I can't say enough good things about 1550 Hyde -- every aspect of the experience is memorable.
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Everett & Jones Barbeque
Reviewed 1550 Hyde Cafe & Wine Bar: Thursday, October 13, 2005
It was a classic San Francisco evening. The fog had rolled in, and it was chilly and a bit windy. As we walked up Pacific we heard the foghorns and my lady's teeth chattering up a storm. I had a good feeling about this place after I had done some research online. We entered 1550 Hyde and found it to be warm and comfortable -- perfect for this night. A young woman greeted us with an inviting smile and asked us if we would like a glass of wine at the bar while we waited. Looking over the wine menu, I was a bit overwhelmed. I really don't know too much about wines and this list was intimidating. So... I decided to try something I've never heard of before: a 2003 Castaño Hécula from Spain. It was quite tasty and a bit spicy. My fiancé chose the Scharffenberger sparkling wine; she liked that. About halfway through our wine, we were seated at a cute table in the front corner.
I was checking out the clientele as we strolled through the place. There was a good mix of middle-aged folks in Dockers and sweaters and a young hipster club vibe. However, one woman -- a new mother -- was in sweats. The décor was very minimal; not much on the walls. Low lighting made for a very intimate setting. The building was a renovated Edwardian with wainscoted wood walls, small crown shelving about four feet up, and warmly painted plaster for the ceiling.
On with the show. They had some interesting selections on the menu like rabbit liver terrine, fried rabbit, wild local salmon, and stewed lamb leg. To start with, I chose the heirloom tomato and Bibb lettuce salad with Green Goddess dressing and grilled bread. This was very tasty. The tomatoes were perfect -- they were not soft and mealy at all. They were ripe and bursting with flavor. The Bibb lettuce was delicate with just the slightest crunch. All coated (not drowned) in the dressing, so I could taste the food. Fantastic! My lady ordered the grilled Dayboat scallops with a fennel-rucola salad and romesco sauce. She absolutely loved it. I tasted it, and I wasn't crazy about it, but I also didn't order it. At this point, we were ready for more wine. I like Zinfandel, so I got one. It was a 2003 Ridge "Three Valleys" from Sonoma County; I really liked it. My favorite person in the world selected a 2004 Le Pigeoulet Syrah blend from France. She thought it was yummy. However, she should've asked our server for a better selection because it didn't match up well with her meal.
For our main entrees, I ordered the Hoffman Farms chicken, which was cooked under a brick and served with chanterelles, potato purée, and caramelized onions and Bloomsdale spinach. One word...AWESOME! My chicken was boneless, in one piece, and had both white and dark meat. It had that "crispity" skin on it that I love so very much, and the meat was moist and flavorful. The mushrooms were an excellent complement to the fowl and the potatoes and spinach were a great contrast, both in texture and taste. My soon-to-be wife opted for the fettuccini with braised Berkshire pork, Bloomsdale spinach and pecorino. She loved hers as well. The pasta tasted homemade and was cooked to perfection. My girl can get a bit fussy when it come to pasta, but this passed the test with flying colors. All in all, four stars so far.
And now the true test: the dessert. I got a sweet tooth. I'm not gonna beat around the bush. My sweetheart chose the stonefruit bread pudding with goat's milk ice cream. The bread pudding was out of this world -- sweet and cakey with just the right amount of tartness from the fruit. The goats milk ice cream, on the other hand, was...well...gross. This is a flavor that may be for someone with a refined palate, but it was just too strong and it overpowered the brilliant flavor of the bread pudding. I thought it tasted like the barn floor -- yeech!! I ordered the Scharffenberger dark chocolate pot de crème, which is basically some fancy uptown puddin'. Man, oh, man! I thought I died and went to heaven. This was so, so good it should be illegal. You can taste the fine dark chocolate smothered in thick whipped cream in every bite. The texture was rich and full-bodied, and the cream tempered the strong chocolate flavor to perfection. A great end to a great meal.
I would definitely recommend 1550 Hyde to many friends, and we plan on coming back in the near future.
Occupation: Art & Antique Dealer
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Lark Creek Inn
Reviewed 1550 Hyde Cafe & Wine Bar: Saturday, October 1, 2005
As I walked up Pacific Avenue towards Hyde Street, this little gem of a restaurant came into view. It is located on a picturesque, tree-lined San Francisco street, which is on the cable car line, so you can watch the cable cars go clanking by while you dine. One thing is for certain -- this small, tucked-away, neighborhood eatery knows about fine food and wine. Upon entering, the host promptly greeted us and sat us at one of the coveted window seats at the front of the restaurant. The place is U-shaped with both of the main seating areas flanking the centered, beautifully lit, marble wine bar. The interior is tastefully minimalist with painted gray wainscoting and beautiful, curved mica covered sconces, which dot the otherwise empty walls. The handsome bar is truly the centerpiece of this small restaurant. Placed off to one side of the bar was a very large galvanized vessel filled with exotic Bird of Paradise and other glorious flora, which made for a great focal point to an otherwise stark interior. Soon after being seated, our waiter greeted us, and to my surprise, he was an acquaintance from many years ago. We shared a mutual friend who was in the restaurant business, and he had worked at several places where I had dined over the years. We were both pleased that our paths had once again crossed. Needless to say, we had impeccable service. He guided me through my first visit at 1550 Hyde. He knows what he's doing and it shows.
I started with the grilled Dayboat scallops, topped with a romesco sauce and surrounded by a fennel-rocket salad. Two perfectly grilled scallops came on wooden skewers -- each garnished with some of the spicy red romesco sauce -- and they were surrounded by a lightly-dressed arugula and fennel salad. The scallops were cooked completely through, yet they were still supple and delicious, and the tangy red sauce had just the right amount of heat to complement them. My only suggestion would be to remove the skewers in the kitchen before serving (The angst starts when I see something served on a skewer in a restaurant. I have visions of food flying across the table upon skewer removal, though this was not the case this time.)
There was a nice selection of six entrees, but if I see rabbit on the menu it's almost always my choice. So, when I saw the fried rabbit with semi di melone, cucumbers, butter lettuce and lemon, I knew that had to be mine. A rabbit half was cut into three pieces and encrusted with a crisp, non-greasy cornmeal coating. As you cut through the crust, you reveal the juicy and delicious rabbit meat. The semi di melone (short-grained, rice-shaped pasta) was placed to the side of the rabbit and served in a leaf of Bibb lettuce. It was a less heavy version of a risotto but it was made with pasta and served at room temperature. The cool slices of cucumber were a nice balance to the hot, fried rabbit and the tasty creamy texture of the pasta. A squeeze of fresh lemon added a bit of brightness to the dish. This mix of flavors and textures was sublime.
My dinner guest had the fresh fettuccini with braised Berkshire pork, Bloomsdale spinach and pecorino. This dish was just a bit off the mark. Though the pasta was perfectly done, and the braised pink-colored pork could not have been more tender, all of these subtle flavors were overpowered by the heavy-handed use of the distinctly flavored pecorino cheese. Being raised in a southern Italian family, I was fed pecorino cheese at a very early age and I love the taste. Many times I prefer using it instead of the more popular Parmigiano-Reggiano in pasta dishes. In this instance, it was a bit too much and the delicate flavors of the other ingredients were lost. It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't great.
My dessert -- the chocolate pot de crème -- was great. It was incredible! It is a rich, smooth, dense, dark chocolate pudding with a bit of whipped cream on top and two shortbread cookies on the side. That, and an espresso, was the perfect end to an absolutely delightful meal. The wine our waiter suggested was a French Burgundy -- the 2001 Olivier Guyot, Marsanny, "La Montagne." It was fantastic and had black fruit flavors, a hint of plum, and a wonderful, slightly smoky nose. It was a terrific match for the rabbit and pork dishes and it was organic to boot.