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Tonno Rosso Report

nja | Jul 19, 2004 11:59 AM

I was in the mood for Italian seafood this weekend so I decided to check out Tonno Rosso.

We started with two appetizers. The Insalata Tropicale sounded good--avocado, grapefruit, sweet corn, hearts of palm--but unfortunately everything was bland, even after several pinches of salt from the shaker on the table. Much better was the hamachi tartare. A molded cylinder of chopped fresh, sweet fish was mixed with preserved meyer lemons and topped with creme fraiche and capers. The plate also had a few garlicy croutons and mache. The hamachi, lemon, caper, and garlic flavors worked very well together and the texture contrasts of the crunchy croutons, tender fish, and oozy creme was most enjoyable.

While there were several fish pastas and entrees, the rest of the menu contains mostly terrestrial meats: beef, chicken, rabbit, etc. We stuck with our plan and got the halibut in "crazy" sauce and calamaretta with calamari and white beans. The halibut was a beatiful white slab of fresh fish, crispy on the outside from pan frying, and topped with chopped ginger and capers. The fish was sitting in a bowl of broth with peeled cherry tomatoes. The ginger and caper sauce was lively and zesty and the tomatoes sweet and bursting. I didn't enjoy the pasta dish as much. The large rings on pasta (made to resemble slices of calamari body) were al dente, though a couple spots were a little to crunchy. The calamari was fresh and tender enough, and the beans creamy and flavored with seafood. I don't think there was really much wrong with the dish, but it was just so earthy and subtle that it tasted tiresome after having the ginger-laden halibut first. Erika, who started with the calamari, felt the opposite: she enjoyed the pasta but thought the halibut was too aggressive.

We also shared a plate of the truffle potato chips. As a truffle lover I very much enjoyed these. The chips are paper thin and translucent and fried fresh to order. They're mixed with truffle oil, salt, chives, and grana padano. The truffle oil was incredibly intense--two days later and I think I can still taste it! We polished off the large portion in no time.

A service snafu resulted in the potatoes arriving after we had finished our entrees. So we ended up calling that dessert and finished.

The list contains a few dozen Italian wines and another few dozen Californians. We opted for a bottle of 2002 Inama Soave Classico (about $30), which went well with our seafood dishes.

Total cost including tax and tip came to $105.

Service was a little bit spacy, but other than forgetting to bring the potatoes it was adequate. It was a fairly warm evening so the floor-to-ceiling windows facing Embarcadero were thrown open. Most of the night we enjoyed the cool breezes and soothing sounds of traffic (hey, I fell asleep to the sound of a freeway while growing up). As we were about finishing up, a homeless person started throwing smoke bombs at the YMCA several doors down and some of the smoke drifted into the restaurant. A few servers chased him away and put an end to that.

Overall, I enjoyed my meal. But it didn't leave me with a craving to return, and if I'm ever in the mood for Italian seafood again I'll probably return to Pesce or try someplace new.

-Nick

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