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Canteen - A study of contrasts [San Francisco]

escargot3 | Apr 26, 2012 01:09 PM

I finally made it over to Canteen last nite – delighted to snag 2 seats at the counter on short notice. After wending our way over as the evening rains began, I was pleasantly surprised not so much by how tiny a location it is, but by the “library reading room” motif of bookshelves on the wall. Nice!

We started off with the chef’s offering of an amuse-bouche of duck confit that raised the bar: delicate, yet flavorful.

For appetizers, we chose seared sea scallops with sweet corn puree and a Muscat vinaigrette. Yowzah! It was an incredible medley of flavors and textures. We also shared the “Rabbit salad” (more of a “salad compose”) of peppered rabbit loin, with peas, mustard and aspic. It was enjoyable, but paled in comparison with the scallops. And the warm brioche and butter was delicious.

As an entrée, I opted for the lamb loin with faro, along with roasted peppers and raisins. The lamb was extraordinarily flavorful, juicy and tender — and best of all, it actually tasted like lamb, and had some kind of dusting of cayenne that gave it a bit of a kick. Among the best lamb I’ve had in the U.S. The faro tasted like it was spiced with a smokey Spanish pimenton. Loved it. My dining partner chose the yellowtail with potato crust, fava beans, spring onions, artichoke hearts, and a sauce “gribiche” which is like a tartare sauce. The fish was a smidgen over-cooked for my palette, but it had a wonderful flavor.

Chef Dennis Leary is playing with sweet ingredients added to the appetizer and entree, yet not cloyingly sweet -- rather, used as a complement and to attend to the other flavors of the dish.

So what’s the contrast? Dessert.
Simply put, the chocolate hazelnut custard was a tasteless disappointment, as was the
almond torte with rhubarb and citrus. As impeccable as we found the apps and entrees, is as disappointed we were in the desserts. That said, all around us, folks were “inhaling” the vanilla soufflé. Next time I visit Canteen – which I hope will be very soon -- I will opt for that crowd pleaser.

ps- Service was attentive, helpful and enjoyable. Our server led us to an enjoyable Cote du Rhone that only got more full-bodied and rich in flavor throughout the meal.

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