Tuesday, June 16, 2009

San Fran Day One: Ocean Beach, A16

Today we arrived in San Francisco and sort of hit the ground running. We found our apartment (courtesy of the Steeles), which is our base for two nights. Great spot, quite older neighborhood (Richmond District), fourth floor walk-up, which was nice after a big dinner last night, but free – who’s going to argue?

Took a ride two blocks south to Clement where there seems to be a mini China / Asia area, and had lunch at Burma Star, a busy place that specializes in (you guessed it) Burmese food. The dishes were familiar with northern Indian – curries and potatoes – but also some more Chinese style noodle dishes and a lot more meat than I am used to in Indian cooking. All in all, quite tasty and a good lunch after the long flight from CT.

The next stop on the trip was the Pacific. It is a mandatory exercise to pay homage to the ocean when I am in proximity. Perhaps it is because I am an Aquarius or maybe because I spent half my childhood sailing, swimming, surfing on the ocean, but what ever the case I am drawn and so have to go. We went to Point Lobos and Ocean Beach and just enjoyed the warmth of the sun and the freshness of the salt air. All we did was sit, that’s all you really have to do sometimes.

From there we drove through Golden Gate Park and ended up in the Haight District to do a little shopping, and then finally made our way back to the apartment to freshen up for dinner.

Perhaps there was too much expectation – I read the A16 book last week – and I was hoping for too much, but A16 did not blow us away. It was good, quite good in a lot of ways, but just ok in other ways. We ordered several of the ap’s – Arugula Salad was very good, Grilled Calamari was the least favorite course of the night (neither warm or cold and quite chewy). To pair with these we selected a vermentino and a fiano: the fiano was stunning while the vermentino was so-so.

I had a mixed sampler plate of the Salumi: Prosciutto San Daniele (best tasting of the bunch, but not properly cut), Rosemary-Coriander house cured salami (quite good), Coppa de Testa house cured (ok) and Pork Liver terrine (very good).

We then had the pasta: one dish of ricotta gnocchi in brodo with peas, pea tendrils, basil and Calabrian chiles (quite good), and the other was Casareccia with summer squash, mint, anchovies, grana padano and black pepper (very good, but the mint was a bit over powering). We had a glass of Aglianico and a glass of Piedirosso – two distinctive wine that were absolutely delicious. The Aglianico was more dark and serious with a bit of wood aging, while the Piedirosso was youthful, grapey and spicy – perfect wines for the food.

We were feeling as though things had been good but nothing was really impressing us, so we decided to order one more item to see if things could be salvaged: pizza, the house specialty - just a simple Margherita. It was really good. The tomato sauce was absolutely delicious with fresh mozz and a sprinkle of basil. Crispy, wood grilled crust, soft in the middle. We decided that it should have just been that for dinner. Dessert was a mix of gelato: yogurt (pass), cherry (very good) and milk chocolate (thick and rich and decadent), and a rhubarb dish that was excellent.

All in all, we had a very good meal that hit some high notes, just not as pure as we were hoping, but with a few dips. The service was excellent and knowledgeable, the wine list (I didn’t even read beyond the wine-by-the-glass or even the Italian wines – I just wasn’t interested – the theme of the restaurant is southern Italy and I wanted southern Italy!) is well chosen and smart. The restaurant is obviously a hit – it was packed solid on a Monday night – and I would recommend for anyone in the area looking for an interesting take on “Italian tonight”.

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