The San Francisco Project: Piqueo’s… 1 down, 51 to go

12 Jan

Saturday night.      Black leather knee high boots, grayish black tweed pencil skirt, white tank and black cardigan: classic look.      A date.  Cozy and intimate Bernal Heights.      Piqueo’s.      Wait, did I say Piqueo’s?

Yes, one of the highlights of my dining experiences in this vast city.  I stumbled upon this gem, this diamond in the rough.  Earlier that day I found myself in the backseat of a realtor’s car (yes, I said realtor), riding along with a friend to offer a female opinion on properties and neighborhoods within the bay area.  As we snaked through the narrow side streets of Bernal Heights, I felt somewhat at home.  It was a town within a city, somehow offering a handshake to whomever would pass along its streets.  Once we found ourselves driving along the main street know as Cortland Avenue, my eyes grew wide as I examined the intimate shops and restaurants, offering someone like me at least a day’s worth of activities.  And suddenly, as if it were a game of hide and go seek and I had flung open the closet door to find my best friend, I laid my eyes upon Piqueo’s: Peruvian cuisine.

Later that night, dressed and in the company of a wonderful and true friend, I stepped into this tiny, yet welcoming establishment.  The walls were a orangish hue with rustic accents and low lighting.  Laughter was abundant; it was obvious to me that locals knew this was assuredly a place to be.  While a table was prepared for two, I watched the numerous chefs busily prepare everyone’s tapas and main entrees with fluidity and intense pride in their creations.  They stood within a few feet of the main entrance; a small bar for 4 surrounded the kitchen and could be viewed by at least 1/2 of the tables in the restaurant.  Cozy was putting it mildly; I was in somewhat of a daze even before the meal began.  The anticipation was killing me…

I must tell you that I have been obsessed with another Peruvian dining experience in San Francisco that occurred last May.  For the first time I was introduced to real ceviche!  No, not a soup of salsa with a few small bites of seafood mixed in; I am talking about a plate full of fresh halibut with an intense lime flavor and a type of Peruvian corn that, when eaten together, offers the most pleasing flavor.  This one dish has drawn me to all other Peruvian restaurants since this original encounter…

As you can imagine, I started with the Ceviche de Pescado, or halibut marinated in lime juice with a yam and Peruvian corn.  Amazing! Simply amazing!  The presentation was stunning; the halibut was nicely rounded in the center of the squared plate, topped with a sprinkling of seaweed.  One corner of the plate offered a small yam, the other corner housed the Peruvian corn.  A splash of color here and there and magic!  The halibut was so fresh, it must have been brought in that day.  The lime marinade gave it just the kick it needed, and the yam/corn combination cooled the palette to make room for the next taste explosion.

The subsequent dishes offered just as much pleasure as the Ceviche de Pescado did!  Unfortunately the online menu doesn’t seem to have some of the same dishes we encountered on Saturday; therefore, I cannot give you the exact name of the dish.  However, I can give you a quick rundown of what we enjoyed immensely: Steak brochettes served with a special sauce (out of this world), Chile Relleno unlike you have ever tasted before, filled with queso fresco and smothered in a rich tomato sauce, a potato stuffed with beef known as a Papa Rellena, and for dessert we shared the Torta de Chocolate.  Oh, and did I mention the delicious glass of Rosado I enjoyed?  It was the only one on the menu so I’m sure you cannot miss it…

I must also acknowledge the service we received at Piqueo’s.  The attention to detail was superior.  This night can be summed up as follows: superior food, atmosphere and company…

As I laughed at the two of us nearly singing in unison “I’ll take the CC” (that’s chocolate cake for short), I couldn’t help but notice the lady removing everyone’s tea light candles and offering a freshly lit replacement.  I smiled to myself, appreciating the extra care and concern each and everyone had taken to make my experience extremely enjoyable.  Our plates were taken quickly but not too quickly; they seemed to know exactly what we preferred and when.  If I didn’t know better I would think they had ESP… or maybe they’ve done this thing before???

After desert I found myself wanting to stay but having no reason to do so.  Exceptionally satiated, and somewhat giddy from the rather large glass of wine, I felt as if I were dancing my way back to the car.  I would like to believe that my friend enjoyed the meal as much as I did, although I can only be responsible for my own tastes, thoughts and opinions.  All in all I would say this restaurant is at the top of my list for food, hospitality and atmosphere.  Felicitaciones to Chef Carlos Altamirano for creating Piqueo’s… it definitely left a lasting impression on me!

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