Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Incanto - San Francisco

Incanto

On one of the nights we spent recently in San Francisco, we hopped the J Church streetcar and escaped Union Square - heading out to the Noe Valley neighborhood for dinner at Chris Cosentino's restaurant, Incanto. Being big fans of pig parts served up in any and all forms, Incanto is a place we've been wanting to visit for a while now.

We shared three appetizers and a small pasta. Here's the rundown:

Antipasto platter for two
Charcuterie Plate at Incanto

In addition to Incanto, Chris and his business partner Mark Pastore run Boccalone, a salumeria located in the San Francisco Ferry Building. The antipasto platter is a selection of Boccalone meats along with some veggies. This incarnation had french country pâté, mortadella, capocollo, and coppa di testa, served with breakfast radishes and roasted carrots, shallots and garlic. There was also a dollop of Boccalone's house-made mustard.

The star of the show for us was the capocollo (they favor the Neapolitan spelling) - paper-thin slices of ruby-colored pork, striped with clean white fat. Beautiful and very, very tasty. We also really liked the mortadella - velvety textured, faintly aromatic with spices and studded with the occasional pistachio and peppercorn. It was probably the best rendition I've had. The only disappointment on the plate was the coppa di testa - a complete lack of seasoning prevented any of the flavors from coming through. On the balance, though, a very good dish.

Calf's brain, porcini, Douglas fir & mugolio
Calf Brains and Porcini at Incanto

This was probably our favorite dish of the meal. The bites of calf's brains had a light, crisp coating and were nicely set up. The porcini were quite mild in flavor, but were very visually appealing and had good texture. The complex sauce brought everything together. Our first brain experience, and definitely not our last.

Trotter cake, red wine braised snails & watercress
Trotter Cake with Braised Snails

Sadly, this one was a clunker. The interior of the trotter cake had a pleasant gelatinous texture dotted with small bits of meat, but the expected porky flavor was muted due to a lack of seasoning and the outside of the cake was thick, gummy, and unpleasant. The snails dotting the plate were rubbery and neither the red wine nor the watercress sauce had much flavor.

Spaghettini, Sardinian cured tuna heart, egg yolk & parsley
Spaghettini with Sardinian Cured Tuna Heart and Egg Yolk

We really enjoyed our final selection of the evening - perfectly cooked pasta that was generously topped with deeply flavored shavings of salty, cured tuna heart. Nestled in the center was a fresh egg yolk waiting to be mixed through. As a follow-up to the under-seasoned trotter dish, the salty flavor here was quite aggressive, and very welcome.

Along with our food, we enjoyed several wines from their Italian-centric list - comprised of an interesting selection of regions and varietals that we don't often drink. Service (we sat at the bar) was friendly, pleasant and efficient - provided by the bartender who also ventured out as sommelier for the rest of the restaurant.

Overall, a very enjoyable if somewhat flawed meal. Providing an ever-changing menu with a nose-to-tail focus is, I am sure, something that is difficult to execute consistently. The promise of an exciting new dish is well worth the risk of having a poor one, however. We definitely plan to eat here again.

Incanto
1550 Church St.
San Francisco, California
(415) 641-4500

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