Head to Tail at Incanto (long-ish)
On Monday night, my brother and I and two friends enjoyed the Head to Tail dinner at Incanto. While a little decadent for a Monday night, tis was a great meal and exhibited why Incanto is such a great (and maybe even, gasp, "important") restaurant. The menu is lost in my car somewhere, but I will try to recreate. As a quick aside, I suggest finding the Chris Cosentino videos on chow.com to understand his philosophy. This meal really highlighted his view that the fifth quarter can really expand the arsenal of tools (in terms of texture and flavor) that a chef has.
Pigs ear stuffed with pork and mirepoix. This was a delicious head-cheese like dish. The pork/mirepoix filling was great and I really liked the gelatinous, though slightly crunchy, texture of the ear. Sort of reminded me of jellyfish.
Ox-tongue pastrami, little gems, rye and pickled onions. Seriously, a perfect salad. Who knew that a pastrami sandwich could be deconstructed to make something delicious and maybe even healthy.
Grilled lamb spleen bruschetta with salsa picante. This is the second time I have had spleen (first was a great sandwich from an old Italian deli in Red Hook Brooklyn). Spleen is great. It is a bit chewy, but also more "meaty" than liver or kidney. Sort of half-way between liver and heart. But it still has the great organy flavor. And the spicy sauce really went well with the meat, as did the arugula (what doesn't go well with arugula?). The only issue with this dish was that it was too big given that it was a 6 course meal. One slice of spleen would have been enough--though complaining that there was too much food seems a pit picky, right?
Chris' last meal: Boccalone blood sausage, oyster, and fried duck eggs. Chris knows how to choose a last meal. Boccalone blood sausage is just amazing. I definitely recommend everyone try it, and it is on th regular Incanto menu quite often. The perfectly fried duck egg was nice and crispy for a good textural contrast, and the yolk nicely enriched the sausage, as if blood sausage needs enrichment. The oyster was good, not amazing, though seemed like a non-sequitor. (If on the off chance Chris is reading this, I have a recommendation for next year using oysters: how about a surf and turf with oysters and "oysters"?)
Humble pie with Suet crust: This was my least favorite. It was sort a deconstructed potpie. Pieces of heart, kidney and liver (goat I think) in a rich stock-based sauce with carrots, peas, turnips, and onions. On top was a disk of suet pie crust. The crust was ridiculously good, especially after it soaked up the sauce. The liver and kidneys I only found ok, though the heart was delicious.
Beef tendon "ambrosia" with fresh berries and cream. I love how he always incorporates some meaty thing in the dessert. I think he candied the tendons a bit and sliced them super thin. They were like sweet chewy noodles. I think if you didn't know they were tendons, you would never know it was an animal product. And the berries and cream were great.
Overall, the food was great, though I still think the roman haggis from two years ago was the best offal dish ever.
Service was ok. The waitress was a little frazzled since she was the only one serving the back room and there was a big group (8 top I think). The food was also paced a little slowly, but I guess that is fine given the richness of the meal. My only gripe about the wine service was that they wouldn't split a glass of wine. I would have liked to share the wine pairings, but they wouldn't accommodate. Oh well. Not going to affect my decision to come back.
The preliminary menu on the Web site lists:
Pastramied ox tongue with pickled little gems & rye
Sicilian lamb spleen bruschetta with Caciocavallo & salsa piccante
Blood sausage, duck egg & warm oysters
Goat humble pie with suet crust
Beef tendon salad ambrosia, summer berries & cream
Incanto Restaurant & Wine Bar
1550 Church St, San Francisco, CA 94131