The Blue Plate - Mission Street - San Francisco - CA
(415) 282-6777, 3218 Mission St San Francisco, CA 94110
Date of visit 28th October 2004
I am lucky that two of my closest friends P and Kevin, who I have known for over 10 years, and who I worked with London in the nineties, both moved to California not long after I did. Unfortunately, our industry has uptimes and downtimes and our jobs are never very secure which can be nerve-wracking as we are all on visas which expire in just two weeks if we become unemployed. (Yes, we have just two weeks to leave the country if the worst happens!) Kevin was recently a victim of job losses at his company and we were worried that he might have to return to England. Luckily, he quickly secured a job in LA. We reunited for a last dinner together at The Blue Plate in San Francisco just before he journeyed South to start on his next adventure.
This was mine and Fred's second visit to this Bernal Heights restaurant that is hugely popular with the locals. We arrived with good memories of a truffled beef carpaccio, a delicious tender steak and a waitress who bought us free wine as an apology for being slow (even though we hadn't even noticed).
This time, at 8pm on a Thursday night, The Blue Plate was already jam-packed full and we overheard walk-ins being told they'd have to wait at least one and a half hours for a table. Fortunately we had a reservation in the only very slightly more tranquil back area of this unbelievably noisy, bustling eaterie where windows overlook the pretty terrace garden decked with heaters where all-year dining occurs with the aid of patio heaters (as long as there is no rain).
From the Daily Changing menu we selected the following:
smoked Sonoma duck breast cauliflower mache, pomegranate and pinenuts 10
The duck breast reminded me of some delicious magret de canard fume I had for the first time in Paris in the Summer. It tasted very fresh and very smoky, I would guess that they had smoked it themselves as the fume overtones were very strong. (Stronger than the Parisian version). Although I would have preferred a slightly more subtle version I nevertheless enjoyed these juicy little morsels of meat. But the accompaniments did nothing to compliment the bird. Why? Why did they include two plain uninspiring florets of cauliflower? Why did they scatter pinenuts and pomegranate seeds all over the top, apparently without rhyme or reason? Why allow three, strong, non-complimentary flavours all to compete for attention? The simple mache salad alone would have been a better backdrop on which to serve this flavoursome duck. My fellow duck-loving friend, P, chose the same dish but had so much of an issue with the smokiness, she didn't eat all her meat. (No worries there, all the more for me!)
grilled Painted Hills ribeye arugula, french fries and horseradish ketsup 27
Fred declared his meat was excellent and that the fries were just ok. He made a point of telling me that he liked the horseradish ketchup but when I tried it I wasn't as impressed. The horseradish appeared not to be freshly grated and I detected a hint of that preserved taste you get from pre-prepped horseradish in the sauce.
savory spinach grilled fuyu persimmon, torpedo onion and greek feta 8
Whilst the ingredients on my duck plate seemed unjointed, this salad was a much better marriage of flavours. The crinkly spinach leaves had been marinated long enough in its tasty dressing to make it soft and a pleasure to consume. Often spinach in salad can cause a drying effect in the mouth but this salad had overcome that hurdle. My first ever taste of persimmon was a hit and I was thankful it was not too sweet. The onions and feta added a touch of piquancy and sharpness overall making this salad my favourite dish of the evening. P faired less well with her grilled hearts of romaine, applewood smoked bacon, cherry tomato, avaocado and grana which she declared to be a big disappointment. Indeed, P's salad dish looked so unappetizing I couldn't even bring myself to try it.
The Blue Plate's Halloween Display
brussel sprouts brown butter pecans and sage 4
Everyone knows I don't like brussel sprouts, so what right do I have to judge these? When I was a kid my dad used to grow them and my mum used to boil the life out of them, so I know a bad brussel sprout when I taste one. I am not adverse to trying them these days, if they sound like they might have been cooked in a more interesting manner. I had a version once at Eos Wine Bar in Cole Valley which were to die for, so I know brussel sprouts can be good. P, another newborn brussel eater, was raving about this Blue Plate version. The flavour actually was ok. But I wasn't so keen on the slightly chewy texture of both the vegetables and the nuts. They tasted reheated rather than freshly prepared.
macaroni and drunken Spanish goat cheese 6
Be careful not to burn your tongue on this piping hot, rich, oily, enemy of Atkins, side dish. The best part of it is if you pick off the bubbled, breadcrumbed, cheesy crust off the top of the dish. The macaroni underneath is ok too, especially in the regions where the goat cheese has taken residence, but certainly nowhere as delicious as the tempting topping.
Kevin loved his Rocky Jr Chicken with wild mushroom risotto, roasted shallots and majoram as did the people he let try it. (Not me, but I can attest it smelt good). A seemed happy with her meatloaf. The smell of a chocolate dessert came wafting from the kitchen and someone decided we had to order one to share even though the description of its cold foamy sauce accompaniment sounded unappealing. We were almost expecting the little cake to be surrounded by something made of toothpaste or shaving foam. The sauce turned out to resemble liquid marshmallow and the cake was, well, just one of those fashionable little chocolate cake cases which you crack open to reveal an oozing chocolate centre. They are so over populating menus these days, to really impress me, they have to be amazing. This one wasn't. It was too sweet and certainly just an average example of the molten chocolate cake phenomena. (Our most memorable molten chocolate cake from the last year was suprisingly from Rohan)
Staff were really sweet and friendly, helpful, kind and generous. At the end of the evening things got a little bit slow waiting for our check. When they eventually brought back our credit slips, they had under charged us by a huge amount so we had to wait again for them to sort it all out and rerun the credit cards through. In their defence we had divided the bill unequally between the people paying which probably caused some confusion. But all in all, paying took about half an hour which was a tedious, tiresome end to what was otherwise a fun evening. The Blue Plate - Mission Street - San Francisco - CA