Friday, November 13, 2015

Foreign Cinema

San Francisco, November 11, 2015—
WHICH RESTAURANT TO CHOOSE for dinner with a couple of dear friends who both happen to be chefs? Since we'd had lunch here the other day, and it had been so good, and since we've neglected dinner here for far too long, particularly given that we like the owners, why not go to Foreign Cinema?

I'm not sure I know the history of the name. I know they do, from time to time, or have, at least, at times in the past, thrown movies, presumably mostly foreign classics, onto the back wall of the outdoor dining room: but since I've never eaten out there I'm not sure how well it works. (I do like the idea: I watch movies on airplanes with the sound off, and enjoy them as background visuals — sort of like having a fireplace, but you don't have to carry any firewood.)

I started out with a classic brandade: salt cod, well soaked and prepared, whipped up with mashed potatoes and flavored with a hint of garlic and, exceptionally, chilies, and served with toasted slices of baguette. Occasional visitors to this blog will know that I'm partial to salt cod; I eat it just about every chance I get, and have enjoyed it in Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, and of course the USA. Baccalà, Bacalao, Brandade: nearly every region has its own special way with the dish.

Foreign Cinema's way was somewhere between a classic French brandade and a fine Venetian baccalà mantecata : not only smooth but actually fluffy, and the potato there as a smoothening agent, not a filler. It was a classic brandade, a perfect one; I have never had a better one, and I've eaten dozens, scores, perhaps hundreds.

But that's not what you see here, because my photo didn't work. This one hardly works, too: there was very little light at the relatively quiet corner table we were given, that we might converse. What you see here is a pork chop, of course, brined in house and served on a bed of "Umbrian olive sauce," an interestingly and pleasantly textured green-olive tapenade I suppose, warm of course; and with it was a soft polenta that I liked for its continuation of the brandade texture, and a scatter of arugula.

The pork was very well chosen: lean, dense, mature, full of flavor; and the kitchen cooked it as I'd asked: as little as possible. Delicious. I like this place.

Sparkling Vouvray, Champalou Brut; Verduno Pelaverga, G.B. Brlotto, 2014 (rich, direct, substantial)
• Foreign Cinema, 2534 Mission Street, San Francisco; 415-648-7600
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

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