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Takes on Slanted Door, Piperade, Slow Club & More

Clare K Nov 19, 2007 08:04 AM

Pic here: http://rainydaysandsundays-c.blogspot...

I went to San Francisco this past weekend for a quick visit to one of my favorite cities in the world. I lived in the city for 8 years, and go back whenever I get a chance. There's just something about San Francisco that has always felt like home to me; I feel an instant click whenever I am there. The people, the weather, the politics...it's just more me than Los Angeles will ever be.

All that said, the cuisine is a major reason why I love SF. But this time around, I was plagued with bad luck when it came to the food. The only photo I took was of the best dish I had - the famed chilaquiles at the Primavera booth at the Ferry Building Farmer's Market (the booth is only there on Saturdays and they don't always have the chilaquiles, so I got VERY lucky!). This breakfast is absolutely, completely and totally the best breakfast in town or in the state of California or, dare I say it, the world. You've got a mix of crispy fried tortilla chips tossed with a spicy red sauce and chorizo, topped with Mexican crema, cojita cheese, chunks of avocado and chopped onions. It's served with soft scrambled eggs and savory black beans. Yes, it's a lot of food, but you will eat every last bite because it's THAT good. Besides, after I ate my chilaquiles, I went on a 7 mile walk and didn't eat again until dinnertime. It'll fuel you for the whole day.

Other good food I had in SF on this trip: The cream puff at Beard Papa's (first time I've ever tried). The turkey hash with poached eggs at Universal Cafe. The amazing burger at the Slow Club. Unfortunately, I didn't take photos of these because I either forgot, or have featured the same meals on this blog before. Oh, one other notable: Claire's Squares at the Ferry Building Farmer's Market (as recommended by Becks & Posh). Fantastic.

But on to the mediocrity that seemed to plague this trip:

Piperade, the Basque tapas restaurant that came highly recommended by numerous foodie friends and the every food magazine/website/guidebook. Their signature dish, the piperade, is simply stewed onions and bell peppers topped with a poached egg and a few slivers of serrano ham. It tasted OK, but this is their signature dish? The crab salad was bland and didn't have any acidic balance, and their pork was overcooked and tough. My friend thoroughly enjoyed her halibut in brown butter/hazelnut sauce, which was absolutely delectable, and we all liked our sides of machengo cheese potato gratin, but for the price and with all the hype, I expected a lot more. Oh, and the service left much to be desired. Our waiter was rude, unfriendly and inattentive.

Americano, the restaurant at the Hotel Vitale, where we stayed. I booked a 10:30 a.m. breakfast for me and a few of my best girlfriends. When we showed up a few minutes late, we noticed the waitstaff was busy breaking down all the tables and cleaning up the place. We stood there, waiting for someone to notice us, and when they did not, I walked over and asked the manager about our table. "Oh, it's after 10:30 now and we stop serving after 10:30." I asked why, then, they take 10:30 a.m. reservations, and he said that this was the last seating of the morning. The thing I don't get is that if a restaurant is going to start breaking down tables at 10:31 a.m., why book a 10:30 a.m. reservation? As if we want to sit there amidst all the chaos of table-clearing, dish clanking and vacuums running? We left without eating and went to the Fairmont Hotel instead, where we had a good but average crab cake and Cesar Salad lunch.

Citizen Cake, the place I always go to for the best almond croissants ever made. We poked our heads into this Hayes Valley institution, only to realize they had split up the restaurant into two parts: The bakery, which was very small and featured only pastries, cookies and cupcakes (no sign of their fabulous cakes and bigger baked goods) and 3-4 small tables; then the restaurant, which served lunch and dinner. What a bummer. The restaurant, with newly dark painted walls and a bar where the fabulous bakery counter used to be, looks depressing and small. The cafe is way too small and looks more like the average coffee shop than the destination place for Elizabeth Falkner's famed baked goods. The old restaurant, which combined both the bakery and the main dining room in one space, was light and airy and open, and allowed patrons to see the bakers actually making the cakes and pastries. They were also out of almond croissants, so we walked down to La Boulangerie and had a very good almond croissant down there. I think that's going to be my new cafe stop in Hayes Valley.

The Slanted Door, a place I've been wanting to try for a very long time. What a complete and utter disappointment. We ordered their shaking beef, which everyone insists is the best dish there, and it was basic and mediocre. There were about 7 small chunks of beef, half of which were overcooked, some onions and spices - for $26.00. The "spicy" cauliflower and "spicy" Japanese eggplant had no heat at all, though the eggplant had good flavor. We did enjoy the hoison pork ribs and the egg rolls, and the drinks were tasty; unfortunately, the bar staff "lost" our drink orders twice and we went 45 minutes without any drinks while we ate dinner. The manager apologized and comped two of our drinks, and gave us a free dessert, but overall it was a very disappointing experience.

I think where I went wrong on this trip is that instead of researching out some of the lesser known places, I opted to go to everyone's favorites. In the past, I've gone to old favorites like Il Borgo in Hayes Valley or just scoped out the neighborhoods instead of reading up on what's hot.

I'll be back for New Year's Eve, so hopefully I'll have better luck next time!

Clare K.
http://rainydaysandsundays-c.blogspot...

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  1. Scott M RE: Clare K Nov 19, 2007 09:05 AM

    Sorry to hear about your disappointments. I eat out a lot and have found many, many restaurants to be hit or miss in SF. Not sure if its because hot restaurants/chefs take on too many projects and spread themselves thin, or if there are so many restaurants that kitchen staff talent is spread thin or people go off to start their own ventures, etc.

    Piperade is a place that I have found certain dishes to be inconsistent, and I have never had any of the dishes you mentioned. Slanted Door is another that I haven't been to since it moved out of the Mission. However, it doesn't surprise me that it no longer lives up to its hype.

    What places are you considering around NYE? Maybe the board can help you out with ideas, menu choices, etc.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Scott M
      Clare K RE: Scott M Nov 19, 2007 09:19 AM

      I've been wanting to try Incanto (we're going on the 30th, not on New Year's Eve so we can enjoy a menu vs. a pre-set), and the Salt House and Bar Crudo. I've heard great things about all three but am a bit nervous after this last trip...been to any of these?

      Piperade was the most disappointing. Our waiter was kind of a jerk, actually. When I asked what the piperade was (the menu lacks a reasonable explanation), he said, "Do you know what ratatouille is?" in a very sarcastic tone. I said that I did, and he said, "It's like that." He needs to go have ratatouille somewhere because there is a huge difference between a roasted vegetable dish and a pile of stewed vegetables in broth with an egg on top. Oh, the bill came to $80 per person (there were five of us), and that included two $40 bottles of wine, so the food was quite pricey.

      1. re: Clare K
        Scott M RE: Clare K Nov 19, 2007 09:56 AM

        Wow you had to bring up Incanto. I am in the minority on not loving it. It may have been that my expectations were too high. I found the chairs to be uncomfortable, the carpeting to be an odd/unappealing color and the food was hit/miss for me. I realize that any decent chef can take expensive ingredients and make a good dish, but real talent comes from taking less appealing ingredients (heart, brain, stomach, etc) and making it taste good. I think Incanto tends to excel on being able to take less popular meats/ingredients and executing them. I ordered more straight forward dishes and wasn't blown away. They were fine, but nothing special. I did have the lamb neck, and enjoyed it. The pasta dishes were just okay.

        I haven't been to the Salt House and that's just because I wasn't in love with Town Hall. I found the dishes at Town Hall to be a little sloppy and heavy handed with fatty sauces/cheeses, etc.

        Places that I enjoy are Myth, Nopa, Range, and Delfina to name a few.

        I am going to try Perbacco in about a week, its received its share of recommendations.

        I can understand your experience at Piperade. I have had mixed experiences but I now pretty much have a standard order that consistently delivers an enjoyable experience.

        A lot of people also like A16 for Italian. Again, my one and only experience didn't live up to the hype either. I will probably give it another try in the near future.

        One of the downsides of this website, is I often go to a restaurant with high expectations based on comments and end up being disappointed. Its a great place to find out about new places, and things to order. However, one has to realize that everyone's taste is different and to temper expectations when trying a new place.

        1. re: Scott M
          susancinsf RE: Scott M Nov 19, 2007 11:46 AM

          While I agree that tastes vary (see my other post) IMO anyone who goes to Slanted Door or Americano with high expectations based on what is written on Chowhound (as opposed to on some other sites) hasn't done a lot of searching of the site. Piperade also gets mixed (though mostly positive I think) remarks as has Perbacco and Salt House.

          If we would all start using the Places feature more often (including me, so here you go :-)) it would be easier to do those thorough searches.

          -----
          Salt House
          545 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94105

          Perbacco
          230 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

          Incanto Restaurant & Wine Bar
          1550 Church St, San Francisco, CA 94131

          Americano
          8 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94105

          1. re: Scott M
            susancinsf RE: Scott M Nov 19, 2007 11:47 AM

            argghh...forgot Slanted Door...

            -----
            Slanted Door
            Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

            Salt House
            545 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94105

            Perbacco
            230 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

            Incanto Restaurant & Wine Bar
            1550 Church St, San Francisco, CA 94131

            Americano
            8 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94105

          2. re: Clare K
            pane RE: Clare K Nov 19, 2007 10:00 AM

            I love both Incanto and Bar Crudo. Don't miss the lobster and burrata salad at Bar Crudo; at Incanto I like the pasta dishes and vegetable apps as well as the offal dishes the restaurant is known for. I think both of those restaurants blow Americano and Slanted Door out of the water.

            Salt House is very much like Town Hall--ok food, convivial atmosphere.

            1. re: pane
              daveena RE: pane Nov 19, 2007 11:21 AM

              Second everything pane said, word for word. Most of the negative reviews of Incanto have been from people who ordered the more straightforward dishes (handkerchief pasta with ragu, etc) and were disappointed - I think it's a restaurant that really rewards adventurous ordering. I feel like I write this at least once a week, but - get the spaghettini with cured tuna heart and egg yolk, and the head cheese.

              1. re: daveena
                susancinsf RE: daveena Nov 19, 2007 11:53 AM

                I've given Incanto less than totally glowing positive reports in the past, but it wasn't based on the dishes, it was mostly based on the service. (with the exception of one very rubbery poultry dish, but that was several years ago). My last visit was very nice with excellent food, and I didn't order anything extremely adventurous.

                For the OP: if you go to Incanto alone consider eating at the bar, which is generally the most congenial part of the restaurant, IMO.

                1. re: daveena
                  JasmineG RE: daveena Nov 19, 2007 01:30 PM

                  What she said about the spaghettini with the cured tuna heart. I got that based on recommendations here, and out of the 8 or so dishes that three of us ordered, that was our favorite.

              2. re: Clare K
                susancinsf RE: Clare K Nov 19, 2007 11:39 AM

                It has been a while since my last visit to Piperade, but I've always had excellent meals there; sorry your experience wasn't better and I hope the sarcastic server was a fluke (service has always been excellent for me). I do like the piperade, however, (though I recall it having more than a few slivers of ham). Also, for the benefit of others who might be reading this and don't know the restaurant: I don't think it is really accurate to characterize Piperade is a tapas place: yes, they have lots of small plate/appetizers, but just as many or more mains., and I don't think they intend it as primarily a place to share small plates. Of course, for that matter, while Piperade gets mentioned fairly regularly on this board, I certainly wouldn't call it hyped here.

                but then, obviously tastes vary, as I am no fan of the Primavera chilaquiles (I think they are too crispy, I don't like chorizo, and basically they have too much going on for my taste: I prefer a simpler, home-cooking style...)

                I have yet to see a positive post about Americano on this board.

                -----
                Piperade
                1015 Battery St., San Francisco, CA 94111

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