Monday, January 16, 2012

2012 begins...

High expectations as we celebrated our son's 30th birthday at Locanda, the new Valencia Street sister restaurant to Delfina. Delfina's is one of my favorites and I've heard many raves for the very-hard-to-get-reservations-to Locanda. Someone I trust had said the day before it's her new favorite. I wish I could say the same, but cannot. Service was very good with excellent explanations of each dish, although sometimes it took too long to have dirty dishes removed and as a nitpick, they served us 4 the same amount of "complimentary" pizza bianca as the couple next to us), but after trying 10 dishes, none of us was thrilled. The stars were the lamb's brains with artichokes, the Jewish-style artichokes, and the crecenza tortelle with black mushrooms. The fried duck egg, pizza bianco with bone marrow, and cuscini with burrata and gulf shrimp were very good but not life-changing, and bringing us down to earth were chilled nervetti (beef tendon) and the radiatore with lamb and pecorino. We did not get an entree but had a side of smoked mash potatoes, which only I appreciated. One dessert was outstanding, the ricotta fritta, and the date and almond tart had a very nice crust. It kept getting more and more crowded (we could only get a 5:30 reservation) and more and more loud, with the bar scene really hopping. We did have an excellent 2009 Rati “Ochetti” Nebbiolo, which at $47 was one of the cheaper wines, but rich and smooth and it went well with everything.

Our comparison for Locanda was Perbacco where we celebrated our daughter's birthday in October. Although it ended up costing more, with 2 bottles of wine, it was more satisfying and a more pleasant setting. Prices for pastas are similar at both, between $12-$20, although at Perbacco you can get primo or secondo portions. And Perbacco still offers matches. I love matches, harder and harder to find! Perbacco, located on California Street, next to Tadich Grill, focuses on Northern Italian cuisine. It's a much bigger restaurant with a much longer menu than Locanda. Our gluten-free daughter was able to enjoy quite a few dishes and the server brought her de-bread crumbed burrata. Standouts were vitello tonnato, gnocchi, pappardelli with short ribs, their justifiably famous tajarin (tagliatelle with 5-hour pork sugo), porchetta and scallops. Dishes are seasonal, so the menu does change, and the fruit desserts will be different depending on when you go. As it should be.

We've now had 2 good dinners at Gather in Berkeley. Many find their menu too politically correct, but it's great to have a restaurant that features excellent vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free choices along with a marvelous hamburger and good pizza. Very seasonal. They offer a large salad selection, veggie charcuturie with 4 or 5 choices, 4 different pizzas, and 5 or so entrees. Nice wine list including a couple of quite decent wines by the tap. Nice room, great restrooms, a little loud, good and friendly service. I'd return.

Dol Ho is my favorite dim sum house in Chinatown. Returned recently (a gift from my son) and had 2 new dishes. Their pork meatballs were light, moist, tasty almost like a mousse. I don't
know the name of the other dish, but it was shrimp paste, black mushroom, and fresh miso wrapped in rice noodles. Yummy. 3 people, $20. More yummy. Also brought home great BBQ'd pork, wonderfully seasoned fried chicken wing legs, and green beans with chicken from New Daisy on Stockton for $11. A family dim sum feast was held at Dynasty in Cupertino. The highlight dish was a whole Hawaiian papaya filled with seafood soup. Their mango rolls are teriffic, as really all their dim sum are. It's a huge, filled place and a find for the suburbs.