I have to add my raves about Perbacco to those in the thread below,
and others. Hubby and I ate there last night, and we are both eager to return. Indeed, I walked out feeling more excited about a new restaurant than I have in quite some time. Hubby’s reaction is perhaps even more telling: you know a restaurant is great if he is happy after braving the financial District in the evening, and has to walk through a ridiculously noisy bar to eat there! It is exactly the time of place he normally shuns (hubby much more prefers homey places) but the wonderful food and seamless service won him over...
First of all, about the bar: some nice booths along the wall, but it was so crowded and noisy as to be quite unappealing. However, since we were asked when we first walked in if we were ‘with the bank’, before I could even get my name out, I suspect the crowd might have largely been a group waiting to start a holiday party in their private dining room or upstairs area.
Happily, we were seated in the quietest corner of the dining room, in what might have been the nicest table there (a cozy two top tucked in the corner with lots of space and a view of the entire room) and the noise was not an issue once past the bar area. The dining room itself is fairly large and square, (not narrow as implied in one of the posts I read) with the brick wall on one side (hubby says this is a famous, restored wall?), with nice paintings of presumably Italian landscapes and narrow mirrors lining the other walls. It has an upscale, somewhat elegant feel, but I noticed many patrons in jeans. I’d call it relaxing but certainly not sedate. We were there early, and it probably hops quite a bit more when full.
Service was outstanding. As Robert L mentioned in his SF Weekly review (linked within the link above), they have their act together, and have hit their stride already, with no indication that this is a relatively new place. We let them know we had a deadline to leave, and the pacing was perfect to meet it, with water and wine glasses kept filled. We had a knowledgeable, professional server. No mis-steps on service at all. They even ordered us a cab after dinner exactly when requested.
(Well, ok, one very minor complaint: they ordered the cab, it came as ordered, but the valet wasn’t aggressive enough about holding it for a few seconds while we walked outside (the hostess had encouraged us to wait inside since it was raining), and someone ran up from the other side of the street and took it! Result: we were a bit late for our next stop. But really, even this sad mini-tale was an indication of the quality of the restaurant: we cut our timing too close for the rainy weather just to be able to savor our desserts and coffee a bit longer, and in all honesty is probably more of a reflection of our naivete about how tough cabs can be in the FiDi on rainy Friday nights than it is even a critism of the poor, wet, if not very assertive valet!)
Anyway, what really matters is the food: and all of our choices were excellent to outstanding. After great breadsticks, I had the agnolotti that monday describes: it was indeed perfect. I definitely need to sample more of the pasta menu. Hubby had the beet salad, less trandescent, but also excellent.
Hubby ordered the quail with winter fruits and greens as a main. This also was almost a salad: warm marinated quail halves served on dandelions and arugula, with persimmon, pomegranate seeds, and bits of pear. It was a perfect balance of tangy marindate and sauce, bitter greens, sweeter fruit, and the quail, that was perfectly (that is not overly) cooked, with subtle gaminess to add a bit of richness to the mix. A truly lovely dish, probably on the Cal-Ital end of the menu's spectrum.
The website states that “Perbacco introduces urban San Francisco to the full range of flavors found in the Italian regions of Piemonte and Liguria, with a touch of France by way of Provence.” I thought my roasted wild steelhead trout definitely reflected a Cal-French influence, though I wouldn’t call it Provencale. In any event, the fish was roasted and served with skin on (but without the head or tail, a minor disappointment given that the menu described it as 'whole roasted', but then, I guess adult steelhead might be too large for one portion?), and covered with a surprisingly rich cream sauce (the French influence?) with a garnish of finely chopped beets. The fish was cooked perfectly (again, that is to say, still rare). The generous portion of potatoes served on the side was roughly smashed with olive oil. They were a very nice and more rustic contrast to the delicate fish and sauce, and were absolutely delicious: by far the best potatoes I can remember as a side dish in a long time....yum!
We had not planned on dessert, but how could we not: I had the pistachio panna cotta, which was lovely, and hubby had the trio of gelatos. (Espresso, chocolate and caramel) All three were very good, but only the caramel gelato wowed, especially with the salty contrast provided by a garnish of kelp...).
The wine list is interesting, with a mostly but not exclusively Italian focus. There is also a nice selection of wines by the glass, quarter liter, or half liter. I believe the list on the website is only a portion of the full list.
The menu is printed daily (and changes regularly) and, interestingly, some of the prices are a tiny bit lower than indicated on the website. For example, my small order of agnolotti, listed on the website at $12, was only $10. The mains last night were also towards the lower range (though different) that what indicated on the web: the quail was $21; Steelhead was $22. I thought that it was all good value, particularly for the downtown location. I now finally have a truly worthy answer to the question I face every June of a not-too-expensive place downtown to host a meeting of folks from around the country to give them a taste of what eating in San Francisco can mean....
Highly recommended, and we will be back.