Friday, February 16, 2007

Two Underrated Restaurants

We have recently been to two restaurants that we really like, but that do not seem to be as popular as their yumminess warrants, in our humble opinion.

We went to Zuppa for Valentine's Day dinner. Zuppa is an airy loft-like place on 4th Street, in San Francisco, in the middle of the bustling SOMA district. Perhaps the problem is that they are competing with so many other good places like Coco500 and Bacar. But still, for the food, the place we come back to is Zuppa. We like the atmosphere and the service. There is a fabulous Sicilian waitress who manages to remember us, even though we don't go very often. She always recommends our wine, normally a Sicilian one, and it is always good. It doesn't hurt that she is quite attractive. She never seems ruffled when Peter gets a bit more drunk than your average American. She seems to think, perhaps, that this is a good thing. The great part about Zuppa's food are the starters, pizza, and pasta. They lack a bit on the main courses which tend to be fine, but not as delicious as what preceded. For this reason, we tend to just get a lot of the smaller dishes and share. On Valentines Day, we started off with some paper thin slices of Coppa, a type of cured meat. We then moved on to a tripe dish. I am not a big tripe fan. For me, it is just a vehicle for sauce. Peter and my son Gustaf, however, love the stuff. This tripe was the best I have ever had. It was served in a spicy tomato sauce which was so good that once the tripe was gone, and I had finished dipping my bread in it, Peter tipped up the bowl and slurped down the rest of the sauce. We then moved onto a pizza, which they really do well. All of them sounded great, but I decided on a ricotta with potato, bacon, and an egg. This reminded me of one of my favorite pizza's that I used to get with regularity in London, the aptly named English breakfast with sausage, mushroom, and a big egg on the top. The pizza was yummy, although slightly too peppery for my taste. We ended with pasta. I had shrimp and crab on linguine, which was creamy and delicious but not too heavy. Peter had a lamb ragu on top of thick peppardelle. It was hearty and rich, as one might expect. By this time, we were pretty full. But I couldn't resist dessert: a creamy panna cotta served with raisins stewed in wine . We left replete and satisfied, as we have done the last 3 or 4 times we have been there.

Yesterday, we stopped by for a late lunch at Taste (1513 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley) which is located in the new, dare I say, food mall in the Gourmet Ghetto. Taste is a wine bar with food. They have these machines where you can try various types of wine, by serving yourself. Kind of cool. But they have been through a few chefs and a number of incarnations since they have opened. Last time we were there, they were serving very seriously good food. A little too good for the decor and location. Now, they have changed concept to more of a tapas, echoing their neighbor Cesar. But their inspiration is all over the place. We had a charcuterie plate with some good cured meats and a nice chicken rillette. We followed that with some crispy spring rolls filled with the rillette and shiitake mushrooms, with a fresh chili dipping sauce. That was so yummy, we ordered another. We had a Moroccan chicken thing, which was good, but not great. We had French fries served with aioli. More yum. Finally, a banana fritter for dessert. This could use some improvement...maybe a caramel sauce would have upped the yum quotient. Still, the service was nice, and sitting by the window on a sunny day, snacking our way through the menu, seemed an absolutely fine way to fill our afternoon.

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