Not for the faint of heart

Lately, Chef Chris Costentino has been garnering attention as a contestant on the Food Network’s “The Next Iron Chef.”  But let’s not forget how he got there: his food. 

Incanto’s menu is not for the faint of heart.  Those who get squeamish at the thought of animal innards or organs you never knew existed, need to stay away.  Far, far away.  And the Chef is so in love with ALL parts of the pig that he even has his own “salumi club” of sorts, where he and his business partner produce their own salumi for its members and some restaurants.

Costentino’s restaurant, Incanto, is rustic yet sophisticated and comfortable.  But it borders on a cheesy hotel coffee shop theme if it weren’t for the lighting and the bar.  But the restaurant’s brilliance is in its details.  From the complimentary house filtered sparkling water to the house-made bread, everything is done with care and expertise.  This shows in the preparation of many of his dishes.

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We started with the Salumi Platter for two.  It’s served with a variety of marinated roasted and fresh veggies along with a house-made mustard, all of which were delectable and really rounded out the dish.  Proof again of the details.  The platter included pig’s terrine, head cheese, a beautifully fatty panchetta, and others.  The meats were all distinctively different, rich, and full bodied.  However, having too much of the terrine would have been too much for even me.

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J. ordered the fabulous Braised Shortribs.  It was served with some bright and fresh caramelized pear puree, brussel sprouts, and mustard.  And the meat was fabulously tender, moist, and juicy.  It was like butter!  But if it weren’t for the mustard and pear to accompany it, the meat itself would have lacked deep flavor.  A surprising disappointment.  It was technically perfect, but it lacked a bit of soul.

I had the Spaghettini with Cured Tuna Heart.  It was served with parsley and a raw egg yolk to toss while hot, making a sauce.  I enjoyed the dish immensely with the rich egg, freshness of the herbs, and strong flavor of the tuna.  But the tuna bordered on too fishy for my taste.  I know that’s the flavor the Chef was going for, but it was a little strong for me.  I would, however, order the dish again because it all married together so well.  And that pasta was cooked so perfectly al dente.  Just perfect.

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For dessert, J. ordered the Chocolate Ganache Cake and I got the Apple Cobbler.  Both were, to our surprise, the highlights of the meal!  My cobbler was buttery, the flavor of the fruit fresh and strong, and the creme perfectly mild and sweet.  J’s chocolate was the perfect dessert for the chocoholic.  It was rich and full of dark sweet flavor.  She licked the plate clean.

I have to admit, I don’t know if I’ll be back for a while.  Some of the main ingredients were so strong that they were overwhelming my palate.  So much so that I have to say this place is for the truly sophisticated five-star establishment foodie.  Ironic because the decor, location, and overall atmosphere are not five-star material.  I hate to admit it, but Perbacco’s menu and preparations are much more my style.

Incanto - 1550 Church St. – San Francisco – 415.641.4500

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