1550 Church Street
San Francisco, CA
Earlier this year, fellow blogger Chris of Eating is the Hard Part visited San Francisco and wrote of Incanto, the restaurant of celebrity chef Chris Cosentino. To those who do not know, Chris Cosentino’s, aside form rustic Italian cooking, has also participated in different TV shows, including his won Chef vs. City. However, what I care more is about *what* he cooks: in his menu, he includes offal dishes. Yes, cooking from head to tail and almost everything in between! So, when the FoodBuzz Food Festival was announced, restaurants plans were flying going back and forth. While JS/TS and Sherman had quite an extensive list, I had only two places in mind: Hamburgers (Sausalito) and, you guessed it, Incanto!
In addition to “the usual suspects”, aka, JS/TS, Sherman and Mijune, who came along with cousin MY, we had the pleasure of having along Naomi (aka “The Gastro Gnome“) and Chowhounder Grayelf (who came along with family). In total, we had 10 people seated in the table. Unfortunately, I was seated in the far end of the table so I didn’t have much interaction with Naomi, Grayelf and family who were seated at other far end. That also means I didn’t take pictures of what they ordered (except for a couple of instances).
Here is one thing about having a large dinner party with people you don’t necessarily know (in my case, I had TS on one side and MY on the other): We might be having a bit too much fun talking and ordering food… Well, for a while, that became secondary! However, we knew we had to order eventually so we started checking the menu. As for me, I was pretty much set from the very beginning. See, originally, when I found out the group was large enough for their prix fixe or their leg of the beast, I was pushing for it However, TS, who made the reservations, despite her heritage, didn’t want to know any of it. I guess it would have been a safe approach considering the composition of the party plus it would have given us more chances to try everything from their “regular” menu (which might partially be an oxymoron because their menu changes frequently). Anyway, by the time we got to make our order, some bread arrived:
There were three types of bread, the third one being a focaccia type bread. It was served with a tapenade which, for the most part, was fine. If I want to “complain” a bit about it would that I would have appreciated a bit more olive oil (given Chris Cosentino’s affinity for it) but, again, that’s nitpicking. As for the breads in general, there were OK, I wasn’t too picky about it.
TS/JS started with two appetizers. To show you how much attention I paid, I will have to “guess” what these were based on the receipt: “Rapini, Baccala (sic?) & Lemon” and “Local Sardines & Sunflower”. I didn’t try these so there isn’t much I can say… :/
On his side, Sherman ordered cod milt & duck egg. I won’t try to describe this dish because, truth is, I couldn’t get past this serie of tweet:
@Sherman38: @followmefoodie just had milt (spirit of cod) and she swallowed!
@followmefoodie: Just tried @Sherman38 ‘s milt (spirit cod)… I did swallow… BUT so did he
@Sherman38: And she got it all over her face too!
@Sherman38: She thought it was a bit salty…
And you guys thought the “rack” incident was enough?! O_o
While waiting for the second appetizer, Grayelf passed us their “main” appetizer which was the “Mystery Flight” for you. I think it was more on the lines of salumi platter… I didn’t try it so I won’t comment about it.
By then, our second appetizer started to arrive. Here, MY’s spaghetti with tuna heart. I will have to admit, this was a strange dish. You would think that the tuna heart will have a fishy taste, but, actually it wasn’t, instead, it was a bit earthy. It seems there was an egg yolk there (which I didn’t scoop a bit off when I tried it) and it added some creaminess to the dish. Can anybody say “Alfredo”?
Sweetbreads, potato and green walnuts salsa (?). In a testament of how English is a messed language, these aren’t sweet nor are breads (if you don’t know what it is, not sure if you want to know!). I had a piece of it and found these average? Now, it wasn’t bad by any stretch, just that the end result wasn’t necessarily exciting. The crispiness was appreciated and that would be something that would entice people coming back for this dish. I just wanted some additional layer of flavour.
Paccheri al nero, Mijune’s appetizer. Here, squid ink is used to prepare the pasta but, truth is, I can’t necessarily say I could have “tasted” it – this is a straight comparison to my dish (more of that in a moment). As for the seafood, it was cooked to a good consistency so, from that perspective I won’t complain. Having said that, the dish is good but not necessarily extraordinary.
As for me, I went for something that might gross a lot of people: (pig) blood pappardelle, served with raisins and sage. One thing not really noticeable is the consistency of the pasta – compared to the other dishes, specially Mijune’s, these felt undercooked. However, that might be because of the pig’s blood: had it been cooked slightly more, I would be willing to be the end result would have been similar to overcooked pork blood cubes, i.e., a somewhat metallic taste. So, as is, while you could tell it was based on it, it wasn’t overwhelming. And the butter and sage was actually a good combination (herby, buttery, what more do you want??? ) and the raisins gave it a sweet taste. In other words, a contrast of texture and taste!
Finally (?), the entrees. TS and JS ordered two versions of risotto: one with mushroom and one with “best part of the chicken”, which ended up being the skin, chicken oyster, thigh and I think I saw some gizzard and chicken heart. In both cases, the rice was cooked as it should and, out of the two, the chicken was “better”. In the case of the mushroom one (if memory serves me, it was mostly chanterelle but might be mistaken as I don’t recall tasting the mushroom), there wasn’t anything wrong just that it felt too… Average? As for the chicken, it did show up a bit more but, still in the end, well, the usage of those parts of the chicken didn’t necessarily blow me away (I had chicken thighs, I think). Good dish, still.
Mijune’s entree: California yellowtail. Sorry, didn’t write down the rest of the details of this dish. From the small piece I tried, I found it was… Meh? I didn’t find anything exciting and, except for a slight fishiness, it was mostly a blank palette. For a piece of fish, I thought it could be better or tried be more creative. Don’t recall trying the pumpkin so I will leave that to Mijune, given it was her dish…
Sherman’s dish, the porkbelly. Let’s face it, other than raw/undercooked pork belly, how you can go wrong with this? This piece of braised porkbelly was what it was supposed to be: A bit of crispiness which gave it some initial resistance to the fork but once you pass that initial token “resistance”, it was melt in your mouth almost. The interesting part is that the side of arugula provided some contrasting bitterness to the otherwise sweet taste of that piece of pork belly. Did somebody say balance? Yup, from that perspective, it was good…
MY’s dish: Pomegranate-glazed poussin, almost a Cornish hen type fowl. Believe it or not, this ended up being the best dish of the night (or, at least on my side of the table). Did somebody say simplest dish works better? In this case, the pomegranate provided some unique sweetness to the “chicken”, which, well, simply worked. Now, despite it looks “burned”, that’s not necessarily the case, it was just caramelizing. Mostly a blank palette that works.
Finally, my dish: offal bollito misto, mustard, salsa verde & horseradish (the sauces on a side, picture not taken). Despite my love for offal, this dish simply didn’t work for me. When it was served originally, the broth wasn’t there: it was poured at the table. I was a bit distracted when the components were described to me, what I do recall are the foei gras (?!) sausage (closest to the plate), some pork belly (to the bottom left), tongue (top left) and chicken thigh. For the most part, this dish failed for me. While I knew it would be a soup-y dish, the fact it was “assembled” at the table meant the individual components were cooked independently. In other words, they didn’t necessarily “mix” together from the very beginning but, rather, it seemed forced together. If they were to served with broth, I think it would have been better had sausage be served “bangers” style (as in bangers and mash, though unlikely as it was extremely soft due to the fat), the tongue be served Chinese style and then the broth be added by the diner rather than in the bowl itself.
In the end, the dinner was actually quite an experience of its own but, as usual, the dining companions helped. As for the food itself, while some of the “odd” dishes failed, the “normal” ones worked well. So, I do appreciate the fact the attempt to cook offal was made, still, in the end it felt slightly short (either that or, because I eat offal so often, it didn’t meet my expectations). Even then, I believe the restaurant overall did provide what it was supposed to and, from that perspective, that experience was worth it.
Oh, one more thing: I was really tired at that point and partially asleep. At that point, Mijune, Sherman and the rest of the gang ordered dessert:
(side note: Chris Cosentino wasn’t in the kitchen that night we were there)