First off, this is not about healthy cooking; indeed it's so far opposite that, well, you can't go much further. However, once in a while, what the heck!
I used to watch Check Please! Bay Area (basically restaurant reviews by real people, not critics) on public television and over a year ago there was an episode where Incanto was featured. The opinions were so uniformly good that I put it in my Palm and resolved to go one day. Since Paul and I were celebrating our 21st anniversary this weekend and as he suggested we wander around San Francisco before dinner, I put in for dining at Incanto.
Incanto is a restaurant in the Noe Valley area of San Francisco, a tidy looking residentially neighborhood with a certain charm. My husband Paul couldn't get over how clean the streets and buildings looked. Inside the joint is clean and comfortable, with a beer and wine bar, which is fitting, because the menu is rustic. In fact, when over dinner I mentioned that the food is rustic,
Paul thought I was being insulting, but I wasn't. There is no fussy plating, this is real food, from fresh ingredients, well prepared. And no fat is spared!
When looking at the menu, Paul went for the marinated olives as a starter (delicious), although he won't eat olives at home. Maybe I should marinate some!? I was drawn to the appetizer of pig's trotter and foie gras on a piece of very special toast with a little sweet jam. (Honestly, I didn't record everything so I'm relying on memory from yesterday.) For those who don't know, foie gras is literally, fat liver. Here it's almost always from ducks who have been happily (I hear) fattened up. They love to get fat, and in the wild it's imperative to their survival. So here is this large appetizer with sauteed bits from a pig's trotter, a good sized piece of seared foie gras, all draped over toast and jam, and a slice of bacon laid over, with lots of sauce all round. Unbelievably decadent, kind of messy looking and really really delicious. I enlisted Paul's help in eating it and had to leave some on the plate. My recommendation: if you order it, get it to share with at least 3 or 4 of you. It's so darned rich you don't need much to be satisfied.
Let me explain something about Incanto before going on; the chef, Chris Cosentino, is really into offal. Just go to his website and read all about it. Offal is not only organs but trotters, heads, etc. You can get a nice piece of fish there, as well as other "safe" options, but why would you do that when braised lamb's neck is on the menu? After a little deliberation I went straight for the neck, and after finding out they don't always have it, well what else could I do? The meat on the bones was beautifully caramelized and tender. There was horseradish aioli (mayonnaise) on the side along with spring vegetables. The veggies were chewy and a little hard to eat. I normally eat my veggies first to make sure I get them in, and I dutifully ate some of these but I can only eat so much food and it came down to choosing between lamb and veges. The lamb won. I can't help but mention that necks are fairly round, and when the server set my plate down in front of me, well, my neck rolled around on the plate. Entertaining, really.
Paul had bucatini, a pasta dish, which he enjoyed. He was surprised by the raw egg yolk sitting on top, but I'm sure it added wonderful richness. I didn't bother to try his pasta, as even though I kept sharing my lamb with him, I had plenty on my plate.
Against my better judgment we had dessert. Paul's taste buds were set on the flourless chocolate cake, which was indeed fudgy and scrumptious. I went for the stonefruit (peach/nectarine?) and blueberry fool, which was whipped cream with the above mentioned fruit in it and a shortbread cookie on the side. I couldn't eat all of that either, but it was delish, washed down with
a cappuccino which I hoped would keep me awake on the way home (no dice).
Ok, do I recommend Incanto? Absolutely, and go with friends so you can share impossibly decadent appetizers and desserts. Arrive with an appetite and an open mind. Try something new - pig's trotters were new to me. So were necks. The service was wonderful, the atmosphere comfortable. Price wise, expect to spend about $50 per person plus alcohol. I did get to say hi
to the chef - he competed a few months ago on The Next Iron Chef. I talked with him about it and he was very friendly and a pleasure to meet. And of course, I liked his food! P.S. visit Incanto's website for more info.