Although panna cotta has been making appearances on dessert menus in San Francisco for years, it seemed like in early 2010 there was an absolute explosion across the entire city. Not only did it seem like panna cotta was listed on just about every menu that I came in contact with, but suddenly dozens of different, interesting variations were popping up. Now in early 2011, everyone seems to have their own unique version to proudly display on their menu. While many variations are interesting, there are only a few that stand out from the panna cotta chaos and deserve special recognition...Continue Reading
6) Grilled Calamari, Frances
Less than a month after opening, Frances nailed it. This particular dish was actually the first I had ever ordered way back in January, and the memory of it stuck with me for the entire year. With only 5 ingredients (squid, Rugosa squash, preserved lemon, currants, arugula), to me this dish represents the type of food served at this restaurant: uncomplicated, seasonal, well-executed, and incredibly flavorful. I was happy to see grilled calamari served without cannellini beans and capers, and Perello’s unique combination of ingredients was particularly thoughtful. The squash mirrored the texture of that type of bean but provided an extra layer of sweetness, while the preserved lemon almost functioned as a caper substitute, adding both acidity to the calamari and tartness to balance the squash. The play between sweet and tart was also found in the tiny currants, making it so that with every bite layers of sweet-sour-salty flavor unfolded in your mouth. Although I tried other incarnations of this dish (which varied with the season), this particular composition was the most impressive. You can read about all the other dishes from that night at Frances here.
When I walked into Frances, I wasn’t sure if I had entered a restaurant, or a room in my friend’s upper-middle class, suburban home. Cream walls, walnut tables, black-and-white stock-art – if Restoration Hardware died and came back as a restaurant, this would be it.
Starting with that first impression, it’s clear that they want you to feel at home. I was almost surprised that a Labrador retriever didn’t greet me at the door with a pair of slippers. Much like a pair of Ralph Lauren khakis, both the atmosphere and the attitude of the service embody this feeling of relaxed casual, but still exude a certain air of sophistication...Continue Reading