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Restaurants & Bars 8

RNM on Haight Street: Worth a spot near the top of your list

mhr | Sep 22, 200209:15 PM

Last night I ate at RNM with my boyfriend and an out of town guest. We arrived at 8:50 p.m. for a 9:00 p.m. reservation and were seated immediately. The restaurant was completely full, albeit small. There are about fifteen tables on the ground floor, plus a bar and an open kitchen. Upstairs is a lounge area with sofas and a few tables; food is also served upstairs. There is an HDTV behind the bar which I would normally not like, but it worked with the design there. When we arrived, "Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory" was on the screen. When asked later what movies are played, our waitress said that the sole criterion was that the movies needed to be "visually stunning." The crowd was very mixed – young, old, gay, straight. The place is very hip feeling, without any of the attendant attitude. We had our menus and the wine list and started to decide.

First, the wine list. Small, but very good and very reasonable. We had three bottles over the course of the three hour meal: Sokol Blosser Evolution No. 9 for $22; Neyers Syrah for $52; and Limerick Lane Zinfandel for $38. These prices are very good; Neyers Syrah is often $50 in a wine shop. The Evolution was a bit cold, but the two reds were served at the perfect temperature -- cooler than room temperature.

Now, the food. We ordered in stages, with the only negative thing being the size of the table versus the size of the plates. We fixed this by asking for dishes one at time, which was happily accommodated.

We began with the grilled Hearts of Romaine, served with Point Reyes Blue and toasted hazelnuts ($7). I would not have ordered this myself, but our friend was really interested in trying it. I am glad he was. The smoky grilled flavors of the romaine matched perfectly with the blue and the toasted nuts.

Then we had an Heirloom Tomato Naploean ($7). The Tomatoes were lightly coated in cornmeal and fried, then layered with fresh mozzarella and basil. It was phenomenal. Perfect combination and perfectly executed.

Next we ordered the house-cured Charcuterie plate ($11). The liver pate was the standout, but the rillettes, ham and other meats were delicious, too. Served in the traditional style with cornichons, mustard and grilled bread. If you’re a cured meats fan, this is definitely worth having.

We then moved on to the bigger small plates, starting with the RNM Whitecastle Burgers ($10). I had only one bite, but liked it. My dinner companions disliked the use of focaccia as the bread, but I don’t share that complaint. The fries served with the burgers were great. Along with this dish, we ordered a side of roasted roma tomatoes ($3), which were also excellent. They complimented the dish well, too.

The Pork Tenderloin ($13) we had next was good, but not a great showcase of the meat. It was well cooked, but the topping of sweet red peppers and onions hid the flavor of the pork. It reminded me of the lomo con pimientos that I used to eat in Pamplona, Spain. Along with this we had the sautéed spinach ($3), which, although quite wet, were very fresh and tasty.

The last small plate was the braised short ribs over lemon risotto ($12). This was a standout. The meat was falling of the bone and went surprisingly well with the lemon risotto. The lemon flavor was quite subtle. Unique and delicious.

At this point we moved onto the cheese plate ($9), before ordering sweet deserts. There were three cheeses: the Point Reyes blue and two other that I could not name. They were very creamy and very nice. This was served with grilled walnut bread, and the combination is tried, true and wonderful. We ordered two glasses of the Peter Lehman Botrytis Semillon ($7), which complemented the cheese well.

Last came the three desserts (each $6): Brownie Sundae, served in a martini glass; House-made Oreos with a Vanilla milkshake; and a plate of Cookies. I did not taste the brownie sundae, but the Oreos and shake were both great. All worth ordering again.

The service was excellent (particularly compared to the horrendous service that plagued our lunch at the Dry Creek Kitchen earlier that day). Our waitress at RNM was fun, attentive, informative and very accommodating. All in all, an excellent dinner in a fun environment. I will certainly be back. This place is small plates done very well.

Heartily recommended.

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