1624 Harmon Place
“Choose a place,” my companion from out of town directed: “downtown, or close by; good food and wine lists; unobtrusive service; and quiet enough for conversation.” Oh, and bonus points for a lovely, relaxed setting and a photo-op view.
The pressure was on. She was not only from out of town, she was a foodie from San Francisco, so this had better be good.
Café Lurcat proved just the ticket. Factor in a sea of crisp, white linen and that iconic, green-oasis-within-a-vibrant-urban-landscape view, and we had ourselves a hit. The entrée list ($19-38) is short enough to inspire confidence in the kitchen—six meats, half a dozen seafood dishes, three pasta options—yet with enough variations to forestall boredom (and no pork belly—can you believe it?).
Pork tenderloin instead—my choice. Seared to a still-juicy blush pink, its gentle sweetness was saluted with a cadre of attendants, both sweet and savory: fig compote, onions roasted into melting richness, and the creamy, piquant bite of St. Pete’s blue cheese.
The Frisco maven went with the hanger steak, a perfect partner for our bottle of Concannon petite syrah—timed to the minute, then plumbed with a meaty Madeira and garlic compote. From the side list of veggies ($10), we snared a generous portion of cauliflower, roasted to an enticing umber tint. Had I been in the mood for seafood, I would have pounced on the butter-poached blue prawns with (how’s this for Minnesota-centric?) sweet corn, kale and Nueske’s bacon. Or the ahi, spared the usual splash of soy in favor of lemon confit. I’d also trust the chef to do the right thing by the housemade udon noodles, mined with Chinese barbecued chicken and caramelized orange sauce.
For starters, the girl from the Bay opted for the “salad” (sans greens) of matchstick batons of cheese and apple—simple as that and just as tasty—spiked with a few snippets of chives and perfect with a sip of Justin’s Paso Robles cabernet sauvignon. My app—I chose it so you won’t have to—was steak tartare, a passion I’ll indulge anytime I’m confident of a pristine kitchen (which this one is). But here the presentation got uppity: three little-bitty golf balls of raw beef, rolled (big mistake) in crunchy quinoa (why?)—like eating a sandbox. The meat was served with the customary toasts, of course, along with sundried tomatoes and the bite of good black olives. But, as that old lady said before me, “Where’s the beef [flavor]?” Lost in translation.
Dessert more than made up for my bit of grumpiness. To ease our consciences and the seams of our skirts, we shared a single sweet, the best one on this winner of a dessert list: a trio of profiteroles plump with salted caramel ice cream, drizzled with chocolate as dark as a Goth’s wardrobe and studded with candied pecans. In a word, perfect. But, I suspect, so would have been the runner-up, an oatmeal stout float with hot espresso, butterscotch and a caramelized white-chocolate blondie. (Now, that’ s my idea of a one-dish meal). And I haven’t even mentioned those legendary cinnamon-sugared doughnuts. If this message comes to you with a zen-like humming, not to worry: It’s just me.