($4) was a nice assortment of different
sized olives...perfectly fine.
I wasn't much interested in the "Bacon-Wrapped Dates & Fromage
Blanc" ($5)...three dates which my friends enjoyed.
There are five starters on the menu, along with several kinds of
oysters. "Duck Heart & Liver Pâté" is $8 or
$9. There was a Celeriac & Turnip Soup for $8. Steak
Tartare is $13. My friends ordered the "Fuji Apple &
Brussels Sprouts Salad" at $9 while I opted for the "Pan
Crisped Gnocchi" ($14).
They enjoyed the salad...the Gnocchi were exceptional and came with
Maitake and Shitake Mushrooms and enhanced by a drop or two of truffle
oil. Very fine!
I had a bottle of an older Rioja in my cellar bag and the server opened
and decanted this (at the table, no less!) nicely. We shared a
taste with him, by the way.
One of our party ordered the Seared Black Cod for a main plate. It
costs $29 and says it comes with "foie," but our friend said
she didn't note the plate as having foie gras unless it was disguised at
a stripe-of-a-sauce on the plate.
Our other dinner companion and I both ordered the "Slow Seared Duck
Breast" ($28) which comes with Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflowers, Baby
Carrots and Preserved Lemon. The vegetables were all smallish and
artistically presented around the plate which featured three small
slices of duck. There may have been 4 to 6 ounces of duck on the
plate...it's a rather meager portion if you've got a healthy appetite.
We also ordered a side dish of Brussels Sprouts ($7) which is offered on
the menu as coming with "shallots and bacon lardons."
The side dish of Brussels Sprouts, by the way, were properly cooked.
Nice flavors with the lardons.
The Brussels Sprouts on on the plate with the duck were rather "al
dente" to be polite or simply well undercooked to be blunt.
We shared a pour of our well-cellared Rioja with the server. The
corkage fee, by the way, is $20 and they have a two bottle maximum.
The stemware is nice, though our wine might have benefited by being
poured into a larger red wine stem.
For dessert we had something called "Insta-Graham" ($10) and
this is described as "blondie, chocolate ice cream, marshmallow
fluff & chocolate covered peanuts."
This was an artistic plate, but the "Graham Cracker" was a bit
bland (though, technically, this is actually how they're supposed to
My friends grabbed the check, which would have been around $250 before
the tax and, if they add a health insurance surcharge. Add the tip
on top of that (though this place used to include a tip as part of the
final bill, but abandoned this as economically unfeasible).
I'm a bit on the fence about going back...the quality of the food was
pretty good, but the lack of an interesting wine list with price-worthy,
good quality selections offsets that to some degree. Add to the
mix the difficulty in finding parking...
Reviewed by GW
closed in the late Spring or early Summer of 2016
|SOME DINING NOTES: (February
Our lack of postings is not an indication we've not been dining
out...in fact, we've had a number of VIP visitors in town the past
couple of months and we've been dining at some favorite
We had a fantastic meal at La
Ciccia with exceptional food. We had a lovely bottle of
Vermentino, but made the mistake of not selecting our own choice of
wines and left it to a sommelier. Most cost $40-$60, but the one we were
served cost $133. Live and learn.
A couple of visits to Marlowe
yielded good meals, good wine service and fine hospitality. We
were able to make a reservation on Open Table following a sporting event
and got there in time for our 10:45 reservation...and no rush to get us
in and out so the server and staff could go home!
has proven to be a great place to take out-of-towners and it really
impressed visitors from Italy on several occasions. Most recently
the Open Table reservation did not actually get made, so we had to wait
a while. But the servers and kitchen crew took good care of us.
We attended a Bordeaux tasting in Santa Monica and were treated to
dinner at a lovely restaurant called Scopa
in Venice (So Cal). The food was delightful, though I was a bit
shocked to find the wine prices be about three times normal
retail. This means a bottle wholesaling for $17, for example, was
$75 on the wine list. A wine I'd have ordered were it $100 (a
Nebbiolo from Piemonte) was on their list for $150. This means
their mark-up is about 400%-450%. The place was packed though and
it's a bit of a hang-out, apparently, for Hollywood celebrities.
A few Asian dining experiences have been good, too. We're fans of
Daly City's Koi
Palace and Millbrae's Hong
Kong Flower Lounge. We bring not only our own wines,
but our own stemware.
A visit down the coast has taken us twice to Duarte's
in Pescadero. This is another place we bring our own wine
glasses. The Cioppino is hard to beat and the same goes for the
Artichoke Soup and Ollalieberry Pie!
We were pressed for time to take a European guest back to SFO and were
able to try the relatively new Millbrae Hunan restaurant called
"wonderful." And, aptly so! While it's not a wine
venue as most of their dishes are rather spicy, we did have a nice range
of plates and each was quite good. Don't miss the Green Onion
Pancake...it's unlike those greasy disks served at most places.
Wonderful's came out multi-layered, steaming hot and
GW February 2016
1165 Merrill Street
A pour of a California Sauvignon Blanc for $10.
Shrimp and Corn Fritters
Bradley's Caesar Salad
A nice stem for our bottle of red wine.
The Steak & Potatoes
Overcooked Pork, Undercooked Potatoes...
the turn of the new year, 2016, we booked a Sunday table following a
movie at the nearby Guild (Youth, with Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel
was entertaining and very appealing visually, by the way).
This place is near the Menlo Park train station and was the home of
Gambardella's in its last incarnation. Bradley is the famous chef,
Bradley Ogden, of Lark Creek fame.
Parking was easy and the restaurant was sparsely populated.
We were escorted to a four-top table in a sort of booth. I was
facing the bar which had a large screen TV monitor showing a football
game...this was a bit distracting. The sound system was piping in
Beatles and Rolling Stones tunes at a slightly loud level.
We were each given a menu and the binder containing the drinks and wine
list was presented. Wine glasses are not part of the table
setting, as they might prefer patrons to order a beer or cocktail which
provide somewhat heftier percentages (but usually fewer dollars).
There is one sparkling wine offered by-the-glass (BTG) and that's
Chandon's California Brut. You can find this in chain stores for
about $15 a bottle and the restaurant asks $14 for a glass.
This is sold by one of the big liquor distributors and I wonder why, of
all the available bubblies from California, have they chosen this?
Six reds and six whites are available by-the-glass. Au Bon Climat
Chardonnay is $14, while the same producer's Pinot Noir is $15. Qupe
Syrah is $13. But then it's downhill from there. Luna Pinot Grigio
is ten bucks, while a Terra d'Oro Rose that's 2 vintages old is
They offer a "Sonoma Valley" Cabernet from the Cannonball
winery at $13, but the wine is labeled with a generic
The bottle list offers three sparkling wines, Chandon Brut ($42),
Roederer Estate Brut ($48) and Billicart (sic) Reserve Brut Champagne at
They offer 7 Chardonnays including a Lynmar "Russian River, Santa
Maria Valley" bottling at $66. There's a Foxen "Bien
NaciCoast" (sic) Chardonnay at $67. Kistler's Chardonnay is
$140 a bottle.
Three Sauvignon Blanc wines are available in full bottle format, with
Sebastiani at $36 and a Margerum from Santa Barbara going for $42.
There are two Pinot Gris wines, a Joel Gott Riesling from Washington at
$32 and a Paso Robles white wine from Clos Solene at $105.
You'll find five Pinot Noirs, including Kistler at $120 a bottle.
Two Syrah wines are offered, both from Paso Robles and both triple-digit
priced. Pride Mountain Merlot is available in half bottle format
at $60 or you can get a full bottle of Joel Gott Merlot from Washington
State at $33. Seven Cabernets are available, Cannonball being $38
a bottle. Robert Craig's Cabernet is $100 a bottle, while there
are three other producer's wines for $175 per bottle and a Revana
Cabernet at $200. Mayacamas (Mayacamus on the wine list) is
available in half bottle format at $98.
Why this place doesn't have a broader priced spectrum of Cabernets is a
mystery...you can get an unremarkable wine for the $38 price or else you
need some serious cash for the other bottles. Ramey's Claret, a
Cabernet blend, is $70.
It's a curious list with a few interesting wines, but it doesn't appear
to be the work of a wine-savvy buyer. (And with a number of typos,
we more easily understand some of the wine selections.) If it's a
"diner" or even a "fine diner," why not have a more
serious wine list? It doesn't have to be a larger list, but one
with more expertly chosen bottlings instead of the "this will
do" or "this is good enough" list.
The corkage fee is $15.
My dining companion ordered her usual Martini and I opted for
Sebastiani's Sauvignon Blanc at $10. This was a very ordinary
glass of plonk and apparently it's available to restaurants for well
under ten bucks a bottle.
The stemware is certainly reasonable in terms of quality. The
wine, though, is not poured table-side, so customers take it on good
faith they've poured the wine that's been ordered.
The menu offers seven "Starters," including Crispy Zucchini
($7), Hummus ($11) and Fried Chicken Sliders ($9).
Bradley's Caesar Salad is $8, Butternut Squash Soup is $6 and there's a
Rustic Clam Chowder at $15.
They have a few burgers, the Wood Fired Chuck Burger going for $16 or
you might opt for the Quinoa Burger at $15.
Fish & Chips is $19, half of a roasted chicken is $26 and there's
Mom's Meatloaf for $19.
The Old Bat began with the Caesar Salad ($8) and I did not taste
this...she often kvetches that it lacks garlic or anchovies and I did
not hear a peep out of her.
I began with the Shrimp & Corn Fritters ($11) which has a celery
root slaw underneath a handful of tasty little fried morsels.
I ordered the $27 Pork Chop with Gizdish (sic) Farms apple, bacon
crumble, brussels sprouts and poached red bliss potatoes.
The server asked if cooking it to medium rare-to-medium was acceptable
and I said that was fine.
I thought, though, he was asking about the Pork Chop. It turns out
the meat was close to well-done, while the potatoes were
"medium-rare" and rather starchy-tastings. The Brussels
Sprouts were quite "al dente," too, but within the realm of
The Old Bat ordered their $39 plate of "Steak and Potatoes"
described as "angus ribeye, arugula, PRO (what do you suppose
that is?), roasted mushroom, crispy red bliss potatoes, balsamic
I had a bite of the steak and it was quite good and properly
cooked. She was quite enthusiastic about her meal, but I was not
much enthralled with my main plate.
The server never asked if the food was acceptable...on this occasion I
might have said something.
He did come by and topped up the wine glasses, as I had brought a bottle
of a Rioja to evaluate. That was as disappointing as the Pork
Chop, though. We offered the fellow a taste and we heard something
about his abstaining from alcohol for some reason.
We skipped dessert.
The bill tallied to $129 including tax, but not the tip.
This place needs someone who knows the wine & food business to take
the reigns and make a go of it. As it's currently running, I'd
predict they'll be there solely for a short run.
Reviewed by GW
1525 Fillmore Street
Dinner Daily from 5:30
Not Lioco Chardonnay!
The wine arrived after the first little plate of food.
Shiitakes with a Crispy Rice 'cracker'
Oysters with seaweed
California Sturgeon Caviar topped with a "potato cloud"
Steak Tartare with the toasted Quinoa...
...Mixed at the table by our server
Decanting our bottle of Bordeaux
Grilled Pork with pig ear strips
Devil's Gulch Rabbit
Harissa Lamb with Merguez Sausages
Cocoa Chiffon Cake with Huckleberries
|A table at The Progress is a
hot ticket presently and we used Open Table to reserve a two-top for a
Monday evening in late November (2015).
We booked an 8pm table and motored up Fillmore Street looking for the
restaurant. If you can't see the street numbers (and they're not
easily visible) and are looking for a sign for The Progress, good luck!
Both The Progress and its hot-shot sibling restaurant next door, State
Bird Provisions, are both too cool (apparently) to have signage helping
guests from out of the neighborhood find the place.
There's a parking lot a block, or so, away at the Kabuki Theater
building in nearby Japan-town. I found a spot a block away near a
softball or soccer field.
Arriving a few minutes early and before my friend, I was asked to wait
in the bar. Once she showed up a couple of minutes later we were
escorted upstairs to a second-level dining area and we had a spacious
table for four.
Wine glasses are not part of the table setting and the wine list with
which we were presented had a bunch of cocktails, as those are a feature
at The Progress.
The menu is eclectic and features familiar ingredients and flavors but
sometimes in unfamiliar combinations. The wine list is lengthy and
features a wide range of off-the-beaten path selections.
The food menu offers five little "nibbles" to start and the
portions are tailored to the number of people at the table. On the
night we visited, there were there five items:
The Bahri dates are quite sweet and possibly better suited to service as a
dessert. All that sugar can kill your appetite. I wasn't
excited about the tofu offering, but did like the fried chicken karaage
and the shiitakes with the crispy rice "chips".
A big part of the presentation is the "show business" aspect of
the dining experience here. Either the server or someone from the
kitchen (I gather) presents each dish and then gives you an explanation as
to what they've served.
On their "By the Glass" list, we found two sparkling wines, two
roses and 6 whites and 6 reds.
There's a Cremant Rose from the Loire for $16 a glass or Alfred Gratien Champagne
at $24 a pour.
They have a Franken Riesling for $14, a French dry white made of Rolle
from Provence for $16, a Vermentino from Liguria for $18, a Chablis for
$17, a Lioco Chardonnay from the Russian River for $18 and a Portuguese
white made of Arinto from the Bucelas appellation at $15. Each of
these white wines are offered in half bottle format, too.
They have a Vesper Rose from San Diego County at $14 a pour. (The
crew here in the shop tasted the wines made by this producer and no staff
member was especially thrilled by the wines, but your mileage may vary.)
Reds include Michel Guignier's Morgon for $14, a Pinot Noir of the
Edaphos label from Sonoma for $19, Helda Rabaut's Chinon for $16, a
Nebbiolo by Carlo Giacosa at $18, Broc Cellars Carignan for $15 and a
Croatian Refosk of the Piquentum label at $15 (we had one vintage of this
in the shop, but a succeeding bottling was vinegary and reminiscent of
Yes, these are not household names, so you'd better be as adventuresome
about the wines as The Progress is about the culinary combinations.
Fifteen Champagnes are offered by the bottle, ranging from $90 for
Jeauneux-Robin bubbly to a 1990 Dom Perignon at $390.
In the page offering US white wines, we find a Chenin Blanc from
Clarksburg at $55 a bottle (St. Rey is the winery), while Ojai's Riesling
is $64 a bottle. You can try a Washington State Gewurztraminer of
the Analemma winery at $62 or a Liquid Farms Chardonnay for $90.
Mount Eden's Estate Chardonnay from the Santa Cruz Mountains is
$130. There is a sub-section of "skin fermented" wines
which has Ryme Cellars Ribolla Gialla at $90 or Dirty & Rowdy Semillon
The range of imported white wines is impressive. How many lists
offer one Chasselas, let alone two? Romorantin from the Loire is $55 a
bottle and there's a hundred buck bottle of Verdicchio! There's a
Muscadet for $110 and, yes, it is a magnum.
They have eleven Chenin Blanc wines from France's Loire Valley, ranging
from $50, or so, to $180. Really, eleven?
Hamilton Russell Chardonnay is $75 and one of the better values on this
voluminous wine list. Still, that's well more than twice its retail
The red wine selections are equally eclectic. There's a $70 of
Gamay, not from Beaujolais, but from the Rhone Valley! How about a
Gamay blended with Persan from the Savoie for $90? Or a
Persan/Mondeuse blend from the same domaine in the Savoie at $160 a
bottle? A Pineau d'Aunis from the Loire is $70, but since you can
never have enough Pineau d'Aunis, it's also offered in magnum at
$130! Foradori's lovely Teroldego is $55 a bottle and one of the
better values on this remarkable list.
There is also a page of "Cellar Selections" at prices which make
the rest of the list seem like bargains.
The main wines on the list are varied, as noted and you'll find a dearth
of Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux. Perhaps they view these as passé?
Or perhaps they don't think Cabernet matches well with their
Frankly, it's the sort of wine list which impresses the hell out of wine
geeks and publications such as The Wine Spectator. One one hand, the
range of wines is impressive, but it's almost one of those
"look-at-me" wine lists, designed to befuddle 90% of those
dining in the restaurant.
No sommelier or wine steward approached our table to offer advice in
pairing wines to the varied menu. And yet the prices they're asking
for these bottles should cover the expense of having a knowledgeable wine
specialist on the floor, even on a Monday night.
We ordered a pour of their Cremant Rose from the Loire, a $16 glass.
Also, we asked for a glass of the Morgado de Santa Catherina from the
Bucelas appellation, a $15 glass of a white wine made of the Arinto
grape. The server returned to the table with a couple of glasses and
a bottle of the sparkling wine. She poured a small taste and got the
"okay" from my friend. Then she poured the glass of bubbly
and said she'd return with the Lioco wine.
We had not ordered the Lioco Chardonnay, but the Portuguese white wine.
She brought the correct wine several minutes later and poured a sip, which
I gave the nod to pour it.
By then, the little morsels of Fried Chicken had arrived...quite
good. The tofu dish was okay, but not my favorite sort of
vittles. The crudités were fine, a couple of little carrots and a
radish and some other root vegetable with a lump of Crescenza
cheese. I liked the Shiitake mushrooms with a crispy, toasted rice
"plank." My dining companion was not so thrilled.
We augmented the starters with half a dozen oysters ($3.50 each) and a
serving of Caviar at ten bucks. The oysters had a little bit of
seaweed on top of them and this, I believe, is where some sort of smoky,
foreign element came from. My friend ate one and was not
enthralled. I found them interesting, but a fresh oyster
doesn't need but a glass of Champagne or Muscadet for an enhancement.
A little saucer arrived with a dome-like white element on top of a bit of
caviar. I thought this was a good little "nibble," but my
more fussy friend did not.
By this time I had a bottle of a 1978 Bordeaux on the table and the server
passed by a handful of times without saying a word. Finally she
asked if we wanted her to open this. I inquired if they had an
"Ah So" cork-puller in the house, as a regular corkscrew would
bust the cork on such a venerable bottle. She said they did and
whisked the bottle off the table and she headed up the little staircase.
The Steak Tartare with Nasturtium-Caper Aioli, Shaved Kohlrabi and Crispy
Quinoa had arrived and we waited for the wine to return to our table.
We waited some more.
After perhaps five minutes, or so, she returned from downstairs (!) with
our bottle and a cork which had proven difficult to extract. The
cork was in two pieces, but was fully out of the bottle. She asked
about decanting the wine and we thought that was a good idea. This
required a bit of time, as well, so I gingerly poured each of us a small
taste in the Bordeaux stems which had been brought by the server.
We offered the lady a taste of the wine and she laughed, but did not
decline the offer.
She decanted the remaining wine for us and did so at the table.
We ended up finishing the bottle after asking her again to bring a
glass. Oh well. Apparently she was not interested.
The Steak Tartare dish was good...my friend would have preferred a bit of
toast to accompany this, but The Progress provides the sort of granulated,
toasty Quinoa instead. I found it to be an interesting and good
combination. But as with many dishes here, the chef seems to want to
take you out of your comfort zone.
Going slightly out of order (we were told the main plates are listed on
the menu from "lightest" to "heaviest"), the Grilled
Pork dish arrived next. This came with "crushed broccoli, dried chili
oil & tomatillo salsa." This came with thinly sliced strips
of pig ears and, we were told, was topped with Fiscalini Cheese. This was
curious, since the server inquired about any food allergies or preferences
we might have. I mentioned dairy products and cheese in
particular. I didn't detect the use of much cheese and only thought
I got a little hint of it at the end.
This was another interesting dish with the chili being detectable,
while not overwhelming the pork.
They then brought the Devil's Gulch Rabbit with Riesling-Braised Kraut,
Fuyu Persimmons & Mustard Butter Toast. The Kraut was very mild,
so it didn't have quite the intensity I was expecting.
As we finished this plate, the server came by and collected the dinner
plates and silverware. We figured this was in preparation for the
Harissa Lamb from Don Watson with Charred Pepper Vinaigrette and
She asked if we'd like to see the dessert menu and we were a bit
perplexed. We asked about the lamb and she may have been
contemplating returning the soiled plates to the table, but thought better
of it and replaced them with clean ones and new silverware.
The Lamb dish was not described fully, as there were slices of Merguez
sausages on the plate with a few pieces of roasted lamb. This was a
very flavorful dish and, happily, not overwhelming spicy, though you could
taste the harissa.
We finished the bottle of Bordeaux and then the server presented a small
dessert card. They offered a Cheddar Cheese plate, an Elderflower
"Floating Island," Gingersnap Ice Cream or a Cocoa Chiffon Cake
at ten bucks.
We opted for the Chiffon Cake.
This was a small wedge of a cake dappled with huckleberries. Nice.
The bill arrived and we were charged for the Lioco Chardonnay, a few bucks
higher than the Arinto we had requested and were poured.
I don't think the $2.80 billing per person for the mandated SF Employee
Health Care was surcharged on the check.
We paid the $240 tab and left a reasonable tip, too.
I can now say I've "been there/done that" in terms of dining
at The Progress. I found the experience to be interesting, but
wouldn't have this place high on my list of San Francisco dining
I wonder if they don't have a series of dart boards in the kitchen with
menu ingredients on them, tossing a bunch of darts to assemble each
night's array of menu offerings.
When I arrived at home, I had a small glass of eau-de-vie, as a bit of a
digestif was required after such a meal.
Reviewed by GW
1355 Market Street
Open Mon-Fri 11:30am-10pm
Seafood platter...the small one.
A piece of bread...
Brandade de Morue
Terrific bread for the Steak Tartare.
Duck au Poivre
booked an 8:30pm table for two on a Monday evening in October at
this new restaurant in the Twitter Building on Market at 10th Street.
At that hour I was able to find parking about a block away and had a
short walk to the restaurant.
There's a grocery store close to the restaurant and there's some sort of
florist business that you'll encounter when you enter Bon Marche.
They have a bar along the Market Street entrance and the restaurant is
behind all the flowers.
There's an open kitchen area to the right and tables to the left.
We were escorted to a two-top with my friend sitting on a banquette and
I was in one of their free-standing chairs (which was a tad low for my
There were wine glasses on the table and the hostess brought a wine list
and "drinks" list for us to peruse.
They have many nice selections by-the-glass (BTG). For bubbles
they had a sparkling Pacory pear cider for $10. Navaran Cava from
Spain is $11, while there's an Italian bubbly associated with Colorado
sommelier Bobby Stuckey at $12 a pour. They have an unidentified
"Rotating House Champagne" that's described as Pinot
Meunier-dominant for $16 or, for an extra buck, you can have the
"popcorn salt rim." Huh? You've lost me there.
Seven whites are offered BTG. Each has a brief description:
"Alpine White" for a Roussette from the Savoie ($11) or
"Tad Sweet German Riesling" for a $13 glass of Peter Lauer's
"Barrel X". Seven reds are on the list, including a
"Traditional Old Barrel Rioja Reserva 2006" by La Antigua
($16) or "Cool Climate Syrah by County Line" ($14) or
"Volcanic Nerello Mascalese Cala Cala" at $12.
Flip a page in the binder-of-a-wine-list and you see they offer
"Wine By Style."
"Big on Sparkling" features a range of bubblies, including
"Champagne made in oak 'Classique' by Alfred Gratien at $82 or
"Vintage Champagne "Blanc des Blancs" 2005 by Pierre
Moncuit at $100.
"White Wines-Creamy or Savory" has a listing of Austrian Grüner
Veltliners and French Chablis. There's a listing of
"White Wines--Oxidative in a Good Way, Nutty or
Honeyed." There we find 5 Chenin Blanc wines, two from South
Africa and three from Loire Valley appellations, but not the common
Vouvray or Montlouis, but Jasnières, Savennières and Anjou. Guigal's
Hermitage Blanc is listed as a Marsanne (it does usually have 5%
Roussanne, by the way) and goes for $100.
"White Wines-Big on Aromatics and Texture" finds Guigal's
Hermitage listed again ($100) as it was previously. There's a 1994
Vouvray from Cruchet at $60 and a $120 bottle of Keller's Kirchspiel
Riesling from 2007. There's a 1995 Kalin Cellars Chardonnay for
$65 and it's listed again below in the "White Wines-A Little
Age" section. Four pink wines are listed as "Highly
Gulpable Still Rosé Wines," but none of the four have the vintage
"Red Wines-Red Fruits Soft Tannins" finds a number of
Burgundies and West Coast Pinot Noirs, along with several Rioja wines
from Spain. $85 gets you a Peay Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir while $80
gets you La Rioja Alta's Viña Ardanza (we sell that for $29.99 and it
lists for $35 at retail).
"Red Wines-Dried Fruits, Very Dry Wines" sees seven Italian
wine offerings. "Barbaresco Single Site 'Ronchi' 2010 by
Rocca From Piedmont" goes for a mere $66 (though the list doesn't
tip you off that it's Albino Rocca and not Bruno). There's
"Barolo Single Site 'Monprivato' 2010 by G. Mascarello From
Piedmont" for $220 (and they do tip you off to it being Giuseppe
and not Bartolo Mascarello).
"Red Wines-Red and Dark Fruits, Equally Savory" sees a number
of Rhone reds and California wines made of Rhone varieties.
There's a Clusel-Roch Côte-Rôtie for $100 but the vintage date is
omitted. A Sang de Cailloux Vacqueyras ($65) and a Châteauneuf-du-Pape
by Feraud-Brunel ($77) don't have vintage dates and both are listed
under "Red and Dark Fruits, Equally Savory" and "Sweeter
Fruits, Bigger Wines." The 2009 Mayacamas Cabernet, retailing
at $80-$90 for a 750ml bottle is $97 on this list, while Dunn's 2000
Howell Mountain Cabernet is $150...a couple of relative bargains.
The list continues with numerous categories...
In a hand-writing font there's "Wine for Food" and directly
below is a category called "Perfect for Nothing But
Conversation." Huh? And then we have listed many of the
wines we've already seen under the sparkling wine category or the Rose
category. "For Oysters-More Briny and Crisp" we
see a few Champagnes, Chablis and a half bottle of Sancerre. Then
there's "For Oysters-More Creamy and Sweet." These
include some dry Rieslings and Loire Valley Chenin Blancs.
There's a section of "For Cold Salads and Tartare" and one of
"For Charcuterie-White Wines" and one for Reds.
"For Things With Shells-Whites and Reds" sees many of the
wines already listed in previous categories.
There are other pages with categories such as "France,"
"Italy," "Germany," "Austria,"
"Spain" and "California." Then we have
"50 and Under" and "$51-$99"...and "$100 and
It's an interesting way to take some of the mystery out of the wine
list. No sommelier was working the floor when we visited, so
perhaps this excessive categorization of the list is in lieu of a somm?
Our server was a young lady and she had a bit of a challenge in opening
the Champalou sparkling Vouvray ($50) we ordered to start.
She brought nice, Zalto-styled glasses for the bubbly, poured the
"say" and we were off and running. The server asked if
she should leave the bottle on the table or keep it on ice. We
chose the latter, providing she kept the glasses with bubbly...she had
more tables than she could comfortably cover, so this was a
challenge. She'd pour wine into an empty glass, but, curiously,
not top up the other glass.
We ordered a small seafood platter ($36) and this was placed on one of
those large stands that sits at close to eye level and is filled with
crushed ice...there were half a dozen oysters, three or four chilled
prawns and perhaps a half a dozen clams on the plate.
At a certain point, a piece of bread would have been nice and, after a
few minutes, a fellow carrying a basket and tongs placed part of a Pain
d'Epi on the bread plate...perfectly okay, but it would have been
nicer had it been fresher or warm. (My French friend said this
sort of bread can become stale more quickly than other types of
We'd ordered their Brandade, as well ($7). This came out well
after the seafood platter had been removed from the table. There
were some pieces of a toasted baguette on the plate with the
Brandade. Served warm, it was a bit soupy and less thick than
virtually every other serving of Brandade I've enjoyed...it's usually
the consistency of mashed potatoes.
The flavor was mildly reminiscent of cod, though.
Since we were both quite hungry (missed lunch as it was a busy day in
the shop), I ordered one of their $15 appetizers, Escargot Persillade,
while she ordered the $18 Steak Tartare. (Other appetizers
included Sweetbreads, Bone Marrow, Mussels, a Foie Gras Terrine and
more...classic bistro fare.)
The Escargot come on a square of puff pastry and topped with ribbon-like
strips of carrots and some other vegetable (zucchini, perhaps?).
Quite a good plate and the escargot were plump and toothsome. The
Steak Tartare is accompanied by some small greens and it's got a tiny
egg swimming on top of the beef. This is accompanied by a couple
of outstanding slices of a Pain au Levain that had been toasted
perfectly. The tartare was good, maybe leaning a bit much on the
mustard and/or capers. They had a few little thick cut 'logs' of
potato on this plate...but these were not fully cooked and a bit odd.
From the "Plate de Resistance" ($29) section of the menu, she
ordered the Steak Frites (with watercress, Roquefort and Cognac Jus),
while I chose the Duck au Poivre (with Preserved Brook Cherries and Wax
We produced a bottle of a nice Bordeaux from our cellar bag and the
server opened the bottle. The larger Zalto-styled glasses that
were on the table as part of the place-setting were now in play.
We offered the server a taste and she brought a glass and walked back to
the kitchen with a healthy pour (as in many restaurants, servers are not
permitted to have a sip in the dining room).
The duck was quite good and the accompaniments paired well. My
friend enjoyed the steak and the frites.
Dessert was out of the question, given all the starters we
Corkage is a whopping $35 as they clearly want to discourage guests from
bringing their own wine. They allow two bottles at $35 and
succeeding bottles are taxed at $55!
With the SF Heath 'tax' and sales tax, the bill tallied to $243.
This was a nice dining experience and the ambience was open and
airy. The sound system was playing music in the background that
dove-tailed nicely without intruding.
We had a pleasant dining experience and I'd certainly go back for
Reviewed by GW
445 South California Avenue
Lunch 11am-3pm, Dinner 5pm-9.30pm
Breakfast 9am-11am, Lunch 11am-3pm, Dinner 5pm-9.30pm
Brunch 9am-3pm, Dinner 5pm-9.30pm
Brunch 9am-3pm, Dinner 5pm-9:00pm
Wine "By The Glass"
booked a table at this Palo Alto dining spot on a Sunday evening during
the summer...there were a number of table on the sidewalk in front of
the restaurant as people enjoyed the setting sun and the warm weather.
We took a table inside, where there is seating for perhaps 40 people.
It's a lovely dining room with French-themed paintings on the wall
"advertising" butter and olive oil.
We took a table by the front window and the host gave us menus and a
wine list. Wine glasses are part of the table setting here.
There are 3 "flights" of wines offered, one featuring
"Delicious Whites" ($17), another is called "Luscious
Reds" ($19) and a Chardonnay flight ($18). All the wines
offered are fairly standard quality and of little interest to serious
There are twelve wines offered in half-bottle format, these ranging from
Rombauer's Zinfandel at $32 for a half bottle (it retails for $15, so
the markup is a bit more than 3 times) to $50 for a half bottle of Clos
de L'Oratoire Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc
in half-bottle format is listed as a 2011 vintage (a bit old, but
probably still okay) at $36.
The wine list claims to have 20 selections available "by the
There's J. Roget sparkling wine for $7.50 BTG or $30 a bottle (this
wholesales from $3.64 a bottle to $4.27!).
Tiamo Prosecco, another sketchy choice, is $9.50 BTG and not available
The one other sparkler BTG is Veuve de Vernay, a $9-$10 retail bottle of
French bubbly (not Champagne, but passed off to unsuspecting consumers
as possibly being Champagne). This is $11 BTG and $34 by the bottle.
Stags Leap ($15), Wellington ($11) and Tariquet (from Gascony) ($9) are
the Chardonnays available BTG. We do not know if the first one is
Stags' Leap Winery or Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, however.
For some reason they post a category of Pouilly-Fuisse wines separated
from the Chardonnays.
There are 13 Pinot Noir wines, including two from Lodi (a hot climate
area where someone is attempting to grow a cool-climate grape,
apparently) at $36 and $40. Meiomi, a $16 wholesale bottle, is
$65. Goldeneye Pinot is $98 and Merry Edwards goes for $90.
They have 8 Merlots, Duckhorn being the leading candidate, though it is
$90 a bottle.
There are five Cotes du Rhone offerings, a $12 retail bottling that's a
private label (we suspect) is $40 on the wine list. More
noteworthy is Chapoutier's, a wine wholesaling for $10-$11 and this is
$36 on the list.
There are six "Rhone Blend" selections, along with a couple of
Six Zinfandels are listed, Ridge Three Valleys going for $48, I think.
There's an entry-level red Bordeaux from Chateau Bonnet at $42 with no
really savvy selections, though a Pomerol from Franc-Maillet, 2009
vintage, is $150.
In fact, maybe that's the problem with the wine list: when you
have a mark-up of 300%, or more, the wines should be of a quality that
customers get some value for their dollar.
Amongst the Cabernet selections, Silver Oak's Alexander Valley
bottling is $120, Caymus' new release is $150 and Jordan is $105 a
The entry level bottlings are Nightfall from Lodi at $36, Joel Gott at
$44 and J. Lohr is $68.
Curiously, they offer not one French Red Burgundy!
Perusing the menu, you'll find all sorts of classic main plate bistro
items. The starters are somewhat more creative.
"Brioche Beignets Frits" ($9.95) are brioche dough balls
stuffed with artichoke hearts, shallots, herbs and goat cheese.
They offer "Thon," pepper-crusted Ahi tuna with quinoa,
pickled radish and lemon zest ($14.95). Foie de Volaille ($9.95)
is a serving of Chicken Livers in a red wine sauce.
French Onion Soup is $8, a green salad is $7.95 and a Caesar Salad is
I'd be fairly certain the "Charcuterie" items are not
house-made and probably come with a label where they are spelled
correctly. They got "Coppa" right, but swung and missed
on Prosciutto and Finocchiona.
There are 6 cheeses offered under the Fromage heading.
They immediately brought a bread basket filled with a nice pain
levain, as we perused the menu.
The Old Bat ordered her customary Tanqueray Martini ($10) and I opted
for a pour of a Domäne Wachau Grüner Veltliner ($10). The wine
comes in a small carafe and they poured about half into a nice, large
wine glass. Good!
"Calamar" ($11.95) are fried calamari with a lime chili aioli
sauce. Nicely done.
I went for their attempt at a Caesar Salad, but the garlic and anchovy
seemed to be missing, so this was a half a dozen, or so, Romaine Lettuce
leaves on a plate. Bland and boring.
We produced a bottle from our cellar bag, a nice red Bordeaux. The
corkage, we were told, was normally $15, but as The Old Bat was so
friendly, they did not charge us.
We invited the owners (we think this Greek couple are the owners,
anyway) to have a sip with us and we poured them some of the Bordeaux.
For a main plate, The Old Bat ordered Bouillabaisse ($23.95). I
skipped the tempting Boeuf Bourguignon ($22.95), Steak Frites ($26.95),
Coq au Vin ($19.95) and Magret de Canard ($24.95) in favor of
their Cassoulet de Toulouse ($23.95). We were told they were out
of the pork chop for that, but would double up either the sausage or
duck confit. We opted for the latter and this was good, though the
sausage was maybe even better. It was served in a large soup bowl
filled with white beans, cooked al dente. Cassoulet is not a fancy
dish and this was very reasonable.
The Old Bat enjoyed the Bouillabaisse, as well.
The service was good here...pleasant and friendly, but
attentive. They kept our water glasses filled, too.
We skipped dessert. The bill, without the corkage fee, tallied to
$96, quite reasonable we felt.
The ambience of the place is nice. The Old Bat was delighted that
it was not noisy and diners can converse without having to yell to be
We will certainly return to this nice neighborhood bistro as we often
attend the cinema in Palo Alto.
Why don't we have a nice French place such as this in Burlingame???
Reviewed by GW
535 Ramona Street
Open Daily for Lunch/Brunch
Oink and Cluck...with red beans & rice as a side dish.
booked a Sunday evening table at this place in downtown Palo Alto.
The Old Bat immediately vetoed climbing the stairs to the upper level
for a table, so we were guided to one in a small alcove on the main
The hostess brought the menu, which has the wine list on the back.
No wine glasses are part of the place setting, as they seem to be more
enthusiastic for customers to order cocktails.
They have about 18 wines available "by the glass" (BTG).
If you're shopping at Safeway or Trader Joe's, you might find the wine
list to be a thing of beauty: Hess Chardonnay is $8 a glass, while
Franciscan is $10 and Sonoma Cutrer's Russian River Valley bottling is
$14 (or $54 by the bottle for a wine wholesaling for $14.75!).
Trefethen Riesling is $48 a bottle, a wine retailing for $25 at the
A number of their selections are "marketing department" wines,
sporting names such as "Gothic Nevermore Pinot Noir" ($50 a
bottle), "The Velvet Devil Merlot" ($30), "Fearless Rider
Malbec" ($34), "Right Hand Man Syrah" ($34), etc. A
bottle of Silver Oak Cabernet is $90, while Flowers Pinot Noir is
$75. They have two Zinfandels, Artezin ($34) and Bella's Big River
Ranch at $60. No Ridge, though, despite one of California's best
Zin estates being just a few miles from the restaurant!
They had two Roses, both 2013 vintage, a year older than we'd typically
like in 2015.
If you like a good, crisp, exuberant Sauvignon Blanc, you're out of
luck. Lange Twins from Lodi is $8 BTG and $30 for a bottle.
Provenance from Napa is $10 for a glass and $38 by the bottle, while
Cakebread is $40 for a bottle.
The corkage fee is a modest ten dollars.
The menu features New Orleans' cuisine.
Spicy Jambalaya is $19, but if you want it with two seared scallops,
it's $24. Fried Chicken & Waffles is $22. On Fridays and
Saturdays they offer a "Bayou Crawfish & Shrimp Boil"
($28). Baby Back Ribs are $28, while Crawfish Hushpuppies are $8
as a starter.
Chicken Andouille Gumbo is $5 for a cup or $9 for a bowl.
Barbecued Shrimp & Grits is $14.
We ordered a cup of Gumbo for each of us. A while later a fellow
came to the table with a bowl of rice and a small pitcher, pouring the
soup on top of the rice. It starts out fairly tame, but by the
fourth spoonful, you'll feel the heat. I thought the soup was
pretty good, though the cornbread wedge accompanying it was a bit weak.
The Old Bat ordered her usual Dry Martini with an olive and and
onion. Oops...they were out of onions!
Corkage fee, as mentioned, is $10 and I brought a nicely chilled bottle
of Rose out of the cellar bag. The young lady waiting on his was
challenged to open this bottle, but finally prevailed and the cork came
out in one piece.
She didn't pour "the say" and I had to give her a sign as to
when to stop pouring so she didn't over-fill the glass.
Before the soup dishes had been cleared, our main plates arrived!
It seems the service at this place is less-than-polished and the kids
waiting tables may need someone actually supervising the dining room.
The Old Bat ordered the $19 Jambalaya, eschewing the Sea Scallop
version. I had a forkful and this was perfectly okay.
My main plate was called "Cluck & Oink" ($24) and was a
piece of Mary's Fried Chicken (boneless) and half a rack of ribs.
The Chicken tasted like some sort of "fast food" protein...It
reminded me, a bit, of fried fish! The ribs had a curiously glossy
appearance and the meat literally "fell off the bone" as it
had been cooked to a fare-the-well and then some. The sauce was a
touch sweet, despite possibly having a drop of vinegar in it. I
wondered if the ribs were actually cooked on site or brought in
Yes, it was not a meal with great food or great service.
The bill tallied to $72 before the tip, as we were charged $11 for the
Martini and $1.50 for something called the "Healthcare
Act." She forgot to add the $10 corkage fee, but we left the
young lady a nice tip that helped cover that omission.
I can't say the quality of the food or service was sufficiently good to
warrant another visit. It's certainly not a wine-centric
Reviewed by GW
|Some Notes: (June 2015)
A friend was departing for a work assignment in Vietnam and we wanted to
have a little "Bon Voyage" Dinner with some upscale Asian
cuisine. Another friend arranged with the manager of a place for a
late seating on the appointed day.
We arrived a bit early and some of our party had a cocktail. I was
introduced to the manager as the owner of a wine shop. The
manager, seeing my bag of bottles pulled our "connection"
aside and informed them we would be allowed to open but two bottles.
I had selected wines to pair with their food (a lot of Rieslings) which
were made by wineries I'd visited in Europe with the guest of
honor. Some of the bottles were quite special and well-aged.
Another selection was from a winery the guest-of-honor visited with her
husband on their honeymoon this earlier this year.
The reservation was for a 9pm table (so we were not hindering the
restaurant from turning the table and serving other customers). We
eschewed having a new glass for the second wine.
The GM never came to our table to see how we were doing. We'd have
offered him a sip of our wine had he stopped by.
We were mostly full, with just a bit of hunger remaining, as I noticed
people picking over the bones of the whole fish we'd ordered.
As we were unable to enjoy a third bottle (and they had not brought by a
wine list), we concluded the evening by asking for the check.
The dining establishment graciously waived the $25 per bottle corkage
The bill tallied to $200, or so, and we left a $50 tip.
We thought this would have been a much more satisfying dining experience
had the GM been a tad more hospitable.
<<He could have outlined the ground rules to start, saying
"Look, the first two bottles are free, but additional bottles will
incur the $25 corkage fee." Or "Please order a bottle
from our list and then we'll open whatever bottles in your bag you'd
like to drink." >>
We'd have ordered a bit more food had we been able to open another
bottle or two.
Well, a week AFTER the meal, the GM sent an e-mail message to the sales
rep who had reserved the table for our group. He informed her that
she is no longer welcome in the restaurant and he will discontinue doing
business with the company she works for, citing our bringing our 6
bottle wine bag into the restaurant.
There was no obnoxious and loud behavior on the part of our group.
We were not the last group to depart from the restaurant, as there were
perhaps a dozen, or two, other people still either at a table or at the
bar when we left.
One would not think it would have been inconvenient for the GM to offer
a bit of professional courtesy, but he was bent out of shape for some
We had always been enthusiastic in suggesting this place to friends and
customers, but we will no longer do so.
We relayed the story to a prominent Bay Area restaurant critic, who
termed the GM's behavior as "outrageous."
468 19th Street
Open Daily Except Tuesdays
Dinner from 5:30
Lunch on Fridays
Paella de Carne
Basil Ice Cream
booked a table at this East Bay Spanish outpost for a Friday night and
managed to find parking on the street, a block away. The
restaurant was fairly full at 7:30 and it remained busy throughout the
The menu was presented by the hostess, along with their small wine
list. Wine glasses are not part of the table setting.
Duende has a handful of dry Sherries, if you want to go in that
direction to start. Lustau's "En Rama" Fino is $13,
while the fantastic El Maestro 15 Year old Oloroso is $10.
They offer a dry Sherry flight for $19 which is comprised of three
There are three Cavas offered by the glass (BTG) if you want to start
with a sip of bubbly. Mas Candi Brut Nature is $13 for a pour as
is Josep Foraster's Rosado Cava. Per Mata's Gran Reserva is $15.
There were 7 whites BTG, all Spanish and with some variety. A
Talai Berri Txakolina is $13, as is Vina Godeval's Godello. They
have but one Albariño by-the-glass and a mildly fizzy Muscat dispensed
from a keg for $10. They have a Txakolina Rosado ($13) and a
California Rose in a keg for $11.
You'll find 8 red wines on the list and you'll have to be a supreme
Spanish Wine Geek to recognize the selections. Giumaro's Mencia is
$13 BTG, while a Rioja from Sierra de Toloño is $13. Donkey & Goat
2014 Carignane is poured from a keg and that's $13 a glass.
The wines offered by the bottle include a handful of sparklers and 8
"Lighter Whites." There's a selection of "Richer
Whites, Sometimes Oaked" which includes a Lopez Heredia 1991 Viña
Tondonia for $210 a bottle.
Two Rosados are available and both fresh vintages.
There's a section of "Lighter Reds" with the 2005 La Rioja
Alta's Viña Ardanza, a $30-$35 bottle at retail, for $88. They
offer "Medium Reds" and "Full Reds," along with a
trio of California wines made from Spanish varieties.
Señorio de P. Peciña 2009 Crianza is $42 a bottle, a good choice for a
nice Rioja. Alto Moncayo's "Alto" bottling of Garnacha
is $96, while the 2005 Pintia from the Toro region is $120.
The corkage fee is $20.
We ordered a bottle of the Blanco Nieva "Pie Franco" Rueda
Blanco ($40) and the server quickly brought some nice all-purpose
stemware, opened the bottle and away we went!
We were a party of three and ordered 4 "tapas" to start.
Calamares Rellenos a la Plancha ($14) come stuffed with Morcilla sausage
and this was a nice little plate. Pulpo Aguacate ($17) is spicy
octopus served in a half of an avocado smothered with crispy shallots
and some arugula. Also good. The Dos Tostas a la Plancha
($12) had two slices of bread, one with fresh goat cheese and the other
with pork rillettes. And we had a plate of Quesos Marinados with
Tortillas de Patatas ($13) which were enjoyed by my friends.
A terrific bread plate was brought out, accompanied by a beautifully
spice, fresh olive oil.
There are three offerings under the heading of "Raciones."
These included a pasta at $19, an Albacore Tuna at $25 and a Rib Eye
Steak at $30.
There are two Paellas, one with meat at $40 for a two-person pan or $78
for a 4 person serving. They have a Vegetable Paella at $36 for a
2-person pan or $70 for a 4 person serving.
Arroz Negra is $40 and $78 and comes with Petrale Sole, Ink, Shaved
Fennel, etc. We had the Paella de Carne ($40) made with Bomba Rice
(as are the others), Rabbit, Crayfish, Smoked Pork Belly and Romano
Beans. Very good, though Saffron was not especially prominent
here. Fideua Caldosa ($40) is toasted fideos (a pasta), with
chicken, shrimp, olives, peppers and cilantro. This was also very
We brought a nicely mature bottle of Rioja for dinner and the server
brought two more wine glasses, being the same format as for the
white. It's curious they don't have a somewhat larger glass for
the red wines. We managed, however.
We offered our server a taste of the 1994 Rioja Gran Reserva and,
happily, the corkage fee did not appear on the bill.
We managed to be enticed by their dessert offerings.
The Kid went for the Basil Ice Cream ($8) which he said was very good
and intensely herbal.
We also shared a taste of the Affogato ($6) which was a small scoop of
ice cream and a nice, fresh shot of Espresso.
The Pluot Crisp was a small masterpiece and quite delicious ($10).
They have some sweet Sherries, too, if you want to include that to
accompany your dessert.
The bill tallied to $223 with the tax and before the tip.
The ambiance of Duede varies. When we arrived, we could see the
menu and our table. By 10pm they'd turned down the lights and it
was a bit dark. The music on the sound system is noticeable and I
appreciated hearing Jobim's "Brazil" at one point. But
the music was varied and went off the rails with some loud techno tunes
that featured a beat and not much music surrounding it.
The service is nicely polished and professional, from our server to the
runners or bussers who cleared plates and silverware and even remembered
to replace the utensils!
Having just dined at San Francisco's Coqueta (see below), it was
interesting to compare both places.
The San Francisco restaurant is a place to see and be seen (in fact, we
were told Santana was there when we paid them a visit). San
Francisco's Coqueta is terrific, but maybe has a stronger California
cuisine accent than Duende.
I'd gladly go back to both places.
Reviewed by GW
2518 Mission Street
Dinner Nightly from 5:30-10
Open 'til 11 Fri & Sat
The Ceviche Mixto comes with a nice corn 'fritter'
Empanadas de Pollo
The New York Steak with a side of roasted potatoes. Very good!
The Chuleta, a 15 ounce Pork Chop with a side of Kale.
A nice sized stem for the Cabernet, which they nicely decanted.
wine biz friend was interested to dine in a hip, new place on short
notice and it was booked. We scouted other options and the menu at
this new Argentinean place seemed interesting and they had a table
We motored to The City on a Thursday night, despite all kinds of reports
of bad traffic. We thought about taking BART (there's a station
three blocks from the restaurant), but threw caution to the wind and
stayed in the car. In fact, the traffic reports were all wrong and
we made it to the Mission District in 35 minutes (from Burlingame).
There's a parking garage on 21st Street, a block west of the restaurant.
It's a popular spot and the place was close to capacity when we arrived
at 7:30. They have a bar just past the hostess desk and there's a
second one up the staircase towards the back. I gather there's
another bar affiliated with Lolinda that has a bit of a view as it's on
In fact, we were warned to not dine at this place by a wine sales rep
who thought we would be too old (and feeble, curmudgeonly, etc.) for
such a cool, hip place filled with tech industry wizards.
I arrived before my friend, so I ambled up the stairs and was by myself
at the bar. I ordered a $9 glass of a Lustau Fino Sherry (quite
good and not 'just' the normal bottling, but a special, Almacenista
offering). Within 15 minutes the upstairs bar stools were
occupied, but there was still plenty of room.
My buddy arrived and we checked in at the hostess desk, only to be
escorted again up the stairs and to a small two-top along the
wall. The place seats perhaps 125 people and it was close to full
at this stage.
No wine glasses are on the table, only a candle, and smallish plates
with a knife and fork folded into a cloth napkin.
The menu was presented and a small book containing their wine list.
They have a nice selection of wines "by the glass"
Three sparkling wines: Juve y Camps from Spain is $11 BTG and $44
for a bottle (this is a wine retailing for $16-$18). A Luis Pato
sparkler from Portugal is $12 BTG and $48 for a bottle. There's a
Sparkling Malbec for $13 BTG and $52 by the bottle.
Under the white wine category we found 9 options. Spain, Chile,
Argentina, California and New York wines are available. They
have 11 different reds, but I didn't see anything hugely inviting.
The wine list is appropriately obscure, so most of the selections are
not easily recognizable, allowing them to take a healthy margin.
There were three whites from Argentina, starting at $32 for a
Torrontes. Mendel's Semillon is $50, a tempting option.
Three Chilean whites are available, one Portuguese and five
Spanish. We opted for a bottle of Martinsancho Verdejo at $48.
Amongst the bottled red wines, there are two from Portugal and nine from
Spain. These are listed by grape varieties and sometimes the
winery name or brand is missing. There's a
"Tempranillo/Garnacha Viña Ardanza Reserva Rioja 2005," as
they neglect to cite the winery name (La Rioja Alta). This is a
$35 retail bottle and it's on the list for $68. There's another
attractive Spanish red listed: "Tempranillo Lopes (sic) de
Heredia Viña Tondonia Reserva Rioja 2002" at $94 a bottle.
(It should be listed as Lopez de Heredia.)
A Napa red blend from Ramey, their 2012 Claret, is $85 on the wine
list. Chappellet's 2012 Napa Cabernet is $96.
Our server brought the bottle of Verdejo and a couple of nice sized,
elegant stems. The say was poured and the wine was okayed.
He eventually brought an ice bucket, which, on a warm evening, was
We perused the menu and the server told us the various menu items are
meant to be shared and are served "family style."
We ordered three starters and two main plates. The server informed
us the main plates probably would not arrive at the same time.
Huh? Excuse me? What?
We began with a Ceviche Mixto ($14) and a couple of Chicken Empanadas
($7). These arrived simultaneously, thank you.
The Ceviche was delicious and the empanadas were also very good.
A while later a bowl of Shishito Peppers ($7) hit the table.
We drained the bottle of Verdejo and before the starter plates had been
cleared, the two main courses were arriving. The runners bringing
those are schooled to take soiled silverware from the starter plates and
place them back on the table.
We had produced a venerable bottle of Cabernet and this was not opened
before the two main dishes arrived, another demerit.
My friend ordered the "Chuleta," a 15 ounce pork chop for
$23. I chose the "Bife de Chorizo," a 13 ounce New York
strip for $33.
These come on wooden planks and we had, fortunately, ordered a couple of
side dishes to accompany them. There were three side dishes on the menu,
each $6. Dino Kale, Mushrooms and Potatoes. We opted for the
Kale and Potatoes, both quite good.
There's a steak knife tucked under each slab of meat on the plank and
both selections were exceptional and tender.
Here was a humble pork chop with the nobility of a New York Steak!
And the steak here was excellent. Both are grilled over a wood
fire, helping offset the couple of service glitches.
The waiter managed to remove the cork in two stages (they insist on
using a normal corkscrew, even knowing the bottle is older and might be
problematic). He did a nice job in decanting the wine, though and
we offered the server a taste. He brought a glass over eventually
and we gave him a nice, healthy pour, urging him to enjoy it with a bite
of the steak.
The place is dark, so if you're not a 20-something year old youngster
with good eyesight, bring a flashlight (or smartphone). It's also
quite loud and the music is not geared towards fuddy-duddys such as
myself! This is not a place for quiet, intimate
Overall, though, it was a good meal and we'll definitely come back for
an encore, especially since the Ceviche and meats were so good (and
The corkage fee was $20 and with the tax the bill tallied to $180.
Reviewed by GW
(Along the Embarcadero)
Lunch: Tues-Sun 11:30-3
Dinner: Daily from 5pm
The small Sherry Glasses which reminded us of Grandma's stemware.
The proper copitas.
Chicken & Pea Croquetas
Shrimp with Black Garlic and Chili.
were successful in booking Coqueta about a month in advance using Open
Table. On a Saturday night close around 8:45 pm, we found parking a block
from Pier 5 and walked to the restaurant. They have a very busy
bar scene (it's called Bar 5) and it's a sort of glass house next to the
The hostess verified our reservation and said the check had just been
presented to the people occupying what would be our table. About
15 minutes later we were escorted in to the busy, moderately loud
restaurant and seated at a tall table which had a couple of elevated
chairs facing the open kitchen.
No wine glasses are on the table and the smallish binder containing
their wine list was presented along with the menu.
We had the idea of ordering a few tapas to start and a paella for our
Perusing the wine list we find a lot of wines of the Chiarello label
from the Napa Valley. This shouldn't be a surprise, since chef and
owner Michael Chiarello has had a small wine production for many years.
There are four sparkling wines offered "by the glass"
(BTG). Mont Marçal Brut Reserva is $11 BTG and $41 by the bottle,
while a Gramona III Lustros 2006 is $19. Now the Mont Marçal
retails for $15 a bottle, while the Gramona goes for $60, so their
mark-up on the less costly wine is far greater.
Two Schramsberg bubblies are offered, as well. Blanc de Noirs is
$15 BTG or $72 a bottle. The Rosé is $18 BTG and perhaps $78 by
They have 5 dry Sherries offered in 2 ounce pours BTG. And,
happily these are from some small, artisan bodegas.
Five California whites are on the BTG list. A Verdelho from
California's North Coast (N2 is the brand and it's tapped from a keg or stainless
steel cylinder) is $11 for a 250ml (nearly 8.5 ounces).
Frog's Leap Sauvignon Blanc is $14 for a glass or $42 for a bottle, as
is Hill Family Albariño from Napa. Far Niente Chardonnay is $28
BTG or $84 for a bottle. Once again, we see they take a much
smaller margin on costlier bottles, allowing customers to explore more
expensive wines without being taken to the cleaners.
Two Rosés are offered BTG, along with four Spanish reds, the latter
quartet ranging from $15 per pour to $26. The California reds
start at $22 a pour (Chiarello's own Napa Zinfandel, Duckhorn's Napa
Merlot or Rivers-Marie Pinot Noir) to $25 for Chiarello's Napa Cabernet
As you might expect from a Spanish-themed place in San Francisco, the
list has a wide range of Spanish offerings, along with a good selection
of West Coast wines.
There are several interesting Cava bottlings, with Juve y Camps Brut
Nature on the list at $44 a bottle (it's about a $17-$18 bottle at most
retail shops). Three Txakoli wines are all priced in the range of
$40 a bottle, with four Verdejos in the range of $32-$46 and several
Godello bottlings are available from $40-$67.
Catalonian whites start at $32 and escalate to $145. Albariños range from $52 to
$120 a bottle.
Amongst the reds, of course we look to Rioja and there are close to a
dozen of those. La Rioja Alta's Ardanza is $72 ($30-$35 at
retail), while Murrieta's 2005 Ygay is $125.
Amongst the domestic reds, there's a lovely Radio Coteau Syrah for $100,
but if you're showing off there are two Sine Qua Non bottlings for $375
and $490. If you want California Zinfandel, Frog's Leap is $52,
while Outpost's 2013 is $92, both priced within the realm of reason.
Merlot from Duckhorn is a mere $65 a bottle, just a few bucks over the
retail price. I wouldn't be amused paying $350 for a Merlot called
Amuse Bouche. Kistler Pinot Noir is $125 per bottle, but there are
7 other selections ranging from $66 to $190 (Kosta
Brown). Twelve Cabernets are offered (they have a
32-ounce bone-in rib-eye for $84) and these, apart from Phelps at
$135 or Quintessa at $250, are mostly unknown names for the average
consumer. Chiarello's two bottlings are $75 and $109, while labels
such as Taken, Tournesol, Casa Piena, Coup de Foudre and Ad Vivum are
offered. If you're spending a buck, consider Bryant's 2010 at a
We ordered two glasses of Fino Sherry and were waiting for those
anxiously as other Sherries were being brought to neighboring tables in
proper Sherry "copitas." Our server brought our two
servings (a good 10 minutes after ordering them) in smallish, close to
'thistle-shaped' glasses. Swirling the wine in these would have
been impossible, as a two ounce pour was in perhaps a four ounce glass.
We asked the server for proper copitas and he told us these were
'typical' Fino Sherry glasses.
He finally brought two good copitas and deftly poured from
Grandma's old Sherry glass into more appropriate stemware.
We then ordered a "pour" of a nice little Verdejo. A
250ml serving of Nisia is $13 and since we ordered two pours, it was
brought in a classic Spanish decanting glass called a porron.
The glasses for this were stemless.
We selected three tapas as starters. Croquetas de Pollo ($9)
came first, three little croquettes of a milky, pasty center with some
small English peas in a nice little crust. A morsel of a Cara Cara
Orange accompanies these...quite good!
Gambas al Negro ($14) features three head-on prawns with black
garlic and an olive oil 'sauce' which had a flavor reminiscent of
saffron (though the menu says "Black garlic and Chili Sauce."
Albondigas a la Ferria ($14) are duck and pork meatballs with a
"Tart Cherry and Tempranillo Salsa and Crispy Shallots."
These were also quite good.
Each appetizer comes with three little servings.
We placed a bottle of a 1985 Rioja on the table and one of the managers
saw this as she walked by. Offering to decant it for us, the
bottle was whisked off someplace and she returned a while later with a
decanter full of wine and the empty bottle. We asked her to bring
a couple of extra glasses, one for some friends who were dining and one
By this time the Paella ($45 and enough for three people)
arrived...beautiful! Quite good, too.
We enjoyed dining here, although when it became less noisy, the music
became more audible and it was not Spanish-themed, nor was it
comfortable dining music. When you're an old geezer, you probably
would prefer something a bit less techno-sounding.
We skipped dessert, though there was a nice list of dessert wine
offerings. A two-ounce pour of Moscatel is $6, while a Monastrell
Dulce is $7. A PX Gran Reserva is $12.
Infantado's Ruby Port is $7, while a Quinta do Crasto 2000 Vintage Porto
is $12 for a small pour.
Our bill tallied to $137 and they didn't charge us for the $25
corkage fee (as we'd generously shared a pour with the manager and our
Overall this is a lovely dining spot. It's also a typically noisy
and fairly crowded place.
We look forward to a return visit to try some other Coqueta dishes.
Reviewed by GW
333 Fulton Street
Dinner Sun-Mon 5-8:15
Glass of Blanc de Noirs and the bag of Plaj Bread...
Onion Soup with Croutons
Potato Dumpling Kumla: onion ragout, lingonberry, lardon, brown butter
Leg of Lamb without the English Peas, ramps, horseradish, crispy
garlic, raising jus.
Swedish Meatballs, Potato Purée, Lingonberries and Pickled Cucumber.
some Sunday cinema, we snagged a parking space directly across the
street from the Inn at The Opera, a small hotel and home of Pläj
(pronounced 'play,' we're told).
It's a Swedish-themed restaurant.
We were escorted to a small two-top on the left side of the dining room,
across from the bar. The restaurant seemed to be about two-thirds
full. It's an elegant dining spot.
Wine glasses were on the table as the hostess set down menus and a wine
list. The Old Bat snagged a chair, but I was on a sort of couch,
propped up by a number of pillows. This was fine for a moment, but
it's not the most comfortable seat for dining. You're a bit low
compared to the table.
We perused the wine list. The Old Bat asked for a Tanqueray
Martini, but they did not have her favorite brand of Gin. However,
she did say the Martini with Hendrick's Gin was "excellent."
The wine list offers two bubblies "by the glass."
One is Andre Robert's Blanc de Blancs Champagne at $20 a pour.
Other by-the-glass options include a young Elk Cove Pinot Noir Rose
($10), Cooper Mountain Pinot Gris ($10), Peter Franus Sauvignon Blanc
($14) and Neyers Chardonnay ($16). A Von Nell 1994 Auslese
Riesling ($15) is also offered.
Trefethen Cabernet is $18, while a Beauregard Zinfandel is $15. A
Mocali Rosso di Montalcino is $12, while a young Savigny-Les-Beaune from
Albert Bichot is $15.
By the bottle you can have a Penner-Ash "Viogner" (sic) for
$62. A Premier Cru Chablis from Barat is $72, while a Petite Arvine from
Rene Favre is $70.
The lowest priced red is a Locatelli Cabernet Franc from Friuli at $42 a
bottle. Isole e Olena 2012 Chianti is $50. An Andrew Rich wine is
listed as a Grenache Blend, so we suppose that's his Tabula Rasa
bottling. That retails for less than $20 and it's $62 on this wine
list. A Bergstrom Pinot Noir is $110 a bottle and listed as
"Salice" (there's an Italian wine called Salice, but this is
In keeping with the Swedish theme, I was interested to try a Napa Valley
Sparkling wine called "Sjoeblom." It's listed as a 2001
vintage "Reserve" Blanc de Noirs. $15 a glass.
The server seemed leery of bringing this, cautioning me that it was
really dark in color and kind of like a Lambrusco.
The wine, in fact, had a salmon color to it and was far less yeasty and
toasty than you might expect of a wine that's apparently been on the
spent yeast for 13 years. It did have a mildly nutty quality, so
it did taste a bit aged.
The server brought a little tray with a paper bag on it. The sack
contained a few pieces of a wonderfully chewy, warm bread.
The Old Bat ordered the Vidalia Onion Soup with garlic croutons and
chive Blossoms, asking the server to hold the poached egg. This
was $12 and she enjoyed the soup.
I had their Potato Dumpling Kumla with Onion Ragout, Lingonberries,
Lardons and Brown Butter ($15). This featured two dumplings and
small cubes of smoky pork. I liked it, but The Old Bat described
the bite of the dumpling I shared with her as "gummy."
We produced a bottle of red wine and the server brought two nice glasses
to the table and deftly opened our bottle. The corkage fee is $25.
For a main plate The Old Bat opted for "Leg of Lamb" ($26)
which comes with English Peas, ramps, Horseradish, Crispy Garlic and
Braising Jus. They brought her a steak knife and she attempted to
dive into the lamb. But this meat was tougher than The Old Bat, it
seems. I tried to slice into it and found this to be a
challenge. The server came by and we sent back the lamb, asking
for Swedish Meatballs.
The server said even the chef admitted that lamb was tough.
The Swedish Meatballs (Half Order is $15, while a full order is $18)
were nice. Maybe a tad bland, but the accompanying Mashed Potatoes
or as they called it, Potato Purée, was exceptional and silky
smooth. It comes, also, with lingonberries and pickled cucumber.
We skipped dessert...a perfectly okay dining experience...maybe if I'd
been to Sweden, I might have found more pleasure in our meal here.
The bill tallied to $128 with the SF Health "tax". The
Hendricks Martini was $12 and there was an additional two bucks on top
of that which we might have questioned.
Okay...so we've been there and done that.
Reviewed by GW
2323 Birch Street
Lunch Daily : 11-5
Dinner Daily from 5pm
Flatbread and a dipping sauce.
Falafel and Hummus
There were actually four Dolmas on the plate, but The Old Bat helped
herself before I could snap a photo.
Combo Grill Plate
a mildly warm Sunday evening, we visited the Anatolian Kitchen off
California Avenue in Palo Alto. We found parking in a small lot
directly across the street and found the place nearly packed at 7:30 (it
was Mother's Day, though).
There were number tables outside on the sidewalk and these were fully
occupied. Inside, the main dining room was fully subscribed and we
were escorted to a two top in the next room near the open kitchen.
This, too, was packed.
The hostess set down menus and a drinks and wine list. No wine
glasses were on the table, however.
The Old Bat, having just seen Russell Crowe's "The Water
Diviner" movie (the story takes place primarily in Turkey), needed
a stiff drink and, as usual, she ordered a Tanqueray Martini.
I opted for their lone Turkish white wine selection, Kavaklidere's
"Cankaya," listed as a 2011 vintage. Ten bucks for a
glass or $40 by the bottle. This retails for about $15 per bottle,
by the way.
There are four other white wine selections available by-the-glass, a
Muscadet for $8 or $32 by the bottle or a Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc from
Chile (same price). For $9 a pour and $36 by-the-bottle, you might
choose Stone Cap Chardonnay from Washington State or Palmina Pinot
Grigio from California's Central Coast. There's also Mulderbosch
Rose and an unidentified Prosecco.
Five red wines are offered "by the glass." There's a
Turkish red under the Yakut label at $10 a glass, $40
by-the-bottle. Seven Deadly Zins from Lodi is the same
price. Tangley Oaks Merlot and Avalon Cabernet are $11 a glass and
$44 by the bottle, both wines typically being quota items for liquor
distributor sales reps.
Husch Pinot Noir is $12 a glass or $48 for a bottle.
Amongst the white wines, if the list is accurate, we find some old
bottles from the 2011 vintage, including Pomelo Sauvignon Blanc ($32 a
bottle), a Cazar Rose ($32) and Rombauer Chardonnay ($65).
Bonterra Sauvignon Blanc from 2013 is $34, while Groth 2013 Napa
Sauvignon Blanc is $36. Truchard 2012 Carneros Chardonnay is $48.
Ridge 2012 "Three Valleys" Zinfandel, a wine retailing for
$22-$25, is $60 on this list, a bit high, frankly. Merry Edwards
2011 Pinot Noir is $70, while Jordan 2010 Cabernet is $90. Green
& Red Napa Zinfandel is $46, as is Qupe Central Coast Syrah.
A few half bottles are offered. Landmark Chardonnay and Merry
Edwards Sauvignon Blanc are both $26 for a 375ml bottle. Mount
Veeder Napa Cabernet is $28, while Stag's Leap Cabernet is $32 (I
suspect it's actually Stags Leap Winery, rather than Stag's Leap Wine
Cellars at that price).
The list, at least, does afford some nice bottles and these do actually
match the cuisine.
The corkage fee is a reasonable $15.
Stemware is of standard quality, if a shade
less-than-the-most-elegant. You'll have a 14 ounce, or so, clunky,
dishwasher-safe Libbey-styled wine glass.
We ordered two starters to share, a Falafel plate ($13.50) which comes
with a pool of Hummus and a mountain of salad. There are five,
right-out-of-the-fryer Falafel on the plate and these were
delicious. The Dolmas plate ($7.50) comes with four stuffed grape
leaves set alongside some iceberg lettuce and a few morsels of unripe,
cardboardy tomatoes (admitted, these are for decoration mostly).
The Dolmas, though, were good and had a nice touch of fresh mint.
They brought a little bowl with some soft flatbread and a dipping sauce
that had a lot of nice spice to it.
For a main plate, The Old Bat chose Moussaka ($15.95), a
classically-presented dish of Eggplant, Beef and Lamb, topped with
Tomato Sauce and Béchamel. She was delighted by this dish, asking
"Can we come back?"
I had their Combo Grill Plate ($24.95) which was Ribeye,
chicken, doner kebab, kofte marinated on skewers, served with rice and sautéed
vegetables. This was a large plate of food, more than enough for a
hungry person at dinner. The meats were a bit bland, for my taste,
and the vegetables were cooked to ad dente, or so, and also
rather plain and simple.
Our bottle of red wine was good, though, and we shared a taste with the
The music being played on their sound system was some sort of
"techno" tunes...hardly traditional Turkish music.
We were left relatively unattended after the main plates arrived and had
to flag down a staffer to ask for the bill.
The check tallied to $101 before the tip.
The Anatolian Kitchen is a nice little place and offers a pleasant
Reviewed by GW
737 Diamond Street
Open for Dinner from 5:30 Tues-Sat
From 5 on Sundays
'Impepata'--Mussels & Clams
Not "Marco Porello" Arneis!
This was nice, in any case.
Lamb with a Red Pepper Puree.
Braised Short-ribs and Gnocchi
had just seen an Italian film on a Sunday afternoon and we booked a
table at this Italian place in Noe Valley, one block west of Castro.
I arrived a bit later than my two dining companions and there were wine
glasses on the table by the time I got there. The wine list and
menu was presented and we immediately perused the list.
Two Italian sparklers are offered by the glass and these are sensibly
priced. Ten bucks gets you as pour of Ruggeri Prosecco, but it
you're a big spender, opt for a $12 pour of Ferrari Rose from
Trentino. There's also a Ca' Rossa Rose for $12.
Of the seven white wines by the glass, six are Italian. There's
Ciu Ciu Pecorino for $10 or Valle dell'Acate's Insolia for the same
Ten reds are offered by the glass. For $15 you can have a glass of
Travaglini's Gattinara. Castiglion del Bosco Brunello is $21 for a
glass pour, while Castellani Chianti is ten bucks.
A $15 retail bottle of Italian white is on the list for $40, while an
$18 retail bottle appears at $48, so you'll see the 400% mark-up is in
play here, for the most part.
The list has a number of misspellings, suggesting it's sloppily
assembled. Teroldego is spelled "Toroldego" and their
selection comes not from where Teroldego finds its home in
Trentino. This one hails from Toscana and it's blended with 15%
"Bianchi in Bottoglia" instead of Bottiglia.
These are certainly minor. Happily the list is not dominated by
the big liquor distributors, though there are some wines from those
You won't find much hugely prestigious, benchmark selections, but for
the most part, the wines are of interesting quality.
There's a Prugnolo Gentile 2009 on the list from Montepulciano in
Tuscany at $50, but the name of the winery is omitted.
Caprili's 2004 Brunello di Montalcino is worth a look, though it's $155
a bottle (close to a $100 at retail). Sassotondo's Ciliegiolo from
Tuscany is $42 a bottle, a charming, cherryish red.
They have 3 Nebbiolo wines, a Barbaresco from Rinaldi ($90) and a Barolo
from Cogno ($125), but these are too young (2011 and 2009
respectively). A 2008 Travaglini Gattinara is $60 a certainly a
bit more developed and ready to drink.
A 2011 Pallagrello Nero from Terre del Principe is $47. A couple
of Nerello Mascalese wines from Sicilia are on the list, one going for
$37, while Graci's Arcuria 2011 is $88 a bottle.
White wine offerings are a bit more limited, but you can still find good
wine. A Vermentino from a co-op cellar in Sardegna is $48, while a
3 year old bottle of Kerner (getting a bit aged) from a good cellar in
the Alto Adige is the same price. They have a Gavi from the Barolo
producer, Francesco Rinaldi, at $56.
We ordered a bottle of Marco Porello's 2013 Arneis ($48) and were a bit
surprised when the server brought a bottle of the same variety, but from
Cascina Ca' Rossa. We pointed out the discrepancy to the server
who was a bit surprised by this.
((We gather the importer's rep of the Porello wine may not have come by
the restaurant in a while. We have the same problem, as it's been
more than half a year since a rep came to our shop.))
We accepted the Ca' Rossa Arneis and it's a perfectly serviceable
Italian dry white.
Bacco offers good stemware and we were in good shape at this stage.
We ordered appetizers and main plates. We brought out a bottle of
a 10+ year old Barolo and the server brought the decanter we'd
requested. Having an Ah-So, we extracted the cork of the Barolo
and immediately decanted it.
Corkage, by the way, is $22 per bottle.
The starters arrived at our table and the ladies were delighted with the
"Impepata," a bowl of Clams and Mussels with garlic and tomato
in a broth. The Arneis worked nicely with this.
My starter was a small 'stew' of Moscardini, little baby octopus in a
tomato and red wine broth...also quite good!
The server brought larger format stems for the Barolo and soon after
that, our main plates arrived.
One of the ladies ordered the same plate as did I: Braised
Short-ribs ($28) with Gnocchi...a very good plate!
The Old Bat had the "Angnello" (sic) ($32), four Lamb Chops
with a red pepper sauce and some freshly-sautéed Spinach. Another
Dessert was out of the question.
The ambiance was comfortable and we enjoyed the service.
The bill tallied to about $210 before the tip.
We will plan another visit to Bacco when we are 'going Italian' in
Reviewed by GW
Dinner: Tue-Sun 5pm-10pm
A serving of Moroccan Sauvignon, presented in a small decanter with a
stemless wine glass.
They offer a nice bit of some warmed bread with olive oil for
A Chicken Bastilla...
Lamb Kebabs with Saffron Rice and a Vegetable "Salad"...
Couscous with Lamb Chops
Street in San Carlos is dotted with restaurants and we've tried a number
of them (if you've been reading this web page).
We booked a table at Le Tajine a newish place seating perhaps 40
people. It was close to half full when we arrived at 7pm on a warm
Sunday evening. The server directed the two of us to a nice
four-top towards the back of the dining room.
No wine glasses are on the table and the water glass doubles as a holder
for a cloth napkin.
The menus are presented and there's a "drinks list."
They do not have a full bar, simply a beer and wine license, so The Old
Bat could not order her customary dry Martini. Lillet? No,
they did not have that either.
The wine list offers but 7 different selections, all from the same
Moroccan winery: Ouled Tahleb.
A 2012 Rose and 2011 White Blend and Chardonnay are $9 for a pour and
$40 for a bottle.
Your other choices are all $10 for a pour or $45 for a bottle.
These included a 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, a Cabernet/Grenache blend, a
Syrah or a Cab/Merlot/Syrah blend.
The corkage fee is $20.
We ordered a couple of pours of Sauvignon Blanc and they bring a small
carafe or mini decanter along with a Riedel O Series (stemless)
glass. We appreciate that these glasses are easily washed in their
dishwasher (without breaking), but you'll likely wind up with
fingerprints all over the glass, in addition to warming up the wine.
They had some, we suppose, Moroccan music on the sound system, but this
was drowned out by a real loudmouth at a neighboring table.
Everyone in the restaurant, including the dishwasher running a noisy
machine in the back, could hear this fellow. Once that party of
five left the restaurant, the ambience was quite pleasant.
I ordered their Bastilla of Chicken, ($11), which is a phyllo dough pie
with almonds, cinnamon and powdered sugar...there's sweet and there's
savory and this thing was big enough to split two or three or four
ways...it's really too much for a one-person appetizer.
The Old Bat ordered Briwats ($11) for a starter and these are four
phyllo dough 'turnovers' that are filled with seasoned beef...this was a
more than ample starter and pretty much kills your appetite.
The server might have suggested, but did not, that one appetizer for two
people is certainly ample.
Both appetizers were delicious, though.
The Sauvignon Blanc was a standard quality, fairly anonymous dry white
wine. It was vinous, but that's about all you could say for
it. It's certainly not a wine with a lot of Sauvignon Blanc
The server brought two more of the Riedel stemless glasses for our
bottle of red Rhone.
I ordered a couscous dish called Mechoui ($25) and it's four really nice
grilled lamb chops from a rack of lamb...beautifully seasoned and cooked
just right. The couscous is good while the accompanying vegetables
are fairly bland...zucchini, carrots, etc. Overall, though, it's a
nice dish and, as noted above, too much if you've ordered an appetizer.
They offer a number of Tajines, as you might expect of a place called Le
The Old Bat opted for the Lamb Kebabs ($16) which comes with either
Saffron Rice or fries. She went for the rice.
The plate came out with 8 large chunks of lamb (a bit less tender, I'd
say, than the chops I had), a serving of a 'salad' of tomato chunks,
cucumber, red onion and some spices, along with a mound of rice.
She ended up taking most of this home for the next night's dinner, as
she was filled up by the starters.
We enjoyed the food at this place. It's an elegant and comfortable
dining spot. I'd suggest bringing a good bottle of wine, since the
wine list is so limited.
We had no chance of ordering and enjoying a dessert.
The bill tallied to $112 before the tip.
We look forward to return visit and trying some other dishes at this
delightful dining spot!
Reviewed by GW
800 Taraval Street
Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30
Dinner: Daily 5pm-10pm
Snails...a dozen of them.
Garlic Fried South American Prawns
Spaghetti & Clams Bordelaise
A Side dish of Rice, Green Beans and Carrots
found yet another "institution" in The City and booked a table
for two at San Francisco's Gold Mirror on Taraval. We found
parking on the street about a block from the restaurant.
The entrance is on the corner of 18th and Taraval. There's not
much of a reception desk, but there's a bar on your right and the dining
area, seating approximately 70 people, to the left.
The hostess, attired in something akin to her tall boyfriend's long
shirt (The Old Bat made this observation), took us to a corner table to
be sequestered near the door. This was rejected by Her Highness
and we then had a four-top in the main dining area.
The hostess, placing the menus on the table, asked if we would want the
Sadly, no wine glasses were on the table as part of the place-setting.
There are 14 table wines offered "by the glass" and three
There's the Pellegrini Family Chardonnay ($8) or Kendall-Jackson's for
$9. Beringer White Zinfandel is $6 and there's an unidentified
Lambrusco for $8. Cirullu's Rosso from Umbria is $9. None of
the wines-by-the-glass have a vintage date posted on the wine
list. Domaine Chandon's Brut sparkler is $9, as is an unidentified
Prosecco. Ferrari's Brut Perle is $15 for a pour.
They offer Suavia's Soave at $8, along with Borgo Conventi's Pinot
Grigio. Frank Family Zinfandel is $11, while a Barbera d'Asti with
the proprietary name "La Faia" is $12, though they do not list
the winery name (Scagliola).
The Domestic White Wines are listed without vintage dates and they show
the winery address, but it's unclear as to the appellation of the
wine. Is that Sterling Sauvignon Blanc the Central Coast bottling
or the Napa appellation wine? It's $29 per bottle.
Contrasting with the sketchy list of California white wines, there's
Jermann's famous Vintage Tunina for $85 (actually, it's well-priced, but
we do not know the vintage). A Greco di Tufo from Terredora di
Paolo is $40, while a Terlano Pinot Grigio is $43, with Jermann's
version going for $46. Curious that they have chosen some nice
Italian whites and yet California whites you might find in most grocery
The wine list has a category of "Sicilian Red Wines" with a
couple of Nero d'Avola offerings (Colossi for $34 and Feudi del
Pisciotto at $60), an Etna blend that's mostly Merlot ($78) and a Hauner
Nero d'Avola blend for $48.
The category of "Italian Red Wines" (since Sicily is not
included as part of Italy, apparently), has some odd geographical
identifications. From the Tuscan winery of Rocca delle Macie,
there's a Sangiovese listed as coming not from Toscana, but from the
Marche. The Umberto Cesari winery in Emilia-Romagna has a
Sangiovese listed as being from Tuscany, not its actual place of
origin. An Amarone della Valpolicella is listed as coming from
Piemonte, a Lagrein from the Alto Adige is posted as being from the
Trentino area and, apparently the designation of "Montepulciano
d'Abruzzo" didn't clue them in as to the wine being from
Abruzzo. It's listed as a Tuscan red.
And they do list vintage dates for wines of this category!
Italian Reds range from $28 for a Le Corti Chianti Classico to $130 for
Antinori's famous Super Tuscan, Tignanello. The Nebbiolo Langhe
from the Produttori del Barbaresco is $45, while the same winery's
Barbaresco is $75.
From California, there's a Swanson Merlot from Napa at $56 or Long
Meadow Ranch 2009 Napa Cabernet for $78 if you're brave enough to skip
wines from Clos du Bois, Beaulieu Vineyards and Robert Mondavi.
It's a quirky wine list.
The Old Bat inquired about the French aperitif Lillet as a
cocktail. Our waiter said "Lillet is no longer imported as I
was told by the owner."
We clued him in to the Bay Area distributor for Lillet, though the
server did not seem to care.
The Old Bat then ordered her Tanqueray Martini, straight up. The
Martini is on the bill for a modest $7 with an extra charge of 50-cents
for the "up" (that is, the cocktail is served without ice in a
classic Martini stem).
He did stop at several tables before placing the order with the
bartender, so we waited close to ten minutes for the cocktail.
I put a bottle of wine on the table. The corkage is $15 and the
server brought two small, clunky wine glasses (from the 1970s) to the
table. Having seen neighboring tables with 20 ounce stems being
used, we gently asked if we could have our wine in those.
The Old Bat said the server was a bit annoyed by the request, though he
did whisk away the tiny glasses and returned a few moments later with
more suitable stemware.
Our bottle was opened and the fellow, either unclear on service protocol
or, possibly, simply still irritated, glug-glug-glugged the wine into
the new glasses, without pouring the "say" (so we could
determine if the bottle was corked or suitable for service).
He certainly lost a few points for that.
As for the food...The Old Bat ordered Escargot ($8), which are not
totally foreign on menus in Italy (where they're listed as "Lumache").
I opted for "Garlic Fried South American Prawns" ($15), known
as Gamberi in Italy.
The snails, 12 of them, were presented out of the shell in a soup
bowl...nicely done with garlic and parsley butter. There were 6 of
the Prawns on my plate...also with lots of garlic. Nice. So
far, so good.
The appetizer plates were picked up by a busser and they did not return
with a replacement knife for my main plate.
The Old Bat ordered Spaghetti and Clams Bordelaise ($19) and this
featured al dente pasta with numerous fresh Manila clams.
She was disappointed, though, that the pasta seemed
"dry." Not dried out, but dry. I suspect the sauce
lacked the requisite amount of either olive oil or butter to 'carry' the
sauce and more thoroughly coat the pasta.
I ordered Veal Milanese ($21) which was a pounded piece of veal, breaded
and topped with some capers, garlic and maybe a squeeze of lemon.
It was a nearly perfect rectangle! This was a rather standard
rendition of this dish...nothing particularly special. On a small
side plate there was some dry rice, a few small (fresh) green beans and
The place was a bit noisy and though we were seated close to each other,
it was not a comfortable ambience for conversation.
We asked for the bill, declining the offer to look at a dessert menu.
The server, once again, visited neighboring tables and, after perhaps
close to ten minutes, our bill arrived.
This may be a reasonable option for dining should you find yourself in
the neighborhood, but it's not likely that we will make a return visit
(which is probably fine with the disgruntled and charmless fellow who
waited on us).
Reviewed by GW
529 Alma Street
Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2
Dinner Daily from 5pm
Fried Bananas and a sort of Cheese "Bread" are brought as
"nibbles" to start your meal.
The Salad Buffet
The results of a pass through the Pampas Buffet...(if you dine here
solely for the buffet and don't participate in the meat marathon, the
price is $26).
Chicken, Pineapple and a slice of pork.
The Passador serving a slice of well-seasoned beef.
a Sunday afternoon movie, we drove to the Pampas restaurant, a block, or
so, south of University Avenue.
Parking was easy...there's a lot across the street.
We were escorted to a table upstairs and the hostess provided the menu
and wine list. Wine glasses are part of the table setting.
The wine list offers three sparkling wines by the glass: a Rose from
Santa Julia for $10, a Valdivieso for $12 or Moet Brut Imperial
Champagne for $16. White wines included a very commercial Pinot
Grigio (that's listed as being from the Alto Adige but, in fact, the
label as the much more broad appellation of "Delle Venezie) at $10
a glass. They offer a "Reisling" (sic) from the Chilean
brand called Lafken ($12), as well as three Chardonnays (including ZD
from California at $16/glass).
Nine reds are offered by the glass. Two Cabernets (Conn
Creek @$14), one Zinfandel (Brady from Paso Robles @$12), Qupe Syrah @
$11, two Malbecs, a Merlot and two Pinot Noirs. I'd opt for Qupe
Syrah out of that modest roster.
The wine list, though, offers plenty of good options if you're
interested in a bottle.
A half bottle of Roederer Estate Brut is $26 and they do not have this
in full bottles. Duval Leroy's Grand Cru Vintage Brut is $295,
while Cristal 2002 is $420.
Kistler's standard bottling of Chardonnay is $98, while the more mundane
Frank Family is $68. Twomey Sauvignon Blanc is $59, while Long
Meadow Ranch is $42. Some of the vintages of "Interesting
Whites" are a bit old, so perhaps these are not so interesting to
Pampas' customers? A 2006 White Rioja (not one that's intended for
aging) is offered, as is a 2011 Verdejo, a 2006 Pinot d'Alsace and a
2010 St. Joseph Blanc.
$820 will get you a bottle of Bryant Family Cabernet, but for $90 you
can enjoy a bottle of Heitz 2009 Napa Cabernet. Some of the
Cabernets are fairly pedestrian: BV Rutherford is $62 a bottle,
while J. Lohr's is $64. Josh Cabernet is $44, while Justin's is
$54. Clearly the liquor distributor's rep is hitting their quota
goals. There are nine Malbecs in full bottle format, Achaval
Ferrer's costing $49.
They have a category called "BLENDS" and here we find Dominus
2008 for $280 or Pahlmeyer's "Jayson" red blend for
$122. Cain's "Concept" is $115 a bottle, while Col
Solare from Washington State is $78.
A half a dozen Merlots are available, Twomey costing $90, while Shafer's
is $105. Eight Zinfandels are offered...Ridge "Three
Valleys" is $53 per bottle.
There are 22 Pinot Noirs. Coho's Stanley Ranch is $105, while Sea
Smoke's "Southing" is $122. Morgan's "Double
L" is $45. They have 8 Syrah wines and you can buy a bottle
of Araujo for $390 or a 2004 Colgin for $480.
And they have ten Spanish reds, three from Portugal, a bunch from Italy,
A 2005 Chateau Latour is $2250, while a DRC Echezeaux from 2005 is
$1525. A Drouhin "Clos des Mouches" 2006 is listed as
coming from Santenay, while it's actually from Beaune, several miles
away. You can acquire this for $600.
If you choose to have their "Rodizio" program, you'll pay $46
per person. This is essentially an all-you-can-eat marathon of
food, including their long "salad bar" as well as the
unlimited meat service.
We ordered a glass of "Albaclara" Sauvignon Blanc from
Chile. It's $11 a glass (the wholesale price is $7.02 for a
bottle)! Luckily the wine was of good quality. The brand
name, though, is Haras de Pirque and it's affiliated or owned by
Antinori of Italy.
The Old Bat asked for a Martini ($13) which she enjoyed.
The restaurant supplies a two-sided decal, the red side stays up while
you're foraging at their buffet downstairs (or if you need a break from
the meat marathon). When you're ready for meat, leave the green
side up and the Passadores stop by with large skewers of meats,
chicken or grilled pineapple. They slice off a piece and you
transfer it to your plate using a small pair of tweezers.
The "salad bar" has all sorts of items...asparagus spears,
braised mushrooms, arugula, raw spinach, ham, smoked fish, cured salmon,
salame, tabouleh salad, garbanzo bean salad, grated carrots, radishes,
tomatoes, anchovies, black bean stew, rice, hearts of palm and more.
You can help yourself as many times as you like.
We enjoyed a nice trip to the buffet, but then flipped over the red
decal and soon the waiters carrying large skewers of meats began
stopping by the table.
There's Picanha, a top sirloin seasoned with salt and olive oil.
They had a garlicky leg of lamb as well as some thin little loin lamb
chops. There was a filet of beef seasoned with Parmesan
cheese. Turkey wrapped in bacon was quite good (thanks to good
quality bacon). There's Skirt Steak, Chicken Hearts, small Chicken
Legs marinated in garlic and chili...and the list goes on.
We had our server open a nice bottle of red which we'd brought along and
paid $20 for a corkage fee.
Since we'd gorged ourselves on the buffet and meat marathon, dessert was
out of the question.
With tax, the bill tallied to $148 before the tip.
We will certainly come back to this place and may even visit it on a
night when we're not seeing a movie.
Reviewed by GW
|Some Notes: (March 2015)
**It's becoming more prevalent for some restaurants to include a tip on
their bill. Some make customers aware of this on the menu and with
their bill, but others keep a low profile.
And, of course, the credit card receipt still has a place to add in a
tip. Keep your eyes open.
**We dined at a place this month that, on line, offers a $39 Price-Fixed
menu. No restrictions on days of the week or hours this is
offered. The hostess did not provide this menu when we sat down at
the table. We asked three times for this before someone, apparently
begrudgingly, provided us with this nicely-priced menu.
The bill at the end tallied to $127. My dining companion had a
$100 bill (I gave her change from that based upon the bill and the tip,
divided by two.
The owner of the place took the hundred dollar bill and my credit card,
asking what to do. I instructed him to put the $100 towards the
bill and put the rest on the credit card. I would add the tip onto
the credit card.
He returned a few moments later and I was ready to sign the credit card
Except that this fellow ran the credit card for the entire $127 amount!
When we pointed out this error we received a disingenuous "Oh,
I suppose the bottom line is: Watch your wallet.
8150 Cabrillo Highway
Montera Beach (near Pacifica)
Dinner Tues-Sun from 5pm
A generous pour of Alvarinho.
Seafood Paella for 1 Person.
booked a 7pm table on a Sunday after a movie and drove out to the coast
There's a parking lot adjacent to this coast-side restaurant as well as
a lot for beach-goers just south of the place.
In early March at that hour, the place was active, but not hugely
busy. We were escorted to our table by a hostess, who presented a
menu and a wine list. Wine glasses here at part of the table
We perused the list. There are six sparkling wines, with the
Spanish Cava "Cristalino" being the sole offering "by the
glass" ($9). Other choices included Clicquot at $98 or,
better, Roederer Brut Premier at $102. There's a small Prosecco
producer's wine, Drusian, for $38 a bottle (It's a $16 retail
They have about 30 white wine offerings, with perhaps ten of these
available by-the-glass. The list features some big-name brands
which are probably pushed by the big liquor distributors, but you can
find some off-the-beaten path selections, too.
Tangent Albarino is a good option at $10 for a pour or $35 for a
bottle. Trefethen's dry Napa Valley Riesling is $11 for a pour or
$39 by the bottle. It's a broad spectrum of origins, as they offer
wines from Spain, Portugal, Chile, Argentina, Italy, France and
There were 33 red wines on their list. Coho Pinot Noir from
Carneros is $98 a bottle (it's usually seen for $35-$40 retail).
Alamos Malbec is $49...a wine retailing for well less than $15
Penfolds Bin 9 Cabernet from Australia, retailing for close to $20, is
$51. Jordan Cabernet from Sonoma is $92, while a Spanish blend
called Carchelo, typically $10-$12 retail, is $39 on the list.
In my opinion the list could feature more carefully-curated
selections. For example, Gabbiano Pinot Grigio? Surely they
could find a better option for that grape variety. Amongst the
Chardonnays, they offer Franciscan and Chateau St. Jean, along with
Force of Nature from Santa Barbara and Trefethen from Napa. Not
exactly ground-breaking, but more along the lines of "good
enough" rather than "exceptionally selected."
The Old Bat asked for her usual Martini and I selected a Portuguese
white, an Alvarinho called Poucu Comum ($12 a glass and $44 by the
bottle). The server brought a fairly generous serving of the wine
and it paired handsomely with the starters.
The Old Bat ordered an Empanada of some sort (there are several choices,
$11-$13) an d I ordered the Cebiche Mixto ($18) which is a nice plate
with some white fish, octopus, calamari, clams, mussels, prawns and aji
rocoto leche de tigre. This also features some sort of corn (Cusco
Corn?) and maybe some toasted corn. It's nicely done and, for my
palate, right at the edge for spiciness. It did suppress the wine
We produced a bottle of an extravagant Sauvignon Blanc for our main
plate. Corkage costs $25, a bit high, but this bottle was better
than we'd have found on their wine list.
Stemware was nice, too, so we felt less stung by the $25 fee.
We both ordered the Seafood Paella ($26) and this was quite good.
Unlike the place up the highway, this was made of Bomba rice, not some
long grain variety. The seafood was good and fresh and we found a
nice touch of spice suggesting the use of saffron. It's quite
different from a Spanish paella...more soupy (as you can see in the
photo to the left), for one thing.
Nice flavors, though and good seafood.
The service was good...water glasses refilled from time to time...they
took away the used silverware with our appetizers and brought fresh
silverware for the main plate.
At this stage, dessert was out of the question. We had dined well
and both of us would like to return.
It's not inexpensive, though...I think the bill tallied to $145-$150
before the tip.
Still, this is a nice place for a meal and it would be well worth the
price of admission if you're dining there before the sun sets.
We look forward to a return visit.
Reviewed by GW
4058-A 18th Street
Open Daily 5pm to 11pm
A glass of Fino Sherry...$7
Marcona Almonds and Assorted Olives.
Gambas and garlic.
Pinchos de Pollo
Churros and Chocolate Sauce
a Monday evening on a warm San Francisco winter day we booked a table at
this newish little place on 18th Street, close to Castro Street.
Parking in this neighborhood was a bit challenging, but several tours of
the area finally netted a spot a couple of blocks away from Beso.
We found the restaurant to be about 75% occupied at our 8pm reservation
time and we were escorted to a table for two near the back, close to the
kitchen. Thanks to a mirror spanning the wall, I had a nice view
of the kitchen crew preparing all sorts of dishes.
Wine glasses are on the table when you're seated, a subtle hint to order
something. The wine list is printed on the back of the menu.
Three Cavas are offered, two being poured by the glass. We opted
for the Pere Ventura Brut Rosat at $11 a glass, but the server informed
us that wine was "sold out."
They featured a half-a-dozen, or so, Sherries by Emilio Lustau, so we
ordered the "Puerto Fino" Fino Sherry at $7. I was
afraid this would come in a tiny glass, filled to the brim, but Beso has
special, elegant Sherry copitas and the wine arrived, properly chilled
and the stemware was filled to about 75% of capacity. This was
really good and well worth the $7 price tag.
Of the 13 white wine selections, six are available by-the-glass.
Four Albarinos ($38 to $79 per bottle) are on the list, two from Spain,
one Portuguese and one Californian. There's a Spanish Sauvignon
Blanc at $48 per bottle, a white blend from Spain ($12 a glass, $46 by
the bottle), a Godello for $48 or a Xarel-lo for $9 a glass or $36 for a
There are 19 red wines, 6 of which can be ordered by-the-glass.
They range from $42 per bottle up to $120 for a CUNE Imperial whose
vintage date is not listed.
They offer a Moroccan Syrah for $48, along with a Napa Cabernet blend
for $110, while Anima Negra from Mallorca is $69. The list seems
to be chosen with a measure of care and discrimination and it doesn't
offer a bunch of big "branded" wines but some offerings which
are a bit off-the-beaten path.
The corkage fee is $20, by the way.
We ordered a number of small plates to start...with the wonderfully
chilled Fino Sherry, a small bowl of Marcona Almonds ($4) was delicious,
as were the assorted Olives ($4). A small wooden platter with some
thin slices of Jamon Serrano ($9) was accompanied by some membrillo,
fresh grapes and some little bits of bread.
After draining our glasses of Sherry, we ordered the Fillaboa Albarino
at $10 a glass.
Now, kudos to the Beso crew: the bottle was brought to the table
and the server poured the wine in view of the customer!
The stemware was quite good, in fact and he poured a generous serving.
From there we ordered Pimientos de Padrón ($7) and these were fresh and
a bit lemony...I'd have preferred a bit more salt on these...
Gambas al Ajillo ($13) came in a small ceramic dish with six prawns and
some bits of garlic...but I suspect the shrimp had been in a freezer for
too long as they seemed a bit dried out and not especially succulent.
Pinchos de Pollo ($7) featured two skewers with cubes of tender chicken,
topped with a Salsa Verde that seemed comprised of parsley, olive oil,
maybe some garlic and a bit of rosemary...these rested on a thick slice
of bread and the olive oil and salsa made for a delicious bite!
At this point I brought out a bottle of (what turned out to be a nice)
Rioja Gran Reserva. The server asked if we wanted larger glasses
and we took him up on this offer.
He opened our bottle, properly poured the "say" and we shared
a taste with him.
The Paella de Pescado is $36 and serves two people nicely if you've
ordered some starters.
It's made with Bomba rice, as it should be and they claim to use lobster
broth in preparing this. The seafood assortment includes Shrimp,
Calamari, Monkfish, Clams and Mussels and there was a nicely crusty sofrito
on the bottom of the pan. I didn't detect a strong saffron
influence, though the menu claims it's incorporated into this dish.
As we were a bit late in departing, by dessert time the sound system was
playing the staff's choice of tunes...not especially soothing dining
music, but we only stuck around to enjoy a serving of Churros
accompanied by a chocolate dipping sauce.
There's no additional "health surcharge" on the bill, which
tallied to about $133 with the tax and before the tip.
This is a nice little neighborhood place with difficult parking
conditions (that's life in the big city these days).
We'd certainly dine here again.
Posted by GW
2100 Taraval Street
Lombatina di Vitello
Linguine con Vongole
customer had mentioned this place to us and we were not far away on a
Sunday night in November, so we booked a table (by phone...they're a bit
old-fashioned at Marcello's and don't have Open Table or Urban Spoon
Fortuitously there was a parking space open right in front of the
restaurant! We parked and ambled in...there's a peep-hole on one
of the doors as you enter the place! Maybe the bar was a
speak-easy decades ago?
You enter and there's a small waiting area, with a curved bar
nearby. To the left there's an elevated dining area with perhaps
70 to 80 seats. It was about half full on this particular evening.
The average age of the people dining there was high enough that I
probably brought down that number to 65 or 70! We gather those
dining there were Marcello's 'regulars.'
The place setting includes a clunky Libbey, 1980s-era wine glass.
The menu was presented along with a wine list.
Open the wine list book and you'll see 15 options are available "by
the glass." Only a few of them are identified by the winery
or brand. A few even give you a regional identity.
Riesling is $7 by the glass or $26 for a bottle, but we don't know whose
this is. Pinot Grigio is the same priced and only gives a small
clue: "Italia." There's a Tuscan Vermentino for
$7.50 or $30 a bottle. Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are $7 per
glass. There's Ferrari Carano Fume Blanc, though, for $7.50.
You'll have to make do with one bubbly, a Prosecco of some sort for $7.
Santa Cristina, a proprietary wine by Antinori, is listed as Sangiovese
and it is a Sangiovese-based blend these days. $7 and $26
respectively for a glass and bottle.
There's Chianti, along with Cabernet and Merlot. Jacob's Creek
Shiraz is the same price. There's a wine called Nerello di
Bastardo for $7, while a Beringer Zinfandel and an anonymous Pinot Noir
are $7.50 by the glass and $30.
Beringer's White Zin is listed as coming from Napa, but its appellation
is California on the bottle.
By the bottle we find Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling under the heading
of "California Wines," even though it's noted as coming from
Sauvignon Blancs include Cameron Hughes ($24), Kenwood ($26), Sterling
($27), Smokepoint ($34) and Cakebread ($40). Chardonnays include
Clos du Bois ($24), Kendall Jackson ($25), Gundlach Bundschu ($33) and
Red wines include Zinfandels from Kenwood and Kendall-Jackson at $26 and
$25 respectively. They have a St. Francis Merlot for $22, while
Clos du Bois is $25. BV Napa Cabernet is $29, as is Sebastiani's
and Kenwood's. Jordan Cabernet is $68.
Prices are very reasonable, but the selections are aimed at an audience
that's not especially sophisticated.
The corkage fee is $15.
The menu has everything you might expect of a 1960s-1970s Italian dining
establishment. There's Shrimp Cocktail ($7.75), Carpaccio ($7.25)
and Prosciutto e Melone ($8). The Soup of the Day is $4.75.
Hearts of Palm Vinaigrette is $6.50 while a Caesar Salad is $6.25.
They have well more than a dozen pasta dishes and 11 Veal
offerings. They have 8 Chicken preparations and a similar number
of seafood dishes.
The server told us Marcello had been foraging for funghi recently and
they had Fried Porcini this evening. I opted for that, as I'm a
fan of these.
The Old Bat ordered Carpaccio and a Cup of Minestrone as starters.
The Carpaccio and Fried Porcini came out of the kitchen alarmingly
quickly...the Carpaccio was good and nicely presented.
The Porcini were a bit soft and not especially flavorful. Of
course, fresh Porcini are far different from the dried version...but
these were sliced maybe a quarter of an inch thick and were not very
'meaty,' but more soft. Maybe they needed a bit longer in the
A cup of Minestrone soup was "excellent," according to my
We produced a bottle of red wine and our old-pro-of-a-server brought two
wine glasses and opened the bottle.
For a main plate, The Old Bat ordered Linguine alle Vongole ($12.75), a
nice plate of close-to-al-dente pasta and a pile of little clams (no
shells, so probably from a jar or can). My "Lombatina"
of Veal ($21) was a nice sized 'steak,' smothered in a sauce of some
sort and accompanied by some thin potato slices and a little mound of
Swiss Chard (was it?).
There was a sharp fragrance to this dish...frankly, I wonder if was a
vinegar smell or what...the meat was fine as were the accompaniments.
We skipped dessert and the bill, with the corkage fee and tax tallied to
This is a perfectly decent neighborhood place and we'll consider coming
here again, but I'll order some other dishes and explore the menu
Reviewed by GW
150 West Portal
Mon-Fri: 11am til 10pm
Sat 10am until 10pm
Sun 10am until 9pm
Rigatoni con Salsiccia e Pepperoni
Three Hour Lamb Shank & Polenta
were seeing a movie in the West Portal neighborhood on a Sunday in
November and The Old Bat had been whining about "Spaghetti and
Meatballs." This relatively new place seemed like a good
option, although, at this time, they do not accept reservations.
Just a few minutes before 6pm we ambled from the theater down the block
and found a table by the front window. Otherwise the bar was
well-populated and the restaurant tables were all occupied. A few
outdoor tables were open.
Menus were presented as we sat down, along with a wine list. I do
not recall there being wine glasses as on the table as part of the table
The list features but one sparkling wine by-the-glass, a Prosecco listed
simply by its proprietary name "Gioss" ($9/glass). Its
brand or winery name is Riva dei Frati. A Rosato is listed by its
proprietary name, but the winery name is not listed. The grape
variety is also omitted.
Other white wines by-the-glass include Cellar 8 Chardonnay ($8), Feudi
di San Gregorio Falanghina ($10), Sella & Mosca Vermentino ($8) and
a Ruffino Orvieto ($9).
Red selections include a couple of Cameron Hughes wines, Layer Cake
Cabernet ($10), a La Moto Chianti ($7), Quatro Mani Barbera ($10) and a
Malaspina winery red from Calabria called "Palikos" ($11).
These are rather modest selections and with 15 reds available
by-the-glass, one wonders how they keep these in good condition, once
the bottles are opened.
Most of these offerings are of little interest, frankly, to someone
searching for a good glass of wine. The selections are fairly average,
at best, and wines one will find primarily in chain stores and grocery
The white wines offered by the bottle finds a Gavi listed as being
from Tuscany (it's Piemonte, in fact) at $45. A three year old
Arneis from Giacosa Fratelli is $45. An Erbaluce di Caluso ($42)
is also listed as a Tuscan white, despite being from Piemonte.
Some wines are listed without regional designations (Ganzo Pinot Grigio
$28) actually comes from Umbria, while a Kettmeir ($40) is listed as
coming from the Alto Adige, but a neighboring producer, St. Michael
Eppan has no regional identity on this list.
There are 8 Half Bottle Selections with Landmark's Chardonnay costing
$30. Ferrari Spumante in white or Rose are both $30 for a 375ml
The red wines by-the-bottle feature some better quality
selections. A Francesco Rinaldi Barbaresco from 2010 is $80, but
it's too young at this stage to really shine. There's a wine
listed as "Polesio Sangiovese Italia 2013 $36" but omitted is
the winery name "San Lazzaro" and its place of birth, the
I wonder what wine they bring when you order "Baby Amarone"
from the large Pasqua winery (being there is no official designation for
a wine called "Baby Amarone")? And there's a
wine listed as "Amarone Valpolicella Piemonte 2009 $75" which
is another curiosity, as Amarone wines come from the Veneto region, not
Piemonte (and no producer for such a wine is named on the list).
There's a $45 bottle of Morellino di Scansano, but the producer is not
This is a sloppily-constructed wine list from a variety of perspectives
and clearly not the work of a wine-savvy individual.
We ordered a couple of glasses of "Sauv Blanc Crickett C. Sonoma
Toboni Vin 13" at $10 a pour. I gather the actual brand name
of this (we never saw the bottle) is Oakwild Ranch and it's owned by the
Toboni family. This is ironic in that the Toboni's web site says
their wines are not available in retail stores, only in
restaurants. This marketing plan is constructed in hopes of a
consumer liking a wine well enough to want to buy it for their own
table...not finding it in a store, they must contact the winery and buy
it directly, at full price. Of course, when the wine is listed in
such fashion on a wine list and the bottle is not brought to the table
to show what wine is being poured, how would the consumer ever find the
producer of this wine???
The wine is brought in large, heavy-duty stemware and the serving is
As Vittorio's has a special pizza oven, we began with a Pizza Salsiccia
($16) which is topped with sausage, mushrooms, a bit of tomato sauce and
mozzarella. it's accompanied by some Calabrian peppers and some
dried chili peppers. The pizza was fairly thin and had good
flavors, so we were off to a good start.
The Old Bat wanted the "Fried Calamari and Organic Artichoke with
our Chef's Famous Sauce" ($11). The calamari was very light
yellow in color and this dish relied on the aioli and green dipping
sauce for flavor. On its own the calamari was quite bland.
The service was quite good and friendly.
We had a bottle of red wine in our cellar bag and the server promptly
brought two large wine glasses and opened our bottle. We offered
him a taste and he brought his own glass a few moments later.
The Old Bat, having a hankering for Spaghetti & Meatballs ($18),
naturally, then ordered Rigatoni con Italian Sausages, bell peppers,
onion and homemade tomato sauce ($16).
They had a few daily specials and one was a Lamb Shank, braised for
three hours in red wine ($28), so I opted for that to go with the 2008
Barolo I'd brought.
The Rigatoni was cooked al dente...maybe even a bit raw if the sample I
tasted was representative of the dish. It seemed a bit bland, too.
The Lamb Shank was nicely presented with a bit of polenta on the
plate. The lamb was as explained by the server: Lamb cooked
for three hours in red wine.
Had they incorporated a noticeable bit of seasoning (garlic,
perhaps...maybe some rosemary or a mix of herbs), I'd have been more
positive about the dining experience. The polenta was not
especially flavorful, either.
On the other hand, Calabria is known for its spicy peppers and the
little plate with Calabrian peppers and chili flakes was on the table
for our main course, so we could have added some flavor ourselves, I
The server kindly packed up The Old Bat's rigatoni "to go" and
included a box with a little dessert inside. Nice.
The bill tallied to $115 with the tax and before the tip.
If you're in the neighborhood, this is a perfectly nice place for a
pizza, but if you're looking for other menu items, you might consider
Reviewed by GW
2427 Third Street
LUNCH Mon-Fri 11-3
DINNER Mon-Sat 5:30-10
Calamares y Almejas with Chorizo
Bavette 'Steak' with Baby Carrots and Potatoes.
Costillas de Cerdo with Fried Plantains and some rice & beans.
were visiting San Francisco for a theatrical performance on a Thursday
evening, so we searched for a restaurant not too far from the venue and
found this new place in the Dogpatch area.
As they were just opening, only a couple of tables were occupied and we
were escorted to a two-top along the wall away from the entrance and
kitchen. No wine glasses were on the table, though they do present
a wine list with the menu.
The restaurant's theme is Latino, featuring Central & South
American dishes, as well as those of Cuban and Puerto Rican influence.
We perused the wine list...two "burbujas" (bubbles) by the
glass...a Sparkling Malbec from Argentina and a Bohigas winery cava from
Spain. $9 a glass for the former, $11 for the latter with bottle
prices being $36 and $46 respectively.
They offer four white wines by the glass. There's a modest Vinho
Verdo called Anjos at $8 a glass or $32 by the bottle. There's a
Sonoma Sauvignon Blanc made by an unknown winery in Pasadena, California
($9/glass, $36 bottle). Trefethen's Riesling is $14 and $52.
For reds by the glass there's Chocolan Cabernet from Chile at $8 or
Trumpeter "Pinot Nior" (sic) at $9. Mi Terruno Malbec
Reserva is $11, while a Spanish red, Dehsa la Granja 2006 is $12.
There are two French Champagnes on the list, but both are offered only
in half-bottle format. Lanson is $30 for a 375ml, while Thienot is
Benaza's Godello is a good choice in a white wine, costing $37 (we had
this in the shop for $15.99). Francois Chidaine's Sauvignon Blanc
is listed as coming from Montlouis, while in fact, the appellation
should be listed as Touraine. That's $36 a bottle on the
list and it retails for about $15. They offer Hervé Azo Chablis
for $40 which is a pretty good deal (and a nice wine). Of the four
rose wines on the list, only one is from the most recent vintage, while
two are two years old and the other is three (and these are not
improving with age!).
Bielsa Garnacha, a wine we'd had in stock for $11, is $41 on the
list. Saintsbury Pinot Noir is $36 for a half bottle and $72 for a
A few of the wines are listed only by appellation and varietal, leaving
it to the customer to guess who made the wine. For example,
there's a Riesling Glintzberg from Alsace (I suspect it's Roland
Schmitt's) at $47 a bottle. There's a 2009 Santenay "Gravieres"
with no domaine listed and that's $92 a bottle.
To their credit, the list isn't filled with wines from one of the large
liquor distributor's portfolios. There's enough range to match the
menu, though mark-ups are often a bit high.
We began with a glass of Paco & Lola Albariño, priced at $11 a
pour. The wine arrived at the table in really large, heavy-duty
Libbey glasses and the pour was quite generous.
There are 11 "small plates" on the menu and a couple of
salads. These range from $6 to $13. There are Empanadillas
of wild boar for $10. Bocadillos de Venado (Venison 'sliders')
also cost a ten-spot. There's a Ceviche of Tuna for $13. The
Old Bat was not adventuresome and she selected the Alcachofa Asada, a
grilled articoke ($9). I opted for Calamares y Almejas, calamari,
clams and chorizo for $12.
The artichoke had been steamed, cut in half, cleaned and then grilled
briefly...Aioli was the 'sauce' for that. Nice.
My little seafood plate was also quite good, if a bit small. It
had some cherry tomatoes and some Jalapeños, but wasn't especially
We brought out a bottle of red wine and the server placed a couple of
large stems on the table and opened our bottle. We offered him a
taste and he graciously accepted.
For main plates, The Old Bat ordered "Carne a la Parilla," a
bavette steak with some chimichurri sauce and plated with carrots and
potatoes ($25). My selection, with advice of our server, was
Costillas de Cerdo, Guava-Glazed Baby-Back ribs ($18). There were
maybe four or five ribs on the plate with some fried plantains and some
Both plates were very good. We also took a side of Kennebec Fries
($5) and these were large cut fried potatoes...perfectly okay with a
ketchup and some other dipping sauce.
Not wanting to miss our show, we high-tailed it out, skipping dessert.
The bill, with a $15 corkage fee and a small charge for the SF Health
fee, tallied to $129.
We enjoyed the meal and look forward to a return visit. Parking in
the neighborhood is difficult, so plan a bit of extra time to drive
around searching for a place.
It's located, by the way, about a mile south of AT&T Park.
Reviewed by GW
BAR & KITCHEN
2102 Shattuck Avenue
Dinner: 5-10 Tues-Sat
Duck Liver Mousse
Local Lettuces with shaved carrot and radish
Coho Salmon, Endive, etc.
Mixed Grill of Lamb
Apple Fritters...really good!
a nice bit of cinema on a Sunday afternoon, we arrived a bit early at
our dinner destination, just a few adventuresome blocks north of the
It's a spacious place with a nice bar along one wall and perhaps seating
for 70 to 80+ people in the restaurant.
We were escorted to a two-top, but The Old Bat asked if we could sit at
a larger table, so the host took us to a 4 seater by the window on
No wine glasses are on the table as part of the place setting, but a
wine list is presented with the menu. It's a three page document,
offered to diners on a clipboard.
I perused this, looking for wines-by-the-glass, but came up empty.
Those, you see, are posted on the back of the menu page, along with
numerous cocktails and a beer list.
They have three sparkling wines by the glass, a Trevisol Prosecco ($10),
a Moretto Lambrusco at $11 and Allimant Laugner's Cremant d'Alsace Rose
at $13 (We love this wine and it retails for $20 a bottle).
They have three wines dispensed from kegs and offered by-the-glass,
half-carafe or carafe:
Laird Sauvignon Blanc is $10, $24 and $34.
Stomping Girl Pinot Noir is $12, $28 and $40, while a Rhone blend from
Donkey & Goat is $11, $26 and $38.
Six white wines are offered from the bottle and by-the-glass, including
a Bonnet Muscadet for $11, a Monterey Viognier called Le P'tit Paysan
for $13 and Talley's Arroyo Grande Chardonnay for $14. Six reds by
the glass are offered, including a Marcel Lapierre Gamay for $10, Pavi
2008 Dolcetto (seems a bit old to me) from Napa at $8, Bueyes Malbec
from Argentina at $13 and a Napa Cabernet at $13 called
The clipboard wine list of three pages is broken down by
category...Bubbles has 6 offerings, including Allimant Laugner's Cremant
at $48 and Barnaut's Brut Champagne at $98.
There are "Light Whites and Roses," including Chotard's
Sancerre at $52 a bottle. Ojai Sauvignon Blanc is $50, so about
"Full Bodied Whites" has a Patz & Hall "Dutton
Ranch" Chardonnay at $62 a bottle and Castelfeder's Kerner from the
Alto Adige is $52 (I'm not sure I'd consider that as a full-bodied
"Light Bodied Reds' we find two Beaujolais wines and 8 Pinot Noirs,
including Paul Mathew at $80 and Red Car at $86.
"Medium Bodied Reds" features Bruno Rocca 2011 Dolcetto d'Alba
at $44 and Corralillo Syrah from Chile at $32.
"Full Bodied Reds" has DuMol Syrah at $102 a bottle or
Travaglini's Gattinara at $58. I don't think I'd consider the
Gattinara to be "full-bodied," any more than Mastrojanni's
Brunello is "full." It's $98 a bottle, though.
At least the list offers wines in a wide range of prices and there's a
sufficiently broad spectrum of selections to match the moderately
The restaurant makes its own Charcuterie, including Duck Liver Mousse,
Saumagen, Smoked Ham, Dry Cured Coppa and Ciccioli. Those are $8
each or $21 for a small plate assortment or $28 for a large plate.
Under "Starters" there are three "Flatbreads" (at
$14), a fancy name for pizza. A Turnip & Apple Soup is $8 or
you can have a plate of Lamb Meatballs.
Salads features a trio of offerings, all at $13...a Frisée + Lardon or
Chopped Curly Kale (with maple, chile, cumin, radish, cilantro-pumpkin
seed pistou, pickled mushrooms and a golden balsamic vinaigrette) which
seemed like a whole bunch of flavors which cannot co-exist with wine.
There's a salad of Autumn flame grapes + Persimmon with "endive,
watercress, gorgonzola dolce latte, pink peppercorns, walnuts and a
grape-ginger vinaigrette." Again, good luck with the wine
There are 5 main plates and, on Sunday after 7pm, Fried Chicken.
Mains include a New York Strip Steak ($31, when available as noted on
the menu), a Lamb Mixed Grill for $29, or a Duck Breast and Confit Leg
at $25. There's a vegetarian offering of Winter Squash + Golden
Quinoa at $23 or Pan Roasted Coho Salmon at $26.
These are all rather balanced dishes, it seemed to me, and capable of
pairing with the wines on their wine list.
The Old Bat ordered a Charcuterie plate of Duck Liver Mousse which came
on a wooden platter with whole grain mustard, pickled onions and
pickled cucumber slices. There was a lovely slab of the mousse and
some thinly sliced, toasted pieces of bread. The mousse was
beautifully silky and flavorful.
I didn't have much interest in those car-wrecks of a salad, but under
the heading of "Sides" there was "Local Lettuces with
shaved carrot and radish" at $8.
There was some Frisée and more like 'wild greens' than normal types of
leafy lettuce. It was a nice little dish, though and the
vinaigrette didn't overpower my glass of Loimer Gruner Veltliner
($13). The Old Bat opted for a Tanqueray Martini and was
"wowed" by the pickled "Cippolini" onion, which I
presume was made on the premises.
I produced a bottle of a Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir and we paid $16 as a
corkage fee. Nice stemware was used for the glass of Gruner and
the server brought larger stems for the Pinot.
Too bad the wine did not come up to the same level as the cuisine.
The Coho Salmon was as delicious as it was beautiful. $26.
Caramelized endive, some chanterelles and a carrot top puree were on the
plate with a lemon-saffron and tarragon 'sauce'.
I had the Lamb Mixed Grill which featured a slice of leg o'lamb, a
lamb-olive sausage and a lamb "porterhouse" slice with fresh
beans and red peppers. $29. As I mentioned, it was a pity
the wine we brought did not come close to the level of quality of this
We didn't have much room for dessert, but I splurged in ordering a plate
of their Apple Fritters (with a lot of Cinnamon) at $8. This was a
fantastically good end to our meal. Seriously good.
The bill tallied to $130 before the tip.
We thoroughly enjoyed the meal here and will probably return soon after
another bit of cinema a few blocks away!
Reviewed by GW
525 Crespi Drive
Soiled Silverware was removed from the starter plates and set on the
table for us to use with the main course.
Paella with long grain rice.
driven by this place along the main road in Pacifica, so we booked a
table after a Sunday cinema and found a spacious bar and dining room
with a terrace or balcony to view the sunset.
In late October, that sunset is much earlier than we were, but we were
escorted to a nice table for 4 (even though we were just two). The
World Series was on the various flat-screens scattered around the room.
No wine glasses are on the table, but they presented the menu, which has
a wine list included, along with lots of cocktails, Pisco drinks and
The wine list features three bubblies by the glass or bottle.
There are twelve white wines, with seven of them available by the
glass. There are three Roses available, one by the glass.
Twenty one red wines on the list, with eight of them being available in
You'll be hard-pressed to recognize very many of the wines on the
list. They've done a pretty good job of selecting wines which will
be virtually unknown to most wine drinkers, so recognizing the pricing
(and mark-ups) is a challenge.
This can be a good thing, but it seems a number of the white wines are a
year, two or three behind the "current" vintages of some
Is it the restaurant focuses more on spirits, beer and cocktails?
Are customers uncomfortable ordering such off-beat labels?
They have two Sauvignon Blanc wines, for example. Eight Arms North
Coast 2011 for $11 a glass or $42 a bottle. There's a 2009 Pont de
Chevalier from Sonoma for $65. A 2007 Albarino is offered for $65
of the Pedralonga label. Ever heard of Zacherle Riesling from
Carneros? It's $40 a bottle for the 2010 vintage. There's a
Lodi Grenache Blanc of the Cochon label for $42 for the 2011.
If there's not someone who can sell these wines working the floor, it's
not surprising to see such wines languishing on the list.
The three pink wines are all young, a 2013 Sandhi Pinot Noir Rose going
for $68, while Martian Rose of Syrah is $42.
As for the red wines, we find offerings such as "Slang Pinot
Noir" for $65, "The Tentacle" Syrah/Zin blend for $12 a
glass or $46 a bottle and Hocus Pocus Santa Barbara Syrah for $50 (it's
about $20-$21 retail). If you'd like a Napa Cabernet, there's
Convexity at $95, a brand launched by former asset management
If you want to bring your own, the corkage fee is $18.
Being a Peruvian place, the menu features a number of Ceviche
preparations ($13 to $15). Then there are a few "Causa Makis,"
a sort of Peruvian version of Sushi with mashed potatoes instead of
sushi rice. These are $14 to $15.
We ordered a couple of pours of the Avinyo Cava ($11 a pour or $42 by
the bottle), a wine I've tasted but a handful of times and I remember it
as being drier and more austere than on this occasion.
The Old Bat ordered the Causa 27 ($14) which is Shrimp and Calamari
chicharron, lettuce, white fish and Ceviche Aioli.
I had the Causa Masaki ($14) which features crispy shrimp, Dungeness
Crab, Avocado and Nikkei Aioli. (Nikkei is a term for the fusion
of Peruvian and Japanese cuisines, by the way.)
These starters were beautifully presented and both delicious!
At this stage I put a bottle of a nice dry white wine on the table and
our server immediately brought an ice bucket (not really necessary, but
we appreciate the thought) and two good wine glasses.
He opened the bottle and poured 'the say.' Luckily, the bottle was
We had just finished the starters and the plates were on the table,
having yet to be cleared. Suddenly the two paellas arrived and we
had to move the plates to allow the fellow to set down the little paella
Soiled, used utensils from our first course were then taken off the
appetizer plates and put back down on the table, as the staff here has
not been trained to remove the entire 'service' and immediately replace
The Paella is described on the menu as "Mixed Fish and Shellfish,
Chicken and Chorizo, Saffron Rice, Peppers, green peas and Pimentón
I did find some nice mussels (as you can see in the photos), a few
prawns, some Bay Scallops, Calamari, but I missed the Chicken, Chorizo
And the rice was a unlike a good Spanish-styled Paella, made with Bomba
rice or some other short grain rice.
Here at Puerto 27, the waiter told us they use "long grain
Well, it was still a nice dish.
We skipped dessert, so the bill, with two pours of bubbles, two
starters, two paellas and one corkage fee tallied to $131 with tax.
It's a nice venue, probably more scenic before sunset and without the
distraction of the several large screen TVs scattered around the dining
Puerto 27 is a nice place to dine, but I'm not sure it's worth the trek
if you're not close by given the numerous restaurant options in the
nearby San Francisco.
65-A 29th Street
Open Daily for Dinner 5:30 Mon-Sat
Open 5-10 Sundays
Homemade Hot Sauces
Dr. Pepper Braised Short Ribs with some celery root puree and Broccoli
Popcorn on the side, with our four piece serving of Fried Chicken,
Collard Greens and Mashed Potatoes.
been talking about dinner on a Thursday evening, but we didn't get
around to selecting a place until a few hours before dining.
And we found The Front Porch.
We made an 8:15 reservation and, luckily, arrived maybe a half hour
early (for a change). A few passes around the block and we did not
find a parking spot. We ended up finding a space down a dead end
across from the restaurant.
The host said the table was close to being ready and he could call us on
the phone to ring the dinner triangle, so we ambled across the street to
the Rock Bar. I gather both establishments are under the same
I had a Affliglem Blond on tap and my friend ordered a cocktail as we
watched the locals "hanging out". Especially amusing
were the two ladies near us who were babying a cute little pooch (a pug,
perhaps?) who was quite comfortable sharing a drink at the bar.
Just about right to the minute the call came, saying our table was
ready. "Finish your drinks, though. Please take your
time." we were told.
We returned to the restaurant and were escorted to a 4 top at the back
of the place near the kitchen. I had a seat on a normal chair, but
my friend was on an old car seat (and they had seatbelts, too!).
The decor is eclectic and being late in October, there was a Halloween
The menu and wine list were presented as we sat down. No wine
glasses on the tables, though.
The wine list features a a couple of sparkling wines by the glass, Mont
Marcal's Spanish Cava at $7.50 a glass or Charles Sparr Cremant d'Alsace
Brut Rose at $8.50.
A half bottle of Bruno Paillard is $45, while a bottle of Dom Perignon
is nicely priced at $205.
There are nine whites offered by-the-bottle with a few offered by the
deuce (half liter) or by the glass.
A Picpoul de Pinet of the J&D Selections label goes for $7, $14 or
$26 for a bottle. Trefethen's Napa Riesling is $9, $18 or
$34. There are 14 red wine selections, including a Beaujolais of
Piron from the Chènas cru at $46 a bottle.
From the Rhone Valley there was a Chateau de Segries Lirac at $12 a
glass, $24 for a 'deuce" and $46 for a bottle.
Other selections included a Baxter Pinot Noir from the Anderson Valley
for $12 a glass, $24 for a half liter and $46 for a bottle. Andis
Barbera from Amador, a Conn Valley Merlot and Donati Claret were
A few of the wines have an icon of a chicken next to them, the Barbera
and a Grenache Blanc from Lodi called Onesta being cited as good matches
for "glugging with fried chicken."
Curiously, none of the sparkling wines merits this designation!
We ordered a 'deuce' of Joseph Drouhin Chablis at $20. Nice
stemware was brought to the table and a small decanter with the wine was
poured to an appropriate level.
We ordered some Fried Okra with a Jalapeno Aioli ($7.50) and some
Crawfish Hush Puppies ($9).
Soon we had a small basket of beautifully-fried Okra...nice texture of a
crispy exterior and toothsome okra!
The Hush Puppies were also quite good and you could really taste the
crayfish in these soft, bready little 'golf-balls'.
We were intrigued by the Dr. Pepper Braised Short Ribs ($25), so we
chose to open a rather upscale red Burgundy we'd been dying to
taste. It was a Chassagne-Montrachet from Michel Niellon, a
premier cru from the Clos Saint Jean site. This was a like
dressing in a tuxedo to go to a rib joint!
I'd chilled the bottle to cellar temp and this worked nicely as it
emphasized the acidity and mild tannins. We shared a taste of this
with our server and her knees buckled when she tasted it. "Ohhhh
myyy...!!!" she cried.
We also ordered the "Fried Chicken, 4 Piece" at $18.50.
Other options included "Blackened Wild Gulf Flounder"
($22.75), "Spicy Shrimp & Grits" ($24) and "Sweet Tea
Brined Pork Chop" ($21). Yes, it's a little 'taste of the
south' right here in The City!
The Short Ribs were quite good and were adorned with some fresh
horseradish. You could get a hint of the Dr. Pepper in the sauce
hugging the meat.
The pieces of Fried Chicken were marvelous, if a tad different from the
version we'd enjoyed last month at the Firefly restaurant in San
This seemed to have a bit of hot sauce in the seasoning mix and I
thought I detected a note of rosemary, too.
The Burgundy was able to survive this onslaught of flavor, though I
think next visit I'll bring Champagne to pair with this.
The chicken is accompanied by "garlic mashers" and "ham
hock collards." Truly soul food!
They brought us a couple of homemade corn muffins...delightful!
We had to try their Biscuits, too. I think it's $4.50 for two
really nice biscuits (but the biscuits at Firefly might be a bit
We were curious to try their version of Beignets and these were
presented in a small sack, beautifully covered in powdered sugar.
Their music box featured old-timers such as Jimi Hendrix and Bob
Dylan which seemed fitting given the ambience and the cuisine.
In searching for parking, I'd seen Mitchell's Ice Cream nearby and so
after paying the bill, we ambled over there at 10::30 to find a
"Please-take-a-number" system. The Kahlua and Cream was
quite good, though totally over-the-top after such a meal at The Front
Their corkage fee is $20 and this brought our tab for two to about $102.
We're already planning a return visit to this place! It's well
worth the drive from Burlingame, but it's best to reserve a table ahead
of time as it's a popular dining spot.
Reviewed by GW
584 Valencia Street
OPEN DAILY FROM 5:30 to 10:30 or 11
Crevettes and Aioli
Smoked Ocean Trout
Grilled Chicken with Padron Peppers
Mixed Berry Gratin & Beignets
a Monday night we met a couple of friends at this brand new restaurant
in the Mission District. The venue had been the home of the Wing
Ho General Store up until recently...
Urchin Bistrot is an off-shoot of Terra in Napa, though captained by
some people who had worked well at the same company's "AME"
restaurant in San Francisco.
They bring a lighter touch to classic French bistro cooking, although
I'm not sure who's been asking for a lighter touch.
No valet parking but I was lucky to park in a parking garage a block
away, as on-street spaces were filled.
The restaurant has tables as you walk in (and an open kitchen) and then
an upstairs dining area.
On a Monday evening around 7:30, or so, the place was quite
packed. There may be 80 to 100 seats in the dining areas.
We had a wine list and menus on the table when I arrived, but wine
glasses are not part of the table settings.
I perused the list for something interesting and found a Roland Schmitt
Riesling from Alsace at $40 for a full bottle. They have a list of
wines, as well, offered "by the glass," in a "flask"
containing about half a bottle (12 ounces) or in bottle.
Roederer Estate Sparkling wine is $11, $23 and $44 in those glass, flask
or bottle offerings.
Aubry Brut Champagne is $20, $41 and $80, while a Langlois Brut Rose
from France's Loire Valley goes for $13, $27 and $52.
A nice little Chablis from Alain Geoffroy is $11, $23, and $45 by the
bottle. It's a $19.99 retail in our shop.
It's a French-dominated list of wines, with few wines the average
consumer will actually have familiarity. That said, it does have
some nice offerings and wines which pair with the cuisine.
They offer a $50 price-fixed menu and that can be accompanied by $38
worth of a wine pairing.
Under the heading of Appetizers, we asked for two plates of "Crevettes,"
accompanied by an Aioli. Four peeled prawns are intertwined on a
small plate...perfectly okay, but this is not much of a culinary
challenge for the kitchen crew.
The prawns were good and matched nicely with the Alsatian Riesling.
They brought a Gratin of Vegetable "Brandade" for us,
accompanied by some slivers of toasted baguette slices. The idea
is to "lighten up" classic French dishes and I think all three
of us would have preferred the flavor of a classic cod-fish Brandade
instead of the rather bland mix of celery root, potato (I think) and
cauliflower. Nice try, though.
One companion ordered their "Radicchio, Anchovy, Lemon,
Parmesan" appetizer at $11. I went for their "Ocean
Trout Fumé with Capers and Lemon" at $14.
Our other diner passed on a starter.
The Radicchio was a bit of a take on a Caesar Salad...and it had nicely
intense garlic and anchovy flavors.
My trout was not especially smoky and would have been rather bland
without the capers.
That Schmitt Riesling was still on the table and pairing handsomely with
I placed a bottle of red Burgundy on the table and the server came by,
opened it for us and brought nice, large Burgundy stems.
For the main plates, one lady ordered the Steak Frites at $26. The
other opted for the Grilled Free Range Chicken with Braised Kale and
Padrón Peppers ($22), while I chose the Lamb Cassoulet, with lamb
shoulder, sausage, riblets and Rancho Gordo Beans ($26).
The Burgundy was really showing well and the main plates were all
good. The chicken was tender and flavorful. The steak was
nicely done according to our friend. The Lamb Cassoulet was fine,
though I would have preferred a bit more seasoning (garlic, for
one...maybe a touch of rosemary, as well). The beans were cooked
to perfection, though and it was a nice dish.
The ladies claimed little interest in dessert, but I ordered a Mixed
Berry Gratin with Beignets ($10) and this was quite good.
The ambiance is nice, though we were near a music speaker and found the
techno sounds or heavy metal rock to be a bit out of synch. One
person suggested "Maybe the general manager is off
tonight?" I guess I'm an old codger now, but I'd have
preferred the music to be less noticeable and more in the background.
I think corkage is around $20 and our bill, with tax and the SF health
surcharge tallied to about $205, give or take a buck. We each left
Overall, a nice place...probably worth a return visit, but I'll wait
until the menu changes.
Reviewed by GW
4288 24th Street
Dinner from 5:30 Daily
Sea Scallop and Shrimp Pot Stickers
Fried Chicken and a Damn Fine Biscuit
had dined at this little, out-of-the-way, Noe Valley restaurant maybe a
decade ago and booked a Sunday night table.
The place was nearly filled to its 50 seat capacity and we were escorted
to a table for two near the bar. There are two dining areas, one
by the kitchen and bar, the other in what probably was another
storefront, once upon a time.
The wine list and menus were presented as we were seated. Wine
glasses are not part of the table setting.
They do not serve distilled spirits, so The Old Bat could not have her
The by-the-glass wine list features three sparkling wines, 6 whites, 6
reds and a rose.
A Bisol Prosecco is $12 a glass, as is a Cremant de Bourgogne from a
Macon domaine. An Austrian rosé bubbly of Pinot Noir and Zweigelt
is $11. Of the six white wines, there's but one California
offering, Arrowood Chardonnay at $12 a glass. Otherwise, there's a
Sauvignon Blanc from Turkey for $10.50, an Austrian Gruner Veltliner for
$11, a Spanish Xarel-lo for $9 and a Macon from Vincent Girardin for
Reds are interesting an a bit obscure, too. Can Blau's Montsant
from Spain is $10.50, while a Zuccardi Malbec is $9.50. Oakwild
Ranch Pinot Noir from Sonoma is $12.50, Saucelito Canyon Zinfandel is
$11 and a Birichino Cinsault is $12.
In half bottles, there are 4 whites and 4 reds. Hans Wirsching's lovely
Silvaner is $30 a half bottle (it's $12 at retail), while a Sancerre is
$35 for a 375ml format...A Coltibuono Chianti is $36 for a half bottle
(full bottles of this retail for $17-$20) and Ridge Lytton Springs is
$50 for a half bottle.
Wines by the bottle are all over the map, so you can explore some
interesting selections there, if you like. An Henri Bourgeois
Sancerre is $53 on their wine list, while a Pigato from the Ligurian
winery "Bio Vio" is $50. Oremus dry Furmint from Hungary
is $48 or you might try the Pierce Verdelho from Monterey County at $39
while Germano's dry Piemontese Riesling is $60 a bottle.
Of the five Pinot Noirs, I might opt for the Camus-Bruchon premier cru
Savigny at $95. A Rioja from Finca San Martino goes for $44 (a
$13.99 bottle at retail). A southern Rhone red from the Beaumes de
Venise appellation is $58 (Redortier is the producer). There's a
Crozes-Hermitage from the Domaine de Colombiere (sic) at
$55. A Terra Valentine Napa Cabernet is $75, while the
Kendall-Jackson family's Cenyth Cab blend is $90. Ridge Santa Cruz
Mountains Cabernet Estate blend is $110, a $50 retail.
Corkage is $18 or $20.
The wine list can certainly be described as a bit esoteric, but there's
a broad spectrum of choices and you can certainly find something to
match the moderately eclectic menu at Firefly.
The Old Bat was delighted with a glass of Lillet Blanc ($6.25). I opted
for a pour of their Albariño ($9.50) which was served in a nice large
stem of good quality.
We both were interested in their Sea Scallops and Shrimp Pot Stickers
($13.50) and this was a marvelous plate of freshly-made 'ravioli' (if
you will). These overshadowed the rather mild, if a bit bland,
The server, a charming young lady, was knowledgeable about the various
menu offerings and she stopped by the table periodically to check on us.
The Old Bat ordered the Braised BN (Bill Niman) Ranch Lamb ($25) which
came with a few veggies on the side. The lamb was tender and
My main plate was their Fried Mary's Chicken ($22) which came with a
serving of mashed potatoes and gravy, some Romano beans in a spicy sauce
and what they accurately describe on the menu as "A Damn Fine
We skipped desserts, as we often do. I'm not fond of desserts
featuring Buttermilk Ice Cream, Strawberry Cream Cheese Ice Cream,
Mascarpone Panna Cotta or Coconut Tapioca. But I'm guessing there are
many folks who do like those sorts of after dinner treats. Most
desserts were $9 and Firefly also offers a wine pairing suggestion for
The dessert suggestions are well-considered, in fact. With a
Bittersweet Chocolate Cake they suggest a Niepoort LBV Port at $10 a
glass. For the Coconut Tapioca and Ambrosia Melon Sorbet, they
advise La Caudrina's Moscato d'Asti at $8.
The ambiance is comfortable, though a bit noisy.
Overall, this is a treasure of a neighborhood restaurant and we're
already planning another visit (without a movie pairing)!
Reviewed by GW
651 Oak Grove Avenue
Open Lunch Tues-Fri 11:30-2
Dinner Tues-Sun from 5pm
The very "American" idea of Italian dipping sauce...modest
quality oil and similar quality "Balsamic" vinegar.
You won't find this in Italy.
Prosciutto e Melone
Fusilli alla Bolognese
were planning to see the British film "A Trip to Italy" on a
Sunday afternoon, so we booked a table at this new Italian restaurant on
a small alley in Menlo Park.
We had dined at this location a few years ago when it was called
Brunello. Today it's under new ownership, being run by an Italian
fellow who also owns Burlingame's Sapore.
It's a small place seating perhaps 35 to 40 people inside and maybe 6 to
12 outside, weather permitting.
There's a parking lot nearby and we easily found a spot for the car and
ambled in for our 6:30 reservation.
The place was perhaps 35%-50% occupied.
Wine glasses are on the table as part of the place setting. The
menu was presented as we were seated in in the back at a cozy corner
table. There was no wine list, but there were a few wines listed
"by the glass" on the daily menu specials insert.
There are 9 wines offered by the glass.
That's the good news. The bad news is they do not bother to inform
customers whose wine they are serving, for the most part.
There's an unnamed Pinot Grigio for $9 a glass. A Prosecco, Nero
d'Avola and Sangiovese are also $9, but we do not know the brand name of
any of these. There's an anonymous Barbera d'Alba for $11 and
unnamed Chianti Classico for $12. Only their Chardonnay and
Sauvignon Blanc wines are identified and these, both $9 a pour, are Edna
Valley wines, a brand taken over by Gallo a few years ago.
One of the three wines "by the bottle" is La Moto "Super
Tuscan," a wine retailing for perhaps $15. Here's it's $36 a
There's the anonymous Barbera d'Alba at $38 a bottle and a "Malbec
del Sol" for $30, a wine retailing on some internet web sites for
between $7 and $9 a bottle.
I did see a bottle of Jordan Cabernet behind the bar, but it's not on
their abbreviated wine list.
Clearly wine is not important, despite the place being an Italian-themed
And when a place lists only the type of wine anonymously, rather than
including a brand name on the list, it usually indicates they buy solely
on price and not on quality. I've usually found the kitchen tends
to be stocked similarly in places too lazy to offer good wine with
winery names on their list.
We inquired as to the identity of their Prosecco and the server didn't
know, but he kindly brought the bottle over for inspection. It was
another obscure brand. We opted for two pours and the fellow
brought a couple of stems-full of bubbles. One had giant bubbles
(like club soda or 7-Up) and the other mildly bubbly...I suspect this
had to do with how the glasses were washed and dried.
The place was under-staffed and it was clear the two servers and one
busser had their hands full. It seems a hostess and server decided
it being a holiday weekend, the place might not be busy, so they took
the day off.
The menu offers a handful of starters and a few salads. There's
a Bruschetta of tomatoes for $7 or one of Fava beans for $8. Mozzarella
Caprese is $9, as is a Carpaccio. Antipasto per Due
is $18, but the items comprising this dish are a mystery. Prosciutto
& Melone is $10. A Mixed Green Salad is $7, while for $8
there's an Insalata di Cesare. There's an Insalata
Piccolo ($10) featuring Romaine Lettuce, dried cranberries,
Gorgonzola and Avocado. The soup ($7) is a Chicken Broth with
The daily specials menu with all the mystery wines has 5 items on
it. Burrata Con Crostini is $10, as is an Arugula and
Spaghetti alle Vongole is $18, while Short Ribs with Fettuccine
is $23. Halibut alla Piccata is $25.
The server informed us the Spaghetti and Clams was sold out, as was the
Short Ribs special.
The regular menu has 7 pasta dishes, ranging from $12 to $18.
There were 5 "secondi" on this menu, from "Pollo alla
Parmiggiana" (sic) at $16, two veal dishes featuring "provini"
(sic) veal. Gamberoni al Limone is $22. Eggplant
Parmigiana (they spelled it correctly this time!) is $16.
The Old Bat ordered the Carpaccio which Piccolo embellishes with
"Parmesan Cheese." She asked for it without the cheese
and the plate was nicely presented and tasted pretty good.
I ordered Prosciutto e Melone and this, too, had a nicely artistic
presentation and the Prosciutto was good quality, but the melon was
bland. In fact, it tasted a bit odd, reminding me of the flavor of
Trix or Fruit Loops breakfast cereal. I wondered if the melon had
been cut earlier and stashed in the 'fridge? In any case, by the
end of August, finding a ripe melon should not be difficult.
The little bit of salad greens and shredded carrots in the middle of the
plate were not bathed in a vinaigrette so I wondered if these were more
for visual pleasure rather than gustatory appreciation.
They brought over some bread and a fellow poured olive oil and some
cheap Balsamic vinegar in a plate for a dipping sauce. Of course,
if you're a regular reader of these reviews, this sort of offering
identifies the restaurant as pandering to the taste of naive diners
who've not been to Italy and who think this is "how it's done in
the Old Country."
We waited about 20 minutes between the starters and main plates.
The Old Bat would have ordered the Spaghetti with Clams and I'd have
opted for the Short Ribs with Fettuccine, but they were sold out of both
daily specials (at 6:30!).
She chose, then, the Gamberoni al Limone ($22) which came in a small
pile on one side of the plate and a healthy serving of fresh vegetables
on the other side.
I ordered their Fusilli alla Bolognese ($14) and the pasta was cooked a
shade past "al dente" and the meat sauce was bland, at
best. In fact, I commented that any commercial pasta sauce had
more character than did this.
When airline food is more flavorful, maybe there's a problem.
We asked for the check and they didn't nail us for a corkage fee, which
was nice. The $9 glass of Prosecco, however, was $10 on the bill!
The bill tallied to about $82 before the tip.
This is a perfectly standard neighborhood dining spot, but not worth
going out of your way to dine there. If you're not terribly fussy
about food and don't care about wine, this may be your restaurant.
And don't forget to bring a good bottle to dinner, since the wine list
here is a failure.
Reviewed by GW
34 East Fourth Avenue
Dinner Wed-Sun 6pm until 2am
Double Onion Soup Gratinée
King Salmon with the potato crust, Broccolini, creamed spinach
underneath and mustard seed sauce.
Herb Fries with a New York steak, creamed spinach underneath and a green
a Sunday afternoon movie, we strolled in to Block 34, a new restaurant
in San Mateo near El Camino.
We were escorted to a table for two near a pillar by the wall on the far
wall from the bar. It was close to another two-top, which was
No wine glasses are on the table as part of the place setting. The
wine list is on the opposite side of the menu.
They have a full bar. The wine list offers a dozen white and a
dozen reds "on tap." Of bottled wines, there are but 8
selections of red and 8 of white!
There are 6 sparkling wines, if you'd consider Weibel's Raspberry bubbly
($10 a pour for a wine wholesaling for less than $7 a bottle) to be a
As for the quality of the wine selections: many of them are what I
can "wines with training wheels." That is, there are
some really basic entry level selections of wines that are prominent in
places such as Safeway and Costco. Brands such as Cameron Hughes,
Liberty School, Hess and Wente are available at Block 34.
The Old Bat had a Dry Martini which she said was
"excellent." I ordered a glass of Qupe Chardonnay ($18
in the shop) for $13 from a keg. I calculated the cost of this
glass...if it's a 6 ounce pour, the restaurant's cost is about
$2.61. A bottles' worth of this goes for $34, a relatively
attractive price for the consumer.
Hess Chardonnay is $9 a glass and $24 for a bottles' worth.
They also have a bunch of selections from a company called Vintap.
As a result, there's a rose called "Redenuff" ($9/glass), a
"Zincognito" Zinfandel ($9/glass), "Jupiter"
Sangiovese ($8) and "Red barn" Pinot Noir ($10).
Of wines sold in a bottle, we find a Ridge Zinfandel for $68 but it's
not identified any further, so is it their Three Valleys which retails
for about $25 or Geyserville or Lytton Springs which retail for around
If you're a fan of Jordan Cabernet, it's $28 a glass or $112 for a
bottle. Patz & Hall Pinot is $20 a pour or $72 by the bottle.
Rombauer Chardonnay goes for $17 a pour or $60 for the bottle. Can
you imagine a wine list offering a $90 bottle of Chateau Montelena
Cabernet (is it their 'Napa' blend or, less likely, the Estate
Cabernet?) and "Reuinite (sic) Moscato" for $22 a bottle?
Well, they're trying to cover all the bases.
We perused the menu...Two soups and three salads to start. An
Onion soup with is said to have a truffle component goes for $11.
A Corn Bisque is $9. A Kale & Romaine Caesar Salad is $9,
while an Avocado, Frisée, and Crab Salad comes with Quinoa and Seared
Watermelon with a Green Goddess Dressing ($15). Eight
appetizers are offered, including Steak Tartare ($14) which comes with a
fried quail egg. Clams Casino is $15, while Oven Roasted Oysters
are $15. They had a small list of fresh oysters ($2-$3 each for
most of them) or an unpriced Shrimp Cocktail (offered in two versions,
"Traditional Style" or "Old Boy (sic)
Seasoning." Having seen the Korean film "Old Boy,"
this was not appetizing.
The main course options are few: Three meat possibilities include an
Angus Burger with Fries ($17), A Chicken Breast with farro, white beans,
oregano, mushrooms and a citrus salad ($23) or a New York Steak and Herb
Fries with creamed spinach and a green peppercorn sauce ($32). Three
Seafood offerings were available on this particular evening, including
Bacon Crusted Sea Scallops ($32), King Salmon ($28) or Grilled Swordfish
Vegetarians are offered something called a "Cauliflower Steak"
with olives, capers, peppers, roasted red pepper and a tomato coulis
($17) or a Wild Mushroom Risotto ($18).
The Old Bat ordered the Double Onion Soup Gratinée ($11), while I
selected the Tuna Tartare which came with an avocado puree, rice chips
and nori ($16).
The starters came out fairly quickly and we watched as a runner walked
by our table in search of where these two items were going. I
think we were the third table he offered them to...
The soup, according to The Old Bat, was more like a Corn soup. I
tasted it and found the onion and Gruyere cheese notes, but not the
My Tuna Tartare was very good, although I thought the "diaper
stain" of green on the plate was wasabi. In any case, (have a
look at the photo) its appearance on the plate seemed as though someone
dragged their finger through the middle of it. I appreciate chefs
being artistic in their presentation, but you never know how someone
might interpret this "art."
The Old Bat asked if they had some bread and it seems both bread and
water are "by request." They don't ask if you'd care for
either of these, so the diner must take the initiative.
The bread was some sort of Pain d'Epis and it was okay...better had it
been a bit softer or served warm.
Holding a conversation at this place when it's busy is nearly
On the warm day we visited (high 60s to mid-70s), the restaurant was
quite hot. My dining partner kept asking "Is it me or is this
place hot?" After finishing her meal, she said she meet me
outside because it was too warm for her to comfortably remain in the
restaurant. There are some ceiling fans, but they are too close to
the high ceilings to have much impact at the table. Maybe, come to
think of it, they simply circulate the hot air back down into the dining
We produced a bottle of wine from the cellar bag and our young server
brought two wine glasses (perfectly decent all-purpose stems of maybe 14
to 16 ounce capacity) and she put a corkscrew to the bottle.
We coached her along the way as she was clearly not trained very much in
this area of service, nor was she especially experienced in opening
bottles of wine (maybe this is why they have so many wines in keg
Before our starter plates had been removed from the table, another
runner was table-side asking who gets what (we're a two-top and this
should be easy to incorporate into their ordering system)...
I asked where he intended to put those plates since we still had our
appetizer plates on the table.
"Well, you're going to have to move those out of the way!" he
At a neighboring table we sensed all sorts of confusion as to who gets
what, who's already had what, etc. Clearly they've not gotten all the
kinks worked out yet.
The Old Bat ordered their King Salmon dish with the potato crust...I
think she asked them to substitute the creamed spinach for the
cauliflower purée. The salmon, she said, was fine. It was
certainly cooked thoroughly, through and through.
My New York steak was cooked as ordered and the meat and sauce were
terrific. The plate has their "Herb Fries" on it and
with so much sauce, these became a bit soaked. The fries, you see,
are served simply on the plate, not in a cone or in a separate serving
Over all, Block 34 has good potential.
Service clearly needs more polish and the wine list is more the work of
quota-driven sales reps from the big liquor houses, so I'd suggest
bringing a good bottle since, if you're a savvy wine consumer, the list
is, as of August 2014, fairly ordinary.
Reviewed by GW
1309 Grant Avenue
Open Monday-Sat 5:30 til closing
Sunday 5pm - 10pm
Calamari e Rughetta
Prosciutto e Fichi
Chef Maurizio's Famous Tiramisu...
Now we know why it's famous!
few years ago we were ambling around North Beach and a friend pointed to
this hole-in-the-wall restaurant and said he'd had a good meal there.
At the spur of the moment on a Friday afternoon, another friend called
to say she was attending an art showing in a little gallery just off of
Grant Avenue, so we made reservations on Open Table for a 9:15 table at
Ideale in San Francisco. Parking is dicey in this area, especially
at night, so we paid $25 and dropped the car at a little lot on Fresno
Street, a block east of Grant Avenue.
The restaurant was packed at 9pm and a few people were waiting near the
entrance. We took a seat at the little bar in the back and perused
the wine list.
This place easily fits into the North Beach neighborhood, but you could
drop this trattoria in Rome, Milan or Venice, too.
We ordered a half bottle of Ferrari Brut Rose ($26), but they were sold
out, so we had a half bottle of Ruggeri Prosecco ($24).
The wine list is interesting and it's refreshing to find a list that's
not dominated by the mass-market offerings of the big liquor
distributors, nor is it full of the most esoteric bottlings from
currently fashionable "natural" winemakers. A few
well-known labels are on the list, but they offer the diner a nice range
of good Italian bottlings.
Suavia Soave Classico is $30 a bottle, while the Cantina Valle Isarco's
Gruner Veltliner is $36. I Favati Fiano is $39 and a Cantina
Pedres Vermentino costs $40.
In half bottles, aside from two sparkling wines, there's Sonoma Cutrer
Chardonnay ($24) and five reds, including Damilano Barolo ($35).
The red wine offerings are a well-priced and a few items stand out to
me: Produttori del Barbaresco 2008 Barbaresco ($60), Caprili 2007
Brunello ($85) and Romano Dal Forno's Valpolicella at $150 (not
inexpensive, but to have this wine for such a modest price in a
restaurant is remarkable!).
Their corkage fee is $25.
We were shown to our table in the 'other' room away from the bar and we
were seated in the front by the window. My, oh my, there's a
parade of characters strolling out on Grant Avenue!
Wine glasses are part of the table setting and we brought our little
clunky flute glasses and half bottle of Prosecco to the table.
We perused the menu and they forgot to bring a wine list.
The menu features old time, classic Italian dishes, so don't come here
looking for new culinary ground to be broken.
They don't do "fusion" (or con-fusion cuisine).
We ordered a starter plate of Prosciutto and Figs...a nice dinner plate
of good quality prosciutto (not deluxe, but good) with perfectly ripe
fresh figs. This was maybe $13.
Calamari e Rughetta ($12.50) featured a half a dozen, or so, calamari
mantles and a small pile of fresh (organic they tell us) arugula.
This was also quite good.
Our server had brought a small basket of fresh, soft bread to the table
and poured a small bowl of olive oil for dipping. These folks are
Italians, so they didn't bring cheap vinegar to the table as you'll get
in so many Italian-wannabe restaurants. The olive oil, by the way,
was unusually good. Kudos to these guys for paying attention.
We might have opted for a mid-plate of pasta, but the gluten-free gal I
was dining with precluded our ordering that. But the pastas we saw
being set on near-by tables looked good (smelled good, too) and many of
these are noted as "homemade" on the menu. Tortelloni,
Mezzalune, Ravioli and Lasagne all have this designation.
The menu also offers four different pizzas and seven main course options
(plus they may offer some additional specials).
We put a bottle of a 1999 Borgogno Barolo on the table and the server
took care of opening it and pouring. They didn't offer to decant
For main plates, my friend ordered the Agnello allo Scottadito ($28), a
number of perfectly cooked lamb chops with an herb rub. I couldn't
resist ordering the Costoletta di Vitello alla Milanese ($26).
Both plates came with some chunks of fresh tomatoes which had been
marinated or dressed lightly and, even better, some wedges of fresh
potatoes cooked until creamy inside and a bit crispy outside.
The lamb was a delight...very good. And the Costoletta Milanese
was excellent! It was a rib chop with the bone, not some small
piece of veal pounded to a thin, but massive sized dimension.
Our Barolo was just right...it was starting to blossom and the wine grew
handsomely over the course of the meal. They didn't rush
us...maybe a result of not having more folks waiting at the door.
A dessert menu was offered but we lingered over the wine and finally the
server brought a big slice of a tiramisu torta which was
The bill tallied to about $115 before the tip and they didn't charge us
the corkage fee, either an oversight or they appreciated our offering
them a pour of the Barolo. I think the dessert was complimentary,
The ambience was normal for a little, busy San Francisco eatery...not so
loud that you can't hear the person across from you, but loud enough to
not hear the neighboring tables.
We'll certainly keep this place in mind for a return visit and I look
forward to another Costoletta Milanese!!
Reviewed by GW
911 Main Street
Lunch: Tues-Fri 11:30-2:30
Dinner: Tues-Sat 5:30-9:30
The Amuse Bouche...a Medjool date with Prosciutto
The Kale Salad...lovely!
Ahi Tartare with Avocado, Mango, Sweet Peppers, English Cucumbers,
Seaweed "salad" and seasoned with Yuzu and Ponzu.
Nice stemware and a terrific plate of homemade pasta!
Heritage Pork Chop, Yukon Potatoes and Creamed Spinach.
Heritage Lamb with the Cannellini Bean Ragout and Mint Pesto
Chocolate Pot de Crème...Dangerously good.
had received a text message from a friend who was delighted with a meal
she was having at this newish place in Redwood City.
It's near Martin's West, Angelicas, Donato's and the movie theaters in
the downtown area.
So we decided to try Aly's on Main together...
Good luck parking near this place on a Friday night! We ended up
several blocks away.
Arriving a bit after 7, we found the restaurant to be about
half-filled. We were escorted to a booth in the back. We
were given menus and a very minimal one page document that is their wine
list. No wine glasses are on the table, though, as part of the
It's a beer and wine only place at the present time and we noticed a
handful of beers "on tap."
The wine list has a mere four white wines. Chalk Hill Sauvignon
Blanc is $12 a glass and $45 for a bottle, as is Woodside Winery
Chardonnay from the Santa Cruz Mountains and Acacia's Chardonnay from
Carneros. They offer a Chalone Chardonnay which is listed as being
from Sonoma, but it's actually from Monterey County fruit (and not
Chalone's more interesting Estate-grown wine).
Red wines come in but two "flavors," Pinot Noir (Poppy from
Monterey is $10 a glass and $39 by the bottle, a $12.99 retail wine--or
Thomas Fogarty's 2011 from the Santa Cruz Mountains at $56 a
bottle). Cabernets are "Benterra" (sic, it's Bonterra)
from Mendocino at $7 a pour and $28 for a bottle, Sauverain (sic, it's
Souverain) with a "Mendocino Coast" appellation (which
does not exist...and the bottle is branded as "North Coast) at $10
a glass and $39 by the bottle.
Roth Estate from the Alexander Valley and Woodside Winery Santa Cruz
Mountains Cabernets are $12 a glass and $45 by the bottle.
That's the entire wine list.
Corkage is about $15 if I recall correctly.
The stemware we had was quite good, so it's worth it to bring a bottle
and pay the corkage fee.
The menu features local ingredients and "organically-farmed"
The menu is limited, as well, which is perfectly fine. There were
four starters on our visit:
Heritage Pork Belly with a Cauliflower Puree for $9, A Mozzarella di
Bufala Caprese salad for $9. You might want to try the Charred
Rainbow Cauliflower Agrodolce ($9) or an Ahi Tuna Tartare for $9.
Two salads are available...Kale with cranberries, almonds, bacon and a
Mango Vinaigrette or Baby Gem Lettuce with a grilled peach, pickled
raisins, goat cheese and a red wine vinaigrette. These are ten
Three items are listed under the pasta heading and the chef makes his
own pasta and gnocchi! Spaghetti Carbonara is $14, which a
Fettucine Bolognese is $16. Yukon Gold Mint Gnocchi comes adorned
with oven-dried tomatoes, brown butter, sage, Asiago and cream ($15).
Three burgers might be on the menu...this particular visit there
was no beef, so they had only a Lamb Burger or a Turkey Burger.
You see, the chef is fanatical about his raw materials and buys from
ranchers and local farmers. He's adept, apparently, at butchering
whatever it is that comes in to the restaurant, hence you may find some
exotic or unusual offerings.
Pan Roasted Copper River King Salmon was $23. A Heritage Pork Chop
with Creamed Spinach and a dried fruit Mostarda was $23. Lamb Rib
Chops come with a Cannellini Bean Ragout, Braised Chard and a Mint Pesto
The last main plate was "Organic Chicken" cooked Sous Vide
stuffed with Mushrooms, Spinach and Gouda cheese accompanied by a Yukon
Potato, Carrot Puree and Brussels Sprouts ($20).
Shortly after ordering, we were presented an Amuse Bouche of a Date
wrapped in Prosciutto and stuffed with Cheese. Being allergic to
cheese, I felt badly not accepting this little offering, but the kitchen
sent out a cheese-free version and it was remarkably good!
We had several bottles of wine in our cellar bag and the waiter
recognized our wine rep dining companion from her sales call at the
place earlier in the week.
We shared tastes of our bottles and the corkage fee was waived.
My friend ordered the Kale Salad to start...really fresh and very
good...the fruit and nuts combined nicely and the bacon pieces were
exceptional. My Tuna Tartare featured a major contribution from
the avocado with the tuna, but the Yuzu and Ponzu gave it a particular
character which I enjoyed...too bad our New Zealand Sauvignon from Dog
Point had so much of a "burnt" character (burnt matches and
Next we split the Fettuccine Bolognese. The pasta was really good
and the sauce was excellent. Ours was a cheese-free version, by
We opened a bottle of E. Pira Dolcetto...an ideal accompaniment to this.
For a main plate, my friend selected the Pan Roasted pastured Heritage
Pork Chop...I thought about taking this, but feared the Mostarda might
be too sweet for my tastes...but I had a bite and it was
excellent. Very savory, in fact.
The Pastured Lamb Rib Chops which I ordered, were very good, though a
tad more cooked than "medium rare." The bean ragout was
excellent, though and the mint 'pesto' was a nice counterpoint to the
They had several desserts. My friend was dying to try the
Chocolate Pot de Crème and this was delicious with a capital D!
Terrific chocolate. Intense and creamy...Wonderful.
The place has an open kitchen, so you can see what's going on in the
back. The music being played was a bit loud and an odd mix of
current pop tunes which later changed to Van Morrison and King
Our bill tallied to around $95, but remember, we had not been charged
their corkage fee.
Had this been on the bill, we'd have tallied to around $125-$130 before
the tip, a very reasonable price given the quality of the food and
Overall, the food here is quite good.
We had a nice chat with the chef/owner who's clearly passionate about
food and he's hoping to elevate the taste of local customers.
The fellow has worked with Alice Waters, Jeremiah Tower and Joyce
I'm looking forward to a return visit. If you go, I'd suggest
bringing a good bottle of wine to pair with the food as the wine list is
Reviewed by GW
185 Sutter Street (near Kearney)
Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-3
Dinner: Mon-Wed 5-10:30
Charcuterie Maison plate
Striped Bass with Scallops
were intrigued by the classic look of the Parisian-styled brasserie on
their web site and the menu was enticing as well, so we booked a Tuesday
night table at this Financial District dining spot.
Street parking is difficult and possibly dangerous, so I parked in the
Sutter-Stockton garage a couple of blocks west of the restaurant.
It's a really snazzy looking place from the outside and inside you're
greeted by a hostess. I was escorted upstairs to the main dining
room and we had a small corner table by the window. There's a bar
and a few tables on the ground floor. Upstairs at 7, the place was
jumping. There's another bar somewhat secluded on the upper level.
Wine glasses are not part of the table setting. The wine list is a
small, two page 'brochure,' with many by-the-glass selections.
Some of these also can be had in carafe format (not sure of the
quantity, but I suspect this is about a half liter) as well as by the
Only three sparkling wines are offered. One is Napa Valley's Mumm,
whose Rose is $14 a glass or $56 a bottle. Henriot's Brut
Souverain is $18 by the glass or $72 by the bottle.
My dining companion, arriving a few minutes before me, had ordered a
pour of the Brazilier "Trad" sparkling wine from the
Loire. $10 a glass or $40 for a bottle. She was told they
did not have a chilled bottle at that point in time, so she opted for a
pour of Turley's Zinfandel Rose ($12 a glass, $35 for a carafe or $48 by
I perused the wine list and ordered two pours of the Brazilier Trad.
A few minutes later the waiter arrived with two old-fashioned
"Champagne Coupes"! These are saucer-like glasses which
have a large surface area, so the wine can go flat immediately.
And, of course, you can enjoy the aroma and bouquet of a sparkling wine
in such a glass.
I asked why they did not offer their bubbles in flutes or normal
stemware, but the waiter was at a loss on this score. He brought
two stems into which he'd poured the coupes-full of bubbles.
I thought the wine smelled a bit soapy and wondered if the glasses
simply had not been properly rinsed. The wine was not very bubbly,
suggesting the glasses were not pristinely clean.
(Parenthetically, the steak knife at my place setting had such clear
fingerprints, a police investigator would have little trouble in
determining the culprit.)
We opted for a Charcuterie plate to share as we meandered through the
menu. This $14 plate came with a nice slab of a homemade, meaty terrine,
jambon mousse, a few thin slices of duck 'ham' and some marinated
beets. I believe the pâte had a fair bit of allspice to
it...nicely coarse in texture, too.
Having drained our soapy bubbles and finished the charcuterie plate, our
server stopped by and we ordered two appetizers and a carafe of
Chatenoy's Menetou-Salon ($37).
The server returned a few minutes later with a couple of good stems and
the carafe of Sauvignon Blanc. He poured one glass and I reached
for my empty glass to take a sniff. Oops!
The glasses smelled of the bleach rinse.
I waved my hands saying this will not work.
He took away the glasses and returned with two properly cleaned glasses
and the already-poured glass and the less-than-full carafe. He
poured the one glass into the new, clean glass. And then poured
another glass from the carafe.
((Maybe dumping the wine that had been poured into the bleach-scented
glass would have been proper, as perhaps filling the carafe? Or am
I being too damned picky?))
Back to the wine list: There are nine white wines and three
Roses. Nine reds. The wine list demonstrates a bit of
care and thought, but despite the bottles coming with properly printed
labels, a number of the entries are misspelled, indicating a lack of
attention to detail, especially since the web site indicates there's a
staff member devoted to "curating" the wines.
Margerum's Santa Barbara Grenache Blanc is $14-$41-$56 by the
glass-carafe and bottle. Calera Viognier is $12-$35-$48.
Carillon Bourgogne is $16-$47-$64. They offer a minor Bordeaux
($15-$44-$60) which is listed as "Cabernet Sauvignon," though
Cabernet accounts for but half the blend. A red wine from the
Minervois is listed as a Grenache, ($9-$27-$36) but the Chateau de
Paraza makes no wine with more than 40% Grenache. Their pick for
Merlot is Medlock Ames ($14-$41-$56), while Domaine Berthoumieu's lovely
Madiran is $12-$35-$48.
There are six bubblies on the main wine list, Coutier's NV Brut going
for $86, while a 1999 Billecart-Salmon is $190.
Six Chardonnays are found under the heading of Vins Blancs and
Roses. It'll cost you $79 for a St. Aubin from Uliz, while a $126
gets you a Brocard Grand Cru "Bougros" Chablis. A
Stonestreet Chardonnay is $96, while Porter Bass is $85. A
Guillemarine Picpoul is $38 (we have it in the shop for $13), while a
Sonoma Sylvaner is $58 a bottle.
The wines are listed by varietal, although as noted earlier, some of
these don't have even 50% of that grape accounting for the total
blend. They list a few Bordeaux as "Cabernet Sauvignon,"
but Château Haut-Selve ($58) and Château Laffite-Laujac ($72) both say
on their web sites that their wines are half Cabernet and half
Merlot. Similarly, a Chappellet Napa red blend ($90) is but 45%
Cabernet Sauvignon. Curiously, a couple of wines are billed as
Grenache Blends, while two Chateauneuf-du-Papes are billed as
"Grenache." Mourvedre from Donkey & Goat is $68,
while a Bouchard Gevrey-Chambertin is $120.
The corkage fee is $20, but it's waived if you've ordered a bottle from
their wine list.
The menu has a bunch of cheeses listed under the Fromage heading,
classified as cow's milk, goat's milk or sheep's milk.
Under the Fruits de Mer, Oysters (du Jour) are $3 each, a Shrimp
Cocktail is $17, while Mussels in Biere Blanche go for a mere $5.
Yet under Petits Plats, Mussels a la Biere is $15.
We ordered two Petit Plats.
Burgundian Escargots ($12) is described as having Bacon, Roasted
Shallots, Garlic Confit, Brioche and a Sherry Vinaigrette. The
snails are served in a nice bowl, out of their shells. I found
them to be muddy-tasting, as they didn't seem to have spent much time
with the other ingredients. A nice try, but I wasn't thrilled by
The Ris d'Agneau ($13) comes with an English Pea Blini and a half of a
Trumpet Mushroom with hazelnut Butter. The Sweetbreads tasted as
they should, with a decidedly lamb-like quality. The mushroom has
soaked up the butter character.
Our bottle of 1999 Bonneau du Martray Corton was corked, but we had a
back-up bottle in the bag. Happily, the server charged us only for
the one bottle, as we did not drink the flawed wine. We shared a
nice pour of Esmonin's Ruchottes-Chambertin with the fellow, though.
My friend ordered the Striped Bass & Scallop Duo ($28), described as
"Harissa spiced fish soup, pommes puree, fennel confit and Moroccan
Tapenade." If you're writing the menu in English, why do you
list it as "pommes puree" I wonder?
In any case, the Bass and Scallops were good...cooked properly.
The tapenade was the dominant flavor and if I did not know it was
tapenade, I'd have identified it as some sort of Chinese spicing (like a
five spice seasoning).
My Agneau Grillé ($25) featured a couple of nice lamb loin pieces and a
small crepinette (burger, essentially) and some nicely cooked, toothsome
We also tacked on an order of fries which came in one of those cone
The bill tallied to $213 with the SF Health surcharge and tax, but
before the tip.
The place cleared out early on a Tuesday night and it was a bit empty by
8pm, so I suppose many of those dining there by 7 had come from work
nearby in the Financial District.
The ambience was very much like a newish bistro or brasserie in France
and you can see the design crew has paid extreme attention to
detail. Unfortunately the wine service does not come close to the
I'd say they're on the right track, but are going to need to step up
their game if Gaspar is to remain a San Francisco dining spot.
Reviewed by GW
155 Columbus Avenue
Mon-Fri Noon to 2am
Saturday 4pm to 2am
Sun 4pm to midnight
Chicken Livers on Pan de Mie
Brandade with beets, tiny watercress and some crispy toast.
Mushroom Pot Pie
Brined Pork Chop
a Sunday afternoon movie at the Embarcadero Theater we made our way to
Columbus Avenue on the edges of Chinatown and North Beach to this
old-time, Barbary Coast-styled "saloon."
At 7pm there were maybe 10 people sitting at the bar and a few booths
occupied with those "dining."
The host tried to seat us at one of the three, tiny two-top tables by
the front door. It was breezy and did not look comfortable, at
all, so we were escorted to a booth towards the back.
I'm not skinny and I barely was able to slide in on the bench of this
booth...the table is anchored to the floor, apparently.
No wine glasses are on the table as part of the place setting and the
host presented a simple menu and a small book featuring potent
potations, include some interesting wines.
There are ten "by the glass" selections. Zonin Prosecco
($8) is the lone sparkling wine, an odd choice given some more
Kathryn Kennedy Sauvignon Blanc is $10.50 a pour, while Kumeu River
Chardonnay from New Zealand from the 2007 vintage is $12.50. A
Rose by Lioco (2013 vintage) is $11.
A Santa Barbara Pinot Noir called 10 Span is $10, while a Minervois from
France is $11. A Petrognano wine is listed as a Chianti Classico
($11), but I am fairly certain the estate is located outside the
"Classico" zone and is merely a Chianti, so that's a bit
A Broadside Cabernet from Paso Robles is $12 a glass.
The Old Bat asked for her usual Tanqueray Martini and the server was a
bit unsure if they had Tanqueray Gin. They did. She asked me
why the Martini was a bit out of character...I detected an orange peel
quality to the cocktail, so perhaps it was made with the Sutton Cellars
Dry Vermouth (they also have Dolin, a French dry Vermouth). It was
not quite to her taste as a result.
I asked for a pour of the Tablas Creek "Grenache Blanc Blend"
from Paso Robles at $11.
I was a bit surprised when the fellow arrived with a glass of red
wine...he'd brought a Spanish Garnacha called Alto Cinco ($9) so I
immediately reached for the wine list to see if I'd been mistaken in my
A few minutes later another fellow came by with a fresh bottle and empty
glass, pouring me a 'say' (which I okayed). The wine, as it often
is, was overly alcoholic and needed either an olive or cocktail onion on
a toothpick. Not their fault, though...Comstock didn't make the
There are 7 half bottles on their list, including the Pierre Gonon
Saint Joseph at $42. A Wimmer Czerny Gruner Veltliner is $25.
In full bottles...there at 5 Champagnes, including the well-priced
Laurent Perrier at $68, the marvelous Jacquesson Cuvee 736 at $105 or,
for the big spender, Krug at $325.
Reverdy Ducroux Sancerre is $46, while an Abbazia di Novacella Kerner is
$40. Marimar Torres Chardonnay is $49, while Flowers Chardonnay is
A Copain Pinot Noir is $50, while a Produttori del Barbaresco
"Barbaresco" is $60. Most of the selections are worth
considering and the prices are reasonable, given San Francisco rental
For a starter, The Old Bat opted for Crispy Chicken Livers with pepper
jelly, pickled Jalapeno and Pan de Mie ($9). She was unsure of
what was on her plate, saying it simply tasted like a plate of sausages
with the spice notes.
I selected their Brandade with beets, watercress and toast ($14).
This was a fairly large ramekin-type serving and I was surprised that it
seemed to have cheese on top of it! (I've had Brandade here and in
France and cheese has not been part of this recipe in my
experience.) The toast was okay, but was more like day old bread
that had been toasted to "extra crispy."
And the Brandade, a mash of cod and potatoes, was decidedly bland for
the most part. Every once in a while I'd have a taste of the cod,
but it was not a predominant flavor and so ended up being a bit
disappointing...Who orders, essentially, mashed potatoes to slather on
stale bread for a starter? Me, I suppose!
The place offers but 5 main dishes and The Old Bat ordered a Mushroom
Pot Pie with a leek puree, frisee, arugula and Pepato cheese
($20). She'll bitch most of the time, anyway, but so I gathered
she was reasonably satisfied with this dish.
I ordered "Cider Brined Pork Chop" with Sauerkraut, Spring
Aprium (plum/apricot hybrid, I gather), sunchokes and Chiogia beets
($28). There was a nicely grill-marked pork chop on top of
Sauerkraut. The kraut was "okay," but not a fresh, young
sauerkraut and not very tangy or salty. The sunchokes had good
flavor, if a tad bit undercooked.
Of course, we had a bottle of red wine in the cellar bag. I put it
on the table and The Old Bat asked the server if he would kindly open
this. He went off for stemware and returned with but one wine
glass! I guess he figured since I had a white wine on the table, I
would not be requiring a new glass!
He opened the bottle and poured the say for her, which she handed off to
The corkage free was $20.
The bill, with the SF Health assessment ($4.48 on this occasion) and tax
tallied to $127 before the tip.
The place really recreates one's image of an old-time San Francisco
saloon. There was a DJ by the front door (another reason I'm glad
we did not sit there) spinning country & western tunes on a couple
of turntables. "I'm an old cowhand from the Rio
Grande..." and maybe some Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash tunes.
It was more noise than we needed, frankly.
I'd say this place was okay and they have good intentions. It's
not worth a special drive, but if you're roaming around North Beach and
Chinatown and have a hankering for cowboy cuisine done "San
Francisco Modern," this may be your place.
Reviewed by GW
355 11th Street
Bar Open Daily
Asparagus & Blood Orange Salad
Old Bat sent a San Francisco Chronicle Review of Bar Agricole and I took
the hint and made a reservation on a Sunday evening. We drove
around the neighborhood and there was a mass of humanity lined up
outside the nearby DNA Lounge and across the street from an
establishment called "Butter."
Parking on the street was a problem and we finally pulled into the
driveway next to Bar Agricole and found a lone "handicapped"
We ambled in to the restaurant (there's outdoor seating which was
tempting on a nice, warm evening) and were escorted to a table for two
which was about 6 inches away from another two top towards the back of
No wine glasses are on the table as part of the place-setting and the
host presented a menu, drinks list (they feature 16 cocktails...I heard
something about Pre-Prohibition recipes, but some of these are from the
1940s) and a wine list.
The wine list is interesting and features lots of off-the-beaten-path
selections. Nine pages of the list feature one vintner and you'll
find unusual estates such as the Champagne house of Bereche (three
wines, $110, $155 and $270 a bottle), Nikolaihof from Austria (Rieslings
for $185, $195 and $270 and a 1999 vintage of Gruner for $275) or Brovia
from the Langhe in Italy's Piemonte (Arneis at $67, Dolcetto for $50,
Barbera at $68 or a Barolo from 2005 for $180).
Additionally, there are two pages of white wines (which include those
from the featured 9 producers). Two wines from Jacques Puffeney, a
famous Arbois winemaker, are offered at $75 and $90. If you're
interested in white Burgundy, better bring your wallet. An Hautes
Cotes de Nuits Blanc from the "natural" winemaker Yann Durieux
is $150 while a Corton Blanc from Chandon de Briailles is
$278. The list offers five Rose wines, ranging from $36 to $55.
There are 30+ red wines. I've never found a Clos Saron wine I was
interested to drink, so I won't be paying $150 for their Pinot
Noir. Laurent Combier's little Crozes-Hermitage (a $21 retail
bottle in our shop) is more attractive to me and that's $50 on the wine
Pecina's Rioja Crianza is a possibility...it's $54. Bucklin's
Sonoma Cabernet is $74 while Hudson's Carneros Syrah is $220.
You won't find any mainstream brands, which is fine, but we did not have
a sommelier approach the table to ask what our taste preferences were or
to find out what dishes we'd be ordering.
Some patrons may find themselves uneasy about dropping so much money on
a totally unknown wine.
Well, since the place is called "Bar Agricole," we thought
perhaps a cocktail was in order.
The Old Bat, not being very adventuresome, asked for a dry Martini.
The manager explained "We don't make Martinis here."
Though they have a list of 10 different gins and Dolin Dry Vermouth,
they wouldn't accommodate a paying customer with making a Martini.
This, again, from a place with trained bartenders and specializing in
She asked if they have Lillet, a French aperitif.
"We do not," said the manager, "but we have Cocchi's
Americano Bianco." He went off to get her a taste of that and
she was delighted.
He pointed out the special, hand-carved ice cube in the glass, too.
I ordered a Planters Punch, of which there are many versions. Bar
Agricole's was light pink in color (many recipes call for dark rum and
Myers's is often used for this drink). Some recipes call for
orange juice and pineapple juice, but that's not what you'll find
here. It was quite sweet and at the same time, spirituous.
The menu has 5 types of Oysters, ranging from $2.75 each to $3.
Gulf Shrimp are $3, while Dungeness Crab Toast is $7. Pickled
Carrots are $5, while Roasted Almonds are $6. Olives are $5, while
a Soft Cooked Egg with Mint and Chilies is $6.
Other starters or first plates included a Little Gem and Radish Salad
for $10 (with crème Fraîche and anise hyssop). Grilled Flatbread
with Mashed Beets and Green Olives is $11. There's Sheep's Milk
Ricotta with Roasted Fennel and Carrot Salad for $12, while Grilled
Quail with Spigariello, Yogurt & Chilies is $14.
There were but 5 main plates. Spaghetti with Manila Clams is $16
for a small plate and $30 for a full order.
A Whole Roasted Rockfish is $34, while Roast Chicken with New Potatoes,
Red Mustard and Capers is $24 or $47.
A "New York Strip with Barley, Spring Onions and Herb Butter"
is $22 for a small portion or $40 for a full plate.
The Old Bat ordered some Prawns, not being much interested in the other
offerings. I ordered one of the few "dairy-free"
starters, an Asparagus & Blood Orange Salad with Kohlrabi and
Preserved Lemon ($11).
The Prawns came out on a small dish...I can't say they were artistically
plated, just three prawns and a wedge of lemon.
My "salad" was beautifully presented, though. It had
three perfectly "al dente" spears of Asparagus, a few slices
of a cross-section of a blood orange and some thinly-shaved kohlrabi and
preserved lemon. It was a lovely and nicely flavorful dish.
We put a nice bottle of red wine on the table and paid a $25 corkage
fee. Two nice, large stems were brought to the table and the
manager opened the bottle and poured for us. We offered him a
taste and he brought a glass...I poured a generous amount of the wine
and they didn't nail us for corkage.
We both opted for the New York Strip.
I was sort of expecting a steak, but they sliced this into thin ribbons
so it was essentially "roast beef" more than it was an actual
"New York Strip" steak! Well, they didn't call it a
steak, so we misinterpreted the menu, perhaps???
Still, the plate was quite good, if a bit expensive at $40 for a maybe
four or five slices of beef.
The barley was good (and that's not expensive, is it?).
We skipped dessert and the bill tallied to $113 which was nice, since
they didn't charge a corkage fee, nor did they ask us to pay for the Gin
cocktail The Old Bat sent back. We were not charged for the glass
she broke, either...yes, I was ready to climb under the table.
We left a generous tip and I thanked our server, as I know he was a
bit flustered by the circus at our table.
As for a return visit...I'm okay with going back, but this place
isn't high on my list of San Francisco dining establishments. The
menu is a bit limited and I can't be sure they'll have items which
appeal to me.
Reviewed by GW
619 Laurel Avenue
Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30
Dinner Mon-Sat 5-10
George's Tuna Tartare
Duck "Cassullet" Ravioli with White Beans and Garlic
Decanting our bottle of Barolo
Lamb T-Bones with Farro.
Brussels Sprouts Gratin
Yukon Gold "Mashed Potatoes"
Butterscotch Pot de Creme
friend suggested trying out this new dining establishment, owned by the
same folks who have the neighboring Italian place, Locanda Positano.
While the Locanda Positano offers a less formal menu, Gusto is decorated
a bit excessively as it's intended to be a throw-back to "grand
And they've got a highly-decorated chef in George Morrone, as well.
Mr. Morrone was affiliated, once upon a time, with Aqua and Fifth Floor
in San Francisco.
On a Wednesday evening we had a nice little table in the front room of
the restaurant. Nice large wine glasses are part of the table
setting and the menus are presented with the wine list.
The wine list offers 16 white wines and bubbles and 17 different reds
"by the glass." I don't know if they have a preservation
system for all those red wines, but it seems to me that 17 red wines are
not likely to all be in top form once poured for a customer.
Some of the offerings are not identified by brand or producer.
This allows the restaurant to buy the cheapest wine when they need to
place an order. I find it a lazy way to assemble a wine
list. But then offering Moet Chandon in 187ml bottles is also a
bit lazy and doesn't represent especially fine quality. Though Italy
does produce some terrific bottle-fermented sparkling wines, you won't
find one offered by the glass on this list.
Of the white wine offerings, I'd be tempted only by the "Mastro"
(Mastroberardino) Greco di Tufo at $10 a pour or the same producer's
Fiano at $14. You can knock yourself out if you like with Toasted
Head White Blend at $9 or Conundrum at $13. I'd be content with a
glass of Rivetto Barbaresco, but not happy to pay $21 for it. The
list of reds rivals the white wine selections for sheer boredom.
They have 27 white wine selections by the bottle and a handful would get
a thumbs up from me. Anselmi's Soave is $30 a represents decent
value (it's a $12-$14 bottle at retail). Duckhorn's Napa Sauvignon
Blanc is $65. Mastroberardino's Greco di Tufo is $44 while their
Fiano is $48. You can keep the Rombauer Chardonnay at $60, though
I'll bet that's a popular wine on this list.
The red selections offer a bit more sunlight, though some choices seem
to be made for convenience rather than selecting top wines or good
values for the customers. For example, they have three Chianti
choices, two from the brand Machiavelli. $42 to $55 for
Chianti...These are not great choices at those prices, in my opinion.
But, wines I'd consider ordering: Pecchenino's Dolcetto at $34,
Mastroberardino Aglianico from Campania at $38 or the Cottanera Rosso
for $40. If I'm spending a few bucks, they have a Mastroberardino
Taurasi "Radici" for $110 or Antinori's Tignanello for
The list of reds has about 40 offerings, but the place lacks a sommelier
or someone knowledgeable about wine to guide diners to just the right
We ordered a $65 bottle of Ferrari Brut Rose from Italy's Trentino
region. It took them a while before one of the owners came to the
table holding two bottles of wine. It seems they were sold out of
the Ferrari, so in its stead they offered, for the same price, a half
bottle of Clicquot Rose Champagne or a full bottle of Schramsberg's
Cremant. Now the Clicquot may be a good alternative, if twice as
expensive basically. The Schramsberg, though, is a lightly bubbly
"demi-sec" sparkling wine. It is more of a dessert
bubbly, but the fellow seemed to have the idea that if we were ordering
"Rose," we were looking for something a bit sweet.
In fact, though, the Ferrari has a small sweetening dosage and the wine
is in the lower end of sweetness for the "Brut"
category. And it's drier than most of their French Champagne
So, wine may not be their strong suit.
The corkage fee is $20 and I'll bring a bottle for our next visit to
As for food: The menu has a number of enticing starters. My
friend began her meal with George's Timeless Tuna Tartare ($22), while I
was intrigued by the Duck "Cassulett" Ravioli ($15).
The Tuna is excellent (as usual) and it comes with some pine nuts,
chili's and sesame oil. The Ravioli features a nice big, toothsome
pasta with duck, garlic sausage, some white beans and lemon thyme.
It was excellent!
I had a bottle of a 1998 Barolo in my bag which the owner
decanted. They brought large stemware, too...The decanting seemed
to be simply pouring the entire bottle into a carafe, not stopping when
the little bit of sediment started to trail out of the bottle...oh well.
We both ordered the Lamb T-Bone Chops ($27) which featured two loin lamb
chops topped with a Kalamata Olive Butter and plated in a bed of Farro
with some Haricot Vert "Salad." Again, the food was very
good, though the Haricot Vert were more like Sugar Snap Peas...
The side dish of Brussels Sprouts Gratin ($8) was alright as was
the Yukon Gold "mashed potatoes ($8), but we had plenty of food
with the starters and main plate.
I was not at all hungry for dessert and neither was my dining companion,
but they brought out a dessert called Butterscotch Pot de Crème Bites
The bill tallied to about $183 before tax and tip...And while this may
be a bit pricey for normal San Carlos dining, this experience from a
culinary perspective was not normal for San Carlos!
We look forward to a return visit.
Reviewed by GW
3870 17th Street
Wines "by the glass" are poured at the table, showing you
the label. This is how all "B-T-G" wines should be
handled, frankly, but most places will tell you it's not cost-efficient
(when they're nailing you for 400%-500% mark-up!).
Apple-wood Smoked Bacon Beignets with Maple Chive Crème Fraîche.
Duck Liver Mousse
(don't miss this!)
Little Gem Lettuce "Bagna Cauda..."
The dressing is poured table-side.
Squid Ink Linguine with Bottarga and Friends...
Lamb with Fregola.
Notice the pitcher at the top of the snapshot, as they pour a sauce over
the lamb at the table.
We were nearly the last to depart...
Lumberjack Cake with Muscovado Ice Cream
Chocolate 'Plaisir Sucre' - Hazelnut Dacquoise, Cocoa Crumble, Burnt
Caramel before they poured a sauce over it...
than a month ahead of time we selected some dates and scoped out one
which might allow us to dine at this famous San Francisco restaurant.
Nine o'clock on a Wednesday night we arrived to find our table open and
waiting for us. Parking in this neighborhood is a bit challenging
and they don't offer a valet service.
I arrived before my friend and the menus and a wine list were
presented. The table setting includes a nice wine glass.
We were immediately asked about water and the server brought a house
bottle of tap water...and we perused the menu and wine list.
The menu changes daily.
The wine list is a small, bound book.
One sparkling wine by the glass, a Spanish Cava by Avinyo for $11.
Six white wines are offered and it's a delightful range of fairly
off-the-beaten path choices. Domaine Gerovassiliou's 2012
Malagousia from Greece is $12 and this is a lovely, stony, dry, crisp
starter. We also opted for a pour of a California Grenache
Blanc/Viognier blend called Emmanuel Tres at $11...nicely peachy and
dry. There was a Clemens Busch German Riesling for $16, along with
a Dutton Goldfield Chardonnay for the same price. They have 8
reds, ranging from 12 to $17 a glass. Ojai Grenache is $14, while
an Esmonin Hautes Cotes de Nuits is similarly priced. Catena
Malbec is $15 and that's one of the few rather mundane offerings on the
Frances serves wine-by-the-glass the way it ought to be served:
They bring an empty glass, pour the customer a small 'say' and then pour
the wine table-side. Most places, as you know, bring you a glass
of anonymous wine and hopefully it's the one your ordered.
On the "bubbles" page you won't find any California
bubbly, but you will find Tissot's Cremant from the Jura at $67.
They also have the sublime Marie Courtin Champagne called Resonance at
$119 a bottle. A page of "Light Whites, Crisp &
Refreshing" offers Vincent Gaudry's Sancerre for $68 or Matteo
Corregia's Arneis at $46. Versatile Dry Whites...Whites with
a Little Sweetness But Perfect Balance...Full Bodied Whites...Easy
Drinking Reds with a Little Fruit...Light Rustic Reds (9 Pinot
Noirs)...On the "Medium-Bodied Rustic Reds" page there's a
half bottle of Ridge Lytton Springs for $42, Monte Vertine's Le Pergole
Torte at $177 a bottle or the 2009 Rene Rostaing Cote-Rotie "La
Londonne" (sic) for $220. Under the heading of "Big
Meaty Reds" we find Billhook Napa Cabernet for $68, while Gemstone
Cabernet is $198. If money is burning a hole in your pocket, they
have a 1996 Bryant Family Cabernet for $700.
The wine list is nicely done...it has a good range of wines, the wines
match the menu and the price spectrum is fairly reasonable. I
noticed a number of people, though, bringing in a bottle and was
impressed by some of their savvy selections, too!
Clearly, though, this place understands the importance of offering wine
as a part of a good meal. (I wish I could write that more
frequently on these pages of restaurant reviews.)
We began with a couple of starters...Applewood Smoked Bacon Beignets
with Maple Chive Creme Fraiche ($7) brought five little nicely fried
Beignets...I didn't detect much of a bacon-like character, though.
The Duck Liver Mousse is off-the-charts-good! It's an oblong scoop
and comes with Ciopollini Onion Agrodolce and some grilled pieces of
ciabatta bread. $7. Deal.
We'd used the four little slices of Ciabatta and one of the staff of
servers noticed we still had some Mousse so she asked if we'd like
more...it's not every restaurant where the crew are eagle-eyed, whether
it's their table or someone else's!
By the way, they serve Josey Baker Breads and we had a couple of
slices...this is very good!
A glass of Macon was good and the Emmanuel Tres white blend was really
good...and we needed some appetizer plates.
Little Gem Salad 'Bagna Cauda' is $11. The lettuce was
exceptional, but I can't say there was a particularly intense
"Bagna Cauda" character as the garlic and anchovy influence
was rather tame. The Squid Ink Linguine with Green Garlic, Cortez
Bottarga, Meyer Lemon and Espelette Chile ($13) was next on our order
and the pasta was exceptional. Cooked 'al dente,' the various
accompaniments made their presence felt on the toothsome pasta.
My dining companion had her choice of older Cabernet or young Burgundy
and she went with the latter, so I put a bottle on the table. Our
server promptly opened the bottle and brought big red wine glasses for
this youthful red. We offered her a taste and she joined us in
evaluating the Clos Vougeot from Chateau de la Tour.
Our main plates arrived shortly after we'd finished the appetizers, but
allowing for enough time to enjoy a few sips of the red wine.
My friend ordered the Sonoma Duck Breast with Pumpkin Seed Dukkah,
Japanese Sweet Potato and Blood Orange ($29)...a magnificent 'bowl' with
perfectly cooked duck...I opted for their Grilled Lamb Loin Chop
with Fregola Sarda, Charred Garbanzo, Asparagus and Pecorino ($25),
though I requested it without the Pecorino.
This was a lovely lamb t-bone on a bed of the Fregola with an array of
veggies...the server brings a small 'creamer pitcher' with a sauce to
drizzle over the lamb.
We felt obliged to order desserts...everything had been very good to
this point. Lumberjack Cake is, I believe, made with dates,
a pear and coconut flakes. It's described as having Winter Fruits,
Coconut, Medjool Date and comes with a scoop of Muscovado Ice Cream
And a $9 we had their Chocolate 'Plaisir Sucre', described as a Hazelnut
Dacquoise, Cocoa Crumble and Burnt Caramel.
We skipped ordering dessert wines or coffee, having done enough damage
by this stage.
I should note the restaurant was fairly filled, but walk-ins may find an
open seat after 9 or so.
The bill came to $195 with a $1.75 each surcharge (I suppose that's the
SF Health charge), $20 corkage fee and sales tax.
The place has a nice ambiance, though the tables along the wall are
close together...I was glad we were off on the other side of the dining
This place is a treasure! Of course we'll be back...if we can get
Reviewed by GW
1107 San Carlos Avenue
Open Mon-Sat 11-2:30
Closed Sundays & Major Holidays
Bread and their homemade dipping sauce
Minestra del Giorno
Linguine alle Vongole
Pappardelle al Cinghiale
|An Italian friend suggested
this newish place in San Carlos and we'd been hoping to try it, so we
booked a 7pm table on a Saturday during the winter of 2014.
We were warmly welcomed by a pleasant young fellow and guided to a table
for two towards the back of the place near the kitchen hallway...the
menu is accompanied by a wine list and some nice stemware is part
of the place setting.
We understand the owners are from Calabria, so we had high hopes of
finding an interesting list of well-chosen Italian wines.
I perused the list and The Old Bat was going to have to do without a
Martini as they don't have a liquor license...fine: perhaps they've got
a well-curated selection of wines and some cool offerings "by the
Instead we found Beringer Chardonnay and Stags Leap Chardonnays.
There's Charles Krug Sauvignon Blanc for $8 a glass or $36 a bottle.
"Little Black Dress" Riesling. Really?
For Italian choices there's a Vitiano white blend (Verdicchio and
Vermentino) for $9 a glass or $36 a bottle. Argiolas Vermentino is
$40 a bottle...Villa Raiano Falanghina is $50 a bottle and their Greco
is $52. I opted for a pour of Librandi's Rosato, the only chilled
offering by the glass that's from Calabria. The Old Bat is a
Sauvignon Blanc fan, so she got the Krug Sauvignon. Hers was
fine. Mine was old and tired. I told her I would ask to see
the bottle to check if this was fresh or if we were at the bottom of the
bottle. Sure enough: bottom of the bottle. I told the
server the wine was spoiled and he promptly brought a fresh
pour...better, though it was still an old Rosato that was past its
The wine list offers a Prosecco for $39, but neglects to mention the
name of the winery. That's lazy.
They offer a wine called "Prosecco Malvasia" for $40 from
Emilia Romagna. Sorry, but Emilia Romagna does not make
"Prosecco"...it does make fizzy Malvasia, but the wine will
not have the Prosecco name on the bottle. There's another botched
entry called "Champagne," offered at $85, but the description
notes this is a wine from Lombardia in Italy, not France and it's a
I found but one Calabrian red wine on the wine list. You know,
it's not difficult to locate wine from the famous Ciro appellation or
the somewhat more obscure Savuto region. Librandi's
"Gravello" at $75, is that lone Calabrian red offering.
(Librandi's Ciro could sell for $25-$30 as can Odoardi's Savuto which
would introduce people to good, entry-level Calabrian
Instead of offering a bunch of interesting wines from their home turf,
this place has Lockwood Pinot Noir ($36) from California and Joseph Carr
California Merlot ($40). Seghesio Zinfandel, easily found
retailing at $20, if $55 on this wine list.
They do offer Italian wines, though. Masi's Campofiorin, a Rosso
del Veronese IGT, is listed as a Valpolicella Ripasso (it doesn't quite
fit that designation, so the winery does not label it as such) is $40 a
bottle. A Michele Chiarlo entry level Barolo is $110 on this wine
list. Cesari's Amarone, a pleasant entry level example of that
sort of wine, is $75 and they have a couple of Brunellos, one around $75
and the other for twice that.
As a wine geek, the list is not well-chosen and it's not the work of a
wine-savvy buyer. It seemed to me to be the suggestions of sales
reps with quotas.
The waiter brought a nice little Italianesque bread with, instead of the
awful cheap olive oil and half-assed attempt at "Balsamic"
vinegar, a beautiful garlicky dipping sauce.
The Old Bat ordered the Minestra del Giorno ($7) and she did not
understand the difference between a "Minestra" and her
old-fashioned "Minestrone Soup." The Minestra is
somewhat less soupy and more like a bowl of well-cooked
veggies. I thought it was fine, but she was not thrilled.
The Frittura di Calamari ($13) was good, but unevenly
salted. I tossed some salt on the bland pieces at the top of the
pile and found it increasingly salty as I plowed my way to the bottom.
I brought a bottle of a nice Calabrian red...Balbium, a wine made by the
Venica family in Friuli. They brought nice stems and we paid a
corkage fee of $18.
The Old Bat ordered Linguine alle Vongole ($18). I thought
the plate looked good, but she was prejudiced by the mass of empty
shells on the pasta...the clams had fallen out into the pasta and so she
was wondering why they scattered empty shells on the dish. This
soured her impression of the place.
The Pappardelle al Cinghiale ($18) was correct and the pasta was
fairly soft as it may have been slightly over-cooked. The flavor
of the meat sauce was perfectly fine, but I couldn't help but wonder why
a Calabrian chef wouldn't spice it up with some of their famous, local
We skipped dessert and the bill tallied to about $92 (I told them to
charge us for the Krug Sauvignon Blanc my fussy companion rejected), but
it was not on the bill. We left a larger-than-normal tip,
but I have to say it was a tad expensive for what we had.
If you're in the neighborhood, I will say this places aces out the
numerous "fake" Italian joints in San Carlos which are around
the block and down the street. I'll give it another try, but I do
wish they'd pay more attention to their wine list.
Reviewed by GW
1015 Battery Street
Open: Mon-Fri 11:30 through Dinner
Chilled Mussels with Frisée and Croutons.
Dungeness Crab "Txangurro" with Orange, Grapefruit, Basil
Calamari a la Plancha
Thinly Sliced Serrano Ham with a bit of Spanish Olive Oil
Duck with Parsnips and Kumquats
A nice pour of Jurancon for dessert.
A small slice of Gateau Basque
a Tuesday evening I drove to The City for a 7pm reservation, finding a
parking spot on the street about a block away from Piperade.
I was escorted to the table while waiting for my dining companion.
The menu and wine list were presented and a nice big wine glass is part
of the table setting.
The wine list is a small book. It has the name of the owner (and
chef), Gerald Hirigoyen along with that of Master Sommelier Emmanuel
The first page features some wines "made by Kemiji" in
Spain. These days every sommelier thinks he/she can make wine and
so there are some Montstant and Priorat wines offered by the bottle from
$48 to $160 each.
The list offers 4 sparkling wines by the glass. Laurent Perrier is
$18, while Raventos' Spanish bubbly is $12. Roederer Estate Rose
and Domaine Carneros Brut are $15.
They have 8 white wines by the glass, including a couple of Basque
whites. An Irouleguy Blanc from Henri Mina is $10, while Txomin
Etxaniz Txakolina is $11. Kemiji's winemaking partner Byron
Kosuge's Chardonnay is $15 on the by-the-glass list. Alban
Viognier is $12 a pour and I am confounded as to how Beaucannon 2010
Sauvignon Blanc "made the cut" ($12).
For red wines we find Kemiji's Lake County Tempranillo, Arnoa, at $10 a
glass. His Montstant red wine is $12 a pour, while a Baron de Ley
Rioja Reserva is the same price. Kemiji's second label Syrah from
California is $12, while there's a Raymond Cabernet for $14 as is a
Zepaltas Pinot Noir.
They offer three bubblies, six white wines and six red wines by the
half bottle. Taittinger Brut is $50 per half bottle, while Krug's
Grand Cuvee is $100. A half bottle of Louis Michel Chablis is $30,
while a Seghesio Zinfandel is $22.
In full bottles of "Bubbly," we see Champagnes, California and
Spanish sparklers. A Gloria Ferrer Royal Cuvee is $50, while
Schramsberg's Blanc de Noirs is $75. Salon 1999 Vintage is $600,
while Bollinger's Special Cuvee Brut is around $100.
There are seven selections under the "Basque Whites"
heading. Vega Sindoa Chardonnay is $27, while a Remelluri Blanco
is $100. I counted 18 different Sauvignon Blancs, though I
sensed the big liquor distributors have their hooks into this place to a
certain degree. Emmolo ($30), Ferrari Carano ($36), Girard
($38), Franciscan ($36), Groth ($39) and a Mondavi (listed as Kalon
Vineyard at $65).
Under "Unique Whites" we find a few selections from Alsace
(Trimbach Pinot Gris at $60...it's a 6+ year old wine, so apparently
there's not a lot of turnover there!), a 5 year old Muscadet for $39, an
8 year old Cotes du Rhone Blanc for $36, a few Albarinos and a couple of
Viogniers including a Delas Condrieu for $100.
There's an entire page of "Basque Reds," including a few
Riojas at $38, with some others costing as much as $350 to $400 a
Twenty-three Chardonnays on one page...
There are "Basques Around the Globe" and "The Unusual
Suspects" with wines from Beaujolais, Cahors, Ribera del Duero and
Toro. They have a handful of Zinfandels and "The Rhone
Riders," featuring wines from the Rhone, Priorat and
California. From Bordeaux there's 1989 Ducru Beaucaillou at
$450. Mouton Rothschild is $1000 and it's the 2003 vintage.
Jordan's 2009 Cabernet is $118, while Grgich is $85.
And there's a page of Sweet Wines, including the 1983 Chateau Rieussec
for $250 a bottle.
My friend is also in the wine biz and had a bag full of opened bottles
from her day showing wines. Chef Hirigoyen stopped by our table to
chat and taste the various bottles she had opened. (They even
brought a little container to toss out what we didn't finish drinking.)
I perused the menu and found numerous interesting offerings. The
cuisine is billed as "West Coast Basque."
We ordered a trio of starters, these being brought out in stages.
To start we had a little salad-like appetizer of "Chilled Mussels
with Frisée, Croutons, Shallots, Chives and Aged Red Wine Vinegar"
($14). And it was "chilled" mussels with a fairly sharp
vinegary dressing. This was not exactly "wine friendly,"
but it was still a nice plate.
Next we had the Dungeness Crab "Txangurro," a beautifully
presented crab 'mold' with Grapefruit, Blood Orange sections, Basil and
Aioli. This was sensational! Simple and yet remarkable.
Next on the hit parade was a Calamari a la Plancha with Fennel, Olive,
Capers, Mint and Lemon ($15). This was quite good, too.
We also had, on the side, a nice little plate of Serrano ham moistened
with a bit of Spanish Olive Oil...very good!
We ordered two different white wines "by the glass," an
Albarino and a Garnacha Blanca. I don't know either of these
producers, but it's possible that the Garnacha had been opened too long
as, for a 2012 vintage, it was fairly dark in color and a bit tired on
(They pour these at the bar, so you don't see how full the bottle is or
get a glimpse of the label.)
For main plates, my friend ordered a California Swordfish with Brussels
Sprouts and Butternut Squash ($30), while I opted for the Oven-Roasted
Liberty Duck Breast with Parsnips and Kumquats ($29). The
Swordfish seemed a bit bland and dried out, but the Duck was marvelous.
We splurged and ordered a couple of desserts...Gateau Basque ($9) and
some Orange Blossom Beignets ($9)...both magnificent! We also had
a glass of two dessert wines, a Clos Uroulat Jurancon ($12) and a Jorge
Ordonez Moscatel ($10)...these were very good.
The bill tallied to $220, or so, with tax, etc. I don't think they
charged us for a corkage fee, which was appreciated.
This meal was terrific and we had good service and a nice table.
In fact, it was great not being right on top of neighboring tables,
allowing us to "dine," not merely "eat."
We look forward to returning to Piperade!
Reviewed by GW
339 University Avenue
From 11:30 through Dinner
Bay Scallop appetizer
Chopped Romaine Salad
a bit of Sunday cinema, we ambled down University Avenue to this Palo
Alto dining spot for some "Latin American"-themed cuisine.
A fellow sporting a uniform with the notation that he's the executive
chef greeted us at the host's desk. We'd booked using an on-line
reservation service, which he acknowledged and soon we were shown to a
table. The menu and wine list were presented. Wine glasses,
by the way, are not part of the table setting.
The list features a page of "by the glass" selections included
five bubblies from $8 a flute to $22. Twelve white wine
pours are available, with mostly California wines, though there's a
Trapiche Chardonnay from Argentina ($9/glass) and a Chilean Sauvignon
Blanc from Casa Lapostolle ($10/glass). A Spanish Rose from the
Artazuri brand is $9, while Salneval Albarino is $8 a pour.
Thirteen reds are available by the glass. Big spenders will drop
$35 for a pour of Silver Oak Cabernet from Sonoma. Best they could
find for a Zinfandel was Langetwins from Lodi for $12. They do have a
couple of Riojas by the glass: Marques de Riscal is $13 and Campo
Viejo is $10. Two Malbecs are offered, a Catena for $12 and a
Concha y Toro for $10.
If you're looking for half bottles, they have but three bubblies and two
California red wines...I did not notice any white wines offered in 375ml
The wine list offers a Segura Viudas Brut Cava (listed as coming from
Rioja!) for $36. This bottle wholesales in the vicinity of
$7. For those with more money than brains, there are two Armand de
Brignac Champagnes, the Brut at $496 a bottle and the Rose at
$696. Though there is but a ten dollar difference at the wholesale
level between Dom Perignon and the Krug Grand Cuvee, the former costs
$250 a Joya, while the latter is on the list for $369. Ouch!
The white wine selections of Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs come
primarily from the big liquor distributors and these offerings seem to
be largely "goal" or "quota" items. Jordan
Chardonnay is $64 a bottle, as is the Twomey Sauvignon Blanc.
Erath Pinot Gris, a ten buck wholesale bottle, is a whopping $48 on this
Opus One is $295 a bottle, while Silver Oak Napa Cabernet is $215.
The red wine list is top-heavy with Bordeaux varieties. Fifteen
Cabernets, three merlots, five Malbecs and a Carmenere grace the list,
yet the menu has but one "red meat" dish: a Hanger Steak with
a Cilantro Chimichurri Sauce.
There are seven Pinot Noirs, three Syrahs and six Tempranillos on this
list. There is but one red wine costing less than $40 in the list,
a Chilean Syrah called Merino at $38.
I'd say opting to pay the $20 corkage fee is a good idea here.
They waive the corkage if you buy a bottle from the wine list, though.
The Old Bat ordered her usual Tanqueray Martini which was very good,
as she reported.
I thought I'd asked the server for the Segura Viudas Rose Cava, but he
brought the regular Brut. Okay...fine...I can deal with that.
There are two dozen "starters" or small plates which can be
served as Tapas or as an appetizer. Add to that three salads and a
Starters include Tostadas, Empanadas, "Mayan Hummus," Short
Rib Tacos, Kobe Beef mini-Burgers, a Charcuterie plate, a Cheese plate,
Ceviche, Crab Cakes and Tuna Tartare.
The Old Bat ordered a Latin Chopped Romaine Salad ($9.50) which had some
bacon, Castelvetrano olives, hearts of palm, queso fresco and an
avocado-cilantro cream salad dressing. She was smitten by this.
I ordered a starter of Seared Bay Scallops ($11.50) which was nicely
presented in an overflowing little iron skillet with fresh corn, Serrano
ham, Spring Onions, Capers (I missed tasting capers, though) in a
Vinaigrette. This was a nice plate, too.
There were 9 main plates, including a couple of Paellas. Each
offering has a south-of-the-border element (or more) to it, so it's not
your run-of-the-mill menu.
We chose the Paella Classica ($46 for two) which the waiter cautioned
required 30 minutes prep time.
The actual time was probably more like 45 minutes, though. The
menu describes this as "Saffron Rice" and even The Old Bat
wondered if they used any saffron in this dish. There were quite a
few Bay Scallops in the paella, so this was a bit redundant given my
The Paella was a bit bland overall, though.
I will say the seafood and chicken in the Paella were fresh and nicely
The bill tallied to $116 before the tip with the corkage fee and tax.
We departed around 8:30 on a Sunday night and the place was fully
This is a nice neighborhood place...not so much as a destination dining
experience, but a comfortable local hot-spot.
And we'd certainly return to try some other dishes.
Oh...the Open Table reservation service sent a note asking why we'd
missed our reservation. Apparently the host neglected to confirm
our having arrived (someone said the charge for the restaurant is a
dollar or two per patron)...
And the Executive Chef spent most of the evening out of the kitchen, so
he is, apparently, more of a manager than a behind-the-stove chef.
Reviewed by GW
3130 Alpine Road
Mon-Fri: 11:30 am – 2 pm
Mon-Thu, Sun: 5 pm – 9 pm
Fri-Sat: 5 pm – 10 pm
Sat-Sun for Brunch: 10 am – 2 pm
The Kale & Shelling Bean Minestra
Spaghetti con Vongole
Pork Osso Buco with Porcini Mushroom Risotto
the Christmas Holiday Season, we booked an early table at the Portola
Kitchen, a short 25 minute ride from Burlingame.
We'd not heard of the restaurant previously, but in searching for a new
dining spot, this showed up and the menu looked promising.
We arrived at 5:30pm and were promptly seated at a little booth for two
near the bar. I was facing the open kitchen towards the back of
the restaurant and there were a couple of flat screen TVs lit up to my
left over the bar with some football and basketball.
The hostess set the menus on the table and a one sheet, double-sided
wine list, pointing out the drinks menu and wines by the glass were
listed on the back of the menu.
No wine glasses are on the table as part of the place setting and we
noticed the bartender was quite busy preparing some of the inventive
cocktails listed on the menu.
The Old Bat ordered her customary Tanqueray Martini (and she reported it
was excellent). I perused the wine list.
They offer 13 white wines by-the-glass and an equal number of reds,
seven of which are wines in "keg."
The wines-by-the-glass range in price from $9 to $16 and the offerings
are not dominated by liquor distributor labels. Campuget Rose ($9) from
the Costieres de Nimes would be of interest as would the Talley
Chardonnay ($15). There's a Kerner from the Valle Isarco winery,
while they have a Valle dell'Acate Nero d'Avola for $10. Qupe
Grenache is $14 and dispensed from a keg.
The main wine list reflects the Cal-Ital nature of the food served at
the Portola Kitchen. Seven sparklers are offered by the bottle,
including Ferrari Brut from the Trentino area. It's $49 a bottle,
less than twice the normal retail pricing.
Nine Chardonnay are offered, the excellent bottling from Dehlinger
There's a whole section of "Old World" white, featuring many
Italian bottlings. Almondo's Arneis is $38, while Kuenhof Gruner
Veltliner is $62. There are perhaps 8 Pinot Noirs from
California and Oregon along with a similar number of Cabernets. Four
Zins including Ridge Geyserville for $78. There are 8 reds from
Piemonte, with three single vineyard Barbaresco bottlings from the
Produttori ($88 each, less than twice retail!). There were six
Tuscan reds and three from the Veneto...nice selections, honest pricing
and good stemware!
I ordered a glass of Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc ($11) from Napa
and dispensed out of a keg. The server brought a nice, big stem
and a small carafe. She poured about half of the wine into the
For our meal, The Old Bat was intrigued by the "Kale & Shelling
Bean Minestra" at $5 for a small serving, $8 for a large.
"I don't want this with any cheese," she cautioned the server.
Calamari Fritti was $14 and I opted for that over the Tombo Tuna Crudo
($12), Prosciutto Rossa ($15) or the Chicken Liver Terrina ($10).
As they make everything 'fresh,' it too a while to finish preparing the
soup which, alas, arrived with cheese. It was sent back.
The server apologized, saying she neglected to point out the special
request to the kitchen and, as a result, she would waive the $15 corkage
fee they'd normally charge for my bottle of red wine.
The Calamari Fritti was quite good and not too salty. The spicy
sauce accompanying it was good, too.
We waited another 5 minutes for the soup to arrive and when it did, The
Old Bat said it was quite good.
Spaghetti Vongole ($19) is a home-made pasta with fresh clams and a
sauce of Prosecco, garlic, Fresno chili and a bit of butter. Very
nicely done, too!
I ordered the "Duroc Pork Osso Buco" ($24), which comes in a
deep platter surrounded by a tasty Porcini Mushroom Risotto (and you can
easily taste the porcini!). The gremolata was a bit top-heavy with
citrus, but was delicious nonetheless.
Other main plates included Loch Duart Salmon ($26), Local Petrale Sole
($25) and a 16 ounce Veal T-Bone ($29).
We were stuffed from this lovely meal and had no room for dessert.
The dessert wine list, though, offers 8 selections, from Noval 10 &
20 Year Tawny Ports ($9 and $16 respectively), to a $12 pour of
Felsina's excellent Vin Santo. Also on the list is a lovely Tokaji
($14) and Donnafugatta Ben Rye Passito for $12.
The ambience of the place is comfortable, if a bit dark. I needed
my little pocket flashlight to see the menu and wine list. The
sound system was at a comfortable level and they played tunes by
Sinatra, Dean Martin and the like, so it's a peppy, jazzy environment.
There's outdoor seating, too, in front of the restaurant, but with
December's winter chill, there were no takers for these seats.
The bill tallied to around $90 before the tip and with tax (and without
the $15 corkage fee).
I'd definitely return to the Portola Kitchen, even if it is off the
beaten path from Burlingame. It's easy to get to and the food and
wine selections are well worth supporting!
Reviewed by GW
501 Geary Street
Lunch 11:30-2:30 Daily
Dinner from 5:30 Daily
friend had tickets to an ACT performance in San Francisco and we booked
a 7;30pm table at this stylish, French-themed restaurant a block away.
We parked at Union Square, but our friend was able to find a spot on the
street a block away.
On a Sunday night, the restaurant was moderately busy. After all,
it is the holiday season!
The host showed us to a nice booth in this large, Parisian-styled
restaurant which recalls La Cupole or Le Dome in Paris.
Curiously, though the tables are covered with a table-cloth and have
cloth napkins and silverware, a wine glass is not part of the place
The wine list is presented as you're seated, with the list being on the
flip side of the menu. We quickly perused the list, searching for
some sort of crisp, dry white or sparkling wine.
The wine list is a bit of a mine field and you can find yourself paying
a hefty price for some of the wines on the list! There's a fairly
broad spectrum of wines, but it requires a bit of study to make a wise
As the restaurant had a display of oysters on ice as we walked to our
table, I looked for some Loire Valley Sauvignons...perhaps a nice
Sancerre? But under the heading of Loire Valley whites, there were
but three offerings, all Chenin Blanc. Only later did I notice
there was a Sancerre listed under "White Wines By the Glass."
I saw they had a favorite white wine from Gascony...Chiroulet.
This retails for $12, but it's $52 on the Grand Cafe wine list!
Then I saw they offer Allimant Laugner's Cremant d'Alsace (which is a
$20 bottle at retail). Shockingly, this is on their wine list for
Meanwhile, Mumm's industrial Cordon Rouge fizz, is offered for $69 and
it's actually from Champagne.
The list has 5 bubblies by the glass: $11 will get you a pour of Gloria
Ferrer's Sonoma bubbly, $13 buys a Roderer (sic) Estate, while the three
Champagne selections include Nicholas Feuillatte ($15), Henriot ($21) or
There are ten white wines, with Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc being the
priciest at $18 a pour.
Two French roses and a California are by the glass options.
Eleven red wines are offered by the glass. Seghesio Zinfandel is
$13 a pour, Qupe Syrah costs $9 and Trefethen Merlot is $15.
If you're looking for California Cabernets, the best you can do here is
Justin ($60 from Paso Robles, Atlas Peak from Napa ($52), Azalea Springs
from Napa at $65, Antica from Napa at $99 or Cakebread at $145. Ho
hum with respect to that category!
In Pinot Noirs there are more worthy options, with Merry Edwards 2011
Russian River costing $86 and Ojai's 2010 Santa Rita Hills going
You can find a couple of Corsican white wines on the list, one costing
$120! A half bottle of Hugel Gewurztraminer, retailing for $15
typically, is on the list for $42. Hugel's blended white, Gentil,
retailing for $15-$16, is $49 on the list. A half bottle of
"Opus One" (listed as an Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon) is $150.
The corkage fee is $25.
We brought a bottle of a nice 1989 Bordeaux and asked the waiter if they
could decant this.
He took the bottle away from the table (bad form, typically) and brought
it to a "specialist" to have it decanted. We suspect
this was the bartender, but ten minutes later, the wine was still not
dealt with and on our table.
Finally, he had another waiter decant our wine.
To start, we ordered a bottle of Chateau Bonnet Blanc, a standard little
white wine from Bordeaux's Entre-Deux-Mers region. It retails for
$13 to $15 and was offered for $30 a bottle. Given some of the
extreme banditry on the list, this was a sensibly-priced
The server brought the bottle, nicely chilled, immediately and we were
off and running.
Stemware is reasonable here...not the most elegant for the white wine,
but serviceable, while the Cabernet glass for the red wine was better.
My guest was smitten by the Steak Tartare ($16) and I ordered the Veal
Sweetbreads ($16) to start. I was surprised, frankly, at how
quickly these starters arrived at our table...far less time than it took
to decant our bottle of Bordeaux, in fact!
The Tartare was nicely done and there's a nice mustard tang to the
dish. The Sweetbreads are partnered with thin slices of a Granny
Smith apple. I'd have enjoyed this more had the sweetbreads been
hot...they were tepid. Too many apples vying for attention in this
dish when the sweetbreads should have taken center stage.
The server brought big Bordeaux stemware to the table and we waited,
looking to see where the bottle was and who was decanting it.
The server noticed we were a bit agitated by the delay...and, in fact,
someone else brought the two Cassoulets to our table.
We asked the fellow to take those back to the kitchen as we were waiting
for our red wine and wanted to taste it before having food on the table.
The Cassoulet ($27) is said to have Toulouse Sausage, Braised Pork
Shoulder, Confit Duck Leg, Cannellini Beans and Bread Crumbs. I
missed the sausage in mine, if it was there and could not determine if
the couple of morsels of shredded meat were the Braised Pork or shredded
duck. The duck confit was good and the beans were nicely al dente,
not cooked to a fare-thee-well and mushy.
The wine was a good match for the Cassoulet, though.
We skipped dessert, but I did notice the name of a "pastry
chef" on the dessert card. There are but five offerings for
dessert, Crispy Custard, Chocolate & Orange Pot de Crème, a Caramel
& Hazelnut Tart, an Olive Oil Cake or a selection of Sorbets
and Ice Cream. There's a list of cheeses, too, so The Young Bat
opted for a Spanish cheese ($6, which she liked).
There were two sweet white wines available for dessert, a French Muscat
($13) and a sweet Jurancon ($9). No Banyuls or Maury, but they do
offer three Tawny Ports from Grahams ($15, $21 and $36 for the 10, 20
and 30 year Tawnies).
The bill, with two appetizers, two main plates, a bottle of wine,
corkage and a cheese tallied to $166 with the SF Health surcharge and
If you're in the neighborhood, this is a perfectly decent place to
dine. It's comfortable and you're not right on top of other people
dining here. From a wine lover's perspective, the list could be
improved by having more interesting selections and a more coherent
I'm in no rush to return and wouldn't have the Grand Cafe high on my
list of San Francisco dining spots.
Reviewed by GW
384 East Campbell Avenue
Tues-Sun 5pm until closing
By the glass: The bottle is brought to the table to show to the
customer and then poured in a nice wine glass.
Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with smoked trout and Beet Chips
Classic Wiener Schnitzel...
...and Austrian Potato Salad.
had tried to dine at this Austrian-themed restaurant on a previous
occasion, but the place was booked that Sunday evening during the
summer. This time we snagged a reservation at 6:45, following one
of our Sunday movie forays.
The little downtown area of Campbell is quite charming and has all kinds
of little shops and restaurants. Naschmarkt, though, is a leading
light there, being more than a simple "neighborhood" spot.
There is seating for about 50 people, plus another 10 at the
bar. We were guided to a nice two-top table towards the back
of the restaurant, adjacent to the bar.
The hostess presented the menu, a cocktail list and a wine list. A
very good quality wine glass is part of the table setting at this rather
The server stopped by shortly after we were seated, recited the daily
specials and took an order for a Tanqueray Martini ($11 for the Martini
with a $2 'up-charge,' apparently for the Tanqueray Gin) and a glass of
Domane Wachau's Federspiel level Gruner Veltliner Terrassen ($9.50 a
glass or $38 by the bottle. This is a wine retailing for $15).
The wine list is presented on a two-sided sheet.
There are two "house wines," both Austrian...the white being a
Gruner Veltliner (Etz winery) and the red being a Zweigelt from the
Ecker winery. These are available in half-liter or one liter
pours, costing $16 or $30 respectively.
The wine list is an interesting mix, featuring some good Austrian wines,
but also having selections from California and France, with a smattering
of wines from Germany, Chile and Oregon.
There are numerous wines "by the glass," with a fair bit of
wine coming from one of the big liquor distributors.
Allimant Laugner's delightful Cremant d'Alsace Rose is $12 a glass or
$48 for a bottle (this is a $19.99 retail bottle). Brassfield
Estate Sauvignon Blanc from Lake County is $8 a glass and $32 for a
bottle. Girard Chardonnay is $10 a glass, $40 a bottle, while
Talbott's delightful Sleepy Hollow Chardonnay is $16 for a glass and $64
for a bottle.
In red wine, a Schloss Gobelsburger Zweigelt is $9 a glass, $36 for a
bottle. Glazter's Blaufrankisch is $10 for a pour and $40 for a
bottle. Ferrari Carano Cabernet is $14 a glass and $56 for a
The list is compact, but has a broad spectrum of wines and prices.
There are 11 Gruner Veltliners on their list, 5 Austrian Rieslings and
about 8 different Austrian reds. A bottle of Gruner
Veltliner ranges from $36 to $85 dollars, with good names such as FX
Pichler, Brundlmayer and Nikolaihof on the list.
There are 15 California Pinot Noirs on their wine list and one
French...no Austrian! I'm not sure why you'd want a Merlot, but
the Chilean Casa Lapostolle is $32 a bottle, while Duckhorn is
$95. There are 16 selections under the heading of Cabernets and
Blends. The 2010 Caymus is $140 a bottle for those insecure in
ordering a bottle of Austrian wine. There are three Malbecs from
Argentina for the totally befuddled diner and $40 will get you a bottle
of Klinker Brick's Lodi Zinfandel if you're so inclined.
Kudos to Naschmarkt for bringing the bottle of wine to the table and
pouring the provisional "say" for the customer! The
bottle is displayed and you can actually verify that what you ordered is
what you're getting. As you know, most places simply bring
you an anonymous glass filled with wine and you must accept it on faith
that it's what you ordered.
The menu offers a number of old-fashioned Austrian dishes, but there's a
Northern California sensibility to the menu, as well. How about a
starter of Pan Seared Scallops with a Cauliflower Puree and an Almond
Raisin 'Pesto' and Crispy Pancetta ($16)? Or Riesling Steamed
Mussels ($15)? For a main course, you might opt for the
not-so-Austrian "Homemade Tagliatelle with Shredded Duck Confit,
roasted Butternut Squash, Baby Spinach, Duck Jus and Pumpkin Seeds"
($19). Grilled Swordfish with a Zweigelt wine sauce was $28, as
was a Roasted Wild King Salmon dish with a Kalamata Olive and Piquillo
This isn't your father's "German food," that's for sure!
For some reason, The Old Bat wasn't terribly hungry, so she did not
order a starter. I went for their Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with
Smoked Trout and Beet Chips ($8). This was delicious and
beautifully prepared...seasoned just right, too! The smoked trout
was a nice match for the Jerusalem Artichoke...
I put a bottle of a ten year old Austrian Pinot Noir on the table.
The server brought large stemware, but when she saw the wine was a Pinot
Noir, she took these back and brought large "Burgundy Balloon"
glasses. Kudos to her for being on top of this.
She poured the say and did not over-fill the glasses. In fact, our
server came by periodically and offered to top up our glasses.
The main plates were quite good. The Old Bat ordered Kraut
Rouladen ($23), beef, pork and bacon-filled Savoy Cabbage. This
comes with a Parsnip Puree, baby purple kale and roasted baby
carrots. I had a taste...quite good!
My Wiener Schnitzel ($31) was a classic dish and took me back to
Vienna! The schnitzel is pounded thin, beautifully breaded and
topped with a slice of lemon & crisply, fried parsley and
accompanied by a lingonberry sauce or jam on the side. I added a
sprinkle of salt. Another plate arrived, filled with
Austrian-styled Potato Salad, seasoned with cucumbers and dill.
We made quick work of the main plates and meanwhile, the restaurant was
filled with celebrating diners and the staff was humming along smoothly.
I thought we might try a dessert, so we ordered their Apple
Strudel ($9) with a bit of cream on the side and a small scoop of
Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. It took a while for this to arrive and
that's because the Strudel is served 'hot.' This was very
flavorful, too and another winner!
The drinks list, by the way, offers a few Austrian sweet wines as well
as some top "schnapps" (white alcohols distilled from various
fruits such as pears, apples, apricots, etc.). Port and Banyuls
are also on the list, along with a number of coffee drinks, from
fortified with alcohol to low octane.
The bill, with two drinks, corkage, a soup, two main plates and dessert
tallied to $123 with tax and before the tip.
This was a delightful dining experience and easily a 'destination'
restaurant, not merely a neighborhood spot. We look forward to a
Reviewed by GW
1155 Folsom Street
Lunch M-F 11:30-3
Brunch Sat-Sun 9-3:30
Dinner: Daily from 5pm
Paella Suprema for Two
is a multi-faceted business, hence the name Triptych. It's a bit
of an art gallery, a restaurant and a catering business.
We booked a table at this Folsom Street restaurant in The City on a
Sunday evening following one of our movie-going ventures.
Parking after dark was actually easy on the night we were out (late
November) and we found a spot across the street from the place.
The restaurant seats perhaps 50 people and a few more at the bar.
As the place had but about 10 people when we arrived, we had our choice
of tables. We selected a four-top along the wall opposite from the
There were all sorts of paintings adorning the walls in the restaurant
and the music was fairly innocuous.
There's a wine and beer list tucked into the menu and some modest
quality Libbey goblets are on the table with place settings.
The Old Bat asked for a Martini, but as they do not serve liquor, she
would have to make do with one of the wines-by-the-glass.
The list features primarily wines from Fred Franzia's (Mister Two Buck
Chuck) wine distributorship. Cedar Brook Red or White goes for $7
a glass. An Italian Sangiovese, retailing between $6 and $12 is $7
a glass or $28 for a bottle. Terra Robles Cabernet, a $12 retail
bottle, is $8 by the glass and $31 by the bottle. Filus Malbec is
$9 a glass as is Haraszthy Lodi Zinfandel. Balletto Pinot Gris
from Sonoma is also $9, as are Sonoma Oaks Chardonnay and Patianna
Sauvignon Blanc. We opted for a glass of the Patianna and, sad to
say, it's merely vinous and hinting at being made from Sauvignon Blanc.
Yes, this is a dreary wine list, aimed at offering reasonably-priced
wines, but doing so by, for the most part, dumpster diving in my view.
The corkage fee, I believe, was $15.
The beer list was small, but seemed to have more promising offerings
than the wine list.
We began with a couple of starters. "Tokyo Tartar" ($14)
is described as "Diced Ahi Tuna, Sriracha, Mango, Ginger, Wasabi
Aioli, Ponzu with Wonton Chips and a bell pepper Garnish." A
plate featuring Christmas colors arrived after about 10 or 15 minutes
and it was a nice rendition of Tuna Tartar, if a bit salty and a touch
spicy rendering the somewhat weak Sauvignon Blanc even more innocuous.
Our other starter was "Bacon Wrapped Prawns and White Beans"
($10). A bowl filled with white beans arrived, studded with 4
prawns that seemed to be wrapped in bacon a deep fried. This was
good, though the prawns were rather small and lost with all those
beans. The menu mentioned something about Tiger Prawns, Mint,
Basil and Truffle Oil...Perhaps the spicy Tokyo Tartar did not allow me
to 'taste' this second dish.
The menu offers a Grilled Sirloin Steak ($23), a Breaded Pork Loin
($19), Lamb Chops ($25), Seared Wild Salmon ($22), a handful of
vegan dishes, balanced by a bunch of burgers. We opted for the
Paella Suprema for Two ($39), which is described as having a
"Tomato Base Sauce, Saffron, Soffrito, Prawns, Calamari, Mussels,
Clams, Chicken and Chorizo."
The tomato in the rice means, if they did, indeed, use any saffron, it
certainly was not detectable to our palates.
The Seafood and other ingredients made for a perfectly decent rice dish,
I think the bill tallied to a bit less than $110 with the tax and SF
Health charge and before the tip.
It was perfectly standard fare...and wine is an after-thought here.
Given its inconvenient location and lack of enological and culinary
flair, we are not likely to return, but if you live in the neighborhood,
it's a decent enough stop.
Posted by GW
1434 18th Street
Lunch: M-F 11:30-2:30
Dinner: M-Sat 5:30-10
The Anchovy Bruschetta with our bottle of Biancolella from Ischia.
Rigatoni with sausage
Linguine with Prawns...a good choice!
Butter Beans and Chanterelles
Chocolate Soufflé with Italian "Wet Nuts"
colleague John had mentioned going to this San Francisco restaurant and
so we booked a Tuesday night table and ventured to the big city to check
It's relatively easy to get to from the Peninsula and we drove around
the Potrero Hill neighborhood once before finding a parking spot about a
block from the restaurant.
Aperto is a quaint little place and clearly it's a
"neighborhood" dining spot.
I arrived a bit early for our 7:30 reservation and there were several
tables open, so they let me pick one. I chose a spot towards the
back, as there were 3 empty two-tops. A menu and wine list were
presented and I believe there was a wine glass as part of the table
setting, but I might be wrong about that.
The place was about 50% full, maybe a tad more. I perused the
small wine list and menu. There was but one sparkling wine by the
glass, a Prosecco for $8 of Bortolomiol ($40 for a bottle). A
Sparkling Lagrein is $45.
Barbolini's marvelous Lambrusco is $32 a bottle.
There's a Siclian Rosato from Cantine Barbera for $9 a glass or $36 for
They offer a little Gavi from Ernesto Piccolo for $28 a bottle, while a
Fiano from Ciro Picariello is $40. A Pinot Bianco from Cantina
Andrian in the Alto Adige is $10.50 a glass or $42 for a bottle.
La Sibilla's delightful Falanghina is $38 a bottle (we sell it for
$17.99 in the shop) and there's a California Sauvignon Blanc and a
locally-produced Vermentino. And, how about this? No
There are five red wines available by the glass, including Paolo Cali''s
lovely Nero d'Avola ($11 by the glass, $44 for a bottle). A
Barbera from Cascina Val del Prete is $40, while a Luigi Einaudi
Dolcetto from Dogliani is $8.50 a glass and $34 for a bottle. Of
the ten red wine selections, there is but one from California and it's a
County Line Pinot Noir for $48.
The wine list is small, but well-chosen and clearly aimed at pairing
with the menu.
As it was, indeed, dinner time, we opted for a bottle of Cenatiempo's
Biancolella at $44. The server brought the bottle in a timely
fashion and opened it, poured the say and off we went.
The corkage fee, by the way, is $15 for each of the first two bottles
and $25 per bottle after that.
We ordered their Anchovy Bruschetta with "Cavolo Nero,"
a black leaf Kale. Outstanding! If you like fresh anchovies,
this is great (and just $4 for two nice pieces!).
So far, so good.
We each, then, began with a pasta, although there are 8 or 9 antipasti,
including a Walu Crudo ($11) or Shrimp Fra Diavola ($12).
Each of the pastas is offered as a 'small' plate or you could have a
normal-sized serving. A Linguine with prawns and Chanterelles is
$10 for a small plate, while the Rigatoni Mezza with sausage is also ten
The Linguine was very good and perfectly cooked, though the Rigatoni was
more 'raw' than al dente. It was under-done, probably
caused by the chef wanting to send out both pastas simultaneously.
The sauce for the Rigatoni was nice, but the pasta needed another two
minutes, or so, to cook through.
At this point, I brought out a bottle of a nice Tuscan red with maybe a
decade, or so, of bottle age. I'd stood up the bottle a week
earlier to allow the sediment to settle and I cradled it into the
restaurant. The young server brought a decanter and he began
opening the bottle. I thought he moved it around a bit too much
and my dining companion raised her eyebrows watching this.
He uncorked the bottle without busting the cork and then began
decanting. We watched and her eyebrows kept climbing as we
expected he'd soon hit the sediment and stop. But, no, he simply
dumped the bottle into the decanter, glug, glug, glug.
"Say," I said, "Let me explain to you about decanting and
an older bottle of wine." And we politely explained the
notion of sediment and carefully pouring the wine off this bit of a
The young fellow was appreciative for the lesson in wine and we
encouraged him to bring a glass and taste with us, which he did.
As for main plates, she ordered the Red Wine Braised Boneless Short-Ribs
($19) and I chose their Roasted Quail ($ ???) special for the
day. A side plate of Butter Beans with Chanterelles was ordered,
too. Five bucks for that.
The Short Ribs were very good and nicely tender, while the quail was
very good...And the beans with Chanterelles was a good call,
though the Short Ribs come with butter beans anyway.
The wine glasses were of good quality, by the way.
We were going to order dessert and then the server brought a Chocolate
Souffle to make up for botching decanting the wine. And he didn't
nail us for corkage, either.
The bill tallied to around $125 before the tip.
Though this is primarily a "neighborhood" place, getting there
from Burlingame is relatively easy (Vermont Street off 101 or Mariposa
off the other freeway) and quick, so we'll certainly make a return
visit. The place might not be in San Francisco upper echelon of
restaurants, but it's comfortable, casual and tasty.
Reviewed by GW
5634 College Avenue
Lunch M-Fri 11-3
Dinner Daily 5-10pm
Mussels with the Chili Sauce being poured on top of them.
Shishito Peppers & Aioli
Rib-eye Steak with Peppers and Potatoes
Peruvian White Beans with Duck Confit, Wild Boar Sausage and Rabbit
were in the East Bay on a Sunday and booked a table at a newish dining
spot near Rockridge in Oakland.
Bourbon & Beef is right across the street from the Rockridge Food
Hall and it was fairly busy on a Sunday night at 7pm. Our server
brought us to a table in the middle of the restaurant, a few feet from
the bar on my left and a couple of feet from a table occupied by two
fellows on my right.
There was one of the ubiquitous flat-screen TVs over the bar and the
sound system was playing up-tempo Latin Jazz. Add to the din, the
folks at the bar conversing with each other and the guy at the
neighboring table in the middle of a major diatribe and we could hardly
hear ourselves think!
The hostess presented menus and a beverages list, which featured a
bunch of cocktails and their wine selection. Nice large stemware
was on the table as part of the table setting.
The wine list seemed to be largely culled from the offerings of the big
liquor distributors (as one might expect of a place with a
There were three sparklers by the glass on the list, including Segura
Viudas Cava ($7), Reginato Malbec Rose ($9) and a Simmonet-Febvre
Cremant de Bourgogne for $12.
Other by the glass selections included a Mapema Sauvignon Blanc from
Argentina ($9) and a Ladoucette Touraine Sauvignon ($10). An
Italian white of the Vitiano brand is listed as a Vermentino ($8),
though it's actually a 50-50 blend of Vermentino and Verdicchio.
The red wines by the glass were of fairly standard quality labels,
including a Don & Sons Pinot Noir ($10), Liberty School Cabernet
(missed the price on that one) and Testamatta's naughty red wine called
Soffocone (an Italian slang word for 'blow job') at $16.
Louis Roederer's Brut Premier is relatively well-priced, though, at
$72 for a bottle.
The table wines are listed first by grape variety and then appellation
or producer, with vintages and price being listed. A Guigal
Saint-Joseph Blanc is $67, while an Evening Land "Meursalt"
(I'd hope it's spelled Meursault on the label) is $92.
The delightful Colome Torrontes, a $12-$15 retail bottle, is $36 on the
wine list. There's an Austrian Gruner Veltliner from Domaine Wachau for
$30 and four Spanish whites.
There are 7 French red selections including a Gelin "Gevrey-Chambertain"
(I suspect Chambertin is correctly spelled on the label) for $115.
A table wine blend is listed by its proprietary name, winery, country of
origin and it's priced at $32. This costs less than $8 wholesale,
They have descriptions of each wine, since I gather there is no
sommelier at this restaurant.
A Castiglion del Bosco Brunello di Montalcino ($80) is described as
"Intense ruby red color, a broad persistent nose with notes of
berries well blended with delicate spicy notes from the wood."
Despite the menu being focused on South American-styled foods (the
chef/owner is born in El Salvador and the menu items are named in
Spanish), there were but two red wines from Argentina, a lone Malbec of
the Chakras label ($40) and a Barda Pinot Noir ($66).
The list, overall, is of reasonable quality, though I'd expect more
South American selections.
The Old Bat's Martini was met with enthusiasm and I opted for a flute of
the Sparkling Malbec. The flute was standard as was the wine, a
bit fruity and not hugely acidic.
As we heard the conversation about some high-tech start up's work place
conditions and the sexual orientation of the older fellow at the
neighboring table, our server explained the menu options are divided
between small plates and big plates, "both of which are meant for
sharing, so we tend to bring these out one at a time."
We began with a plate of ALMEJAS ($16). The description is
"Steamed Black Mussels, White Wine, Shallots,Ancho Chilli (sic)
Sauce & Grilled Herb Flatbread." (Most Spanish speakers
translate Almejas as 'clams.')
They brought one of those seafood or pizza platforms to the table and a
while later a server brought a hot skillet full of mussels and he poured
the Ancho Chili Sauce over the mussels, creating a beautiful bit of
table-side show business, as the sauce steamed and sizzled!
Even better, though, the mussels were fresh, sweet and perfectly cooked.
Another starter was Chile y Ajo Frito ($10,) a plate of Shishito Peppers
and Roasted Garlic with a Guajillo Pepper Aioli. This was also
quite good. Two for two!
I had a bottle of a new Cabernet I wanted to taste and the server
mentioned the $20 corkage fee and returned with two large, good quality
red wine stems. She opened the bottle with ease and poured the
say...no problem. She did not over-pour, either.
We offered her a taste and she stopped by with a glass...and this seemed
to encourage her to keep an eye on our wine glasses, which she topped up
Carne de Res Con Papas ($36) is a beautiful rib-eye, nicely grilled and
topped with a few more of those Shishito Peppers. The plate is
accompanied by some Potatoes and a Chimichurri Sauce. The beef was
very good and flavorful and our Cabernet was just right with this.
Our final plate was the Plato Salvaje Mezclado ($25), a duck leg &
thigh Confit with Wild Boar Sausage, Rabbit Sausage and Carrot &
Onions in a Peruvian White Bean 'stew'. Think of this as a South
American Cassoulet. It was very good, too!
The Old Bat said she didn't want to leave the place.
We were full after these four lovely dishes, so no chance to check on
desserts. The menu also offered Paella and I gather this is a bit
of a specialty with the chef.
The bill tallied to around $140 before the tip.
Good food, good service and reasonably good value, so we'll likely
venture to the East Bay for a return visit and perhaps check out their
Reviewed by GW
147 East Third Avenue
Open For Lunch & Dinner
Tues through Sunday
Bruschetta alla Vespucci
Clams and Mussels
Spaghetti con Polpette
(the chef is fond of painting the serving plates with a pepper puree on
one side and a vinegar reduction on the other...)
noticed a new Italian place in downtown San Mateo, so we booked a 7pm
table on a Tuesday night for dinner.
It's a moderately cavernous space and we were escorted to a nice table
just inside the door. The wine list is printed in the back of the
menu which was presented as we were seated.
No wine glasses are on the table as part of the place setting, however.
The one page list has 16 different "by the glass" selections
and yet we were not interested in a single one of the 7 white wines for
The wine list and menu are sloppy in their presentation, with numerous
misspellings. Clearly the list is not the work of a
Selections include Zonin Prosecco ($7 a glass/$26 by the bottle), an
un-named Pinot Grigio ($7/$26), "KJ" Chardonnay (that's now
they present Kendall Jackson) for $11 a glass and $42 for a
bottle. La Crema Chardonnay is offered at $12 a glass and $45 for
Matanzas Creek Sauvignon is $42 a bottle, but the lone, possibly decent
white selection not offered by the glass.
It's an Italian restaurant and despite being in a region where top
Italian wines are readily available, the best they can do for Chianti is
Zonin ($7/$26) and Castello d'Albola ($11/$42).
There's a perfectly standard Montepulciano d'Abruzzo from Centorame, a
wine retailing for $20 or less, priced at $49 on the list. They have two
Amarone wines on the list; one from Zonin is $95 a bottle while
Villa Carlotti is $65. There's a 2008 Barolo from Fratelli
Alessandria ($130) which will be drinkable and worth that price in about
10 years. The chef is from Calabria and yet there is but one
Calabrian wine on the list: Odoardi's Savuto ($12 a glass, $45 by
the bottle for a wine which retails for $13). Ouch.
Of all the Cabernets in California, the best we can do here is Silver
Palm ($42 from the Kendall Jackson folks) and Freemark Abbey ($60).
The corkage fee is $20, a high price for a place with such a poor wine
list. The wine glasses brought to our table were large, clunky,
old-fashioned Libbey goblets.
We perused the menu and asked to start with Bruschetta alla Vespucci
From there, The Old Bat ordered Minestrone con Verdure di Stagione ($7)
and I opted for the Soute di Cozze e Vongole ($14).
For a main plate, I chose Spaghetti e Polpette ($14) and The Old Bat
selected Linguine alle Vongole ($18).
We requested bread and they brought a small basket of some kind of
"Wonder Baguette." In an area with so many good bakers,
this was disappointing. Some sort of cheesy, spicy spread
accompanies the bread and the server eventually brought small bottles of
oil and vinegar, another indication they're catering to non-savvy
We waited nearly half an hour for the Bruschetta to arrive. The
place has seating for perhaps 50 people and it was two-thirds full at
this stage of the evening. The server, though, had not only the
Bruschetta, but the clams and mussels!
We asked to send back the seafood and they set down the
Bruschetta. The Wonder Baguettes had been toasted to cracker-crisp
and the goopy tomato/eggplant hash on top was as bland as could
be. It had a faintly vinegary fragrance, but this was not
detectable in the flavor. When the server asked how we liked this
as he was collecting the plate, we told him classic Bruschetta
incorporates garlic and basil.
He told us this was "Bruschetta alla Vespucci," so "we
make it our style."
Here's how it's described on their menu:
and eggplant, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, black pepper, basil)
Well, the menu has it right, but the kitchen didn't execute very
We waited about 10 minutes, or so, for the soup and seafood to
arrive. The Minestrone featured a pile of cooked vegetables.
The Old Bat complained that it was too salty and not the sort of soup
she's accustomed to when ordering Minestrone. It was not a
tomato-based broth studded with vegetables, but mostly sautéed or
wilted vegetables covered with some sort of broth.
The clams and mussels were tepid. The clams were small and not
plump, fresh-out-of-the-water morsels...the mussels were shriveled and
like brittle rubber bands. There was a bit of broth in the bowl,
but no soup spoon had been provided for this. I guess the broth
was to be sopped up with the toasted-to-burnt pieces of the Wonder
Baguette that topped the seafood shells.
We waited another 15 to 20 minutes for the pastas to arrive.
All the while, the two servers occupy themselves with checking on tables
and filling water glasses. They're especially attentive to topping
up the water glass!
At one point, hungry and waiting, The Old Bat actually entertained the
notion of each of us tossing a $20 on the table and departing.
I'm not much of a fan of fast food, but this "slow food"
evening was not going well.
Eventually the pasta dishes arrived. The Linguine was not hot, so
she sent hers back. Mine was appropriately hot.
The meatballs were spongy and not very flavorful and the "fresh
tomato sauce" must have been made from cardboard tomatoes. A
jar of virtually any supermarket "spaghetti sauce" has more
character than this.
The pasta on both plates was cooked past the "al dente"
stage. And I can't say her clam sauced pasta was especially good.
As a side note, they provide a large spoon with the pasta as apparently
customers are not capable of twirling it on a fork without the help of
such a utensil!
We flagged down a server and got the check. With the tax, the bill
tallied to $88.
From a 7pm start, it was a few minutes after 9 when we thankfully
The place, by the way, is noisy and the cacophony especially bothered
The Old Bat. They have a modest sound system...I think there was a
transistor radio speaker behind me at the little bar.
Someone must have passed by with a cigar at one point and the plate
stunk of that burning rope. A while later a cigarette smoker
passed and this, too, lingered. They don't have a system to
circulate the air, though I noted a small box fan on a ledge above a
After we dined, I had a look at the reviews on Yelp. Almost every
review is hugely positive indicating our experience may have been
unusual or most patrons know very little about fine dining.
We will not be dining at Vespucci for a second try. Sorry.
Reviewed by GW
448 South California Avenue
Lunch & Dinner
The pizza oven at Terrone.
Various 'salumi' on the Salame Plate.
Farro and Calamari
Decanting our Barbaresco
Scialatielli Pasta with Funghi
Bistecca Fiorentina with fries.
Panna Cotta with fresh berries
Vanilla Gelato Affogato
so many of the Italian-themed eateries on the San Francisco Peninsula,
this one is actually owned by Italians.
We ventured to Palo Alto one Saturday night in July to try this
relatively new pizzeria on California Avenue. The weather
was reasonably warm and my friends requested a table behind the
restaurant on their outdoor patio. The place was filled at 8:30pm
and we had to wait a few minutes.
Inside, the kitchen was humming along and the wood-fired pizza oven
We waited less than 5 minutes, but given how busy this place is, I'd
suggest calling ahead for a reservation.
The host escorted us to the patio and presented both menus and a wine
The wine list is small, which is fine. Sadly one of the big liquor
distributors has been instrumental in selecting the wines and there are
but a few interesting selections unless you're wowed by Chalone
Chardonnay ($32), Orogeny Pinot Noir ($68), Provenance Cabernet ($59) or
Bozzetto Chianti ($32).
There are a few good Italian wines on the list with mark-ups all over
A good entry-level Nero d'Avola from the Valle dell'Acate wine is $48 on
the wine list...we retail that wine for $12. On the other hand, a
really good Brunello from Caprili, $60 at retail, is $110 on the wine
list. A Barbaresco is listed at $75 a bottle and it's from the
vineyard location of Rio Sordo, but beyond that, the actual winery
making this bottling is a mystery.
Gaja's Ca' Marcanda winery makes several red wines, so we don't know
which one they're offering at $160. It could be the entry level,
$50 retail bottling called Promis, it could be the $80 Magari bottling,
though it's unlikely to be the Ca' Marcanda "Camarcanda"
bottling which usually retails for around $150-$160.
Vintage dates are not listed on the wine list, either.
We began with a bottle of Ruggeri Prosecco ($34), a bottle which retails
for $15-$20 typically. The flute glasses they brought were
serviceable, though not elegant...but remember, this is a pizzeria, not
three star Michelin dining.
The menu features ten pizzas/pizze ranging from $12 to
$16. There are two soups, four salads and maybe 8 or 9 "small
plates." Four pastas are tabbed as "homemade" and
there's a risotto of the day.
We asked our server for a "Salami Plate" ($11) and "Farro
& Calamari" ($12) to start.
Following those, we wanted the Napoletana Pizza ($15).
Next course, we asked about getting three "half portions" of
the Scialatielli pasta ($17) with porcini, rosemary and olive oil.
Then, following the pasta, we wanted the Bistecca Fiorentina ($25).
The Salami plate was a nice sized cutting board smothered with several
kinds of meats, including Prosciutto di San Daniele, Salame
of Fra Mani, some kind of smoked meat and a spicier salame/sasauce.
There were some olives accompanying this and little cubes of a nice,
somewhat doughy bread.
The Farro salad was marvelous, with chopped parsley, red peppers and
green onions adding flavor to the calamari.
When we'd finished the starters, a beautifully crusty, thin pizza
arrived...tomato sauce and some nicely salty anchovies on top.
In between the starters and pizza, I pulled a 1999 Barbaresco out of my
cellar bag and the crew decanted it tableside. Large
"Bordeaux" styled wine glasses were brought to the table, too.
As we were each grabbing a slice of the pizza, a server arrived with a
single plate of pasta and the bistecca.
Clearly they did not understand the style of dining we were
expecting, staging each item individually. Or, perhaps we didn't
understand this is really "just" a pizzeria and you don't get
'fine dining' service in a pizza place.
We sent back the pasta and the steak, asking they bring these out when
the pizza has been devoured.
The pizza, by the way, was excellent! It was a beautiful reminder
of good pizza in Italy.
But before we'd finished the pizza, the pasta and bistecca
The notion of three "half portions" of pasta was not
understood, apparently and we seemed to get a single serving (if that)
of the Scialatielli. The pasta was very good, but the size of that
serving seemed more like a half portion to me, but I have a big
The Bistecca was magnificent! Beautifully cooked, it was
an 18 ounce t-bone steak which was magnificently charred and rare on the
inside. Some fries and mixed greens accompanied this.
By the way, they don't have contorni or side dishes listed on
the menu, so we could not embellish this main plate further.
One of my dining companions asked about some other pasta and they
brought an order of that to our table.
The dessert list features Tiramisu, Panna Cotta, a Tortino al
Ciocolatto with Vanilla Gelato and some other Torta. These
are $8. They offer a gelato or sorbet cup for $7.
Having expressed a bit of dissatisfaction at the service, a couple of
desserts were comped.
Over all, despite the hiccup in service, the food at this place was
really good and I'm looking forward to a return visit (and I'll order
that steak again, for sure!). If you're a bit of a wine geek (as
am I), bring a bottle and pay the corkage fee.
Reviewed by GW
MARTIN'S AMERICAN GRILL
101 Hillsdale Shopping Center
(corner of 31st Ave and the parking lot entrance)
Open Daily from 11am through Dinner
Baby Romaine Caesar
A New York Strip Steak with Spinach...
The Rib-eye with fries.
of the owners of P.F. Chang's Chinese restaurants and "Fleming's
Steak House" is the "Paul" of Paul Martin's. It's a
small chain of "neighborhood" restaurants and their first one
in the Bay Area.
It's a brand new restaurant located in the old Crate & Barrel store
and it's a dark restaurant with booths and free-standing tables. A
bar and small tables are on one side of the place and there's a small
outdoor, patio-like setting in the front.
The place had just opened the week we booked a 7pm table and so we did
not know what to expect. Would they be in "training"
mode or what?
We arrived about 10-15 minutes before our reservation and the host told
us they'd seat us closer to our reservation time. I couldn't tell
if that was a move to get us to buy a drink ahead of time or if they
simply did not have an open table for us.
We sat outside and a nice young lady offered drinks. They have a
full bar and so The Old Bat ordered her usual Dry Martini. I
perused the wine card...they offer perhaps 100 wines on their list and
more than half are available by the glass.
The young server was familiar with the wines and accurately described
the Kelly Fleming Sauvignon Blanc ($14 a glass). She brought a
small carafe and a nice-sized, empty stem and poured a "say"
to see if I "okayed" the wine. It was a good, mildly
citrusy, crisp, somewhat potent Sauvignon Blanc from Napa.
The Old Bat rated her Martini a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10.
At 7:10, or so, we were escorted to a booth at the back of the
restaurant, close to the open kitchen.
The menu and wine list were presented and there was stemware on the
table as part of the place setting.
American food is the focus, but maybe even a bit more local than
"American." And the wine list features mostly West Coast
Three bubblies are offered by the glass, including a Piper Sonoma Brut
($11), a Gruet Brut from New Mexico ($13) and a Schramsberg Brut Rose
The wine list offers some standard brands such as Wente's "Morning
Fog" Chardonnay from Livermore ($9/glass-$34/bottle), Rombauer
Chardonnay ($20/glass-$69/bottle) to Frog's Leap Chardonnay
($16/glass-$56/bottle) and Hanzell Chardonnay for $99 a bottle.
They had 17 Pinot Noirs, with two from Oregon (Benton Lane $60 and one
called Twelve $65) to a simple French Bourgogne Rouge from Alain
Geoffroy ($12/glass-$43/bottle--this wine retails for $17). A
fruity Valpolicella which retails for $14 is $37 on their list...a $12
Nero d'Avola is $37 on their list, so the margins on the wines is a big
There are 6 Merlots, Duckhorn's costing $99 a bottle. Twenty-one
Cabernets are offered. Frog's Leap is $105 on the list...the
winery retail price is $42. (The wholesale price is $28.) Yet
Silver Oak, a $70 winery bottle is also $105. Pahlmeyer's big Napa
Cab blend is $199 and Araujo's Eisele Vineyard Cabernet is $350 a bottle
(these typically retail for $300).
The corkage fee is a comfortable $10.
Thank you for that!
We perused the menu...they offer 8 "starters," from a
cheese & salumi board ($12/person) to a Spinach Dip ($14) to Raw
Oysters of some appellation at $3 each. A Jumbo Wild Prawn
"cocktail" is $19 and we saw servers carrying out a large
serving of ice studded with 5 prawns sticking out of them. The
"Town Dock Calamari" ($13) was The Old Bat's selection and
this was a large platter of perfectly crisp, moderately salty
calamari...a winner, but best shared.
I opted for their Baby Romaine Caesar with homemade croutons ($8)...a
nice salad but the Caesar dressing was not intensely garlicky, nor did
it seem to have much influence from an anchovy. Another large
plate and the salad was good...
The server opened our bottle of well-aged Rioja and the stemware was a
good-sized glass of perhaps 14 ounce capacity. She was efficient,
courteous, polite and professional.
The menu is varied for main plates...Fish Tacos ($16), Grilled Salmon
($23), St. Louis Pork Ribs ($24), Brick Chicken ($21) or Linguine &
Prawns for $20. They have a Mesquite grill and a Prime New York
steak is $36, Skirt Steak is $24 and a Blackened Rib-eye is $34. A
hamburger is $13.
We each ordered a steak...the New York was very good and the Rib-eye
picked up a smoky note from the Mesquite. The steaks were tender
and cooked beautifully (in fact, the runner who brought them asked that
we cut into them immediately to be sure they were cooked to our
liking!). I was able to substitute their Fingerling potatoes for
The homemade Ketchup is quite nicely balanced and zesty, by the way.
The ambience is a bit dark and they seemed to be turning down the
lights in an already dark restaurant. When we departed at 8:45, or
so, it was a surprise to find it so light outside (by comparison).
I don't recall hearing background music, come to think of it, though
being a family restaurant, some baby was making a bit of a fuss nearby
and another toddler was exploring the area around her family's table.
A manager stopped by to ask how we liked the place and they seem to be
off to a seriously good start. The notion of the owners creating a
"neighborhood restaurant" that they'd like to have in their
neighborhood is a good one, if a tad pricey.
That said, given that there are so relatively few "quality"
dining establishments in the area from South San Francisco to Redwood
City, this is likely to be a popular dining spot.
And we're already looking forward to a return visit!
Reviewed by GW
Lunch: Tues-Fri 11-3
Dinner from 5pm Tues-Sunday until
(10pm on Friday and Saturday)
Porcini & Barley Soup
Lamb with fresh roasted peppers and a plum sauce
friends had dined at the San Bruno incarnation of this Russian
restaurant and they were interested to try the place in its new Redwood
We booked a table for 8:30 on a Saturday night during the Summer...it
was warm and, in fact, a bit hot inside the place. There were
outdoor tables, but I'd noticed quite a parade of humanity ambling past
and thought we'd be a bit more comfortable inside.
No wine glasses on the table and no wine list was offered by the fellow
who's the owner. He's a tired old guy and not exactly a charming
or outgoing host.
I asked how much the corkage fee was and he hesitated, seemingly
searching for an appropriate number. Fifteen popped into his head,
so we were told the corkage fee would be $15.
I'd brought a wine made of the Russian (or Georgian) grape, Rkatsiteli.
Our host brought wine glasses to the table, goblet which were perhaps
better suited to being a water glass.
He managed to extricate the cork and poured the wine for me...good...and
then poured for my friends.
He was not the least bit interested in the wine, though we did explain
its origins and invited him to bring a glass and have a taste.
Small salads were brought to the table, along with one slice of a dark
bread per person.
The three of us each ordered a soup and a main plate. One soup
arrived and about 5 minutes later, or so, another soup was
brought. Maybe 5, or so, minutes after that the third soup
arrived. The Spring Green Soup (available hot or cold) was
$6.50. Ukrainian-styled Borsch is $6.50, while my Porcini and
Barley soup was $7. The Borsch came last, probably because it
included a 'fresh baked roll,' which was left uneaten after a bite.
The same pacing took place with respect to our main dishes.
The menu has a notation on several items that it requires a 20 to 25
minute wait. All three items we ordered had this cautionary note.
One person ordered Kotlety
“Pozharskie," ($15.50) Chicken patties named after a famous
Russian restaurateur. About 5 minutes later, my Shashlyk
i Lulya-kebab iz Baraniny, some sort of lamb kebabs arrived.
Gentlemen that we are, we waited until the lady's entree arrived, a
Chicken Liver "nest" called Kurinaya Pechonka ($17.50).
This plate took another 10 minutes so we had about a 15 to 20 minute
wait from first plate to the third! I wondered how long we'd have
waited had the place been busy...it was relatively empty on our visit.
The food was of fairly good quality...nice salad greens, good dried
Porcini for the soup and the lamb and peppers were fine.
The chef and co-owner came out of the kitchen, appearing as your Russian
grandma, to ask how dinner was. She's clearly concerned and cares
about the quality of the food, to be sure.
Still, we wondered if they had more than a single burner stove or
hotplate back in the kitchen as the timing here was not that of a
well-run, professional restaurant.
The menu indicated desserts are all house-made. We were not asked
if we wanted dessert, as it was a bit after 10pm and we gathered the
crew wanted to go home.
It's not a restaurant where wine is given any consideration, though and
given the poor timing of the kitchen, I can't say I'm heading back any
time soon with guests.
On the other hand, if you're dining by yourself and enjoy a good beer,
they have a number of nice selections on tap and some Russian beers in
bottle for you.
1602 South El Camino Real
Open Tues-Sat 5:30-9:30
The Amuse Bouche...
"Ode to My Wife, Part II"
Tandoori-Spiced Crispy Sweetbreads
The English Pea Soup is poured at the table into the 'bowl' with the
mint, yogurt gelée and Aleppo peppers.
The Wild Boar "stew" with the Noble Element...silver.
House-made Ice Creams
Dark Chocolate Kulfi for the Birthday Boy...
was the birthday of a good friend and I extended the invitation to dine
out, knowing they had been enthusiastic fans of this San Mateo dining
It was a Thursday evening and the place was packed. It's in an old
house set back from El Camino. There's a parking lot surrounding
We were escorted to our table in one of the small dining rooms (they
have three rooms, I think, accommodating perhaps 40 people if my count
is correct). No wine glasses on the table, but the wine list was
offered along with menus.
The wine list is small and compact and offers perhaps 40
selections. We find 7 fizzy to bubbly selections, though one is a
Moscato d'Asti, a more appropriate choice for dessert. There's a
Brut de Savoie from Pierre Boniface for $40, while $75 gets you a bottle
of Henriot's Brut. For $120 you can have the vintage Brut of
Thienot. We opted for a half bottle of a Spanish Cava, a Llopart
Rose for $25 (375ml).
Under the heading of "Crisp, Dry Whites" there's a New Zealand
Sauvignon Blanc from Allan Scott for $32 as well as a Long Meadow Ranch
from Napa for $36. Under the "Aromatic Whites" category
we find a nice German Riesling from Dr. Thanisch for $36, although it's
not clear what quality level this wine is...they don't indicate whether
it's a Qba, Kabinett or Spatlese, for example.
Under the heading of Chardonnays, there's a MacRostie from Sonoma for
$36, a Bouchard Bourgogne Blanc for the same price or a second label
Hanzell for $56.
The list has five Pinot Noirs, including two from David Bruce, $50
for the 2007 Santa Cruz Mountains and $60 for a Santa Maria
bottling. A Dashe Cellars Dry Creek Zinfandel is $40, while a
Langmiel (sic) Shiraz from Australia is $45. A Tres Picos Garnacha
Overall, it's a list of "nice" wines at sensible prices and
the selections actually pair well with the menu.
The corkage fee is $15, so if you're dining here, make do with a bubbly
or a white and bring a special bottle of red.
Our half bottle of bubbly arrived along with three "champagne
coupes." I was a bit surprised that a place with a star in
the Bay Area Michelin Guide would have this sort of stemware for
bubbly! I asked if we could have normal wine glasses, then, and
the server immediately brought some large format stems which were more
conducive to our appreciation of the Cava.
A little Amuse Bouche of a soup arrived...a nice little offering of a
green vegetable (was it spinach, perhaps) with a little tomato
We perused the menu and my two dinner guests suggested sharing a
couple of appetizers. The chef and co-owner is Sachin Chopra, a
fellow who's background is in Indian cuisine, though he's been involved
in Indian-Fusion restaurants, apparently. His wife and partner is
Shoshana Wolff and she runs the front of the house and takes care of
curating the wine list.
For starters, there's Lavender and Cumin Scallops ($15) which comes with
bacon and black cardamom potato sauce. Tuna Tataki ($15) features
Quick-charred ahi tuna with crispy capers, caviar, a flurry of radishes
and persillade. A Warm Mirchi Salad ($12) includes Shishito
peppers sautéed with fresh corn, mushrooms and baby greens with a sauce
of pickled cabbage.
Having finished the glass of bubbly, we brought out a bottle of a
terrific New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and we asked for another round of
stemware. The server brought three large glasses to the table and
we opened the Greywacke "Wild" Sauvignon, an outstanding match
for the upcoming starters.
My friends wanted the "Ode to My Wife, Part II," ($9) which
is described as "Savory ricotta-almond cheesecake layered with red
and golden beets in a sun-dried tomato crust, with goat cheese mousse
and crushed walnuts." We also had the Tandoori-Spiced Crispy
Veal Sweetbreads ($17) with Lemon sabayon, Caesar dressing foam and miso-mushroom
Both were excellent, though I'd easily order the Sweetbreads again and
probably opt for one of the other starters. The presentation of
both was outstanding. Wow...are we sure we're in San Mateo?
As the crew had hosted my two dinner guests on previous occasions, the
chef sent out three servings of their "English Pea Soup"
(which would have cost $9) and this comes garnished with fresh mint,
yogurt gelée and aleppo peppers. Another culinary masterpiece!
Our friend Constance brought an Oregon Pinot Noir and the crew opened
this bottle and provided three more large stems (of good quality).
The menu offers 8 main plates, two of which are vegetarian. They
had a Beet & Coconut Ravioli ($17) with truffled Fonduta and Crispy
Kale. Popeye's Dream ($17) is Spinach-parmesan custard with
grilled paneer, heirloom carrots, fresh baby corn and a roasted red
pepper brodo. There was a Fennel Oil-Poached Halibut for $30 with
Lemongrass Shrimp Mousse, crispy potato coins, sausage breadcrumbs
and smoked Mt. Lassen trout cream.
With the red wine, though, we focused on meat dishes. The Birthday
Boy ordered the Harissa-Spiced Veal Short Rib ($27) with Bacon green pea
rice grits, vanilla potato cream, harissa-braised fennel, salsify and a
fennel relish. The Mrs. ordered the Herb-Rubbed Venison Steak
($29) which comes with Farro risotto, braised ciopollini onion, wild
mushrooms and grapes. I was torn between the Braised Wagyu Beef
Brisket ($26) or the Aab-e-gosht ($24) and the waiter guided me towards
the latter which was "Wild boar cooked in the traditional fashion,
in a sauce of ginger, fennel almonds served with saffron bread and noble
elements." The Noble Element was a thin sheet of edible
All three dishes were excellent, though I'd probably opt for the Short
Ribs or Venison next time. The Boar came with a flat bread which
had saffron in it...quite good, though the saffron was too subtle for
The kids were dying for dessert. I ordered the Selection of
House-Made ice Creams ($7) and had a scoop each of a Rose Petal Ice
Cream, one flavored with Blood Oranges and another of Vietnamese
Coffee. The kitchen sent out a Crème Brûlée ($7) which was
The service was quite good, professional and a bit informal. The
ambience is nice, though a fellow at the neighboring table may have had
hearing issues as he was unusually loud.
This is a seriously good restaurant and a jewel here on the
Peninsula. Fussy wine aficionados, as noted earlier, should
consider ordering a white or bubbly and bringing a special red...
We look forward to dining here again and would definitely find our way
to this "destination" dining spot were we living farther away
from All Spice.
Reviewed By GW
535 Bryant Street
Open Everyday Except Monday
11:30 to 10
(11:30 on Fridays and Saturdays)
An Amuse Bouche of Steak Tartare and Hollandaise Sauce
Baby Octopus Salad.
Roasted Duck Breast with Horseradish Whipped Potatoes, A Mélange of
Cauliflower and Huckleberry Sauce.
Nice stemware, at least, but with a $25 corkage fee, it should be
my...where to begin?
So many restaurateurs claim they lose money on their food and so they
attempt to be profitable on their beverage service. I am certain
with the high rent most places pay in the Bay Area, keeping one's head
above water is challenging. But there's a limit to what's sensible
We ambled in after a Sunday afternoon movie. Most of the place has
table cloths, while one large table is unadorned wood, sort of a
community table. Empty on this occasion. A handful of tables
were occupied by twos and fours....
They brought a wine list and menus as we were seated and we were
asked about cocktails or aperitifs. The Old Bat ordered a Martini
and I ordered a glass of Matanzas Creek Sauvignon Blanc ($11).
I had, of course, some bottles in my bag, but I perused the wine list.
It's a French-themed restaurant and they have a remarkable list of
wines. It's top-heavy with big brands such as Guigal, Bouchard,
Louis Latour, Olivier Leflaive, Antinori, Hugel, Dom Perignon, Jaboulet,
The list is sloppily assembled and there are numerous misspellings and
odd entries. Under the heading of Chenin Blanc wines, there's a
Muscadet (the grape is Melon de Bourgogne). Under Sauvignon Blanc,
they list a Quarts de Chaume (it's made of Chenin Blanc). The
Trimbach winery is noted as "Trumbah" on the wine list.
An Antinori Tuscan white blend is listed as "Pinot Grigio"
when that grape comprises a tiny percentage of the mix.
Guigal Cote-Rotie is posted under the Burgundy heading of Cote de
Beaune, not Rhone. A wine under the heading of Merlots is listed
as "Old Ghost" Old Vine and this is a Zinfandel from Lodi's
Klinker Brick winery.
An Edmeades wine is listed as being from "Mendasino." "Provance"
not "Provence." "Bordauex" not
There's a heading of "Rhone Varietals, Northern Rhone" and
there a 2009 Jaboulet "Domaine de Thalabert" for $125.
Under the heading of simply "Rhone Varietals," the same wine
appears again for $125. Thalabert is a Jaboulet property of the
Under the heading of Hermitage, however, we see "2009 Jaboulet
Crozes-Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert Syrah" and it's $90.
Under the heading of Gigondas, a prominent southern Rhone appellation,
there is Guigal's Crozes-Hermitage, Guigal Hermitage and Guigal's basic
Cote-Rotie, all Northern Rhone reds.
A Cotes du Rhone from the Chateau de Saint Cosme is listed as an
Hermitage as are a couple of other Southern Rhones based on the Grenache
Now, these days many sommeliers contend that a 400% mark-up is the
industry standard. I wonder, then, how this restaurant
"shops" for wine. Are they buying from the distributor
and paying a wholesale price? Or, I wondered if they buy wine at
retail paying a higher price, along with sales tax and then marking up
the wines by 400%?
When I noticed a couple of items are labels found exclusively in a large
chain store, we may have our answer.
If they purchased Bollinger's Brut Champagne at the highest wholesale
price, they'd pay $66.60 per bottle. Best wholesale pricing is
around $48 and most retailers in the area offer it for $60-$70 a
bottle. It's $240 on the wine list at Bon Vivant! Ouch!!!
Laurent Perrier ranges from a tad under $30 wholesale to $33.60 at the
highest wholesale price. It retails for around $40,
typically. Bon Vivant offers a bottle for $120.
Laurent Perrier's top-of-the-line Champagne costs the restaurant from
$95 to $101.60 if purchased from the wholesale distribution
company. It retails for $130 to $150 presently. You can
treat your guests to this wine for a mere $400 if you dine at Bon
A ten dollar a bottle white Bordeaux from Chateau Bonnet is $52 on this
wine list. Another simple red Bordeaux, misspelled as Timberlai
(it's Timberlay) wholesales for about $15 a bottle and it's offered for
Stag's Leap Wine Cellars "Artemis" (Arthemis on their Arthe-misspelled
list) is $55 at the winery to visitors. It's $150 on the wine
Cuvaison Pinot Noir is $38 at the winery and it's $24-$26 from the
wholesaler. But it becomes a $130 bottle at Bon Vivant.
Yes, I get a bit riled up seeing a sloppy wine list and absurd
Let's see...the company that made the Champagne prices it a hundred
bucks at wholesale (meaning they sold it for around $60-$70)..and this
restaurant thinks they should "earn" a $300 profit from
selling a bottle?
They offer 9 starters, plus some salads. Sea Scallops with a
Cauliflower Puree and Brown Sugar Syrup ($17) seemed like an odd
combination. Escargots are $12, though the menu neglects to
indicate how many come as a serving. Steamed Mussels are $16 as a
starter. Half a dozen oysters are $12 (and yet mussels are
$16?)...Crispy Sweetbreads with Truffled Potatoes are $15.
Salads are creative. One is called a Pompadour Salad ($12) and
features "Watermelon, Frisée, Mint, Baby Tomatoes, Mint Oil and
Chili Flakes." They offer a Beet Salad, a Smoked Duck Breast
Salad, a Butter Lettuce and Prawn Salad...
I opted for the "Baby Octopus Salad" (($14) which includes
Niçoise Olives, Frisée, Tomatoes and Crème Fraîche.
The Old Bat ordered the Sweetbreads.
We were brought a small Amuse Bouche of a crostino with some
sort of Steak Tartare topped with Hollandaise Sauce and snipped
chives. The meat was a bit on the brown side, so it appeared to be
cooked. It was not, though.
The Sweetbreads were good and nicely done. The Octopus Salad
looked better than it tasted. There was some sort of
orange-colored oil on the plate which the server said was Chili
Oil. I found it to be fairly neutral and weak as though perhaps
some chili peppers or flakes had been infused into some sort of
anonymous vegetable oil. The Octopus was a tad "mushy"
in texture, not exactly "al dente" and there was a most
unusual clove spice element. I imagined perhaps the octopus was
cooked sometime much earlier and then 'preserved' in liquid which had
cloves to maybe extend the 'life span' of the seafood. Maybe I'm
wrong, but the clove character was strange. And I didn't mention
the cardboard-like cherry tomatoes...
I put a nice bottle of a Red Burgundy on the table and the server
brought two wine glasses. Corkage is $25. The stemware
was of good quality and they were Burgundy "balloons," so they
get credit for that.
Their idea of "bread" here was a small basket with some
puffs made using a recipe for Gougères
We both ordered the Roasted Duck Breast ($29) with Horseradish Whipped
Potatoes, Spring Cauliflower Mélange and Huckleberry Sauce.
This is a beautiful plate in terms of appearance and presentation, but
the Cauliflower accompanying the duck was tepid or room temperature and
the duck and whipped potatoes were warm, not hot.
I missed the horseradish in the potatoes, so I am either desensitized to
this or that bit of seasoning was inadvertently omitted.
We found seven dessert offerings on the menu, including a Crepe Suzette
($10), a Chocolate Pot de Crème ($10) or Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée
They have a number of dessert wines including "Taylor's
Fladgate" (sic) 10 Year tawny for $18. The weak
"Presidential" brand is offered in 20 Year Tawny format for
$22. An unidentified Sauternes is $25 a pour. I asked the
server about this and he did not know what they had, so he brought out a
half bottle of Castelnau de Suduiraut. This wholesales for $12, so
it costs the restaurant about a dollar an ounce. I felt paying $25
for four or five bucks' worth of sweet wine was too costly.
Also under the heading of Port and Dessert wines are 5 Courvoisier
Cognacs. A bottle of the VS (entry level) retails for $25-$32
dollars and yet a 'shot' of this costs $20 at Bon Vivant.
Our bill tallied to $145 with the corkage fee and tax and before the
I'm sure you can guess my position on making a return visit to this
place and you're right...it's a resounding "no thanks!"
Whether or not the ridiculous wine pricing is simply innocently
misguided by relative 'amateurs' or it's intended (and perhaps
defended), there are too many other 'fine dining' opportunities where
there's, at least, a modicum of respect for the patron's wallet.
Reviewed by GW
1521 Hyde Street
Open Wed-Mon 5:30-10:30
Smoked Salmon on what they called a Potato Cake...more like an
Rabbit a la Moutarde with Spätzle.
Shredded Duck "Salad"...nice.
Day Boat Scallops with squid ink risotto under Basil Foam...
Beef Wellington but we missed the Pate and Duxelles...
A Cocotte of "Broccoflower", Lemon Oil and Anchovies...
Molten Chocolate Cake
Golden Delicious Tarte Tatin.
Cappuccino a la Cocotte
|We booked a 7pm, Thursday
evening table at this little San Francisco restaurant on Hyde Street
between Jackson and Pacific.
My e-mail asking them about valet parking or a nearby parking lot went
without a response. I was in the neighborhood at 6:40 and at 7 was
still driving around in search of a spot.
My dining companion was similarly frustrated by the lack of
parking. I ended up about 6 or 7 blocks away and she managed to
find an open spot 3 or 4 blocks from Cocotte.
We had a table for two in a small alcove in a broom closet, of sorts.
There were no wine glasses on the table and they brought a wine list
which consists of 31 selections. These are rather standard
bottlings and hardly the selections of a wine-savvy sommelier.
We ordered a bottle of Domaine Auchere Sancerre ($44) and the server
brought two glasses and the bottle, presenting it as he should.
The wine was as it should be and we accepted it. The bottle,
though, was not thoroughly chilled and on a hot evening, we asked for an
They have a half a dozen white wines by the glass, the Sancerre being
$12 a pour, a Pinot Blanc from the coop winery in Ribeauville is
$9. A red Burgundy from Jean-Claude Boisset is $11 (does Boisset
make any serious quality wines, I wonder?), while the Clefs des
Murailles Vacqueyras is $11 a glass.
$50 will buy you a bottle of Cabernet from the Languedoc estate of
L'Arjolle. There's an Amador Zinfandel for $33 of the Egret label,
while they offer a Napa Merlot from Emmolo for $65. A good
St. Estephe from the Chateau de Pez is $82, one of the few wines I'd be
There are seven white wine selections. A Beaucannon Napa
Sauvignon Blanc is $40, while a Vouvray of Marc Bredif is $45...both are
snoozers in my opinion.
The wine list has a notation that their corkage fee is $20 and there is
a one-bottle-per-table maximum. I can understand this in a restaurant
with a stellar, well-chosen wine list. In a place where the wine
is but an after-thought, this seemed a bit unfriendly.
We ordered several starters and these were brought in stages, which was
nice. Our server, by the way, was a very friendly, upbeat fellow.
They brought a small basket of bread with a classic baguette in
it...accompanied by a wonderful green 'spread.'
The first starter was Smoked Salmon ($8) on a Potato Cake. This
arrived in a small cast-iron skillet and what was billed as a Potato
Cake seemed more like an omelet to us. It was some sort of egg
preparation, a world away from a Potato Cake as I know it. Strike
The Rabbit a la Moutarde ($11) came with crispy Spätzle and
kale. This was nice, if a bit salty. A special that evening
was some sort of duck salad featuring shredded duck. This was good
and mildly salty.
My friend had brought an old bottle of Napa Cabernet from the 1983
vintage. The server was anxious to open the bottle and we asked if
he had a two-pronged cork puller instead of a corkscrew. I opened
the bottle and the cork was extracted in one piece. A corkscrew
often results in the cork coming out in pieces.
The wine was okay on first sniff and after a while my friend said she
did not care for the wine and suggested we opt for something else.
I had a bottle of a 2004 Clos Vougeot in the cellar bag and I opened
this. Our server, upon seeing we had another bottle on the table
(I'd stashed the old Cabernet) brought two more glasses. We
invited him to have a taste and he brought a glass...I poured him a
The stemware was fairly sturdy, industrial glassware and they have a
The lady order the Seared Day Boat Scallops $24 which came with Squid
Ink Risotto and Basil Foam. Three large sea scallops and a nice
My $30 Beef Wellington is on the menu as having Wild Mushrooms, Puff
Pastry and Beef Jus. It comes on a bed of mashed potatoes and I
didn't find any influence of Pate or Duxelles...there were a few thin
slices of some sort of mushroom between the beef and the puff pastry.
A side dish in a "cocotte" of Broccoli ($5) was enhanced by
lemon oil and anchovies...though it seemed a bit bland to me.
Desserts are $7 and we had a Tarte Tatin with a Caramel Sauce, along
with a Molten Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream and Berries.
These were both nice.
A Cappuccino was served in a large cup and was a frothy, overflowing
We were charged for both bottles of wine we'd opened. On one hand,
we did use two glasses for each bottle. On the other hand, we did
not drink the old, past-its-prime bottle and we did give the server a
nice taste of a pretty good Burgundy, so nailing us for $40 seemed a bit
unfriendly and a penalty for not ordering wine from their modest list.
The bill tallied to about $160 with tax and before the tip.
If you live in the neighborhood, this is a decent little dining
spot. If you're driving here, you might have second thoughts as
We won't be back. Sorry.
Reviewed by GW
3340 Steiner Street (near Chestnut)
Open Daily for Dinner
Tempura Fried Monterey Calamari.
House Cured Salmon on a Potato Galette with some mixed greens...
Grilled Sonoma Leg of Lamb.
Chocolate Cloud Cake
took a chance and ambled into Bistro Aix one Sunday evening after seeing
a movie around the corner on Chestnut Street.
As it was fairly early, we were seated in a small corner table by the
The place is not easy to find if you're driving by as there is not a
particularly visible sign posted out front. Parking is available
on the street, if you're lucky. And a busy street it is, as
pedestrians are coming and going making traversing the intersection of
Chestnut and Steiner a challenge.
No wine glasses are on the table...a couple of water glasses and some
utensils wrapped in a napkin or dish towel. The hostess set down
the menu which has some wines by the glass on one side and a full list
of wines by the bottle on the other.
They don't have a bar and The Old Bat missedher Martini. We needed,
then, to scope out the by-the-glass list.
There are 9 whites offered and ten reds. The Old Bat chose a
French white from the Entre Deux Mers appellation for $7.50, a Chateau
Laures. A Chablis of the Val de Mer label is $12.50 a pour, while
Marisa Cuomo's Campanian white called Ravello is $12.50. I had a
pour of Bisci's Verdicchio for $11.50.
Reds included a Cahors from Georges Vigouroux for $8, a Chianti Classico
from Coltibuono for $11, Domaine de Pallus Chinon for $12 and a Frederic
Magnien Bourgogne Rouge for $12. The Southern Rhone estate of
Monpertuis is listed incorrectly as a Languedoc wine...it's a varietal
bottling of the Counoise grape costing $9 a glass. This should be listed
as a Vin de Pays du Gard.
There are 7 sparkling wines on the main list, with the Gramona Cava
being perhaps the best buy at $52 a bottle.
There's a varied list amongst the 18 "European and World White
Wines" from various European countries. There's a Nikolaihof
Gruner Veltliner for $57 and there are three Verdicchio wines, an Etna
Bianco for $53 and Bisson's Pigato from Liguria for $48.
There are nearly 3 dozen French white and Rose selections. Lucien
Crochet Sancerre is $52, while Huet's Vouvray Sec is $65. Chateau
Simone's somewhat obscure Palette is $90, while Marionnet's Romorantin
is $50. Tempier's Bandol Rose is $62.
The list of European & World reds features Altare's Dolcetto for
$50, an Elio Grasso Barolo for $110, 2001 Lopez de Heredia
Tondonia Reserva for $70, Mount Beautiful's Pinot Noir from New Zealand
for $46 and the excellent Man o'War Syrah for $55.
The French red list has a number of tempting selections, too.
Chateau Pradeaux 2005 Bandol is $70, while Domaine Gallety's Cotes du
Vivarais is $55. If your credit card has a high limit, you may
wish to splurge on the Chateau de La Tour Clos Vougeot at $210 a bottle.
A Sang de Cailloux 2010 Vacqueyras is $60, while Chante Perdrix St.
Joseph is also $60.
It's a nice list and fairly well-selected, with a good range of prices
and qualities. And it's not a list featuring trophy wines selected
to make the sommelier feel as proud as a successful big game hunter, but
wines which actually match the cuisine.
The Old Bat chose the $7.50 glass of Entre Deux Mers, while I ordered
Bisci's Verdicchio at $11 as mentioned earlier. The server brought
two anonymous glasses of white wine and I'm fairly certain he gave me
the French wine while The Old Bat got the Italian. This is the
problem with "wines by the glass." It's taken on faith
the establishment actually presents the wine you've ordered. It's
extremely rare the server or sommelier comes to the table with empty
glasses and full bottles, showing off the wine you've ordered and
pouring it at the table.
Meanwhile, the Tempura Fried Monterey Calamari with Asian Slaw and Red
Curry Aioli ($10) delighted the pernickety Old Bat. I ordered the
House Cured Salmon on a Potato Galette with Dill Cream ($9) and this
came with three nice triangles of crispy shredded potatoes topped with a
slice of salmon. In the middle of the plate there was a nicely
dressed bunch of mixed greens...delightful and artfully presented.
I put a bottle of Bordeaux on the table and our server immediately
brought some nice big red wine stems and he opened the bottle, pouring
the 'say' as would any professional restaurant staffer. The wine
was good, so he poured about a third of a glass for each of us.
A small basket of their homemade Foccacia was brought to the table with
some dipping oil. Thankfully, this place has the good sense to
omit the cheap, fake "Balsamic" vinegar which ruins a good
glass of wine but seems to please the average American bear.
The menu is printed daily, by the way. There were 11
starters. Bistro Aix, playing on its Mediterranean roots, offers a
half a dozen pastas and a couple of 'cracker crust' pizzas.
Twelve bucks gets you a burger and fries. The other main dishes
are $20 to $23 and there were numerous enticing offerings. A
Grilled Chicken Leg is $20, while a Sirloin Steak and Fries is
$22. Petrale Sole is $22 and the Ahi Tuna is $23.
We both ordered the Grilled Sonoma Leg of Lamb with a Potato Gratin at
$23. There was also some sort of fried spinach leaves on the plate
as well along with perhaps 4 nice slices of lamb. This was a
lovely main course and, given what we find on the Peninsula for far more
money, a bargain.
We split a dessert, something called a Chocolate Cloud Cake
($8). I ordered a single glass of Quinta do Tedo Reserve Port
($10) and the server brought two glasses, each with a nice
"half" of a pour...certainly ample for just a taste with
They had 7 dessert wines, one being a Sauternes from Château Doisy
Daene (I think it was $13) and a Moscatel for $8. The rest of the
sweet wines were Ports priced $7 to $10.
There was a selection of teas, as well and Four Barrel Coffee if you
The service was professional and friendly here. The menu is varied
and yet nicely focused. The wine list offers good selections at
relatively reasonable price levels. The corkage fee, by the way,
The bill tallied to $131 with tax before the tip.
We thoroughly enjoyed dining here and look forward to a return
visit. This place is a really fine example of a "bistro"
and the price/quality ratio is very customer-friendly.
Reviewed by GW
HING GENERAL STORE
584 Valencia Street
(Between 16th & 17th)
Friday & Saturday: 5:30-Midnight
Gau Choy Gau
5 Spiced Fried Squid with Jalapenos and Lemon Slices
Fried Rice with Shrimp
Blue lake Green Beans
was hosting a friend from Italy who was here in town on a small sales
These visitors are typically wine producers and they are subjected to
American versions of Italian food everywhere along their itinerary as
most importers and distributors labor under the assumption that only
Italian-themed restaurants sell Italian wines.
While there are many good restaurants featuring Italian-styled cooking,
it simply isn't what they are accustomed to at home and so it's often a
major relief to have something different.
Wo Hing is one of the Charles Phan (Slanted Door) restaurants. We
have a favorable review of Heaven's Dog (below) and this place had, at
one point in time, a menu which was a bit more 'wild' or unusual than it
We made reservations on Open Table for 6:45, as late in the afternoon,
the hours between 7 and 8:45 were no longer available (as they had been
that morning). Getting Italians to plan ahead is a challenge,
however and thanks to their jet lag, we were delayed a bit, so I called
the restaurant to say we were on our way but running late. The
host said not to worry.
Parking on Valencia Street is difficult, but there's a garage on a small
alley half a block east of Valencia. That, too, was full, but we
lucked out when a motorist arrived to retrieve their car and
The restaurant facade is dark and you could easily drive by and not
see the place.
We arrived and the table was just being set for us. No stemware is
part of the place setting. A drinks (cocktail) menu was presented
along with the menu, a list of wines by the glass and a bottle list.
The list features many good artisan wines. It's a refuge from the
liquor distributor-dominated wine lists featuring big production,
Two sparkling wines are offered by the glass. There's a good Cava
for $9 and a Saumur Rose sparkler for $11 from the Chateau de
Hureau. Three German Rieslings are offered, along with a Santa
Barbara Albarino and an Austrian Gruner Veltliner. There's an
Inman Pinot Noir for $11 a pour, Occhipinti's Rosso from Sicilia for
$12, Luberri Rioja for $8, a Texier Cotes du Rhone (mistakenly listed as
Vaison la Romanee when it's Vaison la Romaine) at $9 and Folk Machine
"Valdigue" (sic--it should be Valdiguie).
The by-the-glass offerings are geared towards the cuisine, not the
individual who only knows Chardonnay and Cabernet from California.
I would think, perhaps, one less Riesling by the glass and maybe a nice,
dry Sauvignon Blanc might be an enhancement.
Elisa was interested in the Dim Sum entries, so we ordered a glass for
each of us of Eva Fricke's Trocken Riesling ($9) from the
Rheingau...nice, light and aromatic, it was presented in large, good
The bottle list helps prospective wine drinkers with categories such as
"Crisp/Dry White Wines," "Rich/Dry Whites,"
"Riesling Focus, The Best Food Wine Ever!," "Delicate Red
Wines," "Spicy Red Wines" and "Meatier/Fuller
There are 8 sparkling wines on their list. These are varied
selections, including a good Cremant de Bourgogne for $52 or a Moncuit
Champagne for $76. The other choices are intriguing, too, with
Tissot's Cremant from the Jura ($60) or a bone dry Sparkling Vouvray
from Pinon for $48.
The Crisp, Dry Whites include a number of Gruner Veltliners, but also a
$34 bottle of Falanghina from Campania and a Sicilian Grillo for
$36. There are ten German Rieslings on the list ranging from
$32 to $69 a bottle. The Rich, Dry Whites are not over-the-top
"rich." There's a dry Chenin Blanc from Montlouis
(Chidaine...$48), a Sturm Ribolla Gialla for $38 and a Scribe Chardonnay
for $75 from Carneros.
Delicate reds include a handful of Pinot Noirs, a couple of Beaujolais
wines and a Trousseau from the Jura. $45 to $72 for those.
Spicy Reds start at $30 for a young Rioja. A Nebbiolo from Vallana
in Piemonte is $39, while Alliet's Chinon is $63.
Meatier/Fuller Reds start at $38 for the Texier Cotes du Rhone, while a
Faury St. Joseph is $65. A Lopez Heredia Tondonia 2001 is $95.
Corkage is $25 per bottle, while a magnum costs $45.
This is a well-chosen wine list with numerous eclectic bottles selected
with the idea of actually pairing the wines with the cuisine, a notion
lost on so many sommeliers and wine buyers.
We began with their Siu Mai dumplings ($8) and these were stellar.
We asked the server to bring each item individually, staging them so we
could enjoy them one at a time. Good luck on having this at most
We then had, Gau Choy Gau ($8), dumplings with shrimp and green garlic
chives. Very fine.
By this point, we had our server open a bottle of Sonoma Pinot
Noir. We had a special label on one side of the bottle to create a
photo opportunity, hood-winking Elisa's father into thinking she was
enjoying a hugely expensive Burgundy. He was obliged to pay for a
bottle when Elisa's brother broke a bottle working as an intern in some
European restaurant...the wine was a trophy and cost thousands of
Euros! The server was amused by this story and didn't charge us
their corkage fee. (Thank you!)
The server opened the bottle with relative ease, doing a good job of
cutting the foil capsule and removing the cork. She had brought
two large Burgundy "balloon" glasses and poured the
"say" first as it should be. She did not over-fill the
glasses, pouring about one-third of capacity.
There was some sort of Fried Rice special that evening and we had this
with shrimp. It think it cost about $12. Quite good, though
they don't provide a rice bowl for shoveling this...
Fried 5 Spice Squid with Jalapenos and Lemon Slices brought a platter of
tempura-like fried Calamari, peppers and lemon...I didn't detect that
much influence of the 5 Spice, as this was too subtle for me.
A plate of Blue Lake (!) Green Beans ($8) came with shallots and
At this stage we were no longer hungry and unable to continue into
dessert. They do have a dessert chef, so we missed a Chocolate
Torte, Dutch Apples or a Vanilla Bean Cheesecake (all $8). There
are 5 wines on the dessert list, including a couple of Late-Harvest
Austrian wines, a Napa Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon sweet wine and either a
white or Tawny Port from Portugal's Quinta do Infantado ($7 & $9
This was an excellent meal and we apologize to the table adjacent to
ours...one of that party took umbrage at our photographing the various
plates often using a 'flash'. Well, I know some restaurants ask
you to not use a camera or cell phone, but we actually were dining out
in somewhat celebratory fashion. We do not dine out in church-like
settings and it wasn't a funeral we were attending.
I look forward to dining again at Wo Hing and it's well worth the drive
Reviewed by GW
We also had a
164 South "B" Street
Open Mon-Fri from 11:30 through dinner
Brussels Sprouts "Chips"
Italian "Fried Chicken"
booked a table one early Sunday evening and arrived to find a noisy,
bustling restaurant and bar scene. This place is located in an
historic old building, the home of San Mateo's first bank.
The Old Bat asked the young hostess for a "quiet" table and
the kid brought us to a two-top in the middle of the loud dining
room. She then pointed at a table by the south wall and we opted
for that one, as it was clearly a much quieter area.
No wine glasses are on the table as part of the place setting. A
drinks list is presented along with a menu and wine list.
This is a restaurant that specializes in "something for
everyone" in terms of both food and wine.
The menu is large and varied. Starters include Fried Calamari,
Mussels & Frites, Crab Cakes, Bacon-Wrapped Dates, Flatbreads,
Caesar Salad, Poached Pear Salad and a Salmon & Corn Chowder.
Steaks come in four formats, from a Skirt Steak to a Sirloin, a $39
Rib-eye or Filet Mignon (with or without crab). Seafood offerings
include Salmon, Tuna, Scallops, Prawns and Branzino. Other main
plates include a Pork Chop, Lamb Shank, Mac & Cheese, Burgers,
Grilled Tofu and a Pasta Special.
There are 24 wines by the glass! There's an Oregon Pinot Gris for
$9, Chardonnays from Wente ($9), Kali-Hart ($11) and Trefethen
($15). The Wagner's Family blended white wine called Conundrum is
listed, mistakenly, as having a Napa appellation and it's $10 a glass.
There are three Pinot Noirs on the list, including one called Hob Nob
from a marketing company...$8 a glass of Languedoc Pinot Noir.
Josh Cellars Cabernet is $9, another marketing-department brand.
Amongst all the big-liquor-distributor's quota items, somehow we find
Fritz Dry Creek Zinfandel for $10 and Frog's Leap Napa Zin
for $14. Silver Oak Cabernet is $24 a glass...the Alexander
Valley bottling. These three wines are not sold by the big
The list tends to feature "big brands" and well-known names,
but it is not a list curated by someone who's a savvy wine buyer.
The main list is substantial and like the food menu, there's something
for everyone. The list is put together by a young lady who's got
the letters "CS" after her name, indicating, I suppose, she's
a Certified Sommelier. One would expect, then, to find not only
more interesting selections, but that the names of the wines might be
correctly typed on the wine list. They're certainly spelled
properly on the label! Maybe CS indicates "Can't Spell"?
There are but four Sauvignon Blancs, one from New Zealand, a big brand
from France and two from Napa. Fifteen Chardonnays grace the list,
with some big brands such as Wente, Sonoma Cutrer and Cakebread being
featured. These are balanced by a Ramey Sonoma Coast (bottling
$56), Pahlmeyer ($125) and Kistler ($95). There are two white
Burgundies, a Chablis Premier Cru from Vocoret for a mere $50 (the cru
is not listed, so the question is do they really have a "premier
cru" bottling at this price or is it a misprint and it's the
simple, basic Chablis?), along with a Matrot Meursault. These two
French wines come from the big liquor house and are purchased, most
likely, for convenience rather than outstanding quality.
There's a Concannon Pinot Grigio ($25) with the appellation listed as
"Livermore." This brand's Pinot Grigio is either sourced
from the Central Valley or California's Central Coast, depending upon
the bottling...the high end wholesales for no more than $6 and the
cheapie would cost them $3.
In sparkling wines, there's a very obscure French bubbly for $34 a
bottle, a Spanish Cava Brut Rose ($40) from a brand that specializes
more in table wines from Rioja, Chandon's Blanc de Noirs ($40), a co-op
Champagne and a big brand of Champagne for $85. Curiously,
Roederer Estate, a winery in Mendocino's Anderson Valley of California,
is listed as being French and it "costs French" at $95,
another sloppy error.
Of the dozen Pinot Noirs, 5 are from California, 3 from Oregon and 5
from France. A Domaine Drouhin from Oregon is $70, while Flowers
from Sonoma is $75. Five Merlots on the list, with Swanson at $65.
I wouldn't touch any of the lower-priced Cabernet selections, apart from
Robert Mondavi's at $42...and then I'd insist it be their Napa Valley
wine, not one of their lower-tiered wines. The list incorrectly
bills a quartet of wines as carrying the "Meritage"
designation. While Quintessa's may actually qualify for the
Meritage designation, it is not labeled as such. And the other
three blends would not qualify for the Meritage designation as they are
not made exclusively of "Bordeaux" grape varieties.
A Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet is $96, while Caymus' current
vintage is $125 a bottle. Jordan's current bottling is $80.
The Old Bat ordered a Dry Martini and I figured the New Zealand
Sauvignon, Matua ($9 a glass) would be acceptable with the Fried
Calamari starter. The Sauvignon was perfectly standard, but the
Martini was not strained properly and had little bits of ice floating in
it. She finally sent it back and we were not charged for it, thank
I produced a bottle of red and the server asked if she should open this
for us. Along with this, she told us they charged a $15 corkage
fee and asked if this was alright. Certainly. She
opened the bottle and a few moments later brought two nice
But she immediately began pouring the wine, stepping back to have a look
to see if she'd poured a sufficient amount. In fact, she should
have poured the "say," so that I could first determine if the
bottle was in good condition, or not.
We ordered the "Crispy Calamari" starter ($10) and the menu
description notes it's accompanied "with Pasilla, Red peppers and
onions, Wasabi Aioli and Chile Lime Sauce." This was
certainly an ample portion for two people...but there were more of the
various vegetables on the plate than Calamari. The Brussels
Sprouts Chips with Lemon Salt ($7) was a small bowl of Brussels Sprouts
leaves plunged into the fryer...
For a main plate, The Old Bat ordered Pan Seared Atlantic Salmon ($25)
which came on top of a mix of vegetables including Fingerling Potatoes,
Peppers, Corn, Spinach and Shitake Mushrooms. The Salmon was
nicely cooked...lightly flakey and tender.
Chicken Contadina ($19) was my selection and this was described as
"Italian Fried Chicken" and it was on a plate with Crispy
Potatoes, Cippolini Onions, Roasted Garlic and Peppers. There were
also a few mushrooms in the mix.
The Chicken was a bit dried out and it had been rolled around in some
sort of Italian seasoning mix which gave it a reddish/brown color.
A couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary on top were a signal, I suppose,
that this was somehow "Italian."
The bill tallied to $91 before the tip, as the server deleted the flawed
Martini from the check.
This is a convenient neighborhood place, especially if you're seeing a
movie across the street at the theater.
490 Pacific Avenue
Open Mon-Thurs 11:30-11
Mortadella con Grocco Frito & Pickled Vegetables
Pappardelle with Duck & Escarole
Raviolo di Ricotta with a Farm Egg
Agnolotti dal Plin
Pizza with nettles and clams
Quail al Mattone
a friend coming up from LA for a Bay Area wine event, we reserved a
table at this hard-to-book restaurant on Pacific near North Beach.
At 7:30 on a Wednesday evening, we arrived, finding a small crowd
gathered at the front by the reservations desk. We checked in and
our "party of three" was escorted to a small table near the
back wall and the server's computer monitor. The table was, in
fact, ideal for three, even if a bit crowded with wine glasses,
etc. We were fairly close to the neighboring table, but even with
all the noise in the place, I was still able to hear the conversation at
our table, despite my poor hearing.
The wine list is on the backside of the menu and they bring a cocktail
Cotogna is the dressed-down version of the fancy place a few doors away,
And being a "trattoria" sort of place compared to the
upscale ristorante, the wine list is comfortable, simple and
nicely chosen, if sometimes a bit pricey.
There are 7 reds and 7 white selections "by the glass," all
priced at ten bucks. And these are good wines from good producers,
not marginal selections pushed by a desperate sales rep from a big
liquor distributor. Wines on this list included Almondo's Arneis,
Montenidoli Vernaccia and Ronchi di Cialla's Ribolla Gialla. From
the red side of the page there were wines such as Mastroberardino's
Piedirosso, a le Piane blend of Nebbiolo and Croatina, Li Veli Salice
Salentino and Cirelli's Montepulciano d'Abruzzo. Nice!
They then offer a number of bottles of wine at $40. These probably
average in retail price somewhere between $13 and $16, or
so. There was Griesbauerhof's Santa Magdalena, Silvio
Nardi's Rosso di Montalcino, and Matteo Correggia's Barbera d'Alba on
the red list. In white, there's Colle Stefano's Verdicchio ($17
retail), Tiefenbrunner's Pinot Grigio and Manzone's Rossese Bianco from
There were a few more special wines on a reserve list. Nothing
really old or mature, but nice wines. We ordered a bottle from the
$40 list, an Ischia Bianco of the Cenatiempo label. The server
brought some nice stemware to our table and maybe five minutes later,
she arrived with the wine. We had a taste, okayed the bottle and
she poured it for everyone to an appropriate fill level.
The menu is interesting and changes frequently. Many interesting
options and we needed to plan a course of action...and we did.
We went for a full-throttle dining experience, each of us having an antipasto,
primo piatto and a main plate.
The Antipasti are all $12, the Primi Piatti are all $17
and the main plates vary.
One of the pals ordered the Spinach Sformato with Montasio
Fonduta & Frico and she thoroughly enjoyed this, nearly
swooning. My other pal and I each selected the "Mortadella
con Gnocco Frito." I had to have this since it brought
back pleasant memories of a stop in Emilia Romagna last year with a
wonderful Grandma & Grandpa Lambrusco producer and Granny had
platters of Prosciutto, Mortadella and Gnocco (although her were not
The Mortadella here was delightful, with an intriguing sweet spice
note. The Gnocco were nicely fried and a bit reminiscent of
Chinese fried wonton skins. Also on this plate were various crisp
pickled vegetables. Another success!
The Ischia Bianco was delightful as both a cocktail white and with the
antipasti, although it's not a wine to which you'd pay much
attention. It's just nice and dry and fresh.
For our Primi Piatti, The Swoonster order the Raviolo di
Ricotta with a farm Egg. "You have to taste this!"
she exclaimed upon scarfing up half of this. Giovanni ordered the Pappardelle
with Duck & Escarole...another soulful plate. And my
Piemontese influences insisted I have the "Agnolotti dal Plin."
The Plin arrived smothered in grated cheese, an adornment you wouldn't
find in Piemonte and I was a bit surprised by this. I actually
sent them back, much to the surprise of our server. They seemingly
cheerfully took care of this and sent out another bowl of Plin, this
time without the dusting of cheese. In looking at my snapshots, I
see the Pappardelle with duck also came with cheese on top...not sure my
Italian friends would serve their duck-sauced pasta with cheese,
I was delighted with this plate and while I don't dine frequently at
Perbacco (which is highly regarded for its Piemontese cuisine and its
"Plin), but this plate on this night was the best rendition of Plin
I've had in The City.
We had handed a bottle of an old vintage of Barbaresco to a sommelier
and she returned a few minutes later with our freshly-decanted
bottle. Marvelous, too...and a 'small' or so-called 'off' vintage,
Nice stemware, as we expected, too.
Corkage is $20 per bottle.
Main plates were varied. Swoony ordered a pizza ($17) with Nettles,
Clams and Pancetta. Nice pizza, actually...Giovanni went for
the Wolfe Ranch Quail "al mattone" ($26, I think)...a
nice plate of flattened little birds (no, I don't think it was road
kill) cooked under a heavy brick. I couldn't resist trying their Porchetta
($28) and this was, of course, fatty, but sooo good. And the Pizza
Lady insisted on something "healthy," so we had a side dish
($7), Brussels Sprouts from the Wood Oven. Very good, in
We had nearly finished off the Barbaresco as we were working on the
pastas, etc., so I produced a nice bottle of 2004 Chianti Classico
Riserva...Monsanto's Il Poggio...wow, was that still lean and
mean! Tight. But good.
Well, we had no room for dessert, but the crew didn't push us to leave
and things were quieting down in the restaurant anyway. I think we
departed around 11. We left a nice tip and the bill, with corkage
and sales tax and San Francisco's health assessment came to $288.
Our late colleague, Bob Gorman, liked dining here and now I know
why. This was a lovely meal.
This is worth reserving a table well ahead of time (we made an Open
Table reservation maybe 3 weeks ahead).
Reviewed by GW
326 University Avenue
Open Daily, 11:30 through Dinner Service
Spaghettini with Seafood.
|On a Sunday in February when
the world was engrossed in football, we booked a table at this new
Italian place in Palo Alto.
Parking on University Avenue is always iffy, but there's a large parking
structure a block north of University.
We arrived and the bar area was moderately busy watching the game, but
the adjoining dining room was virtually empty at 7pm, with just a couple
of tables being occupied.
We were seated and handed menus and a beer list. The wine
offerings are are on the backside of the menu and they actually have a
nice, compact, well-chosen list of wines!
There are a couple of sparklers by the glass, along with 10 white wines
and 9 reds.
We opted for Mancini's Vermentino ($9) and the server brought two large
Bordeaux-styled glasses, each about 40% full...a generous pour!
The list doesn't feature quota items from the big liquor houses, a
pleasant change from most new places!
A Dry Creek Sauvignon Blanc from Mauritson is $11 by the glass, with
Erste & Neue Muller Thurgau from the Alto Adige costing $10.
Vietti's Tre Vigne Barbera d'Asti is $11 under the red wine heading,
with a Nicodemi Montepulciano d'Abruzzo costing $9.
The bottle selection offers some good wines, but the pricing is high, in
my view. A Vietti Arneis goes for $52 (about $24 retail) while the
Mancini Vermentino is $36 ($15-$16 retail). Failla Chardonnay from
the Sonoma Coast is $68 ($35 retail, though restaurants typically pay
less than shops, so they can mark up the wine 3+ times), while Paul
Hobbs Chardonnay is $90.
The wine list takes some liberty with the term "Meritage"
(technically only members of the Meritage Alliance are allowed to use
this designation and only for wines made of Bordeaux varieties). A
Pio Cesare wine is claimed to be a blend of Barbera, Nebbiolo and
Cabernet is listed using the term Meritage and not its actually
proprietary name, Oltre. That wine is $62 on the wine list.
Two blends from Orin Swift are also mistakenly labeled as
"Meritage," with Abstract costing $54 and Prisoner going for
A Casnova di Neri Brunello is $105 and it's not clear if it's simply the
"white label," entry level bottling or their fancier
You're pretty much on the hook for close to $50 if you're going to order
a bottle of wine at Figo.
We paid $15 corkage for the bottle of well-aged Tuscan red that I
brought and the server brought a couple of nice Cabernet stems for us.
The price of running such a restaurant in a place with costly real
estate seems to have restaurant owners finding markups close to 400% to
be "standard." This explains why so few tables seem to
have a bottle of wine on them these days.
As for the food...The Old Bat ordered a bowl of "Vellutata di
Porri," a puree of potatoes and leeks ($8). I had a
taste...quite good and nicely seasoned! My Fritto Misto ($12)
was a nice plate of calamari, shrimp, zucchini, etc. nicely fried and
For a main plate, The Old Bat opted for the Spaghettini ai Crostacei ($22),
a lovely plate of pasta with a big prawn on top. It normally comes
with crab and shrimp, too, but she's allergic to crab...quite
We probably should have ordered a pizza, since there's a stack of wood
by a pizza oven towards the back of the room.
I chose their Agnello Scottadito ($28) and this was a lovely
plate with three grilled lamb chops, arranged atop a bed of roasted
potatoes and fine shavings of baby artichokes, a side not normally seen
in most places. This was a delightful plate!
We skipped dessert and the bill tallied to $111 with the corkage fee and
I'm interested to return to this nice dining spot...and I'll be sure to
have another bottle of red in my cellar bag.
Reviewed by GW
1401 18th Street
Lunch: Mon-Sat from 11:30
Dinner: Daily from 5:30
Fries with aioli.
|We booked a Saturday lunch
table at this little French outpost in the Potrero Hill district.
I had planned to attend the insane Zinfandel event hosted by ZAP not far
away and was looking for a place to have a bite afterwards that did not
feature a "brunch" menu.
We circled the neighborhood in search of parking and found a place up
the hill about a block away. We arrived a few minutes late for our
1:30 reservation and the place was fairly well packed and the lone two
empty tables ended up being filled shortly after we were seated.
We were seated and a wine list and menus were presented. No
stemware was on the table, but a short while after we sat down, the
genial host/waiter/manager asked if we'd like something to drink besides
water. We opted for a glass of 2011 Auchere Sancerre
($10.50). The wine, following hours of tasting flat, often sweet,
high octane Zinfandels, tasted heavenly! A bottle of the Sancerre
costs $42, a bit more than twice its retail price.
Other "by the glass" pours included a Vouvray ($9.50), a
Chablis ($11), a Napa Sauvignon Blanc ($9) and a Napa Chardonnay ($12)
and a Viognier from the Languedoc for $8.50.
The wine list is fairly small, with 4 White Burgundies of modest
quality. There's a Cotes de Gascogne for $32, surely a money-maker
for the house. There's but one white Bordeaux, a modest producer
costing $54 and, curiously, no Entre-Deux-Mers (which would be a good
choice for all the steamed mussels they sell at this place).
California whites find three entries on the list, a Beaucannon Sauvignon
Blanc for $36. Sandhi Chardonnay is $55 and a Bigvine Chardonnay
from Napa is $48.
Red wines are a bit more varied and seemed to be slightly more
interesting selections. But you can still be burnt a bit, as a Lan
Crianza from Spain, a wine retailing for $12, is $40 on the list.
But the overall list is about what you can expect of a decent bistro in
France and there are some reds costing $30-$38 from appellations such as
Minervois, Corbieres and Chinon.
Corkage is $20.
We each started with a Grilled Sardine ($10) which came with a puree
of eggplant and some tomato confit. This was a delightful plate,
though you do need to be skillful in dealing with all the little fish
We put a nice bottle of Bordeaux on the table and the waiter asked if
we'd like it decanted. We didn't take him up on the offer, as the
wine was a bit young and probably had not developed much in the way of
sediment. He brought some large Bordeaux glasses (of good
quality) and poured a taste...it was fine and he poured a modest amount
The Lamb Daube ($18) came in a large bowl with a nice red wine sauce and
a couple of carrot pieces which were not cooked nearly as long as the
meat. This dish is quite good, though I wondered if it was really
lamb or if we'd been served beef. My lunch guest indicated she'd
wondered the same thing.
A side order of fries ($5) was quite good.
They have a small price-fixed menu at both lunch and dinner. A
burger on the neighboring table looked really good and the Salade
Niçoise on that table was also impressive.
We skipped dessert (mighty tempting, with a Tarte Tatin and the bill
tallied to about $103 before the tip.
Over all, this is a nice little place and it lives up to its bistro
designation. For a City lunch spot, this was a winner and we'll
Reviewed by GW
601 Union Street
Open Daily til 10pm
A board over the open kitchen...
It also noted "We bleed Orange & Black."
Joe's attempt at a Caesar Salad...
Speaking of Orange & Black, this was a
Swing & A Miss."
Spaghetti & Meatballs
Veal Milanese with a handful of Arugula on top...
|We booked a table on-line at
this San Francisco landmark, now located in North Beach at the old Fior
d'Italia site on the corner of Union and Stockton streets.
They offer valet parking for ten bucks and we were delighted to find
this service as it's nearly impossible to find parking there, otherwise.
The hostess immediately led us to a booth in the main dining room where
there's a view of their open kitchen. A wine list accompanied the
There's an army of staffers, all decked out in black & white
formal-wear. No sommelier, though. The Old Bat asked the
server for a Dry Martini and I opted for a glass of Tangent Albarino
There are four whites and four reds in the "By the Glass"
column of modestly-priced wines. A Hendry Estate Zin is the
most interesting of the reds and it's $11 a glass. They also offer
these 'house' wine selections in half carafe and full carafe format.
Premium Wines By the Glass sees a much more interesting list of
options. Shafer's Red Shoulder Chardonnay is $17, while
Rochioli Sauvignon Blanc is $16. A Damilano Barolo is $15 a glass
and a Michael David Cabernet from Lodi for $16. Huh?
These may offer an insight as to brands or sales companies "needing
to move" some inventory. Damilano is routinely seen at Costco
and Michael David's website shows the Capture Cabernet as costing $59 a
bottle. Really? Are you serious?
A trio of bubblies is offered by the glass. Drusian Prosecco is $8
(a good choice, in fact), with Gloria Ferrer Brut going for ten bucks
and Laurent Perrier Brut on the list for $16.
The wine list is reasonably-priced and reasonably varied. For
California Chardonnays, Kistler's Sonoma Coast is $95, with Saintsbury's
going for $42. Honig's Sauvignon Blanc is $33, while Groth's is
Listed under the heading of "White Varietals" we find Tablas
Creek's "Cote de Tablas Blanc" (sic), though this is not a
varietal table wine but a blend. Also under the same heading is an
Anaba winery blend called Coriols, along with the Wagner Family's
Conundrum white (with Semillon misspelled).
Italian whites include a wine listed as "Ravello Bianco" and
Falanghina as the grape, but in fact the winery is that of Marisa Cuomo
who makes the Ravello Bianco wine. And this blend is but 60%
Falanghina with 40% Biancolella. $64. A Gavi from Francesco
Rinaldi is $48, while a Cinqueterra white is $50.
The wine list continues with ten Pinot Noirs, Sinskey's going for
$67. Six Merlots and you'll find Swanson's for $49. Of the
15 Cabernets, I'd opt for Honig's at $65. There are nine wines under the
heading of "Unique Reds," though what makes the Murphy-Goode
Zinfandel ($34) unique, I am not sure.
Amongst their 19 Italian red offerings, you'll find a few good bottles,
including Cascina Morassino's Nebbiolo ($44), the Pasetti family's
Tenata (sic) Rossa Montepulciano ($62...a bit pricy, but good), and a
Lorenzo Chianti Classico for $48 (although it ought to be listed by the
name of the winery, Le Filigare).
Clearly they don't have a sommelier here and whomever is handling the
wine selections is not the most wine-savvy individual. On the
other hand, they're not totally lame, either.
Stemware is reasonable as we were served out glass of Albarino in a
large, sturdy glass of about 15 to 16 ounce capacity.
The Tangent Albarino was in good condition and it was a nice sized
pour. The Old Bat said her Martini was good.
To start, The Old Bat had a cup of Minestrone soup. She
immediately announced the soup at Val's (see below) was better.
I ordered a Caesar Salad ($8.95) and an oval plate with seven or eight
hearts-of-Romaine lettuce leaves were arranged neatly. There was a
lone anchovy on one of the leaves and no croutons. Their salad
dressing also lacked the assertive ingredients of both garlic and
anchovies. Oh well.
The server, in the meantime, opened my bottle of red wine (corkage was
$15 or $20) and brought two more stems, similar to that used for the
It seemed to take a lot of time between our starters and the main plate,
as the restaurant was quite busy. A runner eventually arrived at
the table with The Old Bat's Spaghetti & Meatballs ($16.95) and my
Veal Milanese ($26).
Unfortunately this fellow didn't pay attention to the fact that we did
not have any utensils. He set down the plates, having also
auctioned them off ("Who gets the Spaghetti and Meatballs?")
and immediately ran off without noticing we had no forks and knives.
A while later an older gentleman, seeing a strange bottle on our table,
came by to inspect this. I offered him a taste and he
enthusiastically went to get a wine glass. We poured a nice shot
of our Bordeaux and he set the glass on the table to swirl it, before
lifting it to have a sniff and taste. "Oh, this is
good!" he said, turning away and heading off.
We were still charged their corkage fee, which was okay, I suppose.
The Old Bat enjoyed the Spaghetti & Meatballs, a bit of comfort food
from her youth. My Veal Milanese was a piece of veal that had been
pounded and flattened, breaded and somewhat over-cooked so the brand
names Michelin, Pirelli and Goodyear came to mind. On top of the
veal was a small handful of arugula, dusted for some reason with some
grated cheese of no particular character. A side plate of
Spaghetti & Meat Sauce was about what you'd expect in this venue,
We skipped dessert and the bill arrived, tallying to about $103 before
The place is busy and a bit loud, so we're not sure why they bother
having music adding to the cacophony. But if you sat quietly for a
bit, you'd notice it.
It was a nice, nostalgic evening, recalling days of the original
Original Joe's in the Tenderloin, but updated to be a bit out of date
today and yet more modern than the old place.
If you're hankering for a nostalgic meal, check out this place. If
you're showing off San Francisco's top places to out-of-towners, I'd
choose someplace else.
Reviewed by GW
2468 Junipero Serra Blvd
Open Daily 11am-10:30pm
Penne Pasta with Spicy Italian Sausage.
|We've driven past this place,
visible on the west side of Highway 280 in Daly City, hundreds of
times. I figured it was simply a bar, but it turns out it's got a
restaurant, so after a film, we made our way there on a Sunday evening.
We were able to park right outside the entrance and found the place
sparsely populated at this hour (granted, we were between Christmas and
You're taking a step back into the 1960s into a place with padded
booths, a nice old bar or cocktail lounge and formally-dressed waiters.
The wine list was presented along with the menus and it's a single page
of whites and a single page of reds. Wine "by the glass"
is Inglenook's Chablis, Burgundy or Blush wine at $5.50 a
And things don't get much better with their wines by the bottle.
Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay is $33 a bottle, while William Hill (now a
Gallo label) is $30. Hess Chardonnay from Monterey is $29, while Groth
Sauvignon Blanc from Napa is $32 (at least there's one decent bottle
in the white column!).
The shining star amongst the line-up of red wines is the Etude Pinot
Noir ($60). Otherwise, the list looks like a chain-store wine
selection: BV's Coastal Cabernet is listed as coming from
Rutherford. It's $29 a bottle, though it's retailing for $7 in a
local chain. J. Lohr Cabernet is $34, while Clos du Val is $68 and
Flora Springs Cabernet is $58. Sutter Home's White Zin is shown to
be a North Coast wine when it carries a California appellation.
Kenwood's White Zin is shown to be a Sonoma wine, when it too is, in
fact, a California appellation wine.
The Old Bat ordered a Dry Martini and she reported it was good. I
couldn't find a white wine worthy of service as a cocktail, so I put a
bottle of red wine on the table from my cellar bag and we paid $12 or
$15 corkage fee for this.
To start The Old Bat ordered a cup of Minestrone Soup. Amazingly,
it met with her approval.
I had a Shrimp Cocktail ($14) and this was nicely presented with a half
a dozen bright white and pink prawns hanging off an ice bowl.
By the way, they had a good, old-fashioned sourdough bread basket on the
table, as well.
The server brought a couple of heavy-duty, large wine glasses to the
table. One had lipstick residue on it, so that was pointed out and
he brought a new stem.
I'd asked for a suggestion regarding the menu and he was quite
enthusiastic about their Prime Rib, so I opted for the Executive Cut of
that at $27.95. The Old Bat ordered a Penne Pasta dish with a
spicy, house-made Italian Sausage ($15.95).
The Sausage was, indeed, nicely spicy and a bit hot.
My Prime Rib was a far more generous serving than the mere 14-ounce cut
listed on the menu. I suspect it was roasted a few days before we
arrived and this well-more-than-a-pound slab o'beef was cooked to a
It was accompanied by a baked potato and some creamed spinach. It
did not have much flavor and was certainly a good example of industrial
I suspect it's probably best at a place such as this, to order something
requiring actually being cooked to order.
We skipped dessert and were out of there for around $85 before the tip.
I'm not in a rush to return, but this is probably an okay neighborhood
place if you order to their strengths, unlike what I did. And
bring your own bottle.
Reviewed by GW
399 Grove Street (at Gough)
Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-3
Brunch Sat-Sun 11:30-3
Cajun Boiled Peanuts
I forgot to snap a picture of the entire order...I think we'd eaten 3
or 4 Hushpuppies by this stage!
Rabbit & Dumplin's
booked a Sunday night table at this new place in the old Citizen Cake
location near Davies Symphony Hall. At 7pm the place was buzzing
nicely, with a small number of tables open.
We were escorted to a tiny table for two near the window on Grove Street
and fortunately the batteries in my Maglite were working and we could
peruse both the menu and wine list.
A runner came by with an interesting idea of an Amuse Bouche...a wedge
of a Clementine or Mandarin Orange...
The Boxing Room is a New Orleans-themed place and we ordered some Cajun
Boiled Peanuts ($4) and Hushpuppies ($6) to have while looking over the
food and wine options.
The wine list at this place is quite comfortable. The prices are
generally consumer-friendly and they've eschewed featuring the numerous
quota items on the plates of the big liquor distributor sales
The Boxing Room has a handful of wines "on tap," available by
the glass, half carafe or full carafe. There's also Sutton Cellars
Vermouth on tap, as well. Wines on tap include producers such as
Zocker (Gruner Veltliner $16 for a half, $31 for a full carafe),
Unti Vermentino from Dry Creek, a Syrah/Grenache blend from Tablas
Creek, Broc Cellars Cabernet Franc and some Napa Cabernet called
There are a dozen table wine selections available by the glass,
including a Spanish Albarino, a Muscadet, Chablis, German Riesling,
Morgon, Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, Foradori Teroldego ($11 a glass) and
Cep Syrah from the Sonoma Coast ($12).
As they don't have a full bar and The Old Bat couldn't have a Martini,
we got her a glass of Allimant-Laugner's Cremant d'Alsace ($10). I
opted for a Riesling from Eva Fricke ($9) from Germany's Rheingau.
Our friendly and efficient server brought the starters and the aperitif
wines and we were off and running.
The list is compact and comprises one page, so you need not spend an
hour wondering what to order. A good Sancerre is available for $39
a bottle, while a ROAR Pinot Noir is $85. They don't break the
hundred dollar barrier at this place!
The wines are well-chosen and an eclectic selection.
Stemware is a bit standard, though. They use something like a 14
heavy-duty Libbey glass for the various wines.
The corkage fee is $17 and as they had some well-priced offerings, we
opted for a bottle of Vincent Ricard's Loire Valley Rose for all of $20
for a full 750ml bottle! You can't find much on the Peninsula at
$20 a bottle and certainly nothing of this quality for such a modest
The peanuts are a bit messy, but good, if a bit soupy. The
Hushpuppies were delightful, nicely fried and crisp on the outside and
moist on the inside.
The Old Bat was horrified at the thought of paying $3 per oyster, but we
cajoled her into taking a half a dozen as this cost $16. They had
two types available on a Sunday night, Kumamotos for the local selection
and Beausoleil for the 'foreigners.'
The Old Bat asked for six of the Beausoleils and, not being an oyster
expert, she was disappointed to find them to be so small. Good
thing she didn't opt for the Kumamotos, as those are smaller.
For a starter I had a small order of their Chicken and Andouille Gumbo
($10). They ask if you want white or brown rice with this...
The Gumbo is quite good, nicely smoky and moderately spicy (I figured
the Riesling would work with this, but we were on to the Ricard Rose at
this stage)...The Andouille sausage was really good here and I'd
recommend this easily.
For main plates, The Old Bat had a small serving of Gumbo, which she
found to be a bit of a challenge given the 'heat' of the spicing.
I had the Rabbit & Dumplin's with maitake mushrooms, carrots,
turnips and bacon ($21). This came in a cast iron skillet and I
was warned this was hot.
They'd set it under the broiler, I guess and this makes the dumplin's a
bit crisp or hard. I might have preferred them a bit softer, but
these were still good. The dish comes across a bit like a good Coq
au Vin except it's rabbit and there are turnips in the mix.
The tables are a bit close together and this means The Old Bat sometimes
butts in on others' conversation. She asked the neighboring table
about their main dishes. Both people were having the Southern
Fried Chicken which didn't look at good in person as the photo on the
Boxing Room's web site. Our neighbors said they thought the
chicken was too heavily breaded, for what that's worth.
We had no room for dessert, so we asked for the check. This
tallied to $120 before the tip with sales tax and the 4% SF Health
Overall, this was a nice meal and if you're interested to dine here,
It's a nice place for a meal and I'll have to remember their being open
late for future visits.
I look forward to a return engagement here!
Reviewed by GW
33 West Portal
11am until 10
Brodetto di Vongole
Spaghetti con Vongole
Misto di Carne
|The Old Bat had a hankering
for a plate of pasta and we booked a table at this busy Italian eatery
on West Portal, as it's not too far from Stonestown's movie theater.
We parked about a block away...West Portal is jam-packed, even on a
Sunday, as there's a movie theater and numerous restaurants on that
Our table was ready for us and the two of us were seated at a 4-top near
the hostess' station. No wine glasses are on the table as part of
the place setting and the wine list is on the back of the menu.
There's an additional menu, ostensibly of daily specials.
The wine list might impress someone whose taste in wine runs to the
private labels at a Trader Joe's store or who patronizes wine outlets
such as Smart & Final, Walgreens or CVS Pharmacies.
They must be fans of Fred Franzia's Bronco Wine Company as many of the
wines on the list come from that company. Mr. Franzia believes in
offering California appellation wines (which typically come from Central
Valley fruit), labeled with a more prestigious bottling address.
Albertoni is a good example...a wine sold solely to restaurants for a
few bucks a bottle (remember, this is the guy who sells Trader Joe's
their $1.99 Charles Shaw wines) so the dining establishments can sell
them for a whopping percentage-of-a-mark-up. Franzia has been
quoted as saying restaurants ought to be able to charge ten bucks for
some bottles of his wines.
Well, Albertoni Chardonnay is $24 at Spiazzo. There are
unidentified wines on the list, such as their House Selection of Pinot
Grigio ($24), Chianti ($24), Montepulciano d'Abruzzo ($28), Vino Nobile
($35), Primitivo ($30) or Morellino ($32). An Amarone, which goes
for a modest $55 a bottle, is also not identified as to the
producer. Mauro Sebaste Barolo is $65 and they might bring you the
2005 or 2006 vintage. There's a Cabernet Sauvignon listed as
"Rutherford"...it does not carry the Rutherford
Under the heading of Champagnes we find...not a single Champagne!
There is au unnamed Prosecco for $30, a California sparkler of Richard
Grant for $40 and two Loire Valley sparklers.
The wines whites are not listed, for the most part, with vintage dates.
On the "specials" page there are some half bottles...we
started with a half bottle of Kenwood Sauvignon Blanc at $20. The
young fellow waiting on us, a student at SF State, brought a couple of
heavy-duty Libbey glasses and unscrewed the cap from the 375ml bottle,
pouring the "say." Perfectly standard.
Also on the specials' list is a Barbaresco for $42, a Piemontese Barbera
for $29.50, Ironstone's Lodi Cabernet Franc ($29 on the list...$7.50 for
retail customers on the winery web site!) or Santa Carolina Chilean
Cabernet for $38 (ten bucks retail at places willing to carry this
modest little wine).
The restaurant, by the way, was packed...they probably have 60 seats, or
so and the place was busy.
The Old Bat ordered Minestrone Soup ($6) and this seemed to be possibly
a lentil-based broth with all sorts of vegetables. I ordered the Brodetto
di Vongole ($9.95), a bowl with maybe a dozen large clams in a
spicy broth with a couple of pieces of garlic crostini. The clams
were nice and this was a reasonable starter.
The server or another staffer had brought out a plate of a cake-textured
bread...it had been partially heated, but not thoroughly. A small
red pepper dipping sauce accompanied the bread.
We placed a bottle of a nice Valpolicella on the table and asked the
server to open it. The corkage fee is a modest $12 and the
stemware is equally modest, a 1980s-vintage red wine glass.
The Old Bat was delighted to order Spaghetti with Clams ($13.95) while I
splurged on their Misto di Carne alla Griglia ($20.95), a couple
of New Zealand lamb chops, a flattened boneless chicken piece and a
butterflied, grilled Italian sausage.
My plate was bland, apart from the lovely little sausage, the highlight
of the dish.
This is a nice little neighborhood restaurant and if you venture in to
Spiazzo, do yourself a favor and bring a decent bottle of wine.
The prices are modest and commensurate with the quality. You can
pay a lot more on the Peninsula at the numerous "counterfeit"
Italian restaurants and not do quite as well.
We skipped dessert and the bill tallied to $90 before the tip.
Reviewed by GW
300 Spear Street
Open Daily for Dinner
Sashimi of Kona Kampachi
Quail and Southern Fried Quail Legs with waffles and a Quail Egg.
Ice Cream Sandwich...and a sip of Port.
booked a table for a Sunday evening at Prospect, a restaurant related to
the landmark Boulevard in roughly the same neighborhood.
There's a hostess station at the entrance and some seats to the
left. Straight ahead is a bar and behind that, the dining room.
The menu is accompanied by a wine list and there are some nice wine
glasses on the table to give patrons a hint to order some wine.
None of the starters was something served 'family style,' so we didn't
have a little nibble while perusing the menu.
Our server came by and we ordered a couple of glasses of a nice
Albarino, Sete Cepas.
As we were dining at Prospect a few days after the arrival of the 2012
Nouveaux Beaujolais wines, there was a little card tucked into their
Now this is most perplexing!
The restaurant has a couple of young ladies who are there as
sommeliers. The wine list is in a binder and multiple pages.
As you can see above, they offer a flight of Beaujolais Nouveau.
We asked the server who told us it was a two wine flight, so we were
perplexed as to why there are seemingly three wines being offered.
And the two "cru" Beaujolais are from the 2010 vintage and
these are not "Nouveau" wines, despite this being offered as a
"flight" of Beaujolais Nouveau!
Our Albarino arrived in a nice glass, a Riedel-styled stem, poured to a
little less than half full.
The young lady working as the wine steward that evening never did come
by our table to consult or offer advice on their wines.
The wine list has several hundred wines. There are some famous
brands and some relatively obscure offerings. Grower's Champagnes
such as those from Moncuit ($96), Pierre Peters ($101) and Agrapart
($87) are available as are brands such as Krug ($280), Pol Roger ($134
for NV Brut), Salon ($472) and Dom Ruinart ($211). A handful of
California bubblies are offered as is a Prosecco and Piemontese bubbly.
They have some good Loire Valley Sauvignons, with $30 buying you a nice
bottle of Vincent Ricard's Les Trois Chenes. You'll need $60 for
the low end of the spectrum of California's North Coast
Chardonnays. They have a nice range of White Burgundies, from
Chablis in the north to some Macon wines in the south. More than
half of these, though, are priced at more than one-hundred dollars.
There are seven German Rieslings on the list, none from the portfolio
I consider to be the best. Of the 31 California Pinot Noirs, 17 of
them are triple-digit priced. A Talley bottling is $70 and maybe
the best selection on the low end. Of the red Burgundy selections,
20 are above a hundred bucks (most well above) and a mere six are but
Amongst the Rhone selections, there is a lovely Rasteau for $32 a
bottle, so it's not like the 99% can't find a bottle of wine on this
The list has a small number of California Cabernets, including a 2007
Chateau St. Jean "Napa" bottling for $148! I
didn't think St. Jean made a Napa Cabernet!!
A Sean Minor Cabernet is the lowest priced offering in that category and
it's $52. Most of the Cabernets are $100 (for a current bottling
of Jordan) to $500 for some Hundred Acre bottlings. There are but
five Bordeaux wines and these seem mostly like "these-will-do"
selections than wines curated with care.
There's a section of Loire Valley and Southeastern France wines which
includes a nice bottle from the Cahors appellation ($35)...Cahors is
more of a Southwest region, though.
A Beronia Rioja is $36, so there's another wine offering relatively
reasonable value if you don't want to run up a huge tab. Perhaps,
though, the wine director knows her audience and maybe Prospect has
customers who look down their nose at wines costing less than a hundred
bucks a bottle.
We each ordered an appetizer, my dining companion opting for a Sashimi
of Kona Kampachi ($15.50) with Shiro Miso, Granny
Smith Apple, Serrano Peppers, Shiso & Mizuna Salad, Ginger Marinade.
I ordered Quail Breast and Southern Fried Quail Legs ($15) which
came with a Savory Waffle, Braised Greens & Quince
The Sashimi was beautifully prepared...I would have liked a bit more
'snap' to the dish, either in terms of acidity or spice/heat.
Still, it was very good.
The Quail dish was off the charts! The Southern Fried legs were
amazingly good and the waffle pieces were nicely done, just enough of a
sponge-like quality to be really delightful.
We produced a bottle of a somewhat mature Bordeaux from the cellar
bag. The server asked if we like to have it decanted and we
did. He took the bottle away and a few minutes later the young
sommelier brought a decanter and the bottle. We offered her a
taste and she was thrilled to have a generous pour.
We both ordered the Liberty Valley Duck ($31) with Rye
Berries, Braised Red Cabbage & Confit Duck, Apple & Kale Salad
Malted Milk Chocolate Ice
Cream, Chocolate Cookie
Overall, the dining experience at Prospect is a good
one. The wine list, in my view, needs polishing and perhaps
selecting with a bit more care in several areas.
The kitchen performs brilliantly here and we look forward to a return
Reviewed by GW
|LARK CREEK STEAK
845 Market Street
Open for Lunch & Dinner Daily
Salmon Amuse Bouche
Corn Soup With Rock Shrimp
Filet Mignon Tartar
New York Steak
|We were seeing a movie in the
big, indoor 'mall' between Market and Mission streets in San Francisco
and ambled over to this steak place which is in the Bradley Ogden family
At 7pm they had few open seats and we may have been close to the last
two-top which was available.
The men and wine list were presented and, as I'm writing this more than
a few days after, I think there were some glasses on the table.
The place features "American" wines and you'll find bottles
from the West Coast and New York.
Three bubblies by the glass: Gloria Ferrer is a civilized $8.25
for a flute, while Oregon's Argyle Brut is $13 and an Iron Horse Rose is
$10.75. I suspect they get 5 pours from a bottle since the bottle
prices are more than 4 times the single serving price.
Some of the selections are a bit off-beat while others are bigger names
and more comfortable brands for those who are not terribly wine-savvy.
There were 7 Sauvignon Blancs on the list, two by the glass. St.
Supery is $36 a bottle, with a Matanzas Creek going for $51.
Kendall Jackson Grand Reserve Chardonnay is $48, while Kistler's is
$120. A Ramey Sonoma Coast ($30 retail) is offered for
$80...should a restaurant 'earn' $60 on a bottle of wine which cost them
$20 (if they buy wisely)?
The list had more than a dozen red wines in half bottle format, a
Saintsbury Pinot Noir going for $36 and a Duckhorn Cabernet costing
I think I saw more than 2 dozen Pinot Noirs...Kosta Browne was $156 and
Sea Smoke was $150 if you have money burning a hole in your
pocket. Etude from Carneros is $79 and Shea from Oregon is $82.
They have a Mixed Variety white section, but of the 9 selections, 8 were
actually single varietal bottlings. Five of the 9 "Mixed
Variety" reds are varietal wines...
They have a section of Rhone wines, but these are all American, of
course. Bonny Doon's Cigare Volant is $66. And there's
a separate section of Syrahs, Qupe's Central Coast Syrah costing $40
while a Sine Qua Non bottling is $480. A Frog's Leap Zin is $56
while Seghesio's $20 retail bottle is also $56.
The Old Bat ordered a Dry Martini and she was delighted with the work of
the cocktailian. I gambled on a New York Dry Riesling from Ravines
at $10. This was a simple, standard dry white at best...
After ordering the meal and wines, a small Amuse Bouche arrived...a
cured salmon bite served on a spoon.
The Old Bat loves a steak and will even order, as she's done in the
past, Steak Tartare and a Steak. The Filet Mignon Tartar
($14.95) is raw tenderloin with some crostini, fleur de sel,
capers and onions. I went for their Brentwood Farms Corn Soup
($10.95) and this came out as a soup bowl with a mound of fresh corn and
some rock shrimp. The server had a small pitcher and poured the
soup in the bowl for a bit of tableside savoir faire...
I tasted the Tartar...nice. The soup was quite good, in
fact. The server had neglected to bring a soup spoon to the table,
though, and I waited a few minutes and he slyly laid it onto the table
with an "I-almost-forgot."
They have a good range of steaks...a small Filet Mignon is $29.95, while
an 8 ounce is $37.95. A New York steak is $31.95, while a 10 ounce
Prime New York is $41.95. A 16 ounce Prime Rib-Eye is
$51.95. The steaks are accompanied by a sauce, if you like.
Side dishes are $8.50. The Old Bat was dying for Mashed
Potatoes, while I ordered Mushrooms and a side of Fries. The
mushrooms were nice and the fries were merely "okay."
We had a bottle of red wine in our bag and the server brought a good
sized Bordeaux glass for each of us. He poured the wine without
really allowing us to 'say' whether or not our bottle was in serviceable
condition. It was. But the fellow ran off with the cork and
we had to ask him to bring one back so we could take the remaining wine
to share with the crew at the shop, as it was a "tester"
bottle of what turned out to be a rather nice, youthful Bordeaux.
The corkage fee is $20 per bottle and this is waived if you've ordered a
bottle from their wine list.
The stemware is good...the white wine came in a Riedel-styled glass and
the server brought large "Bordeaux"-styled stems for our red
The steak was good. I can't say if it was really one of the best
"prime" steaks I've had. At least it was cooked on a
wood-fired grill, a rarity these days. This made for a better
steak than one simply cooked on a gas grill.
We skipped desserts...
I'd go back if I was in the neighborhood, catching a movie at the
Westfield mall or the Metreon across the street. But I don't think
I'd make a special trip there otherwise.
Reviewed by GW
1105 San Carlos Avenue
"Fish-bowl-on-a-stem" was how a friend refers to this
old-fashioned wine glass.
Pate, Mustard, Cornichons...
The Salade Verte.
Steak & Frites
Poulet Roti & Frites with a Champignon sauce of Lacaune in
southern France, east of Toulouse.
advertise themselves as a place for "French Comfort Food" and
so we ambled into Cuisinett in San Carlos during the middle of the week.
It's a small restaurant seating perhaps 32-40 people. No
reservations, which initially was a bit off-putting, but when we arrived
we understood why.
You walk in and there's a map of France and a large sign with their
menu. We were greeted by a pleasant young lady and we asked for a
table for two.
Oops...that's not how it works here!
We were instructed to come to the counter where they have a computer
monitor/cash register and to place our order, then you can take a seat.
It's a bit like ordering at a fast food place or pizzeria...and they ask
you to pay when you order! (And leave a tip...)
There is no "wine list," per se. And the wine offerings
are a bit nebulous, though bottles are displayed in a glass-door
refrigerator for the whites and there are some bottles of red displayed
on the counter near the register.
There's a hand-written board with some wine prices, though the wines are
not listed by brand or vintage. You can have a glass, carafe or
An anonymous French Chardonnay was $10 a glass, a Bordeaux Blanc was $8,
$24 and $32. There's a Sonoma Chardonnay, a "French Sauvignon
Blanc" (not noted as Loire, Bordeaux or perhaps even Languedoc) and
some other Sauvignon Blanc, presumably not French.
Under the heading of Red wines, there's a Bordeaux Rouge for $9 by the
glass and $36 for a bottle. A Napa Cabernet is $13 a glass and $48
by the bottle. A Rhone wine from the Cotes du Ventoux is $8 by the
glass and $32 a bottle. Sonoma Pinot Noir is $10 a glass, while a
Beaujolais goes for $8 and a Merlot for $9. A Champagne is $90 a
bottle, while a Cremant is $13 a glass or $65 a bottle. Ouch!
We asked how much they charge for corkage and it's $15. We were
queried as to whether we would be wanting new, clean stemware for our
bottle and we indicated we would, especially given the $15 charge for
The wine selections are fairly standard and you won't find
"connoisseur"-quality wines for the most part. The
mark-up at this place is a bit high, especially given that the stemware
is not great and it's not a "fine dining" establishment.
I ordered two pours of the French Chardonnay, seeing Joseph Drouhin's
Laforet Bourgogne Blanc in the 'fridge. We asked to be charged a
corkage fee, as I had a nice bottle of a good Crozes-Hermitage in my
The Laforet wholesales for a bit less than ten bucks a bottle and we
paid $10 per glass for this.
They have a couple of sparkling wines from France which wholesale for
$12.50 to $14 and these are $65 at Cuisinett. Meanwhile, the
"French Sauvignon Blanc," a wine from the Loire by Ladoucette,
wholesales for approximately $12 and it's offered for $36 by the bottle.
For our meal, we wanted to begin with one of their "Small
Plates," the Assiette Chasseur ($10), a nice slice of a
coarse pâté with mustard, cornichons, thinly sliced radishes and some
slices of a baguette.
We thought of this as a starter, to be followed by a salad. The
Old Bat ordered their Salade Niçoise ($12) while I went for
their Salade Verte ($5).
We were brought the two pours of white wine, served in maybe a 10 ounce,
heavy-duty Libby glass, filled to around the half-way point.
The nice little serving of pâté was brought fairly quickly and in
tandem were the salads.
So much for staging the meal in courses, but then this place intends for
people to "eat and run."
The mixed green salad was very good, with fresh greens or various types
lightly bathed in a mild vinaigrette. The Old Bat's Salade Niçoise
looked great, but it was a "main course"-sized serving, not
really an appetizer. The tuna was great: fresh and beautifully
seared...tender and delicious!
We had to flag down the young lady who took our order to bring some new
wine glasses and a corkscrew to open our bottle. She did open the
bottle and poured a "say" in both glasses, quickly departing
before we'd given the okay. We poured a glass for ourselves, then.
The main plates, by the way, arrived before we could get the red wine
The Old Bat ordered their Steak ($18), a nice little 8 ounce piece of
meat. You get your choice of a "sauce" and a side
dish. There are seven sauces, but she wanted the steak
"plain" and had Pommes Frites on the side.
I chose their Poulet Rôti ($14) with the Champignon
sauce (fresh button mushrooms, shallots and bacon) along with a side of
fries. The chicken was a small, meaty bird, with two smallish
drumsticks on the plate and two other pieces (maybe two halves of a
thigh or breast?)...It was nicely roasted and moist.
The steak was a nice, thin piece of tender beef...it might have been
nicely enhanced with their Poivre (pepper) or Moutarde
(mustard cream) sauce.
The frites, by the way, are excellent...crisp and not at all
oily or greasy.
We skipped dessert, having paid the bill already (and added a tip of 15%
despite not knowing if the service would be good...), but they do
offered Crème Brûlée, a Gateau au Chocolat and a Tarte
au Citron (all $7).
I did not see any dessert wine offerings, but may have missed these if
they do have them.
The bill tallied to $102 with tax before the tip and the Old Bat had a
couple of items to take home given she'd ordered too much.
This is a nice little place, possibly a better choice at lunch than for
dinner, but the food is nicely
It's simply a bit unusual for its deli counter ordering system and
informal service with prices in between those of a 'fast food' place and
a more serious restaurant.
Adding to this confusion is that the quality of the food is pretty good.
If they had a more interesting selection of wines and prices which are
more consumer-friendly, this would really be a gem of a restaurant.
Reviewed by GW
2032 Union Street
Wed-Sun: 11-9 (maybe later)
Little Gems & Chicories with a Caesar Dressing.
Calamari with Beans...
Soft Swirl Ice Cream
had a winemaker friend visiting from Italy and he was
fresh-off-the-plane on a Sunday in late October. He expressed an
interested in seafood, coming from a place where seafood means
We had seen the website for Nettie's Crab Shack on Union Street and
noticing this "Yes! We have Whole Crab" on their home
page, we called to book a table.
We arrived on a Sunday evening, finding street parking to be a
challenge, but there's a garage across the street.
At 7pm the place was moderately busy, as most patrons were seated at the
bar or at tables near the bar and TV screen showing the Giants playing
the Detroit Tigers in the 2012 World Series.
We opted for a small table towards the front of the restaurant in a
smallish, elevated alcove with maybe three or four other tables.
There were nice wine glasses on the table and the server presented a
menu and a wine list. The list posted on their web site was not
hugely encouraging, so we brought a chilled bottle of a good grower's
Champagne and a big, rich French white Burgundy.
We asked about their corkage fee and were told it was $15. I
asked, then, for a couple of Champagne flutes and our server brought two
small stems of perhaps 6 ounce capacity...quite small, actually, so my
guest said he'd prefer to drink the bubbly out of the 14 ounce (or so)
We ordered a mix dozen oysters to enjoy with the bottle of Lancelot
Pienne Champagne as we perused the menu.
The wine list does offer some good white wine choices. Honig
Sauvignon Blanc is $40, while the Crios Torrontes from Argentina is
$32. A Piero Mancini Vermentino is $40. Clearly Arneis is
not popular here as they have one from 2007 on the wine list (generally
these are best when young and fresh). There are, in fact, a number
of offerings which may be a bit past their prime in terms of both whites
There's a 2006 Dolcetto d'Alba languishing on the wine list, for
example. A really ordinary Barbera from Piemonte is $45, a poor
choice in terms of value. The list offers a good Crozes Hermitage
from Domaine Entrefaux at $60, while a Chante Perdrix Saint Joseph is
But the menu offered all seafood apart from a lone hamburger, so having
so many reds seemed a bit out of place.
On the other hand, perhaps people come and sit outside on a sunny day
and wish to simply enjoy a nice bottle of red wine...
Many of the wines are marked up 300%, but some less pricey bottles such
as Poppy Pinot Noir are jacked up 400%, or a tad more. Poppy
retails for $12 to $15, yet it's $40 on this wine list!
Our oysters arrived on a metal platter covered with ice and we had three
different selections. I should make a note to avoid oysters on a
Sunday, though, as most of them were still okay, but a couple tasted a
bit flat and perhaps not as fresh as they might have been had we been
there on Friday, for example.
My buddy ordered their Little Gems and Chicories Caesar Salad with
Anchovy Croutons ($10) and I had their Grilled Squid, Shell beans,
Heirloom Tomato, Salsa Verde ($12).
A nice fairly large wooden bowl was brought to the table with a large
serving of the salad.
My Squid was a small ceramic dish with toothsome beans and a nice bunch
of calamari and tentacles...quite hot in terms of temperature and
reasonably flavorful. Good!
The server brought a couple of more wine glasses for our bottle of
Chassagne-Montrachet, as well as a couple of bibs so we wouldn't get too
messy with breaking apart the half a crab we each ordered.
I asked, also, for an order of Rosemary Shoestring Fries and their
Griddled Skillet Cornbread.
After clearing the plates from the starters, we were each presented with
a plate with half a crab body and a number of still-attached crab
legs. This was an oven-roasted preparation and the crab comes
topped with an oil infused with garlic and parsley. Each plate
came with a crab cracker tool and a small, thin fork to extricate the
crab meat from the shell.
The crab was quite good, although the garlic was a bit over-the-top (and
I love garlic!). You have to ask for bread and we neglected to do
that and the server didn't ask, though it would have been appreciated.
We never did see the order of fries or the cornbread, as the server
apparently forgot to place this order.
We got a couple of desserts...Doughnut holes and some Soft Swirl Ice
Cream...both nice, although the doughnut holes were left in the deep
fryer a few seconds too long...
The bill, with the corkage fee, tax and the SF Health add-on tallied to
$154 before the tip.
This was a nice, comfortable, fairly informal place to take a European
out-of-towner to show off a bit of American style.
If you're in the neighborhood, this is a nice place to dine, but it's
not a major destination restaurant.
Reviewed by GW
11 Glenwood Avenue
Open Daily 11am-11pm
Fri-Sat til Midnight
The Wine List
Lamb chops and Potato Wedges
Joe's Idea of a Wine Glass
|We were seeing a movie in Daly
City on a Saturday night during the World Series in which the Giants
were playing and we booked an early evening table at this "old
school" place near John Daly Boulevard.
The parking lot was packed and the restaurant was busy, especially by
the bar with the TV screens.
In the main dining room with a battery of cooks along the wall behind
the counter, we were escorted to a booth in the back, at the end of the
A large, plastic laminated menu was presented and this document has what
they consider to be a wine list on the back.
No wine glasses on the table, as this is serious "old school"
and they're seemingly more interested in selling a Martini or Manhattan
than they are a bottle of wine.
It's a restaurant which reminded me of old-time places in the late 1950s
and 1960s and Joe's of Westlake is certainly a throwback to that era.
The Old Bat ordered her customary Extra Dry Martini (olives and onions,
please). I perused the wine list in hopes of a relatively decent
sparkler or glass of white wine.
The only wines-by-the-glass are the "House" Burgundy,
Chablis and White Zinfandel at $4.65 a serving.
The wine list is clearly not important at this dining establishment, as
they don't cater to people with much interest in a good bottle of
wine. Apparently management of Joe's is unaware there are good
wines available through even the big liquor houses which supply their
bar with distilled spirits.
A bottle of Sonoma Cutrer Chardonnay will set you back $34, while a
Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay is $30. Kenwood Chardonnay and
Sauvignon Blanc are both $24. Louis Martini, an old-time producer
whose wine was probably on the wine list at Joe's fifty years ago, is
all of $26, as is a J. Pedroncelli Cabernet. Kenwood Zin is $24
and their Pinot Noir goes for $31. A Bolla Pinot Grigio is $19.50,
as is Bolla's Bardolino.
A Korbel Brut "Champagne" is $26, while an unidentified
Prosecco goes for $25.
We asked our server how much they charge for corkage and this was a
modest $7.50. We should have brought our own stemware, though.
Joe's does not have anything I would consider to be suitable for
wine. It was more like a jelly jar-on-a-stem.
The menu is large and varied. Minestrone soup is available daily,
but if you're interested in Clam Chowder, better come on a Friday.
Lots of salads are available, including a Caesar along with Prawn,
Shrimp and Crab Louie's. There's a heading on the menu of Pastas
with five or six options. Curiously, there's a second heading of
Pastas "Cooked to Order"!!!
There are numerous items from the Charcoal Broiler, including a 22 ounce
Texas T-Bone for $24.75.
There are 9 "Chef's Suggestions," including Sweetbreads with
Mushrooms for $16.75.
I produced a bottle of Sonoma County Sangiovese from the Seghesio winery
and we paid the $7.50 corkage fee.
The Old Bat ordered a cup of Minestrone ($5.45) to start, while I
ordered a Shrimp Cocktail ($8.95).
The soup arrived fairly quickly and as I sipped the Sangiovese, I waited
patiently for the appetizer.
We heard some cheering from the bar, a good indication the Giants were
finding a way to beat Detroit. The servers, all decked out in old
school formal-wear, were spreading the news of the latest score of the
The minestrone tasted good, as The Old Bat salted it. I continued
Finally, she finished and the server removed the empty cup of
soup. We asked, then, if they were catching the shrimp for my
appetizer, or what.
The server, though he'd written down the order, neglected to place this
order with the kitchen crew.
A moment later the Two Double Lamb Chops ($23.25) arrived on an oval
plate, accompanied by fried potato wedges out of a freezer bag.
The Old Bat's Linguine With Clam Sauce ($14.95) arrived and she was a
bit surprised to taste canned clams, not fresh ones. The pasta was
slightly over-cooked to my taste.
The lamb was actually nicely cooked...nothing fancy apart from being
grilled. No green vegetable on the plate as "side
orders" (mostly pastas, with a mixed vegetable dish being available
along with spinach, mushrooms, fries or garlic bread) are extra.
The bill tallied to around $63 before the tip.
This is a great place to visit if you're a bit hungry and in the mood
for the "good old days" of the 1950s or 1960s. If you're
looking for a wine-savvy restaurant, this ain't it.
Reviewed by GW
1148 Mission Street (near 7th)
Open Daily for Dinner
Pork in a Clam Shell Bun
Gau Choy Dumplings
was a Saturday night in October when a friend from Friuli came to San
Francisco for a few days. We were able to book a table for four on
short notice at Charles Phan's "Heaven's Dog." Phan's
main restaurant, Slanted Door, requires significant advance notice for a
reservation, so this was a bit of a surprise.
I arrived around 6:45, just on the dot for our reservation. I
found my three guests sitting at the bar, sipping on Negronis.
The hostess said she could seat us any time we liked, as the table was
ready. It's a small dining room with 2 and 4 tops, along with a
small, private little room near the bar.
It's a place which features interesting and creative cocktails, most at
ten bucks a pop. We watched as the bartender skillfully measured,
stirred and shook various cocktails.
We were guided to our table and it was simply set with chopsticks, a
fork, wine glass and napkin.
The wine list is small, but skillfully chosen. You'll have many
good wines to chose from and the prices are sensible as they've chosen
well. Four sparklers, with a Prosecco and Cava available by the
glass. High rollers might splurge for a bottle of Pierre Moncuit
at $72. Seven white wines by the glass, ranging from $7 to
$12. These include a dry Austrian Riesling, a couple of German
Rieslings, a Vinho Verde and a Macon! Four reds by the glass,
including an Oregon Gamay for $12 or a Sonoma Pinot Noir for $13.
As our friend from Friuli is familiar with varieties such as Ribolla
Gialla, Tocai and Sauvignon, we splurged for a bottle of a Napa Valley
white by Matthiasson which includes all three along with some
Semillon. It's $69 on the wine list.
We were hungry, so we ordered a bunch of starters to share...and these
were brought to the table at a nice pace so we could enjoy them while
they were hot. It was quite unlike a normal Chinese neighborhood
place where everything shows up at once.
The stemware for the wine was good...not hugely fancy, but of good size
and light weight.
A Scallion Pancake ($7) was a nice start to the meal. Soy-Braised
Pork Belly ($9) featured rectangular slices of savory, moist pork
nestled in what they call a "clam shell" bun (steamed bread of
Their Shumai Dumplings ($8) are more typically served at a dim sum lunch
hour, but these are stellar and should not be missed. Crispy
Chicken Wings ($10) are a bit spicy and were immediately scarfed up by
our guests. Salt & Pepper Squid ($13) was a nice plate of
calamari with toasted garlic and some spicy chilis. The Gau Choy
Dumplings ($9) are round discs with shrimp and rice flour...very good.
Everyone then selected a main plate and these arrived and placed for
"family style" service, which worked out nicely. Main
plates are priced between $12 and $19...we ordered Seared Scallops with
black bean sauce ($19) which were quite good.
Duck Fired Rice featured 5 Spice Duck Confit ($14) and was delicious and
savory. Wuxi Pork Spareribs ($16) were a bit sweet, but nicely
meaty and delicious, if a bit messy. Shanghai Noodles ($14) delighted
the Italians, who know a thing or two about pasta.
Jasmine Rice is $2 per person and we also had a couple of vegetable
"sides," one featuring Zucchini and the other Broccoli...each
I had placed a bottle of Summers Charbono on our table, but the server
was a bit busy, so I ended up opening it and a second bottle, a Green
& Red Zinfandel and we simply used the stemware on the
The bill, with $20 per bottle corkage fee and the SF Health 'tax',
tallied to around $290 before the tip.
This is a delightful restaurant and it was a comfortable setting...I
know there was some music playing in the background, but we still were
able to converse and hear each other at the table.
I look forward to returning soon!
Reviewed by GW
Two Salmon Cakes...this is how the plate was presented
to us...the Salmon Cake on the right was broken in half and seemingly
missing a "fork" cut...
Lamb Shank and Pilaf
I initially thought this might have been a sharp fish
bone, but a fellow who's knowledgeable about restaurant kitchens
identified it as a bristle from a kitchen brush used to scrub pots and
This was in the Mythos Pilaf!
booked a table at this San Carlos "California-Mediterranean"
restaurant for a Sunday night, following one of our frequent forays to
With a street-fair of sorts concluding a 6pm, we found the roads jammed
with vendors dismantling their stands. The restaurant had a few
patrons seated, from a young couple celebrating an anniversary to a
young Mom & Dad with their cute little rug rats to some old farts
and then us.
We were guided to a spacious "four top" and the table had a
piece of paper as the table cloth, a fork & knife with a napkin and,
encouragingly, a wine glass.
The wine list is printed on the back of the large single-page menu.
Their web site might give one the idea there's some care in selecting
the wines, as they claim: "Each
wine on our list is approachable and has been hand picked by our wine
stewards as well as the selections of fine spirits at the bar. The
passion for terroir, a sense of place, is reflected in the concentration
of Northern Californian coastal wines, and spirits from Bay Area
distilleries and breweries, followed appropriately by a selection of
Sixteen bottled beers on their list of offerings...if you don't count
Budweiser and Bud Light as "local," two beers are actually
from California, a Bear Republic bottling and a Drake's beer.
Sierra, Trumer and a Devil's Canyon brew are available on tap, however.
Twenty-one wines "by the glass" and not a local sparkler in
the bunch! Thirteen table wines are from California and perhaps
you find wines from Gallo's "William Hill," J. Lohr, Hess and
Rombauer to be terroir-driven wines. They do offer two
locally-made wines from the Domenico winery in San Carlos. One is
confusingly listed as "Chianti, Aglianico, Domenico, Amador
County." It may be Aglianico, but it's not from the Chianti
Two bubblies are of interest on the list, unless you're a fan of
Clicquot, and then it's three: Roederer Estate at $49 and Schramsberg's
Blanc de Blanc (listed as a non-vintage wine, but this is, in fact,
vintage-dated) at $69.
Chardonnays include Hess ($32), Heitz ($46), Talbott ($58), Bernardus
($58) and Rombauer ($53). They have 8 Pinot Noirs on the list,
ranging from J. Lohr ($40) to Domaine Drouhin ($84). A Heitz 2006
Cabernet is $75 and it's about the most interesting of their selections
in my view. A Marcarini Barolo from the 2007 vintage is $100, but
most of their imported selections don't indicate the wine steward is
The Old Bat ordered a Dry Martini and I chose an eight-buck glass
of Domaine Drouhin's "Cloudline" Pinot Gris. The Martini
was much-appreciated...my glass of Pinot Gris was "ice" cold
and the extreme serving temperature hurt the wine to some degree.
The stemware for the wine was a perfectly acceptable, nicely shaped
glass of about 14 or 15 ounce capacity. The half-filled glass made
swirling the wine a bit of a challenge, though.
As for food: A "Greek Salad" for The Old Bat ($8) and I
chose "Salmon Cakes" (House Smoked Wild King Salmon Cakes With
Sauces) at $10. The Greek Salad delighted our senior citizen
companion. Two Salmon Cakes came on a bed of totally dry mixed
greens with a ramekin of some sort of spicy sauce. One of the two
Salmon cakes was broken in half and seemed to have a
"fork"-bite missing! These were a bit dried out,
too...not bad, but not great, either.
I produced a bottle of red from my cellar bag and just a few seconds
after a runner removed the appetizer plates, the main courses arrived.
Our server, a friendly gal, went and found one clean wine glass for the
two of us. She opened the bottle and without pouring the
"say" (where someone at the table okays the wine as not being
corked or spoiled and worthy of service to others), she
glug-glug-glugged half a glass for The Old Bat. She then took my
empty Pinot Gris glass and poured a half a glass for me!
Well intentioned, to be sure, but quite unprofessional.
The Old Bat ordered Moussaka ($19) for a main plate...and she rather
I had the "Lamb Shank...in red wine and spices with Mythos
pilaf" at $28. The lamb was nicely prepared with a
brown-spiced sauce. The pilaf was okay until I bit into something
hard...I thought it was a fish bone, but showing it to someone more
restaurant-kitchen savvy, it was identified as a bristle from a brush
used to scrub pots and pans! This would have been nasty to have
ingested and it suggests the kitchen crew is a bit sloppy in cleaning,
Finding this took care of my appetite, for the most part.
We had shared a glass of our bottle of red, a reserve bottle of IBY's
Blaufrankisch, with the server. The $20 corkage fee was on the
bill, which tallied to $111.50 with tax and before the tip.
Reviewed by GW
42 Columbus Avenue
Open Mon-Fri 11am through Dinner
Ahi Tuna Cooked to a Fare-Thee-Well.
The Lamb Shank.
menu for this new Basque restaurant in The City looked promising, so we
tried using their on-line reservation system to book a table on a Monday
night. Too bad this didn't work so well. We sent them an
e-mail and received a note saying "no problem," so we arrived
a bit after 8pm to find a fairly empty restaurant and bar.
We were seated immediately and began scoping out the wine list and menu.
I was looking for some interesting Basque-area wines on their list and
spotted a Jurancon Sec by Domaine Cauhape at $12 a glass, so we asked
the server for a couple of pours.
I think he came over twice to verify and confirm our order, since the
fellow, apparently, could not remember this request for more than a few
Brands on their modest wine list include Chalk Hill, Lyeth, Sebastiani,
Louis Jadot, Paternina, Hahn and Folie a Deux. It's not a list
featuring many savvy selections in my view.
Their web site claims they offer the "best Paella in San
Francisco," but on this Monday night, they did not have this
particular item available.
We discussed our best options for starters and finally selected
"Grandma's Mushrooms" ($10.50), Cod Fritters ($9) and Prawns
with Garlic ($13). Our forgetful server had difficulty committing
these to memory and came back a couple of times to verify the
order. Apparently, writing down the order is a foreign concept.
The Cod Fritters were very good and nicely seasoned. The Mushrooms
were small button mushrooms sautéed in a really hot pan and then served
in some sort of brown sauce...also good. The Prawns had a nice bit
of garlic and were of good quality.
As we were finishing the tapas, I brought out a nicely-aged bottle of
Alion and the server came out with a couple of new wine glasses.
My guest's glass was clean and fine, thank you, but mine seemed a bit
hazy and laden with fingerprints. I picked up the glass and it
smelled of the last wine to have been poured into it!
I asked if we might have a clean glass instead of this dirty, used one.
That was embarrassing.
With Paella not an option, my dinner companion selected Pacific Ahi Tuna
seared a la plancha ($23), while I chose the Lamb Shank
Well, the Ahi Tuna was left on that plancha too long, apparently, and it
became a leathery, tough piece of fish. My friend wrestled with it
for a while and was unimpressed.
The lamb was a big shank and in a shimmering dark sauce of sorts...but
it was a bit bland and seemed as though they'd not seared it before
braising it. However it had been prepared, it was a fairly
ordinary hunk of lamb.
The 1996 Alion, though, was a winner and the highlight of our meal.
I think the bill, grabbed by my friend, tallied to a bit more than a
hundred bucks. I don't recall if they nailed us for a corkage fee.
This place has potential, but judging from the lack of attention to
detail on our visit, their future is as cloudy as that dirty wine glass
Reviewed by GW
409 Gough Street
Lunch: Weekends from 11am
Dinner: Daily from 5pm
The Old Bat's Dry Martini.
Chips and Dip.
Griddled Baby Octopus
Rigatoni...this time, cheese-free!
Zeppoli with strawberries.
were going to be near Davies' Symphony Hall one Sunday in September, so
we booked an early evening table at this relatively new place on
Gough. We lucked out with on-street parking, but there's a parking
structure a block away. The neighborhood has a number of prominent
restaurants, including Absinthe, Hayes Street Grill and Jardinière.
We found the place sparsely populated on this evening and easily found a
table in the room towards the back, a bit quieter than the front
room and bar.
Our server asked if we wanted some particular water selection, but we
opted for tap water. The wine list was presented with the menu and
we immediately began looking for a decent, modestly-priced half bottle
of white or bubbly.
They had 6 whites by the glass, ranging from a Zenato Pinot Grigio ($6)
to a Faiveley Montagny ($14). Reds by the glass
included brands such as Louis Latour, Hahn, Sebastiani, Raymond and
Turley (a Cinsault from Lodi for $12 a pour).
The wine list offers 7 sparkling wines (Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc at
$79), 5 Chardonnays (Au Bon Climat at $44), four Sauvignon Blancs,
7 Pinot Noirs and 6 Cabernets (Raymond, Paul Dolan, Justin, Jordan and
Groth)...not hugely exciting and certainly no 'discoveries.'
In keeping a tiny connection to their New York roots there are a couple
of wines from the Red Tail Ridge winery on Seneca Lake.
It's a sleepy wine list, essentially.
We ordered two pours of a French Entre-Deux-Mers, Chateau Bonnet
($7). The server returned a few moments later with a bottle of
Parducci Sauvignon Blanc and a glass to pour us a small taste of a
substitute since they were sold out of the Bonnet. Nice try, but the
Parducci is weak. So The Old Bat ordered a dry Martini and I
selected the Faiveley Montagny. She was thrilled by having a
brisk, dry Martini. The Faiveley was weak, at best.
We began with a "Bar Bites" selection of Chips &
Dip. This was a small plate of fresh Potato Chips and a Bean Dip
enhanced with some bacon. Nice.
The Old Bat started with a Golden Beet Salad ($9) and I chose the Baby
Octopus ($9) with chive pesto, shaved endive, fingerling potatoes and
sweet tomatoes. She liked the beets. The Octopus was okay,
but I found it to be a muddled plate. I guess i was not thrilled
by the cheese in the chive pesto which for my taste hit an off note.
We produced a bottle from our cellar bag and the server, a genial fellow
who was wine-interested (he had passed his level one sommelier test, for
what that's worth), brought two more glasses and opened the Pinot Noir I
had...We shared a taste with the server of this hugely expensive bottle
of Chacra Pinot, a 2007 which was, for me, not terribly impressive
despite its $70-$80 retail price tag.
The main plates arrived...The Old Bat's Rigatoni with meat sauce was,
unfortunately, dusted with cheese and she's allergic, apparently. Back
that went to the kitchen and a new plate came back 10 or 15 minutes
later. Wouldn't you think with so many "lactose
intolerant" folks, a restaurant would either note on the menu this
preparation or bring the cheese separately to the table?
The sauce was okay, but I tasted the rigatoni and this was a budget
brand of pasta according to my 'taste-o-meter.'
I ordered their Short Rib main plate at $25. This was perfectly
standard and perhaps a bit bland...tender, boneless beef with some
leeks, carrots and parsnips.
For dessert we ordered Zeppoli and this was perhaps the highlight of the
meal! Beautifully done with some powdered sugar and sweet
The server did not charge us a corkage fee and the bill tallied to
It's not a destination restaurant, but a perfectly decent neighborhood
"bar & grill" sort of place. Given the ho-hum,
missed-the-boat wine program and standard fare, I probably won't be
rushing to return to Dobbs Ferry.
Reviewed by GW
252 California Street
Lunch M-F: 11:30-2pm
Dinner Daily from 5:30 to 10, or so
Squid Ink Pasta
A lovely Risotto with Lobster
celebrate the birthday of a friend, we booked at mid-week table at the
famous temple of haute cuisine, Michael Mina.
We arrived on time and were quickly escorted to our table for two along
the wall. The menus and wine list were provided by the
hostess. As I opened the list, a sommelier-type fellow appeared at
the table asking if we needed assistance in selecting a wine. I
had note had a few minutes to peruse their voluminous wine list.
And large and impressive it is. More than two dozen Chablis
wines. Thirty Meursault. If you want a DRC Montrachet, the
2008 is more than $4200 per bottle. But you don't have to be a big
spender, as $39 will get you a bottle of Pelle's Menetou-Salon, for
They have a terrific selection of Burgundy wines, but most, whether
white or red, are of the most recent vintages, so many of these, despite
their lofty prices, are not wines which have had time to evolve, develop
and come close to reaching a peak.
Pinot Noirs are either listed under various appellations of Burgundy or
as "Burgundy's Devotees" or "The Opulence of the New
Though the menu doesn't really seem geared to sturdy Nebbiolo, there are
more than 50 Piemontese bottlings on the list, including Giacomo
Conterno's 1958 ($1040 a bottle) and Bartolo Mascarello's 1964 ($1329).
They've covered all the bases and feature loads of glorious enological
trophies. Unless I'm mistaken, Australia and New Zealand seem to
be missing in action, save for a couple of selections.
For the most part, though, it's a phone-book of a wine list and a great
example of the work of a capable, trophy-hunting sommelier. It's
great to have so many selections, but it distracts the person who's
choosing a wine (or wines) from engaging in conversation with others at
The corkage fee, if you're bringing something of interest, is $35 for
each of the first two bottles and $70 a bottle after that.
We ordered a half bottle of a nice Champagne and our server took off to
put in our selection. But we sat there for an unusually long time
and were wondering if the bottle had been lost, misplaced or merely
forgotten. Perhaps, though, we selected an obscure grower's
Champagne in half bottle format to start and they did not have a bottle
in the refrigerator? I think we waited nearly 15 minutes before
our bubbly was brought to the table. Some wine lists highlight
those wines which need 10-15 minutes for chilling. This was not so
Our meal began with a small Amuse Bouche, a very fine little soup.
We had a little Tuna Tartare for a starter and then a Black Pasta (Squid
Ink Conchiglie), followed by a Risotto surrounded by some sort of
Fancy food, but beautifully presented and with good flavors and
I didn't pay much attention to the neighboring table, but it turns out
an old customer was dining there and he sent over a tremendous glass of
White Burgundy. Their party of four seemed to be working on a Foie
Gras menu, as foie was in its last days of being legal in California.
Meanwhile, I had a bottle of a 1980 Dujac Clos La Roche in my bag and
the wine crew at MM did their best to extract the cork for us. Too
bad it came out in pieces, but the wine was still in top form. We
sent a glass to our friends at the next table...
I'd also ordered a half bottle of a nice Sancerre, but in taking a look
at the wine list posted presently by Michael Mina, I see no such 375ml
format bottle is currently offered. Sadly.
The food preparation is top notch and the service was very good, for the
most part. It's a splurge, to be sure, but we thoroughly enjoyed
our dining experience at Michael Mina.
It's also a place to see and be seen.
Writing this review too long after our dinner there, I cannot recall
precisely the dessert offering.
The tab was nearly $300 and while it's not a "value"
restaurant, we did appreciate the meal and service. This is one of
those small number of places which are worth going out of your way.
Reviewed by GW
1270 Valencia Street
She Crab--Sea Urchin, etc.
The Sirloin for Two...
St Vincent's Cannoli
Black Bottom Pie
Raj Parr correctly pegged the wine as a Borgogno
David Lynch, Proprietor, Sommelier, etc.
wine friend reserved a table at this newish place, "hidden"
near a gas station on Valencia Street in The City.
The restaurant is the work of Italian wine guru David Lynch (formerly of
Babbo, Mario Batali's famous New York restaurant) and Quince in San
Now he's got his own little place, a little hall and kitchen which is
fairly easy to access from down here on the Peninsula.
The place was fairly full when we arrived shortly before 8pm on a
Tuesday night. In fact, it was filled with a number of Bay Area
wine & food luminaries! Two tables from us was the couple
which owns Oakland's marvelous Camino restaurant. A bunch of
Bi-Rite Market staffers were enjoying a nice meal. A well-known
wine buyer from the East Bay was out with friends and later in the
evening a prominent celebrity sommelier and his wine director girlfriend
sauntered in for a sip.
The wine list is several pages long and comes on something like a
clipboard...there are some wines by the glass and they have a great
policy which encourages diners to venture out into the vinous
wilderness: You can order a half a bottle of any wine on the list
(apart from sparklers and Reserve bottles) for half the bottle
price. They bring glasses to the table and a small carafe, filling
the decanter with essentially half the bottle. The other half of
the bottle is then offered "by the glass" to other patrons.
We ordered a couple of nibbles to start...a Pretzel ($5) with mustard
and butter and a bowl of boiled peanuts seasoned with sarsaparilla and
The Pretzel is a "don't miss"! The Peanut Boil is a bit
messy and these are soaking in liquid...and while they have a nice
flavor, we wondered if they might not be even better were they not so
moist and messy. No warm, wet hand-towels are offered if you order
these...I wonder if anyone has thought of this?
We had a half a bottle of Remirez Ganuza Erre Punto, a tasty blend of
Malvasia and Viura. They bring the bottle to the table, as should
all restaurants, displaying it to the guests and pouring the wine.
The stemware, as one would expect of a wine-oriented restaurant, was
For a starter, I opted for Monterey Squid, peppers,
lovage, fennel, spring onion with whipped bone marrow ($12)...a lovely
plate, though one pepper was really spicy and hot, while the others were
more mild mannered.
My friend ordered the "She Crab," which was sea urchin, sugar
snap peas, Carolina gold rice, corn and lobster chowder ($14) and
We had a slightly rustic little white wine from the Loire Valley, a
Domaine des Huards Cour-Cheverny, a wine made from the obscure
Romorantin grape. This, we were told by Mr. Lynch, was a really
tart, tight little wine -- and, it was! Still we enjoyed its
minerally, acidic character with the seafood.
There was a bit of a lull before we could order another wine and I was
afraid the main plate, a Dry Aged Sirloin for two ($50), would arrive
before we had a suitable red. I noticed a Ronchi di Cialla
"Ribolla Nera" on the wine list and we asked for a half bottle
of that...and we produced an old bottle of 1987 Dorigo Schioppettino.
David whisked our bottle away and deftly decanted it, returning with two
different sized glasses so we could more easily tell the wines
The plate of steak arrived shortly after and this was a grand
affair: Beautifully rare roasted beef with a bit of creamed
spinach, mounds of nicely fresh, nutty, spicy Arugula and a twice-baked
Shropshire Potato. The Ronchi di Cialla was a classic example
(Ribolla Nera is said to be a synonym for Schioppettino), with berries
and a bit of pepper spice, while the Dorigo, matured in small oak, had
held up nicely, showing some red fruits and wood.
We each ordered a dessert, my friend having a Marsala Cannoli while I
went for Black Bottom Pie, both at $7. We had a pour of a Vajra
Barolo Chinato ($18)...
I think the bill tallied to around $150 and we were given the courtesy
of no corkage fee. Of course, with such an eclectic wine list as a
main reason to dine here, only a knucklehead or lunatic would bring a
bottle to open.
At this stage in the evening, the crowd was thinning out and some of the
wine & food industry luminaries were still at St. Vincent. We
had fun decanting a couple of "mystery" bottles and the
Super-Star Sommelier actually pegged the wine as a Borgogno Barolo (his
guess was 1967 which was a great pick, though the bottle was from
1971). We then poured a wine, cautioning everyone that there was
no chance of anybody correctly identifying it. Guesses ranged from
Napa Cabernet to Argentinean Malbec for Vajra's "Kye"
The ambiance was nice, if a bit noisy. Tables are a bit close
together, as is typical in so many City restaurants. The service
was good, over all and we'll definitely be revisiting St. Vincent for
both the eclectic wines and interesting menu.
Reviewed by GW
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