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Piperade


Margaret Pilgrim
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Last night we visited Gerald Hirigoyen's Piperade (corner of Green and Battery). Both food and service were absolutely true to what you experience in the Pays Basques. Hirigoyen is at last, I believe, following his heart with this restaurant. While his Fringale has always been a reliable destination, he seems working from real passion at Piperade. His enthusiasm resounds in the food, and permeates down to every level of service. Last night, Hirigoyen was much in evidence, stopping at tables to discuss the food, his homeland and his youth in the Pay Basque. He seemed to be enjoying the evening as much as his guests, while at the same time every member of the service team performed flawlessly.

The menu is divided into small and large plates. The small are substantial, and the large are enough for two! There is also a daily special large plate; on Thursdays it is braised lamb shoulder. We ordered two small and two large: a garlic scented fish soup, lamb sweetbreads with Jerusalem artichokes, braised lamb shoulder, and a fish and shellfish stew in a tomato-red pepper sauce. All of these were excellent. The accompanying levain-type bread served with EVOO in which had been placed a dried red pepper was excellent. We ordered a 2000 Domaine Etxegaraya Irouleguy, which was excellent. Instead of dessert, we returned to the small plate section and chose to split between us the Basque cheese assortment served with cherry confit and quince paste. To the best that I could interpret, Hirigoyen's food is true to tradition and of the highest qaulity produce.

It pains me to admit that not five minutes after wine service I managed to knock my wine glass over half the table. Our waiter was tableside with an armload of napkins within seconds, had the spill under control and within a minute three waitpeople arrived with fresh tablecloth and settings. I have never had a catastrophe handled with such speed and grace. We were, in fact, told that it was a nightly occurance, almost suggesting that they would be disappointed without one!

It is exciting to me to see a chef so living his dream and so inspire his staff. In addition, the room is nicely soundproofed to the extent that throughout our meal conversation was easy and comfortable. There are a couple of outside tables in a heated loggia for smokers. If I have a quibble with anything about this lovely experience it is that while staying close to his Basque roots in his cooking, Hirigoyen has bowed to American super-sizing of portions. Next time I may well choose several of the small plates.

Prices are very reasonable. Small plates are around $8 (cheese, $10 and foie gras, $15), large plates around $17. Our wine was midrange at $32. His wine collection is heavily regional, and if ours was any indication, well chosen. He offers 5 interesting dessert wines by glass and bottle, ranging from a Juracon douz, a muscat, to a d'Yquem.

This is a wonderful diningroom to visit when you want a taste of home, even if it's someone else's. We'll definitely be back.

Piperade

Edited by Margaret Pilgrim (log)

eGullet member #80.

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  • 5 months later...

Noted in August San Francisco Magazine: Hirigoyen is named as one of four local cooking talents to receive San Francisco Magazine's 2003 Critics'choice award, named best chef. Others were Richard Reddington of Auberge du Soleil, rising star chef; Elizabeth Prueitt of Tartine Bakery, best pastry chef; and Claudio Villiani of Incanto, best wine director.

eGullet member #80.

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It's too bad this is one of the least vegetarian friendly restaurants in the Bay Area. I wound up cancelling my reservation when I found out there were only 3 things they would serve my wife

Salad

Potoatoes

Onions and Peppers (i.e., piperade without the ham)

beachfan

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We liked much of the food at Piperade our small and large plates were excellent. Unfortunately I can't say the same about our desserts they were terrible. And the service, oh the service...our waiter was fairly disinterested, the bartender was abrasive and the hostess was rude.

Our waiter had no comment when asked for recommendations for any of the food and especially the wine. We had to wait over an hour for our table and received no apology...and the bartender kept riding us to order something at the bar. The hostess kept getting us confused with another table (long story); I guess it was an off night, but so much so that we will not be returning.

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Sorry for your bad experience, wannabake.

I love Piperade! The food is fantastic. The serrano ham and sheep's milk cheese "terrine" is incredible, as is the rabbit stew on Wednesday nights. I was not impressed with the orange beignets I had, but the friends I went with have been there since, and said that the almond tart was much better. Our waiter was quite pleasant and did not pressure us while we took a very long time to make decisions on what to order (it all looked so good). Chef Hirigoyen made his rounds to most of the tables during the night to ensure everyone's satisfaction as well.

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  • 1 year later...

I'll be in SF in a few weeks for about 4 days. I've got reservations at Zuni and will try to hit somewhere in the North End and the Cheese Board in Berkeley. EG is full of "where should I eat in SF?" threads, and I've been working my way through these.

It just dawned on me that Gerald Hirigoyen's Piperade is in SF. It is worth a trip? Worth the money? I'm a fan of Basque cooking and of his cookbook, so I'm tempted, but I thought I'd get some feedback here.

Thanks,

Hal

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I ate there about a year ago with a group of eGulleteers (I was in town for a conference). I ordered . . . the piperade. It would have been very, very good if it had been salted at all, but alas it was not. Which is not meant as a wholesale indictment of the place; the bacalao app I had was excellent, and other people seemed more or less pleased with their food. But to me, too little salt is almost as bad as too much.

Edited to add a link to the thread about that meal.

Edited by Suzanne F (log)
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For the level of food and service that Piperade offers, I have not found a better value and enjoyable evening. Their wine list has some incredible Spanish wines at extremely reasonable prices. They even have lots of free street parking!!!!

[edit for grammar]

Edited by rdailey (log)
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I ate there about a year ago with a group of eGulleteers (I was in town for a conference). I ordered . . . the piperade. It would have been very, very good if it had been salted at all, but alas it was not. Which is not meant as a wholesale indictment of the place; the bacalao app I had was excellent, and other people seemed more or less pleased with their food. But to me, too little salt is almost as bad as too much.

Edited to add a link to the thread about that meal.

The food was all over the map that night, though the dishes were consistently under-seasoned. They do indeed have a nice wine list, the place is reasonably priced, and the food isn't bad. I wouldn't put significant effort into going there, but it's a good meal if you're in the area.

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That eGullet meal at Piperade was more an aberration rather than the rule, I'd say. I've been back to Piperade many times after that and each time was great.

I do recommend Piperade, especially now that the weather is turning cold here in the city. They excel at braised and other winter-y dishes.

chez pim

not an arbiter of taste

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I'm glad to read the comments of folks who were there. I was sad that the food was not as good as I expected -- and as good as earlier posters have said it has been. So you have my blessing to go and try it. :biggrin: But please report back, okay?

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  • 2 months later...

Piperade serves an interesting and tasty array of traditional and modern Basque dishes. My advice is to order an array of "Small Plates" to share, and may be the dish of the day. Ignore the entrees, which are not very Basque. The "sauteed sea scallops with green apple, capers, and gnocci" was fantastic, as was the "artisan foie gras sauteed with Monterey squid, grapes, and verjus." And since we were there on Tuesday, we got to enjoy the sauteed squid in ink sauce. The "seated ahi tuna and saffron potato sailed 'marmitako'" was the only clunker on the menu.

Bruce

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I must be nearly the only one who had a disappointing meal there. But I confess that I went in prejudiced -- I loved Pastis, its predecessor, and was really bummed when it was transformed.

Pim is right, though, in that it's the perfect winter night restaurant for San Francisco.

I really must give it another chance.

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Marie-Louise -- Hope this bit of of-topicness doesn't get me ejected, but every time I see your name I think of a fabulous short story about wine and romance by John Le Carré titled "The Growth of Marie Louise."  Brilliant, inspiring and sexy.

Worth looking for.

"Brilliant, inspiring and sexy." Oh, wait, you weren't talking about ME. :raz::laugh:

It sounds wonderful-I will go search for it now.

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M-L, that was cruel of me because I don't think you can find it. I discovered it in a monstrous coffee table book on wine that was given as a gift years ago. I looked all over for it to no avail because it's such a perfect little literary gem. I even got to ask Le Carré himself when he went on line for a Q&A at Salon, and he said it appeared in a magazine years ago and he couldn't remember which.

It's so good I'd copy it for you though.

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We had a very enjoyable meal at Piperade last night. The two of us shared 4 small plates. First, we split an order of the garlic soup; that was pretty good. Next were the cod fritters, served w/ mayonnaise laced w/ that smoked paprika. Very good. The best two plates were the peppers stuffed w/ goat cheese and a pizza-type item they called some other word. Oh my God, what a pizza! It had a thin cornmeal crust and was piled high w/ thickly sliced chanterelles & unbaked thin slices of cheese that just barely melted over the mushrooms. We had a bottle of inexpensive red meritage wine w/ the meal that went well. We had two desserts: the sheep milk & walnut gratin that was very good, but too rich to enjoy more than a few bites, and an incredible mousse cake w/ the best toasted almonds on top. Out the door, including tip, was a little more than $100.

I love places like this-warm, comfortable, not too formal. We will definitely be back.

PS There was tons of parking out front. We took BART so we could walk around the city & look at all the lights before dinner, but we could have driven right up to the door.

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I'll be in SF in a few weeks for about 4 days.  I've got reservations at Zuni and will try to hit somewhere in the North End and the Cheese Board in Berkeley.  EG is full of "where should I eat in SF?" threads, and I've been working my way through these. 

It just dawned on me that Gerald Hirigoyen's Piperade is in SF.  It is worth a trip?  Worth the money?  I'm a fan of Basque cooking and of his cookbook, so I'm tempted, but I thought I'd get some feedback here.

Thanks,

Hal

I am in the minority not impressed with Piperade.

I’m not a fan of upscale restaurants in general. I totally agree with Fat Guy in being under whelmed by French Laundry which was technically perfect but lacked passion. I have exceptions I love like Bizou and Chez Panisse. In other words, if I am paying top bucks, the place had better be extraordinary in terms of taste.

Also, I was never a fan of Hirigoyen when he was cooking at Finagle. Nice food, but not exceptional to me.

I know nothing about Basque food. In a discussion of Basque food someone mentioned that there is the older, heartier, peasant Basque food and today's modern Basque. I would guess Piperade leans toward the current Basque dining scene.

I did have one MMMMM moment at desert however

Parking is very important to me. Given all of the abundant parking at Piperade, it is really saying something that I never felt the desire to return after this visit in September of 2002, shortly after they opened. Here were my thoughts on that visit.

If you like Finagle, you will like Piperade with the bonus of plenty of street parking in the evening and a larger, roomier restaurant. There is also a small outdoor patio overlooking Battery that can be pleasant on a warm night like tonight.

There is a nightly "Basque Classique" on the menu. I decided to try that. On the night I visited it was Yellow fin tuna and potato stew "marmitako"

I asked the server to recommend a appetizer to complement the dinner and he made the worst selection possible - Sautéed calamari a la plancha. It almost mirrored the main entree with the only difference being the fish.

Then he compounded the error, when I asked to recommend one of the Basque wines, he said, "What would you like? Red or white?" When I asked him for his opinion, he said, either one. So, I thought I would try the white and move on to the red. BAD, BAD, choice and one the waiter should have known. For the first time ever in a restaurant, I had to put the wine aside to drink later and order the red.

The calamari tubes in a lemon-butter garlic sauce were a disaster with the sweet chardonnay. It did pair nicely with the red. That was one good butter sauce and I used the rustic bread to sop up every bit. The calamari, while fine, was just an excuse to eat the sauce.

The chardonnay did go well with the tuna. I bit into a delicious potato and tried to think what this reminded me of. The taste was very familiar. Then I had a piece of the tender tuna and it hit me - tuna casserole.

Heck, I have been eating Basque food since I was a child and never knew it. Yes it was top quality ingredients, not canned chicken of the sea and russet potatoes, but tuna casserole it was.

I like tuna casserole. I like fancy tuna casserole. I'm just not sure if I want to spend $17 for tuna casserole. The sauce was similar to the calamari, but a little creamier. This dish needed the salt toned down. Never the less, I did use more rustic bread to sop up even more buttery sauce. My mouth is still salty, as i write this.

I had a glass of the sparkling wine for dessert. Did not catch the name, but it was not as spectacular as the description.

I did a MMMMM when I took my first bite of the gateau Basque with peach preserves. A buttery slice of cake, topped with powdered sugar. There was marzipan in the batter, but in a good way. The marzipan was incorporated into the yellow buttery cake. A very successful marriage. The pool of peach preserves was ok. The unripe fresh fig did not belong on the plate. It was not on the menu and, not being ripe, took away from the dish.

One of the best things about the restaurant was the friendly and helpful hostess. Very nice bus staff, too.

The hostess treated me wonderfully. She saw me scribbling wine notes madly and asked if I'd like a larger sheet of paper to write on. She gave me some menus and business cards to take with me and answered a number of questions. She was very warm, helpful and friendly.

The decor is rather stark, like the rest of the service. Brick walls, wood floors, exposed unfinished beams. A huge square rustic table with benches is in the center of the room. The room is somewhat softened by the candles in hollowed out stones and the low lighting. It is coldly sophisticated.

The rest of the service while not really warm wasn't intimidating, but the real problem is that the waiter was not familiar with the wines or menu.

There are a number of Basque wines on the menu. The wine list is interesting and reasonable with some wines at $20 a bottle. Per glass the wine is also well priced. The two Basque wines available by the glass were $6.

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  • 1 year later...

I haven't been to Piperade for a few years but had a very nice dinner there on Friday night. My dining partner came in late due to a flight delay so we had to push our reservations from 9:30 to 10 pm. This ended up rushing our meal a bit but the service was still good.

With an aperatif of lillet blanc, we ordered two appetizers-- serrano ham and a squid salad. The generous serving of ham was of excellent quality and I loved the squid salad which was described as:

"Monterey squid with watermelon salad with fresh mint, coriander and espellette pepper". There may have been some tomato in the salad as well. In any case, it was a great combination. The squid were steamed/braised to a perfect texture and the contrast in flavors as well as in texture with the watermelon was very good. A basket of good rustic european-style country bread went well with both dishes.

I really enjoyed my main course as well: Filet of halibut, corn, orzo and chorizo chowder with tomato salpicon. The fish was absolutely fresh and the flavors of the dish were great--the tomatoes and chorizo provided bright spots of flavor against the rich corn chowder which had a nice undertone of fish flavor. My friend ordered the braised seafood and shellfish stew in red pepper sauce. I think the seafood was shrimp, scallops and fish; the sauce was flavorful without much heat. The bread was also put to good use with our main courses as the sauces were very good.

The wine was a nice Rhone blend from Tablas Creek; a 2003 Cotes de Tablas Rouge. This was priced at $40 which to my memory is a good price for this bottle at nor more than 2x markup.

We shared a nice dessert that I've had there several times before, the hazelnut and roasted almond mousse cake generously studded with sugar roasted slivered almonds. The only disappointment of the meal was the mediocre coffee. It was late in the evening but the coffee was noticeably and disappointingly weak and tasted like it had been on the burner too long.

All in all a very enjoyable meal. The room is still warmly beautiful and comfortable to me. (It was 90-95% full when we came in at 10 pm). We were also happy with the gracious service given our late arrival; we left a little after 12:00.

As an aside, one reason I like Piperade so much is that I find so many interesting items to choose from on the menu. Here were some other of the 'small plates' on offer that night:

Dungeness crab salad "txangurro" with basil, roasted epper and mango

Bacalao carpaccio with oyster tartar and lemon creme fraiche

Artisan foie gras sauteed w/monterey squid, grapes and verjus

Piquillo peppers stuffed with goat cheese, pine nuts and golden rasins

Haricot verts and fig salad with "perfect blondes" and walnut vinagrette

Garlic soup with rock shrimp, bacon, bread and egg

It's also well worth one's time to go there on Monday's to get their daily special of braised veal sweetbreads with Madeira.

I need to try some Basque wines next time and order the artisanal cheese plate as well.

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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