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Restaurants & Bars 9

Piperade Dinner Report

atjsfo | Oct 28, 2007 09:51 AM

I had dinner last night at Piperade: two of us shared two small plates (appetizers) and we each had a large plate; then we shared (not really - I ate 98% of it) one dessert.

We were seated at probably the best table in the restaurant, the single table in the front-most corner of the restaurant - so we had both privacy and a great view. The service was fine. The waiter was cordial but not overly warm. He did answer our questions and make recommendations, and there were no blips in service. Actually, I was impressed with one thing: we wanted to order some type of Rhone wine but neither of us know a lot about them; We asked for a recommendation, and the waiter suggested a Gigondas which he said was a big wine (I believe he said "Full bodied"). I was impressed because the wine was somewhere in the $45 - $49 range which was at the lower end of the rhone-style wines on the menu, which meant he wasn't trying to push an expensive wine.

As for the food: we started with the warm sheep's milk cheese and ham terrine and the calamari. The terrine was very good, not what I expected: It looked to have alternating slices of ham and cheese and it was baked; it was tasty but very salty, probably from the ham. Generally I like my food salted heavily but this was salty even for me. Not so salty that we didn't finish every morsel however... The calamari was just "ok". It was not a rich presentation; it was some sort of lemon juice/acidic presentation, it seemed somewhat Greek to me and not really interesting. It could just be a personal preference: I love rich food, particularly when I'm at a nice restaurant.

For the mains, we had the lamb and the steak. The lamb was very good (my dinner companion loved it), cooked perfectly medium-rare and I think the combination of three different cuts was interesting (chop, loin, and leg I believe). One of them (probably the leg) had the "falling off the bone" style of preparation and, being the sucker for braised meats (short ribs, anyone?) I loved it.

I never used to order steaks in nice restaurants because they never seemed creative enough, but I'm starting to change my attitudes about steak: not only do I love a good rare steak and it provides a good accompaniment to a full-bodied red, but the restaurant preparations do vary and some are special. I'm happy to say that the steak at Piperade was very very good. It was listed as either a "new york" or some type of "sirloin", I don't exactly remember (probably listed as "new york strip" or "new york sirloin". It was topped with caramelized onions which was a fantastic combination. It was seared on the outside (but not charred) and rare on the inside; The meat itself did not seem like the best possible grade - ie, it wasn't prime, and it may not have been choice since it was not the most tender steak but the flavor was fantastic which made up for a little bit of chewiness. This chewiness is the only thing that keeps me from labeling the steak "excellent" It was served with "fries" and portobello slices. The portobello was fine but the fries were a little disappointing; first of all, they were more like potato wedges (not in shape, but in substance); I think of fries as having a crispy edge, these were not. The flavor wasn't very interesting either. Maybe a bit of olive oil on them but nothing that stood out. I thought it was interesting that, after the salty terrine, there was no salt shaker on the table; (the waiter brought one with no hesitation). Maybe the thought is that there is enough salt in that one dish to last through all the meal?

There were about 6 or 8 different desserts that looked interesting so I asked for a recommendation and decided that it it were one of the recommended deserts I would order it. In this case that approach worked well: the recommendation was for the "Turron mouse cake with roasted almonds". Wow, that was great. The turron was a consistency a little heavier than whipped cream, but lighter than mousse. The sliced almonds on top were crunchy and complemented the turron perfectly. It's hard to describe the flavor - maybe I'd had too much to drink by that point, but, other than the almonds, I couldn't pinpoint the flavors. The color of the turron was very light beige, like it had coffee flavoring (though I could detect neither coffee nor chocolate). Maybe the turron itself was almond-flavored, that seems most likely to me. At any rate it was first rate.

So all in all a good meal, and I will probably go back. By the way, the check before tip was $170 for the two of us, which also included two pre-dinner cocktails and coffee.

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