Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Crudo at Perbacco in San Francisco

Give the Italians credit for crudo, the latest---and to my palate, the greatest---stage in the popularization of raw fish in the United States. Crudo could be emerging as the newest culinary rage in San Francisco, even though according to my Internet research, Chef Mario Batali of Esca, in Mid-town Manhattan, may have been the first to introduce it in a big way.

The word "crudo" means "raw" in both Italian and Spanish. A drizzle of oils and spices that are alien to Japanese preparations differentiates crudo from sashimi. The biggest difference between crudo and ceviche is that crudo has not been marinated or "cooked" in citrus juice.

Considering that in the fishing towns of Puglia and Marche, raw fish in similar fashion has been served up for ages, you could say that the Italians here in the U.S. were kind of late to introduce it. Still, they deserve credit for bringing crudo to a new level.

The two dishes pictured above were served to me at Perbacco in San Francisco, a very very sleek and very new Northern Italian restaurant featuring primarily the cusine of Piemonte. It's at 230 California Street, right next to the ancient and legendary Tadish's.

Here's what's pictured at the top of this post: At left and listed at $12 is Perbacco's "SEA URCHIN/KUMQUAT/SERRANO CHILE/OLIO NUEVO/LIME." I like the way that each piece has its own spoon. Even more, I like that the sea urchin is fresh. Ninety five per cent of the sea urchin I've consumed over the years has been in the form of "uni" lifted from a wooden box behind the sushi counter. So sourced, sea urchin has what to my palate is kind of a relatively "turning" taste that I suspect might render it unacceptable to anyone who's enjoyed truly fresh sea urchin. I've been informed that the sea urchin served at Perbacco is freshly harvested from nearby waters close to the eccentric Marin County town of Bolinas. The picture next to the sea urchin is "HAMACHI/BLOOD ORANGE ESSENCE/SHAVED FENNEL/EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL." Like all five crudo selections on the menu, it too goes for $12 and tastes every bit as good as it looks.

We also went for a small order of Perbacco's SALUMI MISTI at $18, which sampled all seven of their cured meats. Someone from Tablehopper found their way into Perbacco's curing room and in a review spoke of finding "the mother lode of meats down there." Personally, I don't know if or where I've ever tasted cured meats more pleasing to me. Likewise, the COPPA DI TESTA---WARM PIGS HEAD TERRINE/PICKLED SHALLOTS/MUSTARD VINAIGRETTE for $7.

You'll notice that I've given the prices of everything mentioned. Having been in Las Vegas but a few days before and for the sake of contrast, I couldn't resist. However fancy, Perbacco is also a genuine bargain. Nothing on the menu is so high as $30. I don't understand how they do it, except for the observation that business is booming. Having called many days in advance, the earliest reservation we could get was 9:30.



Anonymous Shannon Booth said...

i'm intrigued :] love sushi and sashimi, not crazy about ceviche.

3:50 PM  

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