Basking in the Glow of Quince

Rack of rabbit done to perfection at Quince.

Quince, the much-heralded Italian restaurant in the Jackson Square neighborhood of San Francisco, is the kind of place where, on any night of the week, you might find the likes of food cognoscenti Ruth Reichl, and actors, James Spader, Roy Romano and Peter Krause, dining.

Because at this gorgeous, historic 1907 brick and timber building, it’s easy to feel like a glam celebrity, even if you’re not one at all.

That’s because Quince treats you with such utmost care that you can’t help feeling a bit special.

After hearing so many friends and chefs rave about the restaurant, which is a short stroll from the Club Quarters San Francisco hotel, my husband and I finally decided to splurge on dinner there recently.

There’s a warm glow to the restaurant, with its exposed brick walls, artsy chandeliers and gallery-ready, contemporary paintings. The waitstaff — both the men and women — are nattily attired in sharp, dark suits, giving them the air of serious professionalism.

They provide some of the best and most seamless service I’ve seen in a long time. Each and every time that a server pours a wine for you to taste, he/she will tilt the bottle at a particular angle just so as you try a sip — and continue holding it that way until you’re done — all the better for you to examine the label more closely.

Although two tasting menus are usually offered each night, we decided to order off the a la carte menu instead.

Chef-Owner Michael Tusk had the night off, leaving Sean O’Toole, formerly of Bardessono in Yountville, overseeing the kitchen as his culinary director.

An amuse bouche foursome.

An elaborate amuse bouche arrived after we had ordered. The rectangular plate held a small cup of vivid green English pea soup with a crunchy, sweet dice of Pink Lady apples and the zing of horseradish. Alongside it were a sliver of sweet roasted beet, a dainty cauliflower panna cotta, and a dynamite lobster fritter.

I started with the Monterey Bay abalone ($18), slices of which had been breaded and crisped, then served on a bed of nutty farro and red frill mustard for even more varied textures on the plate.

Crisp abalone on a bed of farro.

A bright salad of yellowfin and uni.

My husband’s yellowfin tuna and sea urchin salad ($17) was accented with a quail egg, capers and tiny radishes. It was delicate and nuanced, and with a lovely, almost creamy nature to the tartare.

Whatever else you order at Quince, you must have one of the pastas, which are all made in-house.

Dumpling-like cappellacci, with fragile skins, were filled with juicy, ground spring lamb ($20). Rosemary and Pecorino added even more succulent flavor.

Cappellacci stuffed with lamb.

Lobster gnocchi that I still can't stop thinking about.

A substantial plate of pillowy tender gnocchi ($20) hid moist chunks of Maine lobster. This glorious dish tasted so intensely of lobster that after one bite the aftertaste just lingered on and on like a fine Cabernet. Even weeks later, I’m still mesmerized by this dish.

The Devil’s Gulch rabbit rack ($29) arrived with its tiny bones Frenched perfectly clean and its flesh wonderfully tender. Creamy red wine riso and kohlrabi rounded it all out.

I could have eaten a whole bowl of the sweet Kishu tangerines, broiled till caramelized like candy, that accompanied my flaky John Dory ($31) with cauliflower and the first of spring’s peas.

A slab of burnt honey budino.

Fortunately, there were more Kishus in the vivid sorbet alongside my dessert of burnt honey budino ($11), a wedge of dense, caramel-like pudding that was so rich, it was downright naughty.

Tiny sweets to end the evening.

Teeny-tiny cubes of pistachio torrone, citrus pate de fruit and pine nut cookies ended the evening.

As we departed the lively glow of the restaurant with shoulders squared and head held high, we felt somehow more important and inexplicably regal.

Quince will do that to you.

More: My Meal at Yosemite that was Cooked by Quince Chef-Owner Michel Tusk

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Date: Friday, 25. March 2011 5:26
Trackback: Trackback-URL Category: Chefs, General, Restaurants

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13 comments

  1. 1

    Nice food! Those capellacci look particularly tempting.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  2. 2

    Quince is one of the more special restaurants in the city — definitely a place to splurge! That lobster gnocchi looks decadent!

  3. 3

    So glad you enjoyed it – it was worth the splurge huh? I can’t dine there without getting the pasta. :)

  4. 4

    I adore this place. Looks like I have a new reason to return… lobster gnocchi!

  5. 5

    Carolyn, four great reasons to visit this restaurant are 1) Peter Krause 2) James Spader 3) Your review and 4) Lobster gnocchi! :D You do need someone to perve on while you’re dining of course! ;)

  6. 6

    Gorgeous photos and the food looks so good!!

  7. 7

    Oh Carolyn, how marvelous! And the plating and presentation is lovely. Pistachio torrone? Looks delicious!

  8. 8

    Wow, this place sounds amazing. I’ve heard so many good things about it. Thanks to you my restaurant “to do” list is only growing, as would be my waistline if I could freely indulge.

  9. 9

    What phenomenal food. The pasta looks amazing, but then so does everything else.

  10. 10

    Waw!! All od the fiod & dishes look so appetizing.

    I am a big fan of that special ” naughty ” dessert!! oooh ,..yes!

  11. 11

    I have not been to Quince for a couple of years, but clearly they haven’t lost their touch! I finally tried Cotogna, and if you want the incredible food in a more rustic environment, that place hits all the right notes!

  12. 12

    [...] Other Italian Restaurants in San Francisco: Quince [...]

  13. 13

    [...] And: Quince [...]

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