Tinderbox - Page 2

Tinder is the night
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Photo by Rory McNamara

Was the walnut blue cheese popper, a knobbly golf ball like a leftover from a caterer's tray at some holiday party, necessary, or just an attempt at comic relief?

The only high-invention dish I came away with doubts about was the grilled avocado cutlet ($17). This turned out to the pitted, peeled halves of a whole avocado, grilled to a light char and filled with lightly caramelized cucumber dice. On the other side of the plate sat a beautifully browned risotto cake whose inner layer consisted of cojita and avocado cream, which lent the cake some creamy weight but made only a tenuous connection to the cutlet itself. As for the cutlet: Why grill a ripe avocado? Perhaps the thinking was that, since the grill benefits many a vegetable — many a fruit too — it would benefit the avocado. But this calculation overlooked the law of unintended consequences. A ripe avocado is already soft and doesn't need grilling to make it softer, and it has an appealing butteriness that isn't enhanced by grill char, no matter how pretty such char might be to the eye. A main dish concocted from avocado is a wonderful idea, but this dish isn't it; the chef is too much with us.

Desserts, on the other hand, tend toward the extraordinary. A trio of fresh-doughnut-like raspberry beignets ($7) was simplicity itself. But a cannolo ($7) dribbled forth almond cream inflected with black pepper, and was plated amid reflecting pools of strawberry and basil oils. And a Kaffir lime panna cotta ($7), presented in what might have been a dog's water dish as conceived by some designer in Milan, was all the more amazing — an engulfing denseness of cream, a bright muted acidity like filtered sunshine — for being a last-minute replacement to the scheduled star, a basil version. The sole holdover detail was the little chunk of honeycomb on top — the golden king of that particular hill.

TINDERBOX

Dinner: Mon.–Thurs. and Sun., 5:30–10 p.m.; Fri.–Sat., 5:30–11 p.m.

803 Cortland, SF

(415) 285-8269

www.tinderboxrestaurant.com

Beer and wine

AE/MC/V

Surprisingly not too noisy

Wheelchair accessible *

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