Cafe Monk (long-ish)
As I'm sure most 'hounds did, we decided to take advantage of the October 11 benefit affair, and go to dinner on a weeknight (rare).
About the only place I could get in and actually wanted to try was Cafe Monk. It wasn't TOP of my list, but seemed like a good excuse to try it. I can definitely say I'll be back.
A short word about ambiance - kinda loud. That's it. Service was fine, even with the busyness of the evening. Beautiful space, but it's a high-ceiling loft space; you get the drift.
A fairly small wine list, but they had several nice selections by the half-bottle. We ordered a Franus (sp?) '98 zin; '98 wasn't really that great a year, but this was a superb wine for $20/375ml.
Started with mussels & manila clams in a red pepper vinaigrette - YUM. Really outstanding combination of flavors, with a few capers and some cilantro sprinkled in there. Just very fresh. And quite a generous portion.
Next came my porkchop. This is quite possibly the best chop I have ever eaten... no small feat. But I don't exaggerate. Tender, buttery (how often can you describe pork as being "buttery"??). Lightly pepper-crusted and mesquite grilled (wood-fire cooking seems to be their specialty). Served with a delectable homemade applesauce and a potato "latke" type thing, made with carmelized onions and plenty of butter. Again, YUM.
The S.O. got the wood seared rare albacore - quite an interesting preparation. It was tuna nicoise, except warm and an "entree". A few nice kalamatas, beautiful heirloom tomatoes, french beans and a boiled egg. Unfortunately, the fish seemed a bit too fishy for my taste, though it was quite fresh. Personally, I don't ever serve tuna w/tomato as I think it upps the fishy flavors. But he really enjoyed it.
We had to pass on desert, but they had a few things which seemed interesting (scharffenberger chocolate cake, in particular). They also had one of my favorite tawnys, A Niepoort Colheita, '86. Wound up w/a glass of that. God's nectar, as usual - and it hadn't even been open too long.
We wandered upstairs after dinner. I'm definitely going back, but I will request a table in the upstairs nook. A little more quiet.
Actually, this might be a nice place for a chowhound dinner - they have a great big communal dining table in the middle of the room which seats about 35!
Funny that you say it would be a good place for a Chowhound dinner. The book club that reads only books relating to food (and consist of a good number of Chowhounds) met there for their first book review. We all enjoyed it a great deal...I guess great minds & stomachs think alike.
I highly advise the chicken pie, which they don't refer to on the menu as a pie but instead something along the lines of chicken with noodles and fresh veggies. Maybe they love to see the look of surprise on the patron's face when the beautiful, golden, puffy crust of the pie appears on the table. Truly a perfect dish for a foggy, cold day in San Francisco (guess that means we've got plenty of opportunities to enjoy).
I also would like to admit that to my disappointment I was unable to participate in yesterday's dining out for "Windows of Hope," and therefore look forward to hearing where people on this board went for dinner yesterday. However, with all I've been eating recently, I believe I am sufficiently well fed and healthy enough to go donate blood.
CHOW - Nancy
Sounds like a good experience. When I last went, over a year ago, the service was so astoundingly bad and inept it ruined the meal for all present. But this was during the dot-boom days when good service was hard to find. Glad to hear they've improved.