One of my best friends and I have a lovely tradition of taking each other to the restaurant of the birthday girl's choice. Back in March I took her to TWO, and Thursday night she treated me to dinner at Perbacco -- a new place in the financial district featuring dishes from the Piemonte and Liguria regions of Italy.
Perbacco had a lot to live up to for me. I'd read the reviews, heard the raves, and been impressed by Chef Staffan Terje when he spoke at the Commonwealth Club. Then there's the fact that Perbacco consistently ranks in the top five booked restaurants on Open Table. Would it meet my expectations? Read on...
When we arrived for our 6pm reservation, the place was already packed to the gills. I liked the atmosphere right away. There was lively conversation, sleek decor and tons of natural light. My favorite visual was a large table in the middle of the restaurant that held a two-story flower arrangement, a collection of wine bottles and an assortment of cheeses. Ah, the good life!
We were escorted to our table upstairs in the "mezzanine," which was nice because it overlooked the main dining room and bar, but was slightly removed and therefore not quite as loud. They generously gave the two of us a table for four. We settled in, toasted my bday with some delightful Prosecco, and began to peruse the dinner menu which is divided into six sections: Crudo (raw dishes - tonight all fish, though I've heard they sometime do beef too), Salumi (the charcuterie for which Perbacco is famous), Soup/Pasta/Risotto, Main Courses and Sides. Normally I pride myself on being able to look at a menu and zone in on the one or two dishes I know I'll like best. I wasn't able to do this at Perbacco, because so many of the dishes looked so good!
We started with Hamachi / Red Corn / Popcorn Sprouts / Lime / Serrano Chili and Dayboat Scallops / Peach / Vanilla Salt / Lime from the Crudo menu, plus the Watermelon / Tomato Caviar / Sun Gold Tomatoes / Tiny Basil / Minus 8 Vinaigrette from the Appetizer choices. Unfortunately for you, dear readers, I haven't gotten up the guts of the other food bloggers out there that shamelessly snap photos of all their dishes. So you'll just have to imagine the beautiful, colorful presentations and generous portions.
Then we both had pasta: she the Herb Ricotta Gnocci / Melted Cherry Tomatoes / Garlic / Basil and I the Pappardelle / Braised Short Rib Ragu, Red Wine / Parmigiano Reggiano. The pasta is of course all house-made. My dish was rich and flavorful, and her gnocci were outstanding -- not your run-of-the mill potato gnocci, but light, dreamy cheese gnocci with tasty herbs.
The Dessert Menu was also difficult to choose from, but I ultimately decided on a trio of Gelati Misti -- Chocolate / Caramel and Vanilla Sea Salt / Torrone, since after all it is National Ice Cream Month. The Caramel and Vanilla Sea Salt was by far my fave on the plate (which had "Happy Birthday" inscribed in chocolate sauce).
When I go to restaurants I've been to before, I tend to order what I've had and liked in the past. This won't be the case at Perbacco, since I'm sure they change up their offerings regularly, but also because there are so many great-sounding choices I wouldn't want to miss out on trying. 'Til next time...
230 California Street
San Francisco, CA 9411