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Raising the Bar at Tartine, San Francisco

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Raising the Bar at Tartine, San Francisco

grayelf | Nov 20, 2008 08:55 AM

After our Mission mini-Mexifiesta we kicked back for a brief spell at the BIL’s place and then walked over in the suddenly driving rain to try our luck at Bar Tartine (561 Valencia St tartinebakery.com). I had called the day before on a whim and lo and behold they had an early reservation left on a Saturday night. The BIL had only been here for dessert before so we were all new to the savoury stuff. I had read somewhat unconvincing commentaries on Bar Tartine and so went in with moderate expectations. The room was beautiful and did not seem too cramped to me as some previous posters had mentioned. There was an amazing light fixture that I wanted to nab – in fact all the lighting was lovely.

On to the food: a good start with WARM sourdough bread (bread rarely seems to be served warm in your fair city) from Tartine Bakery. Now, I am not a sourdough fan but this offering was much less dense and heavy both in crumb and flavour than other sourdoughs I’ve sampled, quite delicious and obviously superfresh. For starters, the SO went for the chestnut and celery root soup with truffle cream and Pink Lady apples with brioche croutons ($9). My slurp told me that it was a happy soup marriage.

The BIL opted for the Morning Sun Farms marrow with grilled bread and arugula persillade ($13) which he demolished with so much gusto I didn’t manage to nab a taste. I passed on an appetizer because I wanted to save room for the much vaunted desserts and I was ordering probably the heaviest entrée. I just cannot resist short ribs and as it happened the listed beef cheeks were actually my ribby friends in disguise. They came with chanterelles, broccoli rabe, a Jerusalem artichoke puree and horseradish foam with salsa verde for $28.

My only hesitation was that damned foam; I’d never eaten foam on a main course and I was very resistant but I just had to have those ribs and in the end the foam actually did add an airy piquant note to the dish (and apparently a pretentious air to my writing too!). I’m sorry I didn’t whip the camera out to record this dish as it was quite architectural in presentation, down to being offset on the rectangular plate. The short ribs were ridiculously tender – I don’t believe I’ve ever had better ones, and since they were off the bone they were less work than usual to boot.

The boys both went for the Liberty Farms duck breast in a ginger lime cocoa rub with pumpkin agnolotti ($29) and pronounced it extremely edible. I even liked my bite and I’m not a duck fan. It was served with New Zealand spinach which seemed out of keeping with the clear focus on local and seasonal produce; the SO wondered if it might have something to do with the tainted spinach thing from a few months ago.

The guys enjoyed a different glass of red each (sorry, forgot to note the makes and models) whilst I held out and ordered my beloved Moscato di Asti (this one from Piedmont) with my now-I-can-die-happy maple flan with black walnut encrusted churros. The SO went for the fig napoleon which he was less enamoured of but my one bite told me that was more because he wasn’t into the figs than that it wasn’t well executed.

The service throughout was attentive but not intrusive and the wait staff had zero attitude when we lingered till 8 pm, even though I’m sure they were waiting to turn the table as the restaurant was full the entire time with more coming in. We rolled out of there $170 lighter of wallet and feeling we had received good value for a pretty outstanding meal. I would be happy to return to Bar Tartine based on this lovely evening, which coincidentally cost us exactly the same amount as an even better meal we had the next night at La Ciccia.

See also the following links for all our other food-centric ramblings this trip if you're interested:

Tadich Grill http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/573854
Blue Bottle http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/573858
Lime Tree http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/573860
Canteen dinner http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/573864
Farmers Markets http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/573868
Mission http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/573869
Canteen and Café de la presse breakfasts http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/573873
Bodega Bistro http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/573874
La Ciccia http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/573876
Fruitvale http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/571843
BonBon Patisserie http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/573877
Asuka http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5398...
Anchor Steam SFO http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/573878

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