Any meaty pasta that Chris Cosentino and company at Incanto prepare will likely be among the best pastas you’ll eat in San Francisco. The wide, flat pappardelle noodles are house-made fresh, and the meat sauce is simply awesome. Full of flavor and slightly chunky, the walloping dallop of pork ragu makes a great, hearty meal.
Nice grill marks give stripes to the crispy roll, inside of which is a slathering of tender, juicy pork belly and Asian spices. Kudos to Chef Dominique Crenn to conceive this midday porcine rush; it’s a good lunchtime filler with a little edge. The spices’ flavors swirl between cool, sweet, and hot, and the texture overall is superb in its mix of crunchy and soft. If you’re near Moscone Center, the pork belly sandwich at Luce is a highly recommended sandwich indeed.
As described on the Luce menu: Braised Pork Belly “Vietnamese Sandwich” with cilantro, mint, and jalapeño. Note: Pork belly sandwich only served during lunch.
The presentation of ice tea is fantastic and smart; you get your own personal pitcher so you don’t need to flag down waiters for the inevitable refills.
The Spot: Luce Wine Restaurant
Luce Wine Restaurant is inside San Francisco’s InterContinental Hotel. The room itself during lunchtime is modern and, especially on sunnier days, strikingly beautiful. Skyscraping windows stand authoritatively behind cerulean-turquoise blue curtains over white sheers. There’s an overall spirited, airy effect in the well-mannered dining room, where the keen design sensibility is evident in all corners: booths, chairs, silverware and glassware. Luce is a sophisticated and contemporary space, carefully considerate of details so that the experience is harmonious. Service was gracious and effective. Really, Luce is just a wonderful room to have a meal in with friends or clients.
The Grade: Great (3 out of 5)
The Damage: $14
The Skinny: Luce Wine Restaurant 888 Howard Street, San Francisco, CA 94103 Phone: (415) 616-6566 Website: www.lucewinerestaurant.com
South FWB (an acronym for “food and wine bar”) is a great little hideaway in San Francisco’s SOMA (the acronym for “South of Market” district), directly across from the CalTrain station on Townsend Street. It’s intimate but comfortable, stylish but not pretentious, and the food and service will not disappoint. In short, South FWB is a hidden culinary gem in a city full of great restaurants.
THE DISH: GRILLED PORK LOIN
South FWB offers a very simple, nicely grilled pork loin, drizzled with its own jus, and capped with small strips of pear and micro-greens. The pork has perfect grill marks, and a small ramekin heaped with crispy shoestring sweet potatoes adds a spicy touch. Simplicity is bliss; the grilled pork loin is a seasonal lunch offering.
THE GRADE: EXCELLENT (4 out of 5) THE DAMAGE: $14 (lunch) THE SKINNY: SOUTH FWB RESTAURANT
THE DISH:Fire-grilled, Szechuan-spiced BABY BACK PORK RIBS
The pork ribs at Roy’s are one of those appetizers you might order on a whim, then you’ll dream about it for the next week until you can get back and have more. They’re a perfect mix of spicy-hot and sweet, and finger lickin’, finger lickin’ good y’all. If in downtown SF and in need of a cocktail and appetizer, get right to Roy’s and get yourself right.
THE SPOT: ROY’S RESTAURANT, San Francisco CA
(Note: Roy’s has quite a few restaurants in different locations; this is a review of the baby back pork ribs at Roy’s in San Francisco, CA.)
A bastion of Asian fusion cuisine, with deep (taro) roots in the Hawaiian Islands, Roy Yamaguchi’s Roy’s Restaurant is truly a flurry of flavors. Although I don’t visit Roy’s often, when I recall certain dishes I’ve enjoyed there, I contemplate why I’ve not been there lately and consider how soon I can get back there. A great way to enjoy Roy’s, if you’re not up for a dinner in the formal dining room, is to go for some appetizers and a couple of their wicked cocktails (Original Hawaiian Martini, Mango Mojito, etc.) The bar at Roy’s is probably a great place to start a date, as the drinks are awesome, the servers are friendly, the atmosphere is rich but relaxed, and the app’s are worth the trip alone.
THE GRADE: EXCELLENT (4 out of 5)
THE DAMAGE: $15
A better way to go is Roy’s combo appetizer (pu pu) platter for $28. It includes a couple ribs and a handful of other great appetizers on one giant plate.
For meat lovers, pork belly is clearly in the meaty appetizer Pantheon. And, in keeping with its perennially high commodity market valuation status, pork belly is nearly always served in frustratingly miniscule portions. (It’s still hard for me to take Wall Street financial commentators in pin-striped suits seriously when they soberly converse about the fluctuating price of pork bellies, but it’s one of the few remaining amusing ironies of capitalism.)
Again, Baraka in San Francisco delivers a most welcome surprise with its slow-roasted pork belly appetizer, both in terms of quantity (about 4 times the amount of belly you’ll usually get) and quality. In the large cut portion, the belly is meatier and fleshier and has more hints of ham in flavor than other, smaller pork belly appetizers.
While Baraka’s pork belly does not have the de facto crisped skin, that’s no detriment to the overall delight. The dish has a marvelous and savory balance of flavors, with the combination of earthy lentils, slightly sweet Anchor Steam Porter foam, and a bit of warm crunch from the braised trotters (the more pleasant British term for pig’s feet/ankles). This will rank as one of my favorite appetizers in San Francisco for this year.
Described on the menu: Slow Roasted Pork Belly – Braised Trotters, De Puy Lentils, Anchor Steam Porter Foam
The Grade: Sterling (5 out of 5)
Also could be described as excellent or exceptional.
The Damage: $11
An incredible value for the price, the pork belly appetizer is definitely generous enough to share.
The Skinny: Baraka 288 Connecticut Street (at 18TH Street)
San Francisco, CA 94107
Phone: (415) 255-0370
Dinner only, Sunday – Thursday 5:30pm to 10:00pm; Fridays/Saturdays 5:30pm to 11:00pm
Chef: Chad Newton (former Sous Chef at Postrio)
Sous Chef: Ashton Mullikin (worked with New Orleans greats Susan Spicer, Andrew Jaeger)