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Chris Cosentino's Cooking at Incantato - anyone?

I have a triple birthday celebration coming up in May and I'd like to take my family for a really nice and yet somewhat unusual meal. I've heard a great deal about Chris and his 'head to tail' philosophy of using all of the meat from the animal. I'm wondering if anyone has eaten his food and is it the sort of thing that a family of rather impeccable food choices would enjoy? I'm simply about uncertain of what to make of the restaurant and the cooking because at times their 'speak' seems somewhat pedantic and not a little bit intimidating.

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  1. You might want to do a search for "Incanto" -- there are many discussions. If you look it up on "places" there will be a whole collection of threads where it's linked or mentioned.

    1. Incanto is my favorite restaurant. I have had several revelatory meals there. Cosentino's cooking lives up to his philosophy. Though one can be intimidated by a menu that requires an Italian-English dictionary, the staff is friendly, welcoming, and not the least bit pedantic.

        1. If you're interested, and if you have the budget, you should look into booking a "whole beast" dinner in the back room. It's a gorgeous space, and you can pick your critter depending on the size of your party and your tastes. I had the good fortune of sampling the whole goat a few weeks back, and it really was very well-prepared. This guy knows his way around a carcass. Even if your family isn't into whole beast dining, the pasta and other selections have just been phenomenal. Save room for dessert, too!

          http://jalapeno.typepad.com/my_weblog...

          4 Replies
          1. re: foodiegrl

            For smaller parties, with a week's notice you can order a "quinto quarto," which is basically a custom version of the annual head-to-tail offal dinner.

            http://incanto.biz/quintoquarto.html

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              I did the quinto quarto meal last fall. very good and the wine pairing is wirth getting too. here are pix from the meal!

              http://www.flickr.com/photos/patrick_...

                1. re: Hapa Dude

                  Great pix: I had an opportunity several years ago to sample "duck fries" at a Gary Danko cooking class that was all on duck - and was also amazed at how large they were - I believe they were from a moulard (sp ?) duck and were the size of Vienna sausages!

            2. I would say it's best to take a look at a recent menu closer to your birthday and make sure your family would find things to order. It's a fine line between exotic and unappetizing. The comb from a roosters head in your salad might just cross that line.

              The menu seems to have settled down with some standard dishes which are on the more accessible side, but my experience was they were poorly executed. I personally do not like all my food to be glistening wet with a strange shine, and when food is over salted, or not salted at all, and you're only eating one dish in the hopes of ridding yourself of the effects of the last dish, most of which are dull in flavor anyway, then you can't help but feel like you're the victim of some joke. One example I use is the pasta dish with spinach, which was cooked down to a grainy, stringy mushy tangled mess. My dining partner was certain she was eating frozen spinach, but even sadder it was probably some fancy farmed greens cooked to death instead.

              15 Replies
              1. re: sugartoof

                The finanziera with cockscombs, duck tongues, and rice was so good that my entire table stopped talking while we were eating it. Didn't start talking again until the last bit was scooped up.

                To the OP: if you're a little adventurous with your dining choices, you will be rewarded.
                Found an old but good thread from last year:
                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/369138

                1. re: sugartoof

                  The menu changes daily. The olives, antipasto platter, handkerchief pasta, and panna cotta are the only constants. There are rarely more than three or four dishes with offal.

                  See this topic for recommendations on what to order from people who eat there regularly:

                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/507173

                  1. re: sugartoof

                    The pig trotters with foei gras we had last week was decadent.

                    1. re: Problem Child

                      Decadent is a good adjective for this dish: I'm glad you mentioned it: Several weeks ago we finally made the trek into the City for a dinner at Incanto. I was so looking forward to it and couldn't resist the foie appetizer.

                      I can't believe that I'm whining about this: the serving was, hands down, the most humongous I have ever seen of foie. It was at least the size of a deck of cards and perhaps 1-1/2" thick! I gave the other 3 in our party good-sized tastes (at least a 1" square chunk to each) and still had way more than is good for anyone left for myself... The pig trotters were tiny bits but there was a huge strip of bacon across the foie and the whole thing was sitting on a large slice of grilled bread with a pool of very rich demi reduction beneath... Probably more fat in this dish than I normally consume in 2 months!

                      I really should have stopped there but DH and I split a half portion of the pasta w/shaved tuna heart and egg yolk (more fat) and then I had to order the "Ancient Spiced Venison Ribs", could only manage a small bite and the rest went home. While the venison ribs sounded good to me, they really weren't. The spice mixture just didn't make it for either me or DH. An interesting dish on paper that didn't do it for us...

                      While I wanted to love the place, and the foie was a huge, luscious portion, I ended up being underwhelmed... Why? The actuality not living up to the anticipation? The dinner not agreeing with my sometimes quirky digestive system (sorry...) The obvious attention regular customers receive that we as newbies didn't? (amuse bouche to the tables near us, not to us...but that's for another thread I guess...)

                      I don't believe that Cosentino was in the kitchen that night so maybe my comments aren't really applicable....

                      1. re: RWCFoodie

                        Amuses? Really? We can't count ourselves as regulars, but we didn't get any amuses either. We sat at the bar that night and Cosentino was right next to us managing the kitchen.

                        1. re: RWCFoodie

                          Frebies are good business when it's with regulars, or customers chatting up the staff. That didn't appear to be the case with a table next to us though, so we just watched and felt left out. Same when I saw dishes being served that weren't even on the menu that night. I'm sure there's a method to it, but from my tables perspective, it seemed to be by silent lottery or something. It's not a good start when you're envying what's on another table, and it has nothing to do with how you ordered.

                          1. re: sugartoof

                            It's entirely possible (and I'd say probable) that a table being served things that aren't on the menu have requested in advance that their meal be left up to chef's choice. It doesn't seem odd to me at all considering the chef and the restaurant being discussed. Not one little bit!

                            1. re: Atomica

                              no, I am not sure it is odd either, and as you say it could have been special ordered, ....or maybe it was just one of Incanto's 'secret dishes':

                              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/436778

                              but OTOH I have had the experience of feeling that my experience was not consistent with other tables nearby on nearly every visit to Incanto, and to be honest it is one of the factors that has kept me from being an out and out fan: just made me feel less than welcome, and I totally understand RWCFoodie's wondering about it. I specifically remember one meal where one of the staff (not Cosentino, he was older, perhaps the owner) came over to chat at length with a neighboring table of out of towners...At first I thought they were VIPS, but then I heard one of the couple mention that their concierge had recommended the restaurant: I honestly had the impression that they were being chatted up so they'd go back and give a good report to that concierge to bring in more business...I guess I understand that as a business model on some level, but I definitely remember at the time wondering why one would so obviousl court out of town business while completely (and I do mean completely) ignoring repeat customers who lived walking distance away....

                              by the way RWCfoodie: don't feel bad about whining about too much fois: In a similar vein lately I've been wondering if I have to give up pork belly: seems like every time I've eaten it lately I end up paying for it with a sleepless night! Indeed, was at one of my favorite restaurants the other night (Passionfish in Pacific Grove) and when the server came up to tell us they were out of pork belly, I immediately thought to myself, 'good!'...

                              (now that is sad

                              )

                              but then again, OP asked about the food, and I do think the head to tail concept is worth exploring, even if I am past the age where I seem to be able to eat all of the pig, though I might want to...

                              1. re: susancinsf

                                Incanto doesn't really have any secret dishes. Some customers saw Cosentino making himself a meal of the handkerchief pasta topped with a "sizzled" egg and started asking for it that way.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  Did they put it on the menu after the Mercury News reported it as an off the menu, 'secret' item?

                                  1. re: susancinsf

                                    No. It's just a special request some customers make.

                                    A friend of mine regularly talks restaurants into making him affogatos. That doesn't mean he's adding secret items to their menus.

                            2. re: sugartoof

                              If the people at that other table were indeed getting dishes that were not on the menu, they may have ordered the Quinto Quarto:

                              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/373195

                              1. re: sugartoof

                                I'm curious - did the server say that these items weren't on the menu, or did they just not look like anything that fit the menu descriptions? I ask because sometimes the dish I receive at Incanto does not look like what I envisioned when I read the menu description. For example, I'm sure that people have ordered mountain oysters expecting bivalves, and duck fries expecting potatoes.

                                Hard to say for certain who is a regular and who isn't - not all regulars are chatty - unless you actually hear people saying they've never been there before.

                                1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                  People who order mountain oysters and expect bivalves deserve what they get, whether they like it or not. Any fool knows oysters don't grow in the mountains. Questions should certainly be asked.

                                  I ask no questions about mountain oysters, as I grew up in those mountains, and know from whence those oysters come. And it ain't from the sea.

                                  1. re: uptown jimmy

                                    Wern't they called Rocky Mountain Oysters?