Monday, May 17, 2010

Bistro Central Parc

One could not ask for a better neighborhood restaurant and the fact that it graces our neighborhood makes it even better. North Panhandle or NOPA is starting to gentrify in the extreme with really excellent restaurants opening up over the last several years. Perhaps the owner of Baker Street Bistro decided on NOPA because he recognized the trend and saw that our neighborhood could actually support fine restaurants. Whatever his reason, we are the beneficiaries of the decision and think it was a great idea. Bistro Central Parc, has been a long time in coming and we are ready for it. Every time we walk by it is packed, and the authentic French menu, as well as the quality of both the service and menu selection is surely going to make it a destination restaurant for San Franciscans, no matter where they live in the city. Parking is not easy in the hood, but as soon as people realize what a great transportation hub it has, they'll make a beeline to this restaurant. Easy to get to by bus, if the word parking puts a chill up your spine, the #21 bus stops one block south on Hayes and Central. I'm already planning on taking out of town guests to the " the Parc".

Maybe they don't, but I suspect the French rolls are house made because they are so "French" and very fresh for that matter. Even though I have been trying to curb my interest in bread, these little gems, tasting every bit as good as a baguette on the streets of Paris, proved irresistible, especially with the mussels.

Always a staple on a Mediterranean menu, these mussels ( $12.50) were bathed in a rich cream sauce and cooked just enough for them to release their liquor, without making them tough. They were most tender and succulent and filled their shells to plump perfection. These easily could have been a light meal in themselves although we did not stop here and went on to order a second course.

Our second starter was a goat cheese and wild mushroom tart including black trumpet mushrooms, spread on a crust of layered phyllo dough that was typically flaky, but a bit thick to cut with a fork. The tart was topped with mildly dressed frisee with fresh tarragon, that would have made a fine salad all by itself. It felt as though there were two starters on one plate and that was a good value at $10.00.

The tartare seen in the background of this photo was excellent and it was nice to see it in a shape other than a mound. For my money the French lamb chops were the star of the show on this particular evening for many reasons, the first being price. At $19.50 for a four bone rack, they were inexpensive by most standards. I had asked for the meat to be cooked to a medium rare and that it was. The Gruyere tuile and fried parsnip elevated the dish from fine cuisine to fine art in presentation, an edible sculpture.

It was especially nice to find the sauce "on the side" presented in a small creamer. In terms of photography, it made capturing the essence of the dish much easier without splashes of sauce to conceal or crop from the photo. The ratatouille made a nice side dish for the lamb, as well as enhancing the color on the plate. This is the first time I have seen the bottom of the rack cut in order to allow it to stand vertically on the dish. I took great pleasure in cutting that piece first before separating the rack in order to cover it with the sauce.
560 Central Ave. (Grove St.)
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 931-7272

Wed-Fri 5 p.m. - 10:30 p.m.
Sat-Sun 9 a.m. - 10:30 p.m.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Roosevelt Tamale Parlor

Sometimes childhood memories are not in any way, shape, or form similar to the reality they are trying to conjure up. Luckily, some places where those memories were initially formed still exist to provide the comparison. Roosevelt Tamale Parlor is one of those places for me, and I am grateful that it still exists and even more grateful that the new owners had the wisdom to continue making the signature tamales and sauce. The rest of the menu has changed with the times, but the tamales taste like a faint memory to me, a taste memory from another time, but the same place.

As you might expect, each table is furnished with tortilla chips and salsa. It's hard to ruin a tortilla chip, so I'll pass on the judgement of these. Guacamole on the other hand can easily be ruined for me, if the chef decides to practically liquefy it in the name of smoothness. I love the chunky guacamole served here as it not only tastes of fresh, buttery avocado, it looks fresh.

Here it is the famous Roosevelt Tamale, served with creamy, refried, pinto beans and a light Spanish rice, along with the seriously good sauce. The shape is not necessarily significant, but these are less rectangular and more square, with a nice thick masa and very generous meat filling.
Beef, chicken; no matter what filling you choose, they are tender, full of flavor, totally delicious and a testament to the longevity of the recipe. I encourage everyone to try this historic San Francisco classic. It could not be considered California cuisine, but it's pure San Francisco to anyone having grown up in the city. Johnson's and the Hot House are gone, but Roosevelt still stands.

The cheese and beef enchiladas are also worthy of your attention. The rest of the menu also looks worthy of exploration and I vaguely recall a crab enchilada that was very good, but unfortunately the website is down and the menu item cannot be verified.

2817 24th St (between Bryant & York St)
San Francisco CA 94110
(415) 824-2600