Blue Plate Still Wowing After All These Years

first_img Share this: FacebookTwitterRedditemail,0% The farro here is served porridge-like, with earthy porcini mushrooms, greens, parmesan, and a Meyer lemon pistou (a sauce similar to a pesto), and more grilled bread. Pure comfort food. This and a glass or two of wine on a rainy day would be perfect as a meal.Our final small plate was the brandade gnocchi , another unexpected rendering of a well-known dish. The milky cheese is tarted up with a creamy nettle puree, meyer lemon chili oil, smoked walnuts, and batons of grilled walnut levain. Hit all the right flavor and texture notes.Next up, toasted farro (a wheat grain, often used like rice or pasta) with a slow-cooked egg. Our first small plate was the pastrami-cured beef salad… Hot damn, is all I can say, to a bowl of browned noodles and melty, creamy, drunken Spanish goat cheese. So much for not making pigs of ourselves.I’m sorry we didn’t get dessert, both times. It’s probably fantastic. A girl and her man can only do so much.The service here both times was warm and friendly; it feels like these people are a family, and you’ve just stopped in to have dinner with them. The wine list was obviously made with care (I love that you can get a flight of rosés, or an Oloroso sherry, pre-dinner (both of which I did); and the BF had two glasses of the Spanish Bobal our server recommended to him, which almost never happens.)Blue Plate isn’t cheap eats, but I felt the value in every wonderful bite. Comfort food done well, with quality, locally sourced ingredients, and attention to innovative combinations, shouldn’t be something you don’t pay for.The BF asked me if I felt this restaurant was better than a few of our favorite, comparable spots in the Mission. Honestly? Blew them away. Blue Plate just offers what feel like personal touches, more eye-opening experiences, and more refinement, even in that very warm, down-to-earth setting, than most places we’ve eaten at in a very long time. I haven’t been to Blue Plate in over a decade, and I’m kicking myself for it. This beloved, upscale “diner” has been around for 17 years. Back in 1999, four friends got together and decided to open a restaurant. Their vision of a casual spot with upmarket food has continued to evolve, and there are often surprises on their American comfort food menu.It is very much a neighborhood joint, with a nice, homespun feel to it. You can sit at the counter and watch Chef de Cuisine Sean Thomas and his staff do their little magic dance of delicious things; you can sit in the homey (this used to be a house, after all) dining room, with its burnt-orange walls, artwork and tchotchkes (like your arty, hipster Aunt, who has impeccable but accessible taste, decorated your pad for you); you can sit in the light-filled, enclosed back porch and look out at the beautiful garden; or you can sit in the beautiful garden, with its lush greenery, fruit trees, aqua-tiled fountain, and heat lamps to keep you cozy on a San Francisco summer day. It’s all very, very good. This was one of the delightfully surprising tastes of the night. As Chef Thomas said to us (he chats with customers at the counter – another perk of sitting there – and will recommend his favorites to you if asked), this was like biting into a fresh and light Reuben sandwich, without the actual pastrami. The dish is composed of beets, Gruyere, frisee, a Rangpur lime vinaigrette, and a horseradish-caraway thousand island dressing. The beets were beautifully smoky, and that dressing mimicked a good bite of rye bread. This dish may have stolen the show for me that night, if only by a nose.Our second dish was the burrata: The porchetta, in all its glory.   Just look at it! I do believe this was (rather embarrassingly) my first actual porchetta, and it was a wonderful introduction, with its ring of crispy/crackly skin, and meltingly tender pork stuffed with less-sweet-than-I’d-imagined prunes, walnuts, watercress and wild rice. It was just a gorgeous piece of meat, napped in a Seville orange chimichurri and its own juices. But, Oh! That skin!Our second visit we sat on the lovely back porch… The BF and I had an exceptionally wonderful meal our first night, where every dish just sang. We shared four “small” plates (be warned: at least a couple of them could easily have served as an entrée) and split a main dish. While this dish was called a Winter chicory salad, it evoked Fall to me, with its crispy parsnips and apple butter. The cara-cara oranges, definitely a Winter fruit, were their delicious juicy selves, and paired nicely with the slight bitterness of the greens. The creamy pecorino vinaigrette brought all the disparate flavors together.Next, we ordered the house–cured, smoked duck prosciutto. We decided to not be such piggies this time. We started off with a salad. Brandade is the French preparation of salt cod and olive oil, a creamy spread rather like an aioli, sometimes with the addition of mashed potatoes for more substance. It’s a rich, satisfying dish. The gnocchi here were made in the Parisian style, with a pâte à choux – a light pastry dough – rather than the Italian way which uses potatoes or flour. This was the second time I’d run into this preparation for gnocchi in about a week, and I was liking the trend. The gnocchi turn out light yet substantial. The salt cod flavor isn’t as strong as it might be in other preparations, which was good for the seafood-disdaining BF. The gnocchi were paired with finocchiona – thick slices of fennel salami – pickled golden raisins, toasted almonds, and preserved lemon. The assertive bites of salami contrasted nicely, as did the sultanas and almonds, with the silky gnocchi.Finally, our entree: Here’s one of those astonishing moments the restaurant has up its sleeve. The dish was made up of beautifully smoky slices of tender duck, celery that had been marinated in pastis (an anise-flavored French aperitif), cannellini beans, and cocoa nibs, all napped in an orange blossom balsamic. This plate had me wondering throughout, what is that? And that? What IS it?? I knew what the components were, but the tastes and textures were confounding me. The celery had a bitter taste to it, not licorice-y as I expected from the pastis. The cocoa nibs added more crunch and yet another note of bitterness. The beans were a smooth, comforting element, and then every few bites I’d get a taste of something very flowery, perfumey, and finally figured out it was the large leaves of fresh oregano. The BF did not love this, and while I can’t say I’d definitely order it again, this dish more than any other made me think, pay attention to what I was eating. It felt like a puzzle, a mini adventure, right on my plate.We came back down to earth with one of Blue Plates’ most beloved favorites – the fried chicken. Everyone starts off with buttery, house-made focaccia. I’m always a little surprised when a restaurant does boneless fried chicken, but let’s not quibble here. That’s some mighty fine chicken, bones or no. Wonderfully crispy, crunchy, and juicy well-seasoned, and paired with a genius dipping sauce of cool, smoked jalapeño buttermilk dressing (they like to smoke things here, and they do it well) that I would like to swim in. The mac salad that came with it wasn’t my favorite (fried chicken sides rarely are), so it was a good thing we’d ordered the macaroni and cheese… Blue Plate3218 Mission St.San Francisco, CA 94110415-282-6777www.blueplatesf.com 0%last_img read more