Basque in the warm glow of this North Beach spot, serving northern Spanish-region favorites
One of the more striking items turned out by the kitchen wasn't even a headliner on the menu card. It was the summer squash and tomato tartlet that accompanied a tiny fist of grilled lamb loin chop ($11). The lamb itself was flavorful and juicy, though slightly complex to eat, despite its size, because a bit of bone that had to be carved around. But the tartlet was a small masterpiece, a kind of ratatouille napoleon reminiscent of the pièce de resistance in the Pixar movie Ratatouille. It looked like a tomato-slathered disk, but under the tomato cap was the summer squash, thin coins carefully arranged into coiling strands, like DNA. The bean salad accompanying a small filet of butter-braised halibut ($12), by contrast, was much more free-form, in fact totally free-form, though several of the players were notable, among them fava beans, fresh chickpeas, and sea beans, an unusual edible that could pass as a cross between kelp and asparagus.
In keeping with a strong recent trend, desserts are excellent. We warmed to a date bread pudding ($8), which had the velvet-sponge consistency of angelfood cake and was finished with a pair of mock-savory witticisms: a sail (stuck into the top) of latticed chorizo crisped like a tuile, and a smear of black-olive caramel sauce, a clever recasting of that current vogue item, sea-salt caramel. The gâteau Basque ($8) also made imaginative use of an herb, thyme, we usually associate with the savory; here it was combined with peaches into what amounted to a fabulously moist clafoutis, capped with crottin of Straus frozen yogurt. Easy on the jaws.
Dinner: Tues.-Sat. from 5 p.m.
504 Broadway, SF