I had another delicious meal at Bar Tartine last night, with quite a few "hit" dishes that are all new compared to a month ago. It's definitely my favorite California-style restaurant in San Francisco right now: ingredients are right up there with Zuni, but the preparation and selection of ingredients are more complex, though individual components definitely retain their integrity. Maybe it's the conceptual love child of Zuni and Coi.
My salad would probably make farm-specific produce haters have an aneurysm, since it was called something like, "Blossom Bluff nectarine and White Crane greens salad with prosciutto, marcona almonds, riccotta, Banyuls vinaigrette." I thought to myself that modifiers were notably missing from the prosciutto and riccotta, but then again their menu seems to favor single-line descriptions and it would have gone way into two lines if they gave every ingredient its due. It was a fantastic salad with a beautiful balance, and while I normally dislike the inclusion of sweet fruit in savory salads, the nuts and cheese pulled it together. I wish they'd had a pile of nectarine slices on the side so I could give a critical appraisal of the infamous Blossom Bluff nectarine, but even mixed into the salad it stood out as something special, as did the ricotta, the greens, and indeed everything else about the salad including the dressing.
For my main, I picked the sweetbreads from the appetizer list, and this makes three times in a row that the sweetbreads have been absolutely delicious, with an exterior that is adequately sauteed/fried to develop Maillard reaction flavor components but without an excess of breading or a toughened interior.
The bites I had of the brandade-stuffed squash blossoms, fried with a light and shatteringly crisp tempura-style coating on a bed of mixed diced vegetables were stunning, and caused serious food envy until I remembered I had my own delicious food.
Our waitress wasn't fully versed on the wine list, but she readily admitted as much and made sure to check with other staff members to answer all our questions, so I really can't complain. Service was perfect in all other aspects, neither pushy nor aloof.
For dessert, we ordered a hazelnut chocolate dish, a stone fruit parfait, and a coconut something or other. The stone fruit parfait had a strong tart lemony component that threw off my friend, though I liked it. The hazelnut chocolate was good, though nothing revolutionary. The clear winner was the coconut dish, with subtle well-integrated coconut flavor and a luscious pile of strawberry slices surrounded by a pool of strawberry sauce. It was topped by tiny coconut meringues in the shape of half-spheres, which added a nice textural contrast and rounded out the flavor profile.
Strangely, the desserts we had seemed strikingly similar to some of the desserts mentioned in this recent Manresa post: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/551049 . Manresa's pastry chef is Kendra Baker, who according to Manresa's July 2007 press release "has been the pastry chef since Bar Tartine opened in November 2005." I'm totally unclear as to whether she's doing desserts at both places or somehow still consults for Bar Tartine, but the similarities seem more than coincidental.
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