Observations on Food in the Bay Area
website - in a homey location at the intersection of Battery and Green in San Francisco, Piperade feels a bit like a somewhat modernized slice of the Basque country, with lots of exposed wood, a very homey earthy atmosphere, and even a large "Sheepherder's table" in the middle with a sculpture of wine bottles above it for big parties or those who like meeting new folks over dinner. The food was good enough the last time to merit a return, and this was it.
First a brief comment on the wine list - it is largely Basque and Spanish wines, and the markup from what we gathered seems to be less a percentage increase (which makes for a horrible deal on more expensive wines) but more a constant, perhaps $15 add-on over retail, which leaves much of the list in the $30s and $40s, which is quite reasonable for a good restaurant in SF, and (equally unfortunately) relatively unheard of, which is unfortunate for high markups and thus expensive wine offerings do nothing except convince customers not to experiment with wine, which can add so much to any good meal. For this meal, we had a bottle of 2000 Allende Rioja, which was deep and tasty, with good fruit accompanied by nice earthy complexity. We took it as a safe option away from all the 2002s filling the menu, which was a notoriously bad year for much of Europe.
- Dungeness "txangurro" crab cakes - unfortunately, I've forgotten the rest of the details of the dish including the sauce, and what the cakes were served on (and the menu on the website is no longer accurate). Txangurro is, as I recall, Basque for crab, and the dish certainly focuses on the crab - the cakes were quite chock-full of crabby goodness, though it was much more tender and soft than I'm used to in a crab cake. Each cake was wrapped in something of a pasty shell which held the whole dish together nicely and added a nice crispiness to contrast with the soft, melt-in-your-mouth crab.
- Seared tuna steak over roasted parsnips in a mustard sauce - My God this was astounding. I believe the tuna steak must have been about 1/3 pound of pure, thick, flawlessly cooked top sushi-grade goodness. I couldn't have imagined this being any better than it was. The slightly sweet carrot/banana flavor of the parsnips made for a wonderful contrast with the subtle flavors of the tuna, and while excessive quantities of the sauce would overwhelm the other members of the dish, when kept to small proportions on a given bite, it added a wonderful, light spicy character. I would eat this every night if I could. Simply astounding.
- Monkfish special over (pesto?) leeks - served in a bowl, this was a giant serving of perfectly cooked, flaky, uber-fresh monkfish in almost a stew or soup of leeks and the lightest hint of a green pesto flavor. Very, very good.
- Seafood and shellfish stew - a very rich dish, with everything from tuna to squid to various clams and mussels in a hearty tomato-based red sauce, this was quite a filler! All the various components had been given plenty of time for their individual flavors to mingle in the wonderful way of a good stew, while maintaining an element of their uniqueness.
- Orange blossom beignets - Orange blossom! Seriously, this was the first and most prevalent flavor in the wonderful, light fluffy powdered-sugar dusted doughnuts. Light, airy, yet almost lightly fruity and wonderfully sweet.
- Gateau chocolat "amatxi" with creme anglais - rich, rich, rich chocolate, yet not dense but pleasingly moist and suprisingly warm! A chocolate lover's dream.
Yet another marvelous dinner at a restaurant I will continue to return to.