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Jan 21, 2010 08:19 AM

Perbacco - Best Meal There Yet

I've been to Perbacco a number of times over the years, but each time there was usually a dish that didn't quite achieve perfection or a service annoyance that kept me from liking it over Incanto.

Now, a year later, Perbacco seems to be firing on all cylinders. Agnolotti of Vitellone were richly comforting and utterly delicious without being flashy, anolot al tacchino (looked like ravioli) of heritage turkey had a ridiculous richness of flavor and a super-concentrated sugo, punched up with black truffle and chicken liver in little crisp flavorful bits. A chanterelle appetizer was so good it actually made me a little frustrated that I can never manage to prepare chanterelles so well at home.

My favorite dish was probably the Devil's Gulch rabbit entree, a steal at $25. The loin and other pieces of meat were reassembled into a nice big cylinder, that had delicate little "rack of rabbit" bones sticking up out of the middle. Before cooking, I think all the meat was removed from the bones and then reassembled, so it turned out to be very easy to eat. It was perfectly seasoned and roasted, with the richness of flavor from cooking on the bone but none of the drawbacks. There was also a large meaty haunch that had been braised in wine sauce, delicious rich otto file polenta, lovely odds and ends of vegetables such as small hunks of what might have been sunchokes, braised baby cipollini onions, and some braised bitter greens to balance the richness. All in all, a very involved preparation that resulted in perfectly cooked delicious meat and a well-rounded plate that managed to be understated yet delicious.

For dessert, the salted caramel gelato was everything it should be, and the pistachio panna cotta was perfect - a nice flavor from the pistachio, barely firm enough to stand up, and not at all starchy. Years ago, I had the same panna cotta, but the pistachio didn't seem as finely ground and perhaps hadn't been cooked enough to lose its starchiness, and I didn't think the dessert was successful. This time, it was right on.

The only slight problem we encountered was that our table wasn't ready for about 15 minutes after our reservation, but that's not a big deal considering our reservation was at 8 PM and once we were seated, the table was ours for the night.

As always, the wine list is well-curated and we ended up with an unusual recommendation, a verduno pelaverga, that was a somewhat eccentric light and acidic foil to the rich pastas and rabbit. It wasn't a hit with everyone at the table, but that's probably my fault for asking for something that wasn't fruity or tannic. At $45, I felt it was a good value and I will probably search it out at retail locally.

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  1. Your report has me leaning toward Perbacco for our March trip, SteveG :-). Do you know if the menu changes frequently here?

    1 Reply
    1. re: grayelf

      The menu changes all the time, but it's always the same structure in terms of types of dishes, with a range of light to heavy and seared to braised, if that makes sense.

    2. I totally agree. I was in San Francisco for a few days within the past couple months. The meal I had at Perbacco was so wonderful, I went back the next night. The Devil's Gulch rabbit is a home run (I had it the second night). The vitello tonnato is delicate with the tuna flavor not overpowering the veal. The pork shoulder was one of the most memorable comfort food dishes I've had.

      3 Replies
      1. re: pinpei

        Okay, I think it's Perbacco for us. Thanks much.

        1. re: grayelf

          I agree, it's an excellent choice - we've had three very fine dinners at Perbacco - love the pork shoulder for comfort food!

          1. re: Cynsa

            Drat, just noticed Perbacco is closed Sunday which was the day I had them down for. Will have to do a bit of juggling.