Tag Archives: Chef Dennis Leary

1/2 Squab (Canteen, SF)

1/2 Squab

Half-Squab (Canteen, SF)

Squab (pigeon) is a funky fowl that’s favored by the French. On an episode of last season’s “Top Chef” where contestants had to cook for culinary masters, Jacques Pepin confessed his passion for squab and how it resonated with pleasant boyhood memories of growing up in France. Certainly when squab is done well, it’s a nice, tasty bird, and we have to assume Pepin’s had his share of great squab. It’s just not the sort of dish you see much in the US.  Squab’s not the kind of meat that sits politely atop anything; it looks awkward, no matter what you do. It looks like a little dead bird. Which, you know, it is.

But Chef Dennis Leary of Canteen recently pulled off the rare squab masterpiece. It’s a half squab roasted in an apricot-cumin glaze. The crisp skin was slightly smoky and sweet, and the bird rightfully juicy inside. An Indian mound of lentils beneath brought some earthiness to the earthy-toned squab meat, and a swirl of vinegar syrup rounded the plate for an additional palate tease. Visually, he couldn’t escape the dead bird on a plate fate of squab, but the tones of brown on the plate made for a clever, edible, monochromatic sculpture.

The squab was roasted to perfection, and the variance of flavors provided continual surprises. A nice birdy treat from King Leary. 

The Grade: Excellent

The Damage: $11.50

The Inside Tip #1: Canteen’s website is updated with their daily menu.

The Inside Tip #2: Canteen’s not on OpenTable.com; you have to leave message for reservation, so reserve well in advance.

The Skinny: Canteen

817 Sutter Street (at Jones)
San Francisco, CA 94109
Phone: (415) 928-8870
Website: www.sfcanteen.com

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Schnitzel (Canteen, SF)

Schnitzel – Canteen SF

Schnitzel - Canteen SF

Chef Dennis Leary of Canteen is remarkably versatile, able to put out amazing dishes from many cultural sources. He’s played well with other culinary traditions beyond the usual French & Italian suspects, including Indian, British, and here in a pork schnitzel, German. Leary is more of an explorer in the kitchen, pitting his particular exploratory curiosity against classics and, occasionally, reinventing them.

Leary’s take on pork schnitzel is simple and fairly classic. Two large portions of pork loin have been pounded out to a medium thickness, and the lightly breaded covering honors the pork without overwhelming it. The schnitzel was perfectly tender and understated in flavor; quite nicely done.

A creamy English mustard sauce is the moat to the little food castle of pork schnitzel, crowned with a poached egg, red cabbage, and a wild dollop of sour cream. The cabbage was a bit al dente, leaving some original purple crunch. Because I’ve had so much overboiled red cabbage from here to Leipzig to Krakow, I enjoyed the texture of it, which balanced all the other softness present on the plate. Schnitzel’s not exactly home cooking for most of us, but with a nice rendition like this, it’s too bad it’s not served (at least at Canteen) a bit more often.

Be sure to check the Canteen website for the daily menu, because Canteen’s food offerings (12 per day) are constantly in flux. 

The Grade: Great

The Damage: $24.50

The Skinny: Canteen

817 Sutter St
San Francisco, CA 94109
Phone: (415) 928-8870
Website: www.sfcanteen.com