The San Francisco Project: Pesce in Russian Hill: 2 down, 50 to go

17 Jan

My search for diverse cuisine seems to follow a rather enjoyable pattern: tapas!  One of my latest finds is a seafood tapas restaurant in Russian Hill known as Pesce. Pesce identifies itself as a “Seafood Bar & Venetian Cicchetti” establishment, cicchetti meaning small plates which are typically consumed for lunch or the early afternoon.

I took the 45 bus to the intersection of Polk and Union this past Monday evening which put me within 2 blocks of this new dining experience.  Even though I was so extremely close to my final destination, I couldn’t help but be distracted by all of the adorable shops along Polk Street in Russian Hill.  My temptations got the best of me when I noticed a small shop with some of my favorite European lotions and soaps that I originally discovered on the back streets of Paris.  I hopped in for a quick look and, after securing some female essentials, strolled through the doors of Pesce late, casually late.

If you have spent any time in Paris you will understand my description of the restaurant interior: normal lighting (not too dim), darkly stained wood walls and a white and blue patterned tile floor reminiscent of the casual brassieries in Paris that offered a stimulating landing for such greats as Ernest Hemingway.  Unfortunately my travels have never taken me to Italy; therefore, I am unable to provide a correlation between this restaurant and the country from which its food is inspired.

This night was rather quiet.  Tuesdays in the city, as you can imagine, are not that active.  I was joined by a colleague for this meal; actually, it was their suggestion to dine at Pesce (I’m sorry that I don’t have another unique story about how I found this place).  My friend and I were one of only four tables occupied this night, so I cannot speak for the level of service when the place is jam packed.  However, I can tell you that everyone seemed genuinely concerned about making my first time at Pesce an amazing experience, both with food and service.  Little did they know that I have created my own version of the Michelin Inspector guidebook in blog form…

So, what enticing treats awaited us?  My friend actually slipped a copy of the heavy, translucent paper menu into my purse so I wouldn’t forget the correct names and descriptions of the tastes that delighted us so.  I cannot help but sing about my favorite dish at Pesce: Pappardelle.  Pappardelle is a “wide noodle with braised duck and porcini sauce” (Pesce menu).  In layman’s terms, this dish contained egg noodles, smothered in a perfectly seasoned tomato sauce with what looked like pulled pork but was actually duck.  I’ve tried duck a few times in my life, but honestly I was never impressed.  However, this dish so delicately combined the tender, pulled duck meat with the tastes of typical Italian sauce and pasta that I was literally wiping the bowl clean with chunks of Italian bread!

Another dish extremely worthy of mention was the Capesante.  Capesante is “pan seared scallops with wild mushrooms, green onions, cream and truffle essence” (Pesce menu).  From the first bite I felt as if I were back home, in my mother’s kitchen, sipping one of her comforting creations straight from the stove top!  To say “cream and truffle essence” doesn’t do this dish justice.  The scallops were melt-in-your-mouth as they should be, but the sauce was what sealed the deal!  It was the perfect blend of cream and mushrooms: rich cream with a subtle earthy aroma.  Needless to say, my friend and I made a deal that I could enjoy the last scallop if he could have the last sardine…

There were other dishes, but since they cannot top the pasta with duck and the scallops, why mention them here?  Of course if I encounter something that is truly unfavorable, at least in my opinion, I will share it with you.  But, in this case, just as with my first adventure at Piqueo’s, nothing stood out as a bad dish, inadequate service, or just plain annoying.  I, like everyone else, have several pet peeves.  One is most assuredly bad service.  Being nice to someone is within your control, and I truly cannot accept waitstaff who make a conscious choice to be rude and inefficient.  If this happens to me you will surely know about it.  If everything is as it should be, I will be extremely satisfied and offer my customary 20% tip.  So, in this case, Pesce receives two thumbs up for service and quality!


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