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My SF Bites: the Old and the New – House of Prime Rib and Incanto

September 29, 2011

Sometimes I crave a little bit of old school, something timeless, something classic.  We found a throw-back to the lost ages at House of Prime Ribs in San Francisco.   The enormous restaurant is dimly lit with a decor inspired by the steak-and-whiskey dinners from the 1950s and 1960s.

Dinner here starts with a plate of house salad mixed and dressed table side by our friendly waiter.

The main course is carved by a chef in the middle of the room and brought to our table with bowls of classic sides of mashed potatoes and creamed spinach.  There’s nothing quite like a perfectly cooked medium rare prime rib, savored with a spicy horseradish that carries a punch.  That’s why this is such a classic and why House of Prime Rib is packed even late into the evening.

And to contrast that classic dinner, we went with something just a little new the next night at Incanto.  It was our last night in San Francisco and I had been eagerly awaiting this meal the entire trip.

Incanto is the restaurant of Chris Cosentino, who is famous for his love of all parts of an animal and he means everything.  Don’t be scared though!  The menu is anchored in Italian and there’s plenty of non-offal foods served here.

We were led to the back room, a lovely space decorated with Dante’s Inferno relics and an entire wall of books.  I got quite excited as I recognized that, if memory served me properly, this is where Anthony Bourdain had dinner on No Reservations.

I started with a warm lamb’s tongue salad with eggplants and roasted tomatoes while DC, VW and JZ nibbled on the farro zuccheti with duck.  The lamb’s tongue was juicy and had that perfectly seared crust.  Everything was quite nicely balanced, the sweet tomatoes, the sharp vinegar, the peppery argula and the rich gamey lamb.  Put anything like that in front of me, and it will not last more than a second.  The farro zuccheti did not disappoint as well, a slightly simpler flavor profile and full of soft tender duck meat.

Continuing down the same vein as the zuccheti, what followed was a tasting flurry of pretty much the rest of the pasta menu at Incanto.  Ragu, strozzapreti, spaghettini, and rigatoni, oh my!  I honestly liked them all but my favorite was the strange yet intriguing sounding spaghettini with shaved Sicilian cured tuna heart.  Yes, tuna heart.  There was an egg yolk hidden under the dusting of tuna heart, waiting to be tossed with the pasta and the tuna.  The tuna heart brought a briny seafood bite and reminded me of anchovies but finer and gentler.  I kept on turning to it even after tasting the rest of the strong pasta line-up in front of me.

Duck fat cauliflower with mint and capers was the perfect punchy little addition to the meal.  I can never say no to a good flavorful vegetable dish, especially not one as vibrant as this one.

We were already pleasantly full at the end of the night, rolling out into the Noe Valley neighborhood where the restaurant is.  However, I was not quite done yet and asked to be dropped off at Bi-Rite to wait my turn for some delicious ice cream (see previous entry for some delicious bites).  What a delicious way to end our last night in San Francisco and here’s to saving the best for last!

***

Well, this pretty much wrapped up our meals in San Francisco and phew (I bet that’s what you were thinking)!  What a whirlwind of food packed within such a short span all in one city and I am not even half way done.  Another trip in the future is on the docket for sure.

PS:  There is still one more surprise entry to come from this trip just a little outside of city limits!

House of Prime Rib | 1906 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94109 | http://houseofprimerib.net/home.html

Incanto | 1550 Church Street, San Francisco, CA 94131 | http://incanto.biz

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