Friday, January 28, 2011

Ristorante Specchio

It was Dine Out San Francisco week, which means that a lot of restaurants offer a prix-fixe menu for $34.95 for multiple courses. Our friend Andy had his girlfriend from the East coast visiting so the four of us went out for some Italian food during the beginning of the special event.

Ristorante Specchio was the selection, which is on Mission & 19th. We met there, as they wanted to spend the day in the city while we had our yard sale that morning. This part of San Francisco is about 40 minutes away from our house, but parking always adds some extra time. This area also isn't the safest in the world, so when we found a spot less than three blocks away and right in front of a church, I was relieved, LoL. Turns out that Andy & KJ ended up parking around 7 blocks away, but they did find it right away as opposed to our driving up and down the nearby streets for ten minutes, LoL.

The restaurant was very busy, and we were all looking forward to some tasty Italian cuisine. We probably stood around about fifteen minutes before we were seated. The ambiance is very trendy, and more like a cafe than a restaurant. It was also loud... we had to raise our voices with every conversation. And, strangely enough, there was also an Italian movie (possibly Bucheli?) playing (with Sophia Loren), projected onto the wall about the kitchen (which was out in the open). We were presented with our menus and given a few minutes to decide while our waters came out.

Small pieces of bread (think crostini without the toasting) were brought out as well, with a small plate of oil and balsalmic, but no herbs or pepper. There was also no salt or pepper on the table, which was somewhat amusing. We hardly had five minutes with the bread before the salads were brought, which was a bit rushed. Jonathan, KJ, and I all had the insalta di rucola, which was arugula with shaved parmesan cheese and pear. Allegedly, it was supposed to be served with a honey dijon dressing, but it was dry... as was the salads at the table next to ours. I'm not sure if this was a typo or what. Now, I don't really care for arugula (I find it extremely bitter), so I just ate the cheese and the pear, but KJ and Jonathan both has about a third of their salads. Andy had the insalata di barbabietole e arance, which was steamed beets with oranges, arugula, and walnuts. It was okay.

We were done and sat with our salad plates in front of us for at least ten minutes before the plates were cleared. Another five or ten minutes passed before the pasta course arrived. I selected the penne all arrabiata, which was penne with spicy tomatoes. And, that's exactly what it was. Everyone else chose the maltagliati al pesto di noci, which was a house pasta with pesto (made with walnuts instead of pine nuts) and sundried tomatoes. The shape of the pasta was very wide and thick, unlike anything with which I am familiar. Everyone liked it, but Jonathan didn't think it was too Italian. I tried a bite, not caring for the flavor of these particular sundried tomatoes. We again sat for a while before the third course.

Jonathan, Andy, and I chose the braciola di maiale al gorgonzola, which was a pork chop (bone-in) with gorgonzola, sauteed spinach, and potato slivers. It was wonderful. The sauce (unidentified) gave it all a delicious taste, and complimented the pork, the spinach, and the potatoes. I thought it was a tad mustardy, though Andy suggested it was more eggy. Either way, I wish I knew how to make it, LoL! The pork chop was juicy and delicious, though it was not as tender near the bone as one would expect. The potatoes were nothing special in preparation, but the flavor was amazing. KJ went with the fish of the day, which was cod. I tried a bite, but I don't really care for cod. She thought it was okay. The owner or manager came by to ask how we were enjoying our food, and we all have wonderful things to say. He also brought us a fresh plate of bread and another carafe of water.

Once again we sat while waiting for our desserts (plates cleared somewhat promptly this time), and again the manager came, this time to ask if we had selected our desserts yet (they are also serving the regular menu, so not everyone is there on the prix-fixe plan). We mentioned that we had, of course, and he talked up what we might expect. And, with dessert, there were five selections, of which we sampled four. I chose the tiramisu (one of my favorites... I don't get it often, but I love it when I do!), which was a little heavy on the alcohol, surprisingly. I'm not sure if the ladyfingers were soaked too long or if the cream had liquer in it or what. Jonathan chose the cannoli siciliani, which was your standard ricotta-and-chocolate-chip-filling in a cannoli shell. He found it rather rich and didn't finish it. I tasted it but I don't care for ricotta (lasagna is about the only time I eat it) or mini chocolate chips, so I don't really have a comment. Andy went with the sorbetto of the day, which turned out to be a mango flavor from a local ice cream place. He liked it but didn't finish it. Lastly, KJ had the torta al cioccolato, which was a flourless chocolate cake with hazelnuts. It looked like a cupcake (complete with the sides being ridged), and the nuts were only along the bottom, which was interesting. She only had a few bites, but said that she liked it. Jonathan and I both tried it... he thought it had a heavy coffee flavor while I thought it was more of a thick chocolate fudge. While we lingered a bit (but not really. they were once again too busy to get to us quickly), the owner/manager came by once more, asking how our desserts were and taking care of boxing up Jonathan and KJ's leftovers.

When we finally left the restaurant it was around 9:30... and we had a 7:15 reservation (though, admittedly, Jonathan and I walked in at more of a 7:19), so that gives you an idea of just how the pacing worked. It wasn't absurdly long, but it was a bit longer than it should have been. Yes, the place was crowded, but it wasn't that big, so you'd think they'd be moving things along in order to seat more people. I don't think I'd go back... it just didn't scream "great Italian food" to us. Jonathan commented that the most "Italian" thing he ate was the cannoli, LoL!

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