Acquerello, San Francisco

There is only one Italian restaurant in the Bay Area that dons any star on the Micheline’s guide, and that is Acquerello. The Micheline people are very much skewed toward French cuisine, which seems to be more of their thing, so finding an Italian restaurant on a non-Italy guide needs to be something truly remarkable.

Acquarello is a  surprising place.  You walk into a bleak-ish regular building, and then in the restaurant the space opens up to reveal an ancient chapel, with high beamed ceilings and a wonderfully warm vibe. My own personal fun-fact list for Acquerello: Acquerello is small, less than 50 seats; Acqurello seems like it was last decorated when it opened, 20 years ago; Acqurello’s ladies’ room is larger than an apartment I used to live in.

And now onto the food!! Alas, the lighting was fade and my camera was not able to pick up on teh food wonderful qualities. Hence there won’t be many pictures about the food, but I can assure you we had a wonderful dinner, with a good quality/price ratio.

As we sat down, we were served an aperitivo of orange juice, vermouth and San Bitter- so we had soemthing to do while we were looking at the menu. The drink was delicious, and it set our expectations quite high for dinner! You can pick three, four or five courses out of the menu, kind of a pick-and-choose tasting menu. They also carry the chef’s tasting menu, but I didn’t find it as appetizing as the a la carte selections. After our orders, we were presented with a very interesting amuse bouche- a minestrone soup with barley, borlotti beans and oxtail. It was outstanding, with all the flavors layered in a way to enable you to taset each ingredient. Delicious!

For antipasti we picked the Parmigiano budino over buttery nettles with micro herb salad, and  carpaccio with shaved artichoke salad and arugula pesto. The budino was out of this world!! Served lukeworm with what looked like a pesto of nettles, it sent my palate on a vacation back home! I really liked the carpaccio, too- despite being a much smaller portion,it was served the way my mum does it, with shaved artichokes on top. I particularly liked that they lightly fried the artichokes to give it a crispy texture without altering the flavors.

Primi were a little less exciting, but nevertheless wonderfully good. The house made farro pappardelle

with slow-cooked Appennine-style veal and elk ragu’were overcooked, which is not unusual with pappardelle, and I didn’t particularly care for the use of cloves in the ragu’, Tuscan-style, which in my opnion gives teh sauce a cinammony taste… The agnolotti filled with truffled Pecorino cheese were fantastic, with a slightly chewy texture inside due to the pecorine which made for a wonderful and exciting dish! The only complaint I have about this dish is that the truffle flavor was a little too sharp, leaving me to wonder whetehr they used some flavor enhancer. I know, I know- with truffles, if it’s not enough flavor we complain, if it is too much we complain… there’s no happy middle!

For secondi, we picked the unusual! The pink pepper crusted loin of venison over parsnip purée, spiced red wine jus and caramelized turnipswas a hit. The meat was wonderfully tender and perfectly cooked, and the flavor balance between the venison and the parsnip puree, which I usually find too sweet, was wonderful. If anything, I wished the emat had come out a little warmer, but I understand it’s not an easy feat when you serve it medium rare. I guess that is more about service than it is about the kitchen! I was not as impressed with the whole roasted Dorade with spicy style Sicilian broccoli and cauliflower. If that were my dish, I would have sent it back- the fish was painfully overcooked, despite a good flavor balance in the ingredients.

We wrapped up dinner with a the bourbon caramel semifreddo with Amaretti crumbs, a good dessert despite it not being very “semifreddo” but rather more like an ice cream! No pictures of that because… ehm, the lights, yeah, the lights! *grin*

In all, dinner was a good one. Acquerello delivers a high-end Italian experience right in teh heart of San Francisco, with some great traditional dishes revised for the modern palate. Acquerello also carried an amazing wine selection, but since we’re not much wine geeks we just decided to have dinner with prosecco! Don’t cringe, I love the bubbles, and red wines as of late tend to mess up my palate!

I guess that’s what too much Top Chef gets you, a snarky attidude about every dish! I am usually more friendly in teh review, but I believe that restaurants that set the bar very high should be able to forgo a more intensive criticism! I really liked Acquerello overall, and I know why the Michelin people decided to give it a prestigious star!

2 Responses to “Acquerello, San Francisco”

  1. cool post my first time here and i like the way you write ! bookmark it !:)

  2. Grazie Rita!! Glad you enjoy it here!

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