Restaurant Review - October 16, 2005 - Joanne

Quince

1701 Octavia Street, San Francisco
415-775-8500


First Impressions:
The restaurant is in a quiet residential area. They offer valet parking but all 3 couples dining on a Sunday night found a close parking spot without trouble. We enjoyed what I think is the best seat in the house - their only table for six in the bay window to the left of the front door. It has 2 chairs and the other 4 seats are banquet.

The Menu & Wine list
The menu had a tremendous number of choices for a restaurant this size. 11 First Course ($7-$14), 13 Second Course/Pastas ($14-$19), 8 Third Course/Entrees ($19-$29), and 6 desserts ($8.5-9) to choose from. They also offer a cheese course with seven cheeses (3 - $14, 5 -$21, 7 - $28.) The wine list, in comparison to the menu, was smaller but still very large for a relatively small restaurant. (Strong wine list, esp. Italy - Jack)

It was really hard to decipher the menu – many of the dishes had Italian components or names which we were unfamiliar with (like Polpettone, Sformato and Bigoli). We asked lots of questions and our waitress was well-trained, giving quick answers.

There was no bread served during dinner – instead breadsticks and tiny rolls fried in olive oil were placed on the table before dinner. There was no amuse served before dinner - but the check came with tiny chocolate chip and tiny pistachio round cookies. There were only 3 of each for 6 people so we had to fight for them!

What we had:

Mortadella della casa con gnocchi fritto $12 Consisted of sliced Mortadella, pieces of Mortadella battered and fried in olive oil with a hint of savory and cinnamon (cloves and nutmeg?) and little pieces of fried bread (gnocchi?). Good but not quite what I expected. The Mortadella was dense, fine, flavorful and fresh – but I prefer it lighter and more moussy – albeit more rustic.


Roasted sea scallops with cauliflower and chanterelle mushrooms $14 – Very good!

One of our dining companions had the Wild Nettle Sformato Fonduta of Fontina Val d’Aosta $9 and gave us a taste. It’s a cross between a soufflé and custard. Delicious and delicate flavor.


Triangoli of acorn squash with brown butter $17 – Sweet perfectly spiced puree. Perfect pasta. Great sauce.


Celery root filled tortellini with yellow chanterelle mushrooms & aceto Balsamico $17
– Wow! A hint of vinegar in the puree gave it a perky contrast to the sauce and made it shine. Jack’s dish but Joanne loved it.


Roast stuffed Liberty duck with Cinderella pumpkin puree & quince mostarda $26
A complete surprise. De-boned duck reformed into a round with the mostarda on top like icing. Sweet – no gaminess - but hard to tell it was duck. Incredibly tender and flavorful – hints of fennel. Delicious. Pumpkin was slightly stringy and tasted just like pumpkin. This is not “crispy duck”.


Roast veal loin with Tuscan black cabbage, creamed onions & wild mushrooms $29 – Sliced thinly – not as tender as flavorful. Joanne liked the cabbage, Jack did not.





Sformato



Dessert:
Soft almond torta with lavender ganache, plum jam and almond toffee $9 –
Really interesting and strange. Like a slice of a Bar. The bottom crust having a layer of chocolated then the jam with a soft thin merinque-like icing and the almond toffee crumbled on top. The ingredients almost didn’t go together. It was almost too sweet. The almond toffee on top was distracting. I can imagine it would be great with coffee. The plum jam reigned in flavor, and was good, but drowned any hint of lavender for me.

Desserts overall were weak and were small portions. The cheese list was excellent and next time we would definitely order it.



The Wines:
2001 Podere il Palazzino Chianti Classico Grosso Sanese $74
Big high alcohol wine. Concentrated. Dark purple. 3
1994 Jermann Vinnaioli Capo Martino In Ruttaris IGT
We brought this wine. Golden in color. Meyer lemons (skins/zest) and lemon balm. Flavors slightly caramelized, some acids and hint of sweetness on finish. Very enjoyable!
2004 La Boatina Ribolla Gallia Collio
Fresh sausage meat on nose. Needs spicer food. Clean. Light colored. Good. 3
1998 Rocche dei Manzoni Langhe Bricco Manzoni $50
Shows alcohol on the nose. Tannic finish. Lots of fruit. Really young. Balanced! Dark chocolate finish. “This is the juice.” 6-12
2004 Maculan Dindarello IGT $40/375ml
Moscato from Veneto. Not too sweet. Good acids. 1?

Sparkling Mineral Water: Santa Lucia




Overall Impression:
We really liked Quince and will definitely return. The food is comfortable, not too fancy and well made. It’s not an Over-The-Top restaurant and doesn’t try to be. The atmosphere has a white tablecloth air but with a relaxing element. We wouldn’t rush back. The food is memorable and the pasta is exemplary.




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