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Kokkari and Alma - updates

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Kokkari and Alma - updates

foodfirst | Aug 29, 2002 11:39 PM

After 4 days of eating everything in sight in San Fran, we had two dinners left. Kokkari last Mon nite, primarily bec it is a sentimental favorite (a memorable anniversary dinner 2 yrs ago). Started with the deep-fried smelt -- crispy, not overbreaded, wonderful with that squeeze of lemon juice -- accompanied by glasses of NZ sauv blanc. I love this dish. Split 2 salads, heirloom tomato and octopus. The kitchen split both salads between two plates, a nice touch. Tomatoes were dead-ripe and delicious on a small pool of fruity olive oil and a touch of basil-olive oil emulsion, but accompanying mozzarella seemed just out of the fridge, difficult to taste and jarring with the lovely room-temp tomatoes. Octopus salad a disappointment -- dry almost hard little chunks of grilled 'pus with overdressed frisee. For main, split the grilled sea bass which the kitchen again divided betw two plates. I have loved this fish in the past for its crispy skin and moist interior but unfortunately it was split and served skin-down on each plate, which totally obliterated any crispiness ... overdressed in oil too, I though (good olive oil though). Fish was tasty, accompanying greens perfectly sauteed with a little body left in, yummy with a squeeze of lemon. Albarino a perfect accompaniment. In spite of extreme bloat split yogurt sorbet for dessert, sour and bright and almost cheesy. One thing that has always bugged me about Kokkari is tables for 2 are too close --- I would have preferred *not* to be privy to the neighboring discussion about whether or not he was going to "get any" when they got home. Overall food was good, but I'm not sure I'd go back again for anything but smelts at the bar.

Released at the very last minute on Tues eve from a company dinner obligation (thank goodness -- the company pple are not food pple) we had to come up with a place for a great last dinner in SF. Alma was the choice bec it was open and we could get in. Ordered 2 ceviche samplers which were OK. Prawns in tomato/lime excellent and the "broth" left in the bottom so redolent of fall tomatoes I had to drink it. Tuna with coconut milk interesting, nothing special. Ceviche number 3 I can't remember at all. Ordered no entrees just appetizers/sides: corn soup, sweet pea empanadas, yucca gratin. SO (a man so fanatical about corn that he has grown his own in the backyard) pronounced the soup "a heavenly little bowl of sweet corn essence", and it was pretty darn good so we ordered a second bowl. Empanada dough was just sooo nicely corny and pool of salsa verde delicious but I could hardly taste the sweet pea filling which was overwhelmed by dough and salsa. Still very good though. Gratin was recommended by waiter over the famous yucca fries and it was one of those can't-stop-eating sort of homey, comfortable dishes -- the starchy smoothness of the yucca complemented by a mild white melting cheese. Banana cake and dulce de leche pudding for dessert, former very good but my attention was on the pudding, so rich and smooth and caramel-butterscotchy, went nicely with the recommended (on the menu) white port. SO really enjoyed the 13-yr-old plantation rum recommended to go with the banana cake though it was way to strong for this hard liquor lightweight.
Service good at times, distracted (by a girlfriend at the bar) at times, but the waiter recommended some lovely reds (esp an Argentian Malbec) and seemed to really know the wine list. We were surprised to have been charged the full $11 each for the ceviche, bec. the kitchen had run out of one of the 4 that was supposed to be included on the plate --- so we had only 3 and the portions seemed not to have been enlarged to make up for the absent fourth.
I would like to go back to Alma, would probably skip the ceviche and would like to squeeze in an entree or two. Great to find such a variety of S American wines on a list, wish I'd had a chance to sample the Portugese duoro or the rioja.

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