Wednesday, January 31, 2007
This Week's Restaurant Review: Kuleto's in SF
San Francisco is a food lover’s paradise. You can pretty much throw a stone from any point in this city (unless, of course, you’re on the Golden Gate Bridge or in the deepest darkest regions of Golden Gate Park) and you’ll hit a good place to have a meal. I love exploring new places and trying out unique and different things to eat, and invariably a good or possibly great experience is the end result. Kuleto’s in San Francisco’s Union Square really wasn’t one of those instances – from what I had heard from friends and had seen on the Internet, I knew ahead of time that an evening at Kuleto’s was going to be a winner. The place offers Northern Italian cuisine featuring fresh and seasonal ingredients and highlights items like homemade pastas, traditional Italian salads, fresh fish and flavorful meats. The focal point of the place is a 40-foot-long intricately-carved Brunswick bar made in England that was brought around Cape Horn in a clipper ship and survived the 1906 earthquake while installed at the famous Palace Hotel. When I stop to think of how many drinks have crossed that bar, the mugs of grog, glasses of wine and pitches of margaritas, it almost makes me drunk just pondering it. The executive chef at Kuleto’s is Bob Helstrom and he’s been onboard for 12 years. He has worked previously at places like Ponzu in SF and the Jbar in San Diego, just to name a few. He has a total of 35 years in the business, and his influences are evident throughout the extensive menu. Kuleto’s serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, which in itself is highly unusual in this city. Most of your top restaurants don’t even bother serving lunch anymore, let alone breakfast. I figure if a place is good, why not do it all? Sometimes trying to find a decent breakfast in this town is like trying to find a gas station. I’m getting tired of Egg McMuffins and bagel sandwiches from Starbuck’s, so when I hear about a good location that serves breakfast, it always makes me happy. Hell, my needs are simple. When we went to Kuleto’s, we had a wonderful dining experience. The wait staff is highly skilled, and you can tell that the place is first-class from the minute you enter. But, the most important thing about Kuleto’s is that the food is superb! The appetizers, salads and desserts are all exceptional here, but because of time constraints, I will get right to the meat of the matter and focus on the entrees. I would wholeheartedly recommend the Tonno alla Griglia con Panzella ($23), which is a grilled piece of rare ahi tuna with a Tuscan bread salad served with salsa verde. Everybody makes a seared ahi nowadays, but this is head, shoulders, fins and gills above anything I’ve ever had. The Piccata di Vitello ($21.50), is veal scaloppini with capers, garlic, spinach and lemon. I know that veal is not an animal-friendly thing to eat, but I love it and I promise that the next time I see a calf I’ll apologize. Until they outlaw veal, I’ll be eating it. The meat dishes at Kuleto’s from the Filleted di Mango ($32), or as we call it in America -- filet mignon; to the Tailgate di Griglia ($28), a grilled hanger steak that will have you hanging on for more, are both equally excellent. I don’t usually like duck, but I saw the Anita al Forgo ($23), a Sonoma roasted duck with braised corona beans, rapine and grappa soaked figs, and it looked incredible. Kuleto’s also has a wide array of pasta dishes. I’ve tasted the penne and the linguini there, and I can say without reservation that they’re divine. Nothing beats a place that makes its own pasta. It’s like the noodles know they’ve been loved. Speaking of reservations, if you plan on going to Kuleto’s, you should definitely make them. Being in Union Square means that the place can get crowded during peak hours. Kuleto’s is located ay 221 Powell Street in San Francisco. Their phone number is: (415) 397-7720. For a great meal at prices that aren’t really all that high for San Francisco, where at some places you need to take out a small business loan to eat there, Kuleto’s is a wonderful experience and worth every dime.