Monday, May 09, 2005

the birthday part III: the streets of san francisco and greens

part three of my birthday saga began in the same way as many of my nightmares. i get into a car with someone i don't really know and become more and more suspicious as i'm driven off the main road onto isolated, remote trails. that sinking feeling of "oh shit, i'm in trouble now" reverberates through each panic-striken beat of my poor foolish heart.

well, the truth is that i got into a cab with "the man", ol' ball-und-chain, and was driven out to the waterfront. through warehouses and deserted parking lots. through a grey san francisco late afteroon. i felt like i was in an old rerun of the streets of san francisco. what can i say i'd had too many beers to rein in my fertile imagination. i was karl malden. and there we were, greens restaurant.

now i know everybody but everybody goes on and on and on about greens. i'd never eaten there but, after a spate of expensive and extremely disappointing, sometimes downright bad (as in old fish-the worst bad you can get) meals at various expensive downtown restaurants (shall i name names? maybe in another entry) i'd mostly written off these types places that everyone says is good but never is for me. well, greens has renewed my faith. on saturdays there is a prix fixe menu for 46.00. this includes a little pre-starter plate, your choice of a selection of appetizers, an entree, dessert and coffee or tea. it was a great value. even after i had several glasses of wine added to the tab.

the fixed first plate was "andante dairy goat cheese; fennel and easter egg radish salad; picholine, nicoise and cracked green olives. served with soughdough batard and straus butter". it was fantastic. now i generally don't do dairy but on my birthday i do everything except flesh. and the goat cheese was fantastic, it brought tears to my rheumy old eyes. really. tangy, goaty, but not too strong. it was perfect. the olives were salty and added a perfect bite. the bread was acme sougdough, which the b.a.c. liked cause it wasn't too strong on the sourdough flavor.

for appetizers we ordered the spring sampler "gigande beans with meyer lemon and tarragon; three beet salad; grilled italian bread with fava bean puree, mint and shaved pecorino fiore del pastore", and a salad "wilted savoy spinach, treviso radicchio and escarole with sky hill chevre, piquillo peppers, croutons, red onions, aged sherry vinegar and hot olive oil". both of these dishes were perfectly executed. the salad greens were fresh and delicate and the dressing complemented the leaves without being assertive. it was the perfect backup singer. the dish just tasted of fresh green-ness.

the spring sampler, my dish, was even better. the gigande beans were tender without being mushy and the meyer lemon added a beautiful floral, slightly acid note to the dish, just enough to liven it up. the tarragon married perfectly with the lemon. these two seasoning were very assertive and i noted the meyer lemon immediately but thought the tarragon was, um, corriander. i know, i have a terrible palate. of course once i knew what it was it was obvious. the beets were marinated beets in three colors, the red being the most flavorful, and the grilled italian bread with the fava puree was, to me, just okay. the real standout were the gigande beans.

onto the main courses. we ordered a pasta dish "spinach ricotta ravioli with savoy spinach, spring onions, pine nuts, gorgonzola dolce, olive oil, opal basil and parmesan reggiano", and a tartlet "with artichokes, portobello mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, leeks, fennel, asiago and thyme. served with asparagus with lemon oil and roasted cipolllini onions."

the spinach ravioli were very rich but not cloying. the ravioli shells were delicate, almost like a gyoza or wonton wrapper - it seemed too delicate to hold together yet it somehow managed. the ravioli filling tasted of green. it just tasted and felt deep, dark, green and velvety. quite an experience. the sauce was a light butter and olive oil sauce. as i said, very rich but not over the top.

our favorite dish by far was the tartlet. a perfect little free-form tart with a golden-brown crust stuffed with all the good things in the world. mushrooms. artichokes. leeks. roasted tomatoes. it was rich and earthy. like how i'd imagine good, fecund, damp soil to taste and smell to a truffle snuffling pig. all of the components were so meaty and satisfying with the roasted tomatoes really bringing a carmelized sweet acidity to balance it all out. the roasted cipollini onion melted in my mouth. it was perfect. the asparagus spears were fat, juicy, dark green spears and practically squirted my companion in the eye with each bite.

and to round out both the evening and our bulging guts came desserts. we shared a chocolate cake and a pear brown butter tart. i'm not the biggest chocolate cake fan but this was good. very chocoalte-y. very moist. very big. they had a selection of three scoops of tea-infused ice cream on the menu as well. were i to do it again i would choose those. you can get decent chocolate cake anywhere.

the other desert, the brown butter tart was excellent. like the dinner tart, the crust was perfect and the brown butter filling was not too sweet, not too rich. but sweet and rich enough. the standout for me was the accompanying loganberry ice cream. we finished with espresso.

what can i say except "wow". this was an excellent meal with no missteps. the quality of the ingredients were very high and the dishes were crafted in such a way as to enhance the flavors and neither overwhelm nor mask. service was friendly, efficient and professional. and the famous views. they were nice but not as nice as the food.

i'm a believer. greens, building a, fort mason, 415 771 6222.


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