Tag Archives: great SF restaurants

Grilled Lamb Heart (Coco 500, SF)

Lamb Heart  – Grilled Lamb Heart Salad

Grilled Lamb Heart Salad, Coco 500 (SF)

Unless you grow up in a culture that appreciates the many wonderful parts of animals and how to prepare and cook them properly, you might cringe a bit when reading a menu that offers lamb heart. But in the hands of Coco 500 Chef Mike Morrison, this is one of the best lamb dishes you might ever eat.

The heart slices are layered across the long, narrow plate and delicately decorated with arugula, generous smatterings of super-soft cheese, and a sprinkling of fennel pollen.  The fennel pollen is wondrously subtle and plays out as one of those rare, unique ingredients that can integrate various tones and flavors into a harmonious dish.

But the heart is the, uh, heart of the dish.  It is awesome and should be on more menus., if only more people would put their adventure mouth on when dining out.

Grilling Lamb Heart – Flatiron

An entire lamb heart itself is brined, sliced into thirds, flatiron-grilled to a lovely warm rare, and has a fantastic flavor with simple sea salt, ground pepper, and extra virgin olive oil. Lamb heart tastes much like a steak-foie gras hybrid with an earthy hint of liver. The meat has wonderful tones, is absurdly tender, and would be a conversation starter for anyone who can get out of their own prejudices to try it. The foie gras taste is less rich and overwhelming, and the liver is there ever so slightly; heart’s just a great meat. 

Lamb Hearts - Seared by Flatiron - Coco 500 (SF)

The Grade: Awesome / Exceptional (my highest grade)

The Skinny: Coco 500  – 500 Brannan St, San Francisco CA

Phone: (415) 543-2222

Website: http://www.coco500.com

Chef: Michael Morrison

Coco500 on Urbanspoon

Pork Chop (Town Hall, SF)

Peanut Tasso Crusted Pork Chop – Town Hall, San Francisco CA

Peanut Tasso Crusted Pork Chop, Town Hall, SF
Peanut Tasso Crusted Pork Chop, Town Hall, SF

The Dish: Peanut Tasso Crusted Pork Chop

I’m not a huge peanut fan, to be frank. Peanuts are like the chickens of nuts; you might enjoy eating them, but you probably don’t want to know where they’ve been before entering your mouth. But the peanuts reinforcing the crust of this Town Hall version of the pork chop are well suited. They provide sufficient Southern crunch and a mild, earthy undertone to the smokiness of the tasso (a Cajun dish enhancement staple that has a smoky, cayenne-bolstered pork flavor).

So the pork chop itself comes somewhere betwixt medium and medium-rare, the thick cut pork showing just a blush of pink. The soft, juicy interior’s textural contrast to the nutty, crunchy crust is a balanced counterpoint. It’s one of the best pork chops in San Francisco, to be lauded both for its flavor and its originality.

But another reason for this dish’s power is certainly the crafty selection and rendering of the accompaniments: wonderful, subtle, and smart. Town Hall acknowledges familiar and classic pork partners like fruit and winter vegetables, then reinterprets their presence entirely. Rich, dark apple butter swirls around the plate instead of the expected dollop of baked apple compote. A sprinkling of pomegranate , the crunchy, juicy seeds relating directly to both the sweet apple and the crunchy peanut exterior on the chop. The flavor relationships between the ingredients become as a whole deeper, more vibrant and, somehow, altogether correct, like a symphony. Described on the menu: peanut tasso crusted pork chop, butternut squash, apple butter.

The Grade: Excellent

The Damage: $24

The Skinny: Town Hall, 342 Howard Street, San Francisco, CA

Phone: (415) 908-3900

Website: http://www.townhallsf.com/

Town Hall on Urbanspoon

FILET MIGNON (Chez Spencer, SF)

FILET MIGNON

Filet Mignon with morels, truffle butter, Chez Spencer, SF CA
Filet Mignon with morels, truffle butter, Chez Spencer, SF CA

THE DISH: FILET MIGNON (with morel mushrooms and truffle butter)

Chez Spencer serves up one of the best steaks in the San Francisco Bay Area, certainly among my favorite steaks for 2008. Just reading the ingredients on the menu is likely to make you drool: morel mushrooms and white truffle oil gravy….whew, why didn’t I know about this steak before last year? When people describe certain foods as ‘orgasmic’ or ‘like sex on a plate,’ include the morel-truffle drunk filet mignon at Chez Spencer among them. It is one awesome steak.

THE SPOT: Chez Spencer

Chez Spencer is a romantic little French restaurant hideaway in a funky, grungy stretch of city that conjoins South Van Ness and the Mission District. Chez Spencer has been around for some years, but still feels like a San Francisco secret. it really should be among everyone’s “best” lists — best steak, best romantic dinner, you name it.  

The indoor decor of Chez Spencer is light and spartan, with white walls and a bowed timber beam-crossed ceilings.  Go on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night to benefit from terrific atmosphere music from a blind fellow who plays the standup piano in the front corner of the bar. The acoustics in this converted space are sweet.

THE GRADE: Awesome, exceptional (5 out of 5)
THE DAMAGE: $ 29
THE SKINNY: Chez Spencer
82 – 14th St (near South Van Ness) San Francisco, CA 94103
Phone: (415) 864-219
Website: http://www.chezspencer.net
Chez Spencer on Urbanspoon