Observations on Food in the Bay Area
website - At the corner of Guerrero and 22nd St in the Mission, it's got a great French-colonial atmosphere, and an even better chef!
Their wine list, while not massive, certainly covers the basics, and with most bottles averaging $25 ($40 marked the top of the range) and a markup of clearly less than 100%, I give them a tip o' the hat for understanding what so few other restaurants seem to have wrapped their heads around. If you want people to buy wine, and enjoy their meal more because of it, you can't mark it up to triple the in-store price. That just leaves your customers with the sour taste in their mouths of having been taken advantage of, which is not the flavor most restauranteurs want people to leave with. We had a quite nice, if not outstanding, bottle of Sebastiani Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir for a reasonable $23.
In reading some of the online comments, I've learned that Tao supposedly has a $15 3-course prix fixe menu Sunday - Thursday, which we were unaware of. I'll definately have to look into that on future visits, because that's a fantastic deal.
Bo cuôn - fresh rolls of grilled beef in lemongrass with ginger and green onion, tamarind sauce. All the ingredients were clearly very fresh. It had a wonderful, crisp green flavor and the sauce filled out the rolls wonderfully.
Ca sôt cà ri - lemongrass crusted Mekong River bass, plantain banana, light curry sauce, white rice. Absolutely wonderful. The plantains were lightly fried and wonderfully sweet, and the bass was cooked flawlessly; it truly melted in the mouth. And in contrast to the softness of the fish, the lemongrass crusting (which almost made me think of coconut crisps) was slightly crunchy and crispy. The curry was light enough not to interfere with the subtle flavors of the fish, while enhancing the dish as a whole. Great.
Cuu nuong - grilled medallions of lamb, caviar d'aubergine, yellow mung bean rice. First, the caviar d'aubergine is apparently some type of eggplant, for those (like me) unfamiliar with French. But man, I've never had eggplant that was that rich and extraordinarily tasty. Wow! It served as the bed for the lamb, which was served as a number of chunks on two skewers, cooked just to medium, and with a fantasticly rich, lamby flavor. Truly good. The bean rice was also quite good, the beans adding an interesting (and somewhat indescribable) flavor enhancement to basic sticky rice.
Finishing with dessert:
A wonderful, rich, warm dark Belgian chocolate cake paired with vanilla bean ice cream. Luscious.
What a great dinner. I'll most definately be back, and the fact that I live across the street will make that very easy. Total damage, about $68 before tip.