Piperade - Battery Street - San Francisco
A couple of weeks ago I realised I was tired. Tired of trying new restaurants. Tired of places that don't know how to treat their customers. Tired of seeing and being seen. Tired of the constant din of the Ohmygods whose nasal shrieks and incessant squawking seem to be unavoidable at every hot spot in town. I was tired of noise. I just wanted to sit down and have a quiet, tasty dinner, a nice glass of wine and an audible conversation with a couple of my friends. Thankfully such places aren't impossible to find. And one of them is Piperade.
Piperade is only a stone's throw away from both North Beach and The Financial District, but it might as well be a million miles away, so quiet is the street it is on and so easy is the parking there at night. On each of my visits to Piperade, the weather has never been warm enough to request a table outside, but there are several available on the tiny, V-shaped, covered patio that you must cross in order to reach the front door. Maybe the reason I've not yet dined on this terrace, is that Piperade is a restaurant that appeals to me most in the Wintertime. Inside, it is woody and warm and inviting and although the low ceilings means it is anything but lofty, the decor reminds of a ski lodge or somewhere you might go to escape inclement weather.
The hostess could not welcome you with a brighter smile if it were Summer. We are usually amongst the last people to be seated at 9.30pm, by which time the room is full of satisfied-looking diners, deep in conversation, wine flowing. Dare I say it? Piperade seems to be the perfect destination for a grown-up kind of dinner. Am I getting old?
The menu is neither ground breaking, modern, updated often or particularly adventurous but it always provides me with some pleasure. My own favourite dishes can be found in the tipiak, or small plates section: To begin with I might like to wake up my taste buds with the strong, briny flavours of the sea that come from tender slices of Bacalao (salt cod), served sashimi-style and topped with oysters, caviar, chives and creme fraiche. Warm sheeps milk terrine, layered with ham and then cooked until golden and crispy, served with frisee and dribbled with aged sherry is a rich but irresistible dish that makes you wonder why the hell you would ever bother with anything so mundane as a regular grilled cheese ever again. Piperade's foie gras torchon, kissed with vanilla and accompanied by quince paste, plenty of large salt grains and thin slices of toast is a perfect sharing dish to bridge the appetizers and main. Talking of entrees, I haven't gone wrong with any of their succulent lamb dishes to date, or their steak but unlike me, who finds it a bit pedestrian, Fred prefers the eponymous piperade, sauteed pepper slices and serrano served in a cute little skillet and topped with a poached egg.
Piperade is one of those places where I abslutely can't let the desserts pass me by. On my first visit I fell in love with their Biarritz Rocher - a huge ball of dense, crispy, chocolate-covered nuttiness. Imagine, if you will, a giant Ferraro Rocher. I think I haven't been able to resist this sweetest of nuggets on any occasion since. This makes things tricky, because I am also head over heels in love with Piperade's Turron Mousse Cake with Roasted Almonds. The answer to this conundrum is to always make sure to bully a dining companion into settling on one of these two before forcing them to share.
It's a tough job, But someone has got to do it.
PS. Fred stopped me the other day and said, "I want to go back to that place again. I really liked it". He meant Piperade.
I dined at Piperade four times before writing this review.
1015 Battery St
San Francisco, CA 94111
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(Piperade - not reviewed on a local blog since March 2006?)
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© 2008 Sam Breach Piperade - Battery Street - San Francisco