Farina: Where Are We? And Do We Want to Be Here?
Last night I went to Farina with two friends. Admittedly, I had low expectations for this place. I've had a few friends who visited, not one of them intended to go back after a single experience there.
From what I gathered, the problem had been on several fronts: poor relationship management with the neighbors, high prices, middling food, and unfriendly service. However, I was invited as a guest by a dear friend who had a gift certificate, so we gave it a whirl.
The three of us shared:
-focaccia with burrata and Parma proscuitto (buffalo mozzarella was substituted, they were out of burrata)
-focaccia di recco
I'd read in several places that portions tended to be small and seafood often tasted less than fresh, so we steered away from some dishes on the menu that we would have tried. Avoided items included the salad and shrimp appetizers and a branzano entree.
I was disappointed that the buffalo mozzarella was substituted in for the burrata, which I like better; the price was not altered.
Because we heard portions were quite small, we intended two order two plates of this, but our waitress steered us into selecting another focaccia instead, and I'm glad she did. This serving was large enough for all three of us to get a good taste. I liked the prosciutto; the bread was nothing to write home about.
The focaccia di recco was surprising; the style was very different than the thick, bready focaccia of the previous dish. This was a thin, crispy bread, sliced and filled in the center with a tart, melted cheese that tasted almost like cottage cheese. Our server recommended it, and I'm glad she did. I liked this a lot.
I can't remember the name of the type of pasta served with pesto. Thick ribbons of handmade pasta were coated in fresh pesto and lay in a soft pile on the center of a plate. This was just OK, a bit rich and one note for my taste.
The filet was decent. I like really mineral-y tasting meats; this was rich and fatty without the depth of flavor I prefer, but it was nicely medium-rare, and we ate it all.
All three of us have lived in the Mission for some time. In looking around the restaurant, we were surprised that we recognized no one, a rare experience when walking down the street or dining out.
"Where are we?" one of my friends asked. "Where would this restaurant fit in?" London, we decided. And I silently wondered "Do we really want to be here?"
Our total bill, for food plus a ~$40 bottle of wine, was about $110. Note: my friends are much lighter than average eaters. For an average table of three, I do not believe this would be enough food.
I was shocked at the prices of the focaccia, which ranged from the mid teens to mid 20's. I don't care if it's because they had to transport grains from Liguria via a tiara-wearing pack mule dipped in gold: $18 focaccia is insulting.
Our server was friendly and helpful. I didn't experience any of the rudeness I'd been warned about. I told her our budget for wine, then pointed out a bottle we considered trying. It was $57, which I thought was the bottle price, but she discreetly pointed out that it was a half-bottle price.
In short, the food was decent, and worth going on someone else's dime. It's unlikely that I would return on my own.
3560 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110
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My VSO invited me to Farina last Thursday night for an early dinner. She is from Piemonte (Como) and we have tried many (not all) of the City's Italian offerings.
Farina was really very good despite some service issues and NOISE. The tablle bread augured well for the rest of the meal, with perfect crust.
We had the prosciutto San Daniele and burrata (which they had) starter and it was excellent, with a very crisp and tasty foccacia and tender, stringy burrata. We also had the mixed salad which had a balanced vinaigrette and some flavorful small tomatoes.
For mains my partner had the seared tuna in mozzarella lees. I had the duck breast on an apple and fennel puree. Both dishes were very well prepared and presented and the portions were adequate for our appetites, though not gigantic.
At this point the service started to become vague and it continued in that vein until we left. Even though the restaurant was only 2/3 full at most the waiter took quite a while to clear our plates, longer still to return with the dessert menu, and then about the same time to come back for the order by which time we had lost interest. This is the perfect way to take the fine edge off an otherwise sharp evening. The bloody NOISE, which no attempt had been made to ameliorate through skillful use of materials in the decor, was out of proportion to the crowd.
NONETHELESS, we would go back anytime to explore the menu further, for the solidly satisfying food, and truly remarkable bread....
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