Sunday, April 20, 2014

Week 16 - La Traviata

I am distantly related to Suzanne Adams, an opera singer who lived from 1872 to 1953.  She was, according to her wikipedia entry, "known for her agile and pure voice".  She was one of the Metropolitan Opera's leading sopranos at the beginning of the 20th century.  She also performed throughout Europe, including for Queen Victoria.  At that performance she received an autographed photo of the Queen, which has been passed down through my family over the years, and which now sits on my father's desk.  All of this is just to say that despite my almost totally unblemished ignorance of opera, I was able to secretly feel like a bit of an insider while dining at La Traviata.

Zef Shilaku opened La Traviata in 1973, and it's fair to say he may have cared more about opera than he cared about restaurants.  To this day, opera music plays softly in the background, the walls are covered with photos of opera stars, and many well known opera names have dined within those very walls, including Pavarotti, the one opera star I can name, other than Suzanne Adams.

The roses on the tables are real.

And I'm sure none of those vocal luminaries went away disappointed.  Nalani and I sure didn't.  It's a cozy place, and a bit worn around the edges, though I'd say it feels more worn in than worn out.  The food was delicious and reasonably priced, and the service was super friendly.  (We were waited on by two distinguished gentlemen who, I dare say, may have started there originally on opening day back in '73.)

Nalani had the Pollo Alla Beverly Sills (chicken breast rolled with pancetta, mozzarella, sauteed mushrooms & white wine) and I had the Melanzane Alla Vaness (layered eggplant, mozzarella, parmesan & tomato sauce).  Neither one was flashy, but both were wholesome and tasty.  Our shared salad was good too.

While Nalani can be counted on for dessert, I usually skip it, but tonight we actually got two desserts, and two dessert wines.  Nalani got the pana cotta, about which she used the word "terrible" and I got the spumoni, which was also really for Nalani, if we're being honest, and which she declared "awful".  Desserts are so often the Achilles heel, which is one of the reasons I usually give them a miss, but where Nalani and desserts are concerned, hope springs eternal.  The wines were good though.

One side note: this is the 16th restaurant we've been to so far this year as part of this project, and the third where they accidentally left something off the bill.  Tonight, when I pointed out that they had not charged us for either of our desserts, or either of our dessert wines, one of the waiters shouted, "Charge him double!"  Needless to say, they did not.  In fact, they didn't charge us for the wine at all, and actually topped up our empty glasses.

Would We Go There Again

Heck yeah.  It's close, comfortable, and delicious.  We'll skip dessert though.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Week 15 - La Mar

Today we went to La Mar, a schmancy Peruvian seafood place.  They have a big, fancy restaurant, which we didn't set foot in.  But out front they have a separate bar, which was small and sun-filled, and had a happy hour (daily, 3:00 to 6:00).

We had a nice time and the happy hour prices were very reasonable, but the food and drinks were hit or miss.  The Passion Daiquiri was meh, the Pisco Punch was OK, the Prickly Pear Margaritas were fantastic.

We got the Cebichin Mixto (catch of the day, very good), Chicharrón de Pollo Antichuchero (fried chicken, Nalani thought good, Ben thought OK), the Causa Limeña (potato and Dungeness crab, great), the Pancito con Chicharrón (pork belly sandwich, Ben thought great, Nalani thought OK), and the calamari, which was the only thing we got that was really not good, we didn't finish it.  (Nalani wants to know: how do you screw up calamari?)

Not the place for you if you don't like red onions.

Would We Go There Again

We wouldn't go out of our way, but La Mar is down on the Embarcadero, a pleasant stroll from the South Beach Marina, and we would totally come here again for happy hour after a day of sailing.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Week 14 - Griddle Fresh

Breakfast used to be my favorite meal out, but Nalani is more of a dinner girl.  Plus our east-facing deck overlooking San Francisco Bay makes for such a nice, sun-warmed breakfast spot.  None the less, we do go out for breakfast on the weekend not infrequently, and when we do, we usually end up at Serpentine, which has been our untoppled favorite for a while now.  So, can Griddle Fresh in Noe Valley mix things up for us?

The service was competent, though not exactly what I'd call warm, and the ambiance was unremarkable, mixed with just a touch of self consciously quirky.

But the food.  The food was so very good.  Nalani got the Spicy Pop Pulled Pork Scramble, which was great, though she wished it came with BBQ sauce.  As did I, though to be honest, I wish pretty much everything came with BBQ sauce.  I got the Sea Board Benedict, which was excellent.  The crab and the shrimp were very salty, too salty really, but they were also really fresh and flavorful.  The eggs were perfectly done, and the hollandaise sauce was dolloped on in just the right amount.  Nalani and I both really liked how the hash browns were super flat and crispy, and how the english muffins had been done on the grill.

But forget all that.  What we really need to talk about are the pancakes.  They have a couple varieties, but we got the Lemon Ricotta Souffle Pancake.  On the outside they look like regular pancakes, but on the inside they're filled with puréed unicorn, or something.  They were divine.

Would We Go There Again

It hasn't knocked Serpentine from the top spot, but we'd go back just to try the other pancake variety, the Banana Mascarpone Souffle Pancake.