Restaurants & Bars

Less than Ideal, Ideale [San Francisco]

Randy Salenfriend | Apr 8, 200203:24 PM     19

Kathleen & I have been quasi "regulars" at Ideale for years, though less so after our son was born. We have been there many times and never been disappointed. We were always drawn to the place for its authentic cuisine, friendly folks and most particularly, a fabulous mussels dish, my favorite all time presentation of this crustacean.

Thus, once we saw that the restaurant was participating in the "Herb Caen Days" promotion, we quickly organized a get-together with some of our chowhound friends. We met Melanie at the bar and chatted a little while we waited. The waiter wanted to seat us at a six-top in the room adjacent to the main dining area but as we expressed a preference to dine in the main area, we deferred.

Following a short wait, we were seated at a four-top, even though we knew that Rochelle was on her way and thus at a minimum, we were to be five at table. (more on that later). In good spirits (not literally at that point) we complied. A short while later, Ms. Rochelle arrived and we ordered Caen's Vitamin V martinis. With all due respect to our gin loving friends, the Ketel One versions were cold, smooth and delish. As part of the promo, they also were 2 for 1. Hmmm, maybe I should have had more.

For food specials, the resturant featured a 3 course meal for $19.95. It consisted of an antipasto sampler, house made fettucine with a meat ragu sauce and tirimisu. The antipasti was IMHO the only saving grace of that group, I tasted some of Kathleen's and enjoyed some decent gorgonzola, melon, and Arista (pork loin).
Rochelle, what did you think of yours? However, the fettucine was nothing special and could have been done anywhere. Did not try the tirimisu.

I ordered the scampi, which I had previously enjoyed at Ideale. Theirs is not the traditional version, sauteed with garlic, wine etc. but rather, huge langostino-like critters, simply grilled and split open. This time however, they tasted old and were somewhat mushy. Not good. The grilled asparagus and roasted potatoes with rosemary were adquate, nothing more or less. The Caesar to start was tasty, the nice addition of real anchovies and the creaminess of the dressing with raw egg lending a pleasant authenticity.

At this point, Zach and Gabrielle arrived. Kudos to the restaurant because although our original reservation had been for six, we were now seven. They added a two-top to the end of our table and we were suddenly communal. We picked right up without missing a beat.

Melanie had a tasty version of veal saltimbocca and we were quaffing a lovely 1993 Adelsheim Pinot Noir, Seven Hills Vineyard and an Amarone, whose vitals I did not catch. Both were lovely, the Adelesheim a textbook example of Oregon Pinot and very fresh for a nine year old!

Zach had the lamb and Gabrielle I believe had the Herb Caen special. Regrettably, they did not have my beloved mussels, this had happened in the past, one of those instances where a restaurant becomes known for a dish, tires of it, removes it from the menu to the consternation of the public and then puts it back on to quiet the hue and cry. Alas, this time 'twas not to be.

Finally, a Zabaglione was brought in celebration of Melanie's birthday, along with tirimisu for some. I had a chocolate Tartufo ice cream that was lovely. For me, the warmth of being with my friends made up the for the less than sparkling food. Ideale has done much better in the past. Understand, nothing was really bad, it just didn't shine as it usually does. Something was missing in the food, some intangible. However, nothing was missing in the companionship of this most wonderful group of friends. I do look forward to the next time.

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