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Incanto (Church St @ Duncan, Noe Valley, SF)


Margaret Pilgrim
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They may very well have been raw. If so they must have been very fresh indeed.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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  • 2 weeks later...
They may very well have been raw. If so they must have been very fresh indeed.

I made a very similar dish just last week from the Chez Panisse Vegetables cookbook - raw asparagus, shaved in long strips on a mandoline, in lemon vinaigrette with shaved reggiano. Prepared this way, the raq asparagus had a wonderfully fresh, crisp taste - very "asparagusy" but certainly not overpowering or tough.

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  • 1 month later...

Had a very fine offal-centric meal at San Francisco's INCANTO a while back. The shaved tripe salad and a truly superb lamb neck still linger in the mind. Chef Chris Cosentino is a full-on disciple of the Gospel of Guts and soon to be (with the release of his book) a leader/teacher.

I highly recommend any and all who've not been to go--immediately.

abourdain

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I just spent five days in San Francisco, and through dogged research collected a nice list of top restaurants, almost all of which I didnt' get to for a variety of resasons. Incanto was near the top, though, along with Ame, Gary Denko, Zuni Cafe, Boulevard, Delfina, Quince, L'Osteria del Forno, Canteen, 1550 Hyde Cafe and Wine Bar, Aquarealla, Chex Panisse, Fifth Floor....

Edited by Parmhero (log)

"Yo, I want one of those!"

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Incanto is a great neighborhood restaurant with some truly inspired cooking.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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When Royalty Comes Calling

For many of our cooks, who work a demanding, physically hazardous job, Anthony Bourdain is more than just a hero and a role model. His values are their values; his past experiences are their present experiences; the path he now travels serves as inspiration for where their own culinary adventures may someday take them. He no longer slaves in a hot restaurant kitchen, but he did so for a long time. And he understands that world profoundly, the way that grass understands dirt.

The letter is a nice tribute to Bourdain, and additionally, an insight into the history and daily operations of Incanto.

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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  • 3 months later...

I've already posted this review from our meal on 8-31-06 in my California trip recap post HERE, but I figured for those doing future searches for Incanto specifically, I ought to put it here as well:

INCANTO

If there were one place in SF that seemed to be almost unanimously praised on eGullet and Chowhound, this must have been it, I thought. (Well, actually Aziza was, too. But I digress.) I had read such great things about the place that it was impossible for me to enter without anything but high expectations for a great meal. They’d claimed pasta superior to Babbo, comfortable and casual atmosphere superior to Lupa, and rustic, ingredient-driven cuisine not unlike Chez Panisse. Needless to say, the reports I’d read had placed the restaurant in some good company.

We walked in to our 8:30 reservation to find the place roughly 1/3 full. Understandable, I suppose, since the neighborhood isn’t exactly bustling, and it is a Thursday night. Walking through the door, the first thing that catches my eye is a case full of their housemade charcuterie. I’d read all about Chris Cosentino’s affinity for curing his own meats in-house, and of course his fondness for all things offal. I hoped to be able to sample both these aspects of his work at some point during the meal.

We are seated at the table, and a few minutes later an assortment of bread – grissini, focaccia, and ciabatta – arrives, along with some olive tapenade. All pretty good. I especially like the focaccia. The menu arrives. So many good choices. It’s practically an ode to pork: trotters, and liver, and shoulder, oh my!

I’ve read a lot about the wine program here as well, so even though I very rarely drink anything besides water (ever, not just at restaurants), I figure I might as well check out the menu. Lots of very reasonably priced options, including small tastes, flights of three, etc. Very convenient for those as inexperienced as myself. My dad chooses a glass of a red wine whose name I can’t seem to remember. My choice is described as a “delicate crisp” white wine from Piemonte, that the waitress thought would be a light, refreshing contrast to the fairly heavy appetizer I’d chosen (which you’ll soon see)…

Fallegro, Gagliardo (2005)

gallery_18974_3600_6358.jpg

Not bad, but still not sweet enough for my tastes. I don’t know much about wine, but it kind of reminds me of Pinot Grigio. I’ve been thinking I’d like to develop my wine palate so I could eventually plan some pairings for dinners I make at home for friends and family, but right now all I enjoy are a couple of dessert wines (my favorite being Moscato d’Asti). And of course, I’m not going to force the issue. Besides, not drinking makes my restaurant bills that much lower. :cool:

My dad, as I mentioned earlier, was far from being hungry at this point, so instead a regular appetizer, he just opted for a small dish of house-marinated olives. Small black and green olives, and a bit too many herbs for his tastes, arrived in a small dish of olive oil. He enjoyed them, but not anywhere near as much as he enjoyed the Lucques olives at, well, Lucques just a few days prior.

Once I saw this appetizer on the menu, I knew I had to order it:

Pig’s Trotter Cake with Heirloom Tomatoes and Salsa Verde

gallery_18974_3600_7390.jpg

This was the heavy dish that our waitress kind of warned me about (I ordered a LOT of food….you’ll see). I couldn’t have cared less, though, as I love pig’s trotters and thought this combination sounded simple and delicious. And, boy, was it. Outstanding. The pig’s trotter cake was rich and meaty tasting, but somehow almost fluffy in texture. I think it was not much more than potato and the meat, but it was unbelievably light. The heirloom tomatoes, too, were incredible. Before coming to California, I’d never had tomatoes in a restaurant that even came close to the indescribable flavor of homegrown tomatoes that I’d been used to growing up. Manresa, Chez Panisse, and now Incanto had each given me reason to believe that maybe some restaurants can find good tomatoes, too. The salsa verde did not overpower either the tomatoes or the pig’s trotter cake, but rather tied the flavors nicely. The meal was off to a great start. I’d order this again in a heartbeat.

Next up for me was….

Gnocchi with Corn, Chanterelles, and Silver Thyme

gallery_18974_3600_5607.jpg

Another standout. The gnocchi were the ethereal pillows that one hopes for at all Italian restaurants, but does not often receive. I’d put these right up there with any of the better versions of gnocchi I’ve had in NYC (Lupa, Hearth, Craft, etc). The sweet corn, earthy mushrooms, and fragrant thyme tasted just as great together as they sounded. Sauced with just the right amount of butter and some of the reduced mushroom juices, everything just came together wonderfully. I offered my dad a taste, and he, too, loved it. Two for two so far..

For my main course, I wanted to keep things a little lighter. Just kidding. :biggrin: Next up I had…

Roasted Lamb Neck with Polenta, Charred Onions and Rapini

gallery_18974_3600_2580.jpg

This gargantuan chunk of meat would undoubtedly strike fear in the stomachs of those with lesser appetites. But faced with the daunting task of eating something roughly the sized of both of my fists put together, I was ready for the challenge. In a way, this dish was not unlike pulled pork. Or pulled lamb, in this case, I suppose. A very fatty chunk of meat, but with enough of the fat rendered that it was easy to pull apart. It had a beautiful reddish-pinkish smoke ring inside the dark, charcoal exterior that was reminiscent of the Texas BBQ I know and love so dearly. This was like “burnt ends”, Italian-style. After gnawing my way down to the bone, the polenta, onions and rapini proved to be a bit of an afterthought, but all were pleasant. Overall, I liked the dish, but felt it was a little too big in the context of trying to have a more Italian-style meal (antipasto, primo, secondo, etc).

My dad’s hunger was back (at least temporarily), so for the main course he had…

Braised Pork Shoulder with Squash, Fiorelli & Grilled Zucchini Blossoms

gallery_18974_3600_11556.jpg

My dad enjoyed this, but was not exactly wowed by it. In fact, even being the meat guy that he is, he seemed to enjoy the accompaniments more than the pork shoulder itself. It was a little bland, and frankly kind of boring to eat after a couple of bites. The zucchini blossoms were quite good. I don’t believe I’d had them grilled before. But, truth be told, he enjoys my mom’s pork roast much more than he enjoyed this.

At this point, you’d think I’d be ready to throw in the towel, right? But how could I? There were other eGullet recommendations to take into account, people! So I caught our waiter’s attention, and ordered…

Hankerchief Pasta with Rustic Pork Ragu

gallery_18974_3600_19901.jpg

Wait a second… This is the dish that everyone was raving about? What am I missing? Nothing about the dish seemed special. Sure the pasta had that delicate texture that distinguishes nice homemade dough, yet it was no better than what I can make myself at home (and I’m definitely no pasta expert). But the ragu was the big disappointment. Something about it was just so… one-dimensional. It was definitely lacking something. A bit of heat? An herbal component maybe? I don’t know. But I do know this was perhaps the biggest weakness of the night. I was not looking for culinary fireworks here. This is, after all, rustic Italian cooking, and I was very aware of that. But if there was something that made this dish special for others, it just wasn’t there for me. If I’d chosen to order this over the gnocchi originally, I would have been quite disappointed.

Of course, a meal without dessert is not worth eating, so we were not quite done yet. I’d read that Incanto’s panna cotta was supposed to be consistently very good, so it didn’t take my convincing for my dad to order…

Crème Fraiche Panna Cotta with Strawberries

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The reports were right. This was wonderful. Arguably the best panna cotta I’ve ever had. So perfectly light it could barely stand up on the plate, it just melted away the moment it hit the tongue. The strawberries, like all the other produce we’d eaten that night, we impeccably fresh. This was so light. So refreshing. Really the perfect summer dessert.

For my dessert, I chose…

Peach Crostata with Saffon Gelato

gallery_18974_3600_4317.jpg

This was good, but not quite in the same league as the wonderful panna cotta. The peaches were very flavorful, and the crust had a nice texture. A few scattered granules of turbinado sugar here and there provided a nice textural contrast. The gelato captured the saffron flavor nicely, and I thought it worked pretty well with the crostata, but the texture of the gelato left something to be desired. Not very creamy, and almost a bit granular or icy, it was more like ice cream than gelato, too. But, for me, pie and ice cream is a pretty safe and reliable choice, regardless of what language it’s in, so this was a pleasant way to end what ended up being a very long, very large meal (for me, at least) :raz:.

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Hankerchief Pasta with Rustic Pork Ragu

Wait a second… This is the dish that everyone was raving about?  What am I missing?  Nothing about the dish seemed special.  Sure the pasta had that delicate texture that distinguishes nice homemade dough, yet it was no better than what I can make myself at home (and I’m definitely no pasta expert).  But the ragu was the big disappointment.  Something about it was just so… one-dimensional.

I agree with you on this one. I really like Incanto, and since it's close to my apartment, I eat there fairly often. I had also heard people rave about this dish, so when I finally ordered it I was expecting greatness -- especially since other pasta dishes I've had there were fabulous.

There wasn't anything bad about it, but it just wasn't great. I thought maybe I had it on an off night for the kitchen, or that I was crazy. I'm kind of glad to know I'm not the only one who didn't love it.

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  • 6 months later...

For those of you who are Incanto fans, Chef Chris Cosentino will be the challenger on the Iron Chef America first airing April 22, 2007.

He also brought along Jack Falstaff's Jonnatan Leiva and Boulevard's Ravi Kapur as his assistants.

The restaurant will be closed that night for a staff viewing party.

As I've read he challenged Mario Batali, and given both of their predilections for the "fifth quarter", I'm hoping the featured ingredient will be some exciting variety meat.

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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For those of you who are Incanto fans, Chef Chris Cosentino will be the challenger on the Iron Chef America first airing April 22, 2007.

He also brought along Jack Falstaff's Jonnatan Leiva and Boulevard's Ravi Kapur as his assistants.

The restaurant will be closed that night for a staff viewing party.

As I've read he challenged Mario Batali, and given both of their predilections for the "fifth quarter", I'm hoping the featured ingredient will be some exciting variety meat.

This should be interesting. Chris, in addition to being a very talented chef is a very engaging guy and should show well on tv.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Well, the Iron Chef challenge was interesting.

The ingredient, Garlic, was a bit, well, uninspired.

I was pleased with how close the outcome was (2 points).

To me, Incanto's weakest element has always been their presentation, so no real surprise that Batali bested Cosentino in the plating category.

Fantastic looking food on both sides, though. And yes, Cosentino did his best to get offal onto the menu. Great to see tripe and liver featured on Iron Chef.

Oh, and the Squab was awesome! Just fantastic to see Cosentino instructing the judges in the finer points of sucking down squab brains. And that little claw clutching a whole clove of garlic! Very cool.

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Well, the Iron Chef challenge was interesting.

The ingredient, Garlic, was a bit, well, uninspired.

I was pleased with how close the outcome was (2 points).

To me, Incanto's weakest element has always been their presentation, so no real surprise that Batali bested Cosentino in the plating category.

Fantastic looking food on both sides, though.  And yes, Cosentino did his best to get offal onto the menu.  Great to see tripe and liver featured on Iron Chef.

Oh, and the Squab was awesome!  Just fantastic to see Cosentino instructing the judges in the finer points of sucking down squab brains.  And that little claw clutching a whole clove of garlic!  Very cool.

Chris was at the Farmer's Market at the Ferry Plaza yesterday giving a demonstration for Prather Ranch meats. He will be recreating the Iron Chef menu for diners on Saturdays and Sundays between May 18th and June 30th.

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  • 5 months later...

So I'm arranging to have my birthday meal at Incanto this year, and am going to do the whole beast meal, so I'm incredibly excited!

However, I keep bouncing between choosing the lamb and the pig. (they offer goat too, but I don't think too many of my friends would be up for a whole goat)

The other reviews of people's experiences at Incanto with the whole beast have chosen pig, and it looks oh-so-good. However, I'm very intrigued by the lamb, and have heard wonderful things about roasted lamb's head.

Any thoughts? Anyone done a whole roasted lamb at Incanto, or anywhere?

<a href="http://www.incanto.biz/index.html">Incanto's website</a>

<a href="http://firststep.vmbrasseur.com/?p=344">

Someone's Blog of the whole pig experience</a>

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So I'm arranging to have my birthday meal at Incanto this year, and am going to do the whole beast meal, so I'm incredibly excited!

However, I keep bouncing between choosing the lamb and the pig. (they offer goat too, but I don't think too many of my friends would be up for a whole goat)

The other reviews of people's experiences at Incanto with the whole beast have chosen pig, and it looks oh-so-good. However, I'm very intrigued by the lamb, and have heard wonderful things about roasted lamb's head.

Any thoughts? Anyone done a whole roasted lamb at Incanto, or anywhere?

<a href="http://www.incanto.biz/index.html">Incanto's website</a>

<a href="http://firststep.vmbrasseur.com/?p=344">

Someone's Blog of the whole pig experience</a>

I've never (but have always wanted to go) been to Incanto, but my vote iwould be on the goat... but you are a more considerate host than I. I'm assuming nobody needs to keep kosher? I'd go for the lamb. Really, though, you can't lose with either.

Will be very anxious to hear (and hopefully see?) about your experience.

Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

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ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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  • 1 year later...

Made my first visit here two weekends ago and really enjoyed the experience. People know about Chris Cosentino for his offal cookery and that's why I visited, but I was pleased to discover how he's created a truly comfortable restaurant. It's like a neighborhood spot with a national reputation.

Nothing here is particularly luxurious or refined, but they get the job done in an entirely satisfying way. The restaurant also isn't particularly expensive. Loved the mystery wine flight for $15, three short pours of different Italian wines. My friend and I partook and each were served different selections, allowing us to try six wines between the two of us. Can't complain with that. Food was well-paced and our server actually, and rightly, encouraged us to order less after I expressed worry given how much we'd been eating. Rather than get the full size pasta, he suggested we get a half portion. It was the perfect amount.

So, the menu the other day looked like this.

gallery_58755_6614_564864.jpg

If I'm being totally honest I perhaps wanted a bit more offal, but then again that would've been too much for us to eat. Cosentino giveth, indigestion taketh away.

To start we had the heirloom tomatoes with roasted eggplant and nduja vinaigrette and the beef heart tartare. Both dishes were great. Nduja hasn't quite made it out to the Right Coast--you see it mentioned on NYC-centric food blogs and people are still floored by the concept--but there is now a nice sausage's worth sitting in my fridge. It's freaking delicious and makes everything taste just so meaty and spiced. The tomatoes were beautiful, especially coming from the blighted, heirloom-starved mid-Atlantic. The tartare was offal in name alone. Besides being a bit more assertive in beefiness, I can't see how any beef lover could take issue with this dish. It was textbook.

Next we had the trotter ravioli with foie gras. The cresta di gallo referred not to the inclusion of cockscombs but to the shape of the pasta, I believe. This was like a reimagined take on tortellini en brodo. If anything I thought the trotter filling should have been more assertive, but the full-flavored broth and nuggets of foie alleviated this. A nice middle course. Along with the pasta came our order of the lamb fries. Our waiter confirmed that we knew what these were before ordering, so those expecting little lamb nuggets or whatever aren't surprised. I really like them. Reminiscent of sweetbreads but not quite as custardy, more spongy and firm. They had a bit of an offaly funk on the back end that I liked with the tang of the lemon, but my friend wasn't a huge fan. Probably the most hardcore dish on the menu, it could hardly be called offensive.

Finally, we had the braised pork shoulder with grilled and pickled peaches and rucola. A nicely executed classic, with a slightly update Californian flare. The sugar and acid from the fruit really helped the dish. The spicing on the pork was quite aggressive but worked well with everything else. What I'd call a Beautiful Plate of Food. We also ordered a side of braised greens with anchovy and panagrattato. This was perhaps the weakest item of the night. Which isn't to say that it wasn't good, it just wasn't quite as tasty as the rest of the dishes. The bitter greens were nice but the anchovy flavor was fully integrated into the braising liquid, making the dish feel a bit disjointed.

I had wanted to try to bread pudding, but, alas, they were out. Oh well. I'm pretty sure it was something like $60/person all in. Quite reasonable. If I actually live in SF I'd be here all the time.

Edited by BryanZ (log)
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Bryan, thanks for posting the menu. Our family gathered at Incanto last weekend and had a blast. The menu just brought all that back to me. The food was excellent and I was surprised by the final tab. I have paid a lot more in SF for food that was not in this league. We shall return.

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