Wednesday, March 14, 2007

This Week's Restaurant Review: Pres a Vi in SF

We were looking for a memorable restaurant where we could celebrate our third-year anniversary, so we decided to give Pres a Vi in San Francisco’s Presidio a try. Pres a Vi loosely translates to "captivated by wine" in Spain's Catalan language. I had heard nothing but incredible things about Chef Kelly Degala's menu of eclectic international small plate selections. People have been gushing wonderful praise about Pres a Vi since it opened last December, so we’d heard a lot about the inventive menu, amazing atmosphere, great bar, professional service and the large international wine list complete with tasting notes. Many wines are offered by the glass at Pres a Vi, in addition to pre-arranged flights to allow diners to compare different wines and discover new favorites. When we walked in, we were immediately taken in by the warm interiors of brown and beige hues. On a hillside right next to the George Lucas Films campus, the place has a breathtaking view of the Palace of Fine Arts. Whenever you go to a restaurant, you’re taking the chance of experiencing both good and bad things and we know that. Maybe our expectations of Pres a Vi were too high, but, to be honest, our meal there was a series of ups and downs. First off, the staff put us off from the get-go. I had made the reservation at Pres a Vi several days day before, and on the day we were to go there, someone from the restaurant called and confirmed it, which is an added touch of professionalism that I always like. When we were getting ready to go there, I noticed we were running late, so I called to let them know. The woman who answered the phone hemmed and hawed and made it sound as if we might lose our spot if we showed up a half-hour late. And yet when we got there (15 minutes late) at 5:45 pm on a Tuesday night, the place was completely empty. We rushed down there worried we’d get bumped and when we got there I am not exaggerating when I say that there was literally NO ONE else there. What’s with that? As for the service, it was okay, except for one incident where the entrĂ©e changed after we ordered it. What was supposed to be a Napa Cabbage Raab transformed into a Broccoli Raab prior to being brought to the table. Our waitress told us beforehand and we said okay, but really they should have comped or at least discounted the item, due to the fact that it wasn’t what we ordered. The culinary highlights at Pres a Vi the evening we visited included the Ahi Tartare ($12), which was Hawaiian tuna blended with kukui nuts, meyer lemon zest, sesame oil, and soy topped with wasabi tobiko and accompanied with taro chips; the Hamachi (yellowtail) Carpaccio ($12) with truffle oil, avocado tartar and micro chives; and a Beet Salad ($10) that was fresh and inventive. The lowlights: A thing they call Jo-Jo’s ($6) roasted Kennebec potato wedges fried and tossed with Serrano ham and romesco. These potatoes were quite frankly soggy and tasteless. The Serrano ham mixture was very salty and didn’t work with the dish at all. Another disaster was the Avocado and Rock Shrimp Lumpias ($12) that were the equivalent of Geno’s frozen pizza rolls. They were uninspired and unimpressive. Of the six small plates we had, three were excellent, one was mediocre and two were awful. So, overall Pres a Vi batted a little below .500. Not a great score for a supposedly fine dining establishment with a good reputation. Pres a Vi is located at One Letterman Drive, Building D, Suite 150 in the Presidio in San Francisco. Make reservations and you’d better be on time. Their number is: (415) 409-3000.

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