|Lamb Tongue Amuse|
It is these things that keep me coming back to the table. Food would be empty without the ritual, reduced to a meaningless intake of calories consumed with no objective other than survival. For though we must eat, if we do not learn to savor, we are missing the ultimate point.
|Parmesan Budino ~ delectable!|
|Red Abalone with Italian Butter Beans|
The menu was a prix fixe designed and presumably prepared by Co-Owner and Chef Suzanne Gresham. The first treat that arrived from the Chef was a small cocktail. A refreshing combination of orange juice, sweet vermouth and bitters. The drink was a lovely melon color, its citrus flavor sweetened with vermouth and balanced with bitters — a perfect palate cleanser to begin the meal. That ceremony of cleansing the palate, a step in an evening that continued in a liturgy of ritual.
The amuse bouche arrived next. While not an Italian concept, it was wonderfully adapted to this Italian meal. It presented itself as a lovely bit of lamb tongue, gently stuffed with a seasoned goat ricotta, plated with a dash of cranberry relish. The colors were appetizing, the taste was refreshing and unexpected.
|Chopped Beef Tartare |
with Parmesan cream, Quail Egg and Truffle Drizzle
My next course was a beautiful Parmesan Budino, sprinkeld with Mushrooms “Trifolati” and sprinkled with shaved Parmigiano “Vacche Rosse.” The dish was a creamy truffle-flavored bowl of something akin to a cheese pudding. It was like a savory dessert, softer than a risotto and somehow richer.
The rest of the family each ordered the Chopped Beef Tartare with Parmesan cream, Quail Egg and Truffle Drizzle. My taste of their dish revealed the meat to have a spicy quality, just a hint of pepper enhancing the naturally fatty flavor of the raw beef, yet allowing the quality of the meat itself to remain the star of the dish.
|Corn Pasta Ravioli with Brown Butter|
The GS also ordered a Corn Pasta Ravioli with brown butter. She is allergic to fish, and most restaurants have been exceedingly accommodating. This ravioli was awash in the summery sweet corn, and smothered in gently browned butter. The dark rich smoky fat in the butter gave the corn a slightly melancholy air, as though it had been imbued with the end of summer. How appropriate for October, which is our Indian Summer here in California.
When the GS’s meal arrived it had put our own tasting menus off sync, so the restaurant thoughtfully provided the BH and I two a savory little taste sensation with which to bide our time while we awaited our own meals. We were presented with a tiny dish of two ravioli, one pasta pillow was a concoction of Teleggio, the other a mix of Asiago cheeses, each sitting gracefully in perhaps the best simple tomato sauce I have ever tasted. Since both my grandparents were from the old country, I can assertively state that I know my tomato sauces.
|Cheese Plate Perfection|
Next up was a dish of Red Abalone with Italian Butter Beans, that I had requested as a substitution from the Chef’s Tasting Menu. The abalone was served with a chavel romaine in a piping-hot seaweed brodo. BH had the Butter-poached Lobster Tail, which was an abundance of seafood, including stuffed calamari and crusted mussels. The Grad Student had the Souvide ‘Bavette’ of American Kobe Beef with braised oxtail stuffed squash bone and basil. All three of these dishes were spectacular.
|Succulent Lobster, with spicy Diavolicchio Peppers|
We shared three beautiful desserts, my BH ordering the Valrhona Dark Chocolate Ganache with bing cherries and mascarpone; I had the Bourbon Caramel Semifreddo with Amaretti Crumbs and a delicate drizzle of chocolate sauce. The whipped cream and bourbon pudding made this light, chilled flavorful delight. The Grad Student decided to join us and ordered the Vanilla Scented Panna Cotta with moscato poached peaches, plum sorbet and marcona almonds. Each dessert was a heavenly melange of flavor and texture.
The staff were extremely gracious about making our substitutions work within the dinner service. It is worth remarking that overall the service at Acquerello was absolutely first rate. They were knowledgeable, organized and attentive to detail, which made the entire experience absolute bliss.
The Ancient Romans understood the value of progressive, ritualized dining. Whether instinctively or by trial and error, they recognized an inherent value to the human spirit of savoring each course gradually: first with sight, smell and then taste. This method of eating had stimulative benefits that went well beyond the taste buds alone, encouraging conversation and furthering a healthy development of human interaction. Though they may have indulged in their traditions a little too enthusiastically, that which remains of their customs has been refined into something that if not overdone, can greatly improve the human condition. I found my experience elevating, as though the Deipnosophistae were once again seated at the table.
|Creamy Cheese beautifully displayed|
1722 Sacramento Street
San Francisco, CA 94109-3619