561 Valencia Street, between 16th & 17th Streets, San Francisco, USA
San Francisco has a very casual dining scene and Bar Tartine, a bistro set in the grungy Valencia Street in the Mission District, epitomises it. Currently one of the hottest restaurants in the Bay area, it has no signboard and resembles a old fashioned bar with its rough-cut wood furniture and wall panels. It was a T-shirt-and-jeans joint with very dim lighting (at the tables furthest from the bar which was where we were seating, the tables were practically candle-lit) With only an a la carte menu, the Hungarian-inspired cuisine (Chef Nick Balla spent a few of his school-going years in Hungary) on offer came in quite large portions and was suitable for sharing. We ordered only four dishes (excluding dessert) which as it turned out was more than enough food for the two of us.
Potato flat bread with sour cream and garlic: This tasted so much better than it looked. It was like eating fresh bread with the flavour of fried potatoes (with crispy ends), with the sour cream and garlic 'dip' liberally spread over it. It was great comfort food on a cold night.
Grilled tripe with smoked pork knuckle: Despite the fact that this was tripe, it wasn't cooked in the traditional way but was grilled with a smoked barbeque sauce. Parts of the tripe were grilled to a crisp and accompanied by a very delicious spicy sauce.
Smoked potatoes with ramp mayonnaise: The potatoes were very additive, especially with the excellent ramp (a kind of local leek) dip.
Sausage stuffed chicken: The homely comfort food continued with the great stuffed chicken dish, where the chicken was super tender yet juicy. The onions, trumpet mushrooms and cream were ingredients to the dish but played a big part in bringing out the overall earthiness of the dish.
Rigo Jancsi - chocolate mousse cake with citrus and cocoa nibs: This was a very rich Hungarian chocolate cake with mousse replacing the usual sponge cake. The cocoa nibs and sea salt flakes brought some crunch to a dessert which was very good but which ultimately we did not manage to finish (being very full by that time).
Impressions: Good food and a relaxed vibe makes this a great place to have a casual meal.