Perbacco, San Francisco
In this the epicenter of all that is holy in foodie-land, it is not sufficient for a restaurant to call itself Italian if it is to lay claim upon the foodie’s attention. Sicilian? Yes. Piedmontese? Sure. Tuscan? So early 2009. It is hard to believe that there are many folks here who can tell a Tuscan meatball from a Piedmontese meatball. We most certainly cannot. So when we set out for Perbacco, it was just with the expectation of some good food. And boy, they did not disappoint.
We went to Perbacco for a weekday lunch. Lunch? Yes. You see, we were planning to go to Ad Hoc for dinner the same day. Playing hooky from work too. Now feel free to hate us.
Perbacco is located in the financial district of San Francisco, in a fairly standard space with a dash of exposed brick here, leather chairs there, and spotlit art-y stuff hanging on the walls. Basically things you can safely ignore and focus on the food.
We ordered a pasta for our first course. The server asked if we were going to share and had the kitchen split the dishes for us. This may seem like a small thing, but the request to split has often elicited raised eyebrows at San Francisco establishments. It was nice to see a down-to-earth attitude at a first rate restaurant.
The pasta was Tagliatelle with Short Rib Ragu and grated Horseradish. The ragu was so unctuous with more beef flavor packed into it than one would think possible. Horseradish added a little touch of sharpness which contrasted well with the richness of the ragu. I felt the Tagliatelle was texturally fine, but my companion thought it could be a little more al dente.
Our second course was mackerel with caponata. I realize that every little town in Italy probably has its own version of the dish and that sons of the soil will defend their grand-mama’s version to the last. This one seemed a little too cleaned up to be authentic. Elegant slices of aubergine, red pepper, and onion layered upon the plate underneath a roasted fresh mackerel. But given that every piece on that plate was cooked just so, authenticity be damned.
We wanted to try a little more than just two dishes, so we ordered a couple of sides – corn with chanterelle mushrooms, and romano beans in a tomato sauce. The corn’s sweetness was offset expertly by the smokiness of chanterelles. And I offset the butteriness later with statins. The romano beans were fresh, tender, in a porky tomato sauce, and also excellent.
We ended the meal with an espresso. Didn’t want to nod off on the drive to Ad Hoc (via Domaine Chandon).
The sweet old couple at the next table talking about some kinky San Francisco sex business were just local color.