CHOW Tour
Two CHOW editors on a caloric extravaganza exploring innovation, novelty, and deliciousness. rss
See Where We've Eaten!

Guts, Fame, and Exciting Tripe

While Lessley was off investigating vegan Mexican food in the Mission, I was on the polar opposite journey, going to Chris Cosentino's manly meat temple Incanto. Now, it would be easy to get all cynical and dismissive about the restaurant since the chef (and Food Network star) was in the dining room signing autographs and taking photos with some fans while I was eating, but why get all petty when the food can speak for itself, and it's saying loud and clear: AWESOME.

Case in point: a tripe stew. I'm not a tripe hater. I like it in pho, since it sort of acts, texturally, like a meat noodle, but I'm not excited about it. I ordered the grilled trippa appetizer for that reason, since Cosentino has really done a lot of work toward making offal more accepted (and even glamorous), and I wanted to see if it was possible to get excited about tripe. And it was. A bowl showed up with a deeply savory broth, tender slices of grilled tripe that tasted and chewed like a meaty mushroom, crunchy pieces of bacon, and a pile of ancho cress thrown on top that, when mixed in, wilted perfectly into the soup, giving it a nice peppery flavor. I was going back to it to sop it up with the bread.

Wine-wise, a fun idea was the "mystery flight" on the menu. Three generous pours arrived for $15. And I appreciated that the restaurant put a little paper tag around the base of each glass with the wine info printed on it, so you could actually take it home to remember it.

Over the top but delicious: a big slice of seared foie gras served on—wait, that wasn't toasted bread—a breaded, fried trotter. Ridiculous, yes; delicious for sure. And the side of sliced strawberries, crunchy rhubarb, and tiny purslane leaves with a sweet/salty/tangy rhubarb mostarda showed a lot of love put into the nonmeat items, too.

Another game-changer for my prejudices: the stinging nettle and morel risotto. I think I've just had a lot of terrible, gluey risotto and now I avoid it. But in the spirit of the tripe, I ordered the thing I thought I'd like the least. It was the right move. Bright, bright green risotto arrived with a handful of morels on top. The nettle flavor was strong, giving the risotto a deep earthiness, which was intensified by the mushrooms. It was really, really rich and creamy. I will be going back for that dish.

The other thing that I was curious about was a mysterious "hayoli." It was just what it sounded like: aioli made with oil that had been infused with hay. It tasted like extremely grassy olive oil, sharp and peppery. It was served dabbed on tender braised beef cheeks, which came with a tangled mass of salad made with shaved tongue, rucola greens, and peas ... oh no, not peas at all. They were tiny, sour green grapes, which burst with a crazy intense acidity in the mouth: exactly what the rich dish needed, delivered in an unexpected way.

Incanto is a restaurant that can change your mind about foods you don't think you like, and that's a good thing. And really, who am I to judge things anyways, since I was the jerk shoving a camera into the risotto in a crowded restaurant? (Sorry, but I couldn't bring myself to turn the flash on and be a real ass, so the pictures are not the best.)