SteveG | Mar 21, 200801:28 PM     6

Well, we gave Poesia a try last night, and it was a mixed bag. They have lots of friendly Italian staff covering the tables, so we didn't have any of the typical new restaurant service problems.

Food-wise, it strikes me (a west coaster, so take with a grain of salt) as a red sauce joint re-imagined for the Castro with some trendy appetizers thrown on top. Our arancini to start (3 for $6) were tasty, but my favorite part was the fried wisps of leeks that came under the arancini. The leek bits were less than 1/8" wide and up to 2" long, crispy, salty, slightly caramelized from frying but not bitter: really good. Our other appetizer was burrata, supposedly flown in fresh the day before from Italy. The burrata was tasty, but not mind-blowing. It was a smaller ball than I'm used to buying, which made for a good appetizer serving, but it didn't have much of an oozing center. It was on top of a bed of spinach greens dressed heavily with truffle oil--to the point where the truffle oil masked the flavor of the cheese and it was hard to get much out of the dish.

Our mains were two different red sauce dried pastas finished in the oven. Fine for $12, but not worth a detour. The short ribs pasta was tastier than the meatball pasta--sorry, I'm blanking on names.

The bartender isn't really dialed in yet to San Francisco sensibilities. My BH, in a fit of impulse, ordered a blueberry orange concoction that turned out to be thick with blueberry puree and had the most heavily sugared rim I've seen in my life. Our glasses of falanghina were nice, though the cheap stemware filled close to the top prevented us from really evaluating the wine critically. A glass of bourbon at the end of the meal came with a big huge twist of orange, which is absolute heresy for my partner, but we plucked it out immediately and sucked it down anyway.

The space is comfortable and warmly decorated, water glasses are beautiful straight sided, thin walled Riedels.

The chef came out periodically to talk to diners, but I don't know how much he was looking for feedback--when I told him I had trouble tasting the burrata through the truffle oil, he didn't look very pleased with the comment. I'm sure various items on the menu will be better balanced after they hit their stride.

Overall, it was a fine meal and pretty reasonably priced. I was hoping for better quality, but this will still be a viable option for us if we need a bite before a show at the Castro Theater or have other reasons to be in the neighborhood.

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