Out to dinner tonight in the City with Dick and Joyce Hart. We went to Piperade, a long established Basque place on Battery near Levi Strauss Plaza.
The facility is a stand-alone building, with an interesting atrium-like entrance. The floors are old wood, the walls are brick. Interior chandeliers are made of wine bottles. I like the look of the place, and appreciate the heavy tablecloths that help to deaden the sound. It’s noisy from the voices of the clientele, but not loud and harsh like so many more modern facilities are deliberately planned to be.
It’s certainly popular–we had an 8 pm reservation, and they were completely full when we got there, so we had to sit at the bar until a table full of diners left and they could reset. I offered to go stand politely behind some slowpokes, but they felt my help was unnecessary.
Eventually, a table appeared and we were seated. A goodly time later, the waitress showed up–she was decidedly the weak link tonight, she just wasn’t nearly as polished and professional as we have enjoyed at other places.
Years ago, I played cards with Mike B. on Wednesday night. When he was working in Redwood City, we’d play there every other week, and have dinner before. (Alternate weeks we played in Oakland).
One night, we tried a Chinese place and had a garlic chicken dish so strong that Linda told me she could see clouds of garlic over the bed where Mike was sleeping.
Back to the restaurant
The previous comment was spurred by the soup I had tonight–garlic soup. I’ve heard of it , but this was the first time I have seen it on the menu. Basically a chicken stock with tons of garlic, an egg scrambled into the stock, chunks of bread, bacon, and rock shrimp added because it’s a fancy City restaurant and they have to justify the price. I completely enjoyed it, but I expect Gail will see clouds over me later.
Gail had the cream of cauliflower soup. (Do you pronounce that with a short i sound, or more like a long e sound caul-ee-flower? Gail and I dispute it. She’s a caul-ih-flower kind of girl. Opinions collected in the comments)
I had a strange experience tonight–the least exciting thing was the entreé. Joyce and I both ordered the steamed rockfish, and while there was nothing wrong with it, it just had no snap, no particular great flavor. It came on a bed of garlicky sauteéd spinach that was fantastic, but the fish itself was just bland and uninteresting.
Gail had what was billed as the veal stew, but it had precious little veal in it and a great deal of seafood–including mussels, which he doesn’t care for, and a large, in-the-shell, head-still-on prawn, which I had to peel for her. Crustaceans should be dismembered in the kitchen, not at the table by the hapless diners. Had the dish been properly described on the menu she likely would not have ordered it.
Piperade makes the entrees look cheaper by making the veggies separate. I ordered the potato and manchego gratin to split with Gail and enjoyed it. A 5 inch dish layered with sliced potato and manchego cheese then baked, it came to the table so hot it was hard to handle the first bite, but after it cooled a bit I made sure there were no leftovers.
The dessert menu had a couple of things that could have tempted me, but the service was so slow that I lost interest. Joyce and Dick had the flan, which looked pretty ordinary.
Piperade didn’t thrill me, as you can tell. There isn’t anything bad about the place, there just wasn’t anything extra good or special. San Francisco has too many really great and innovative restaurants to settle for ordinary.