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More on Da Flora

Melanie Wong | | Jul 22, 2001 09:10 PM

Last weekend I had a chance to return to Da Flora (701 Columbus Ave., SF, 415.981.4664), the first since our Chowhound dinner there in April (link below). My companions this visit were two dear friends from Toronto. They'd asked me to choose an undiscovered cozy place for an intimate but not too expensive dinner. Sounded like Da Flora to a T to me.

For apps, to my delight, they chose the three winners from our first outing - shaved bottarga on toast with marinated cucumbers/fennel, sweet potato gnocchi in prosciutto cream sauce, and polpi in lemony olive oil dressing that was so delicious to mop up with the light and airy foccacia bread. We shared these and two mains - orrechetti with rabe and osso bucco risotto.

Both were fine renditions with the pasta just nosing out the risotto, imho. The rabe was chopped which made it easier to eat with the ear-shaped pasta and sauteed with plenty of minced garlic. The crushed pepperoncini accent is what made this dish. So gentle in flavor, more of a sensation of a warm buzz in the mouth, rather than a taste. Surprising what a difference the right pepper flake can make, a departure from the harshness of other types. The risotto was rich and creamy, a different recipe than the rice that accompanied the seafood last time. This was the right backdrop for the falling off the bone and succulent veal on the whole shank.

I'd brought in my Riedel Chianti Classico glasses (Flora said, Melanie, you're too weird) to show off acidic wines from the all Italian list to best advantage. My friends chose two fabulous examples of Northern Italian winemaking, both from master producer Cantina Terlano.

The 1997 Pinot Bianco (~$35) from a single vineyard site in Alto Adige was the essence of subtlety. A nuance of citrus here, a little pear over there, the taste of lemon cream, and a very light hand with oak. The back label said this cuvée was aged in wood for 12 months, but the taste of wood was nearly imperceptible. We would have been hard-pressed to identify oak aging with any confidence, only evident in the broadening on the palate and the mouthfeel, rather than a specific taste of vanilla or toast. The wine was deliciously fresh and vibrant with good acid balance, yet showed some complexity from bottle aging. Really fantastic with the appetizers.

The red was 1998 "Porphyr" Lagrein (~$65) offering my first taste of this indigenous grape variety. In contrast to the white, this wine had a big slug of new oak flavor, but it was in balance with the powerful fruit. The character of Lagrein was somewhere between Syrah and Dolcetto, if that makes any sense. Lots of black plum flavor and blueberries, rounded lush mouthfeel, moderate acidity, and not much tannin. Best enjoyed now for the delicious and exuberant youthful fruit.

Another very wonderful evening.