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Picco Restaurant--some confusion; longish review


Restaurants & Bars

Picco Restaurant--some confusion; longish review

al@Fairfax | Oct 3, 2005 12:22 PM

Saturday evening we decided to try Picco Restaurant in Larkspur which had recieved positive comments on this board and in reviews and blogs. That plus the reputation of the chef, Chris Hill, Picco's commitment to local food, as well as our unfamiliarity with the small-plates-to-share style of Picco had us curious to try one of the newer Marin places.

The menu is divided into raw seafood, cooked seafood, soups/salads, sides and mains. We began with halibut ceviche and wild salmon crudo. Both were lovely presentations and we were impressed before we had even had a taste. The server asked if we wanted him to remove our "share plates" which had been in place when we were seated. Our what? Oh, uhh, no we will share. Which we did with great pleasure. Next we had ordered two salads, me an arugula and fig salad with tiny gougere-like cheese balls and candied roast walnuts; my wife, an heirloom tomato plate with a creamy garlic dressing. The server removed our share plates, with their pools of ceviche juices, but we had no easy way to share the salad plates which were anything but small. Good though, and we ate them happily sharing only a taste of each other's dish.

For the mains, my wife had ordered a short rib curry with gnocchi. Either an Italian grandmother or a Thai one might be shocked by this combination, but it was a daring attempt at fusion that worked: nicely spiced yellow curry, very tasty beef and surprisingly fluffy gnocchi, served in a bowl. I ordered duck breast with radiccio and berries. Neither of these were what I would call a small dish, unless they were shared; certainly each was a small dish for two. However, there was no way to share these dishes. In fact, my only complaint about the short rib curry was that there was too little beef in it for a $20 dish. As for the duck, it was a small breast that was barely enough for one (not a healthy Liberty Farm size) and was unfortunately quite tough.

For dessert, my wife chose the El Rey chocolate ganache with a selection of several ground things to dip it in, like finely chopped pistachios, dried banana, and other quaint powders. A very strange idea, this large scoop of what was essentially very rich and sweet frosting and sprinkles that would work on a cake. But it really needed the cake. I had a tiny taste and was glad I had chosen a couple of the good local cheeses to finish our wine with--it would not have fared too well in the Chowhounds picnic chocolate tasting, I thought. My wife made a gallant try but could barely make a dent in this super sweet mound and asked that it be taken away. Our primary server said it would be removed from the bill, for which I thanked her and her response gave me the impression that it was not an infrequent response to this dish.

As for wine, since we had brought a bottle of red from home--a 2000 Hartford Family Marin pinot, in keeping with the local food theme (Picco's corkage fee is $20)-- I did not get beyond the whites by the glass page. The selection there was quite good, with balance between domestic and imports. The very dry vouvray was perfect with the raw fish dishes.

So, mixed review on the food: if I return, I think I will get a bottle of white wine and try all of the raw fish dishes. That is what stands out for me. That and some confusion over what is meant by small plates, and sharing. Perhaps I can frame a question on this for the General Topics list. But as far as Picco goes, dishes seemed to big to be called small although not big enough to be full plates either. And the option to share seemed to be hit or miss.

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