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