SF weekend report - Canteen, Rhea's, Bi Rite and Kokkari.
I tried to be brief but it never works.
This weekend I had the fortunate task of acting as tour guide for a friend of mine who is relatively unacquainted with SF.
Roti Roti at the Ferry Bldg. They were out of porchetta sandwiches so we split a 1/2 roast chicken and potatoes. I have wanted to try the chicken for years, but due to time constraints could not wait in line. It did not disappoint and went beyond my expectations.
XOX Truffles, North Beach. My friend loves chocolate. He got a small box and only shared his sample with me. LOL, I am surprised he didn’t put them in the hotel safe after we got back to the hotel. We tried the earl grey truffle. We both loved how the flavor lingered on the tongue.
Duck Confit salad w/ sour cherry gastrique and hazel nuts. I think it had radicchio in it as well. It needed a touch of salt, but other than that it was deliscious. The tart cherry contrasted nicely with duck and hazelnuts. Rolls on the side were like the love child of a dinner roll and a croissant.
Smoked trout and mussel soup - kind of a cream soup w/ mussels as the stock. Though it was little on the subtle side it was very well balanced in terms of indgredients. It had an anise garnish with made gave it a slight hint of spring.
Wall eye tuna w/kale, lentils and pumpkin pesto: The kale was more like a little salad and had hints of horseradish or mustard, the lentils were perfect and the small portion that was just enough. The pesto was beyond compare. It had pumpkin seeds, coriander seeds and possibly parsley and I think something similar to harissa. The tuna was cooked on the outside and rare inside, it was perfect and the whole dish worked together well. I wanted more pesto and my friend wanted more lentils. The roll was perfect with the small amount of leftover pesto.
Almond cake w/carmelized apple and creme fraiche - My friend is not a huge eater, but it was so good he devoured the dessert quickly. The almond cake was like a sponge cake that had been toasted on the top. I’d love this cake with coffee for breakfast.
I had the small bottle of Poet’s Leap Riesling. I like dry rieslings a lot, but usually don’t find a lot of places that serve them. For my tastes I found this one was to be perfect. I loved how both the acidic and sweet qualities complimented the entire meal. The wine list was one of the big surprises for me, it was accessible and affordable. It has been a long time since I have seen such a low key wine list.
Overall, Canteen deserves all the accolades. I loved the atmosphere and thought Chef Leary was kind of a cutie. I admire Dennis Leary’s commitment to cooking high quality, innovative food for smaller groups. The service was great, we both felt very well looked after.
Rhea’s Market and Deli - We split the Korean steak sandwich. The elements of the sandwich came together really well: marinated rib eye in a bulgolgi type sauce, cheddar cheese, garlic chili sauce, pickled onions, fresh onion, pepperocinis, lettuce and garlic aioli served on an Acme roll. I had been craving a good unique sandwich and thought it hit the spot. We enjoyed the benches outside and watched the football game revelry at the pub across the street from a distance.
We stopped into Craftsmen and Wolves. Next month I am taking a friend for tea and wanted to get a feel for the place, though probably not her type of place (she is kind of a diva type), I can see returning and sampling some of their offerings.
We also peaked into Dandelion Chocolate. My friend is a hot chocoholic and was drooling from the aromas. Despite my offer to buy him a cup he wanted to go to Bi Rite Creamery instead.
Bi Rite creamery - He had one scoop salted caramel and one scoop malted vanilla with peanut brittle and milk chocolate pieces. I lived it up with the berry sundae, it was like it had all the seasons rolled into one. It had ginger ice cream, lemon ginger snap pieces and blueberry compote. We were both crazy about our choices. I have tried Humphrey Slocumbe on a few occasions, but Bi Rite always wins my heart. I learned a lovely lesson from my friend. I was a bit deterred by the line, but decided to persevere. His thought was to think of what I might miss because I don’t have the patience to wait. While we waited he loved the all of the commotion over the 49er’s . We sat on the sunny side of the street on the steps of Mission High School to enjoy our treats. I think between people watching during lunch on Valencia St. and soaking in the park activity he has a new sense of what SF can be about.
Kokkari - He had the braised lamb shank w/orzo and mizithra cheese, we shared the tziki (his choice) and eggplant dips. I had the citrus salad w/dates, candied walnuts and rose water. As my main I had the roasted goat with arugula and roasted potatoes. He loved his lamb shank. I tasted the lamb and it was good, but not braised enough for me. He felt the mizithra got lost, but more would not be better. I loved the salad and will definitely recreate it at home. I thought the goat was perfectly seasoned and prepared and was over the moon with the rib that was a part of the dish. I think I might pursue goat chops to prepare at home, I love lamb chops, but the goat rib was much more succulent. My only quibble is that they should have served it with a grain instead of potatoes, maybe it was off to me because I had Roti Roti the day before. We didn’t order wine or dessert. Between Bi Rite and walking all day we needed rehydration and less sweets. Service was perfect, Todd our waiter was warm and professional and although very busy really looked after us.
My overall thoughts on Kokkari: I liked the space a lot. I feared it would be noisy and ended up being happy with the noise level. I can see returning here with a group and sampling the mezethes and sharing a couple of the entrees. I can also see going there and having a couple of the small dishes and a glass of wine at the bar. I especially liked how they had a lot of different seating configurations, bar seating, banquette, large and small tables and what appeared to be a community table which is actually a chef’s table. As for the hype, Greek food to me is not one area that I would pursue for higher end preparation. I live in a neighborhood with several Mediterranean and Greek restaurants and markets, so I am a bit spoiled as it is not a novel cuisine to me. However, I would imagine it must be amazing for those people who don’t have access to Greek cuisine on a regular. Despite this I can see returning they have so much to offer that is uniquely different from other Greek restaurants.
Between some of the places we visited and ate I think my friend had a memorable experience in SF. I had fun playing tour guide too. It was so hard narrowing down choices, but between my friend’s sense of adventure, spectacular weather and good public transportation the trip was a success. PS I think I might be purchasing a rotisserie, I am sort of hooked now on rotisserie meats.
Nice report! Too bad about the porchetta at RR -- couldn't tell if you had tried it previously. If not, you're gonna have to go back :-). I think it makes a perfect breakfast, which also avoids the egregious lineup.
"Chef Leary was kind of a cutie": sho nuff. I've had a tremendous Chow crush on him for years, which is a combo of how he cooks and how he looks. Sounds like he has another convert. Also glad the wine list worked for you. It was a little off for us on our last visit, which can happen when it is so brief.