In my 4 years in SF, Belden Alley has never been about exciting food. It is an lovely cozy place, the perfect spot for dining (or lunching) al fresco. My meals there have not merited many words in the sometimes vicious Chowhound circle (yes, vicious, you know I'm right about that).
That may have changed yesterday. I met a former colleague for lunch at B44, with its full (read:lengthy) Catalan menu. The chalkboard in front read "FRESH LOCAL ANCHOVIES", but this was never mentioned when the server mentioned the specials. I ordered anchovies, regardless of how they might be prepared (I didn't even ask).
A few minutes later a tall pile of lightly fried fresh anchovies, with similarly sized asparagus and fennel, arrived steaming hot along with a aoili/mayo sauce on the side that was completely irrelevant after the first bite of the anchovies. With only the heads and guts removed, these tiny creatures tastes amazing, reminiscent of their older relatives, the sardine, without the overbearing oiliness. The bits of fennel and asparagus cut nicely the richness from each anchovy, the crunchy vegetables offset the soft delicate mild-flavored fish. A few dashes of salt, and before the plate was gone I had made plans to stop by after work for a glass of wine and another plate of these beauties, before they disappear. You should make plans, too.
See you there.