Third Base

Our other entrees were scrumptious -- good enough to make us glad we'd come to MoMo's before the stadium opens and the joint's overrun. Maple glazed quail ($21.50) consisted of three juicy pieces of the huge-thighed queen of all quails. Under crisp skin touched by a light, sweet glaze, the flesh was ruddy velvet. (Unlike common chicken, quail is best rare.) Alongside was an earthy moist mixture of wild and short-grain rice and pecans in a tart dressing, and an enticing pool of creamed corn sporting both whole kernels and grated ones.

At our waiter's clever recommendation, we tried grilled pork chops ($16.50), marinated for two days in an herbed brine that turned them tender, moist, and deliciously (if dangerously) salty. The generous chops were charred outside, rosy inside, and came with good, lightly garlicked mashed potatoes and a regrettable little heap of mushrooms. The menu called the latter "smoked chanterelles." With their rubbery texture, I thought they tasted more like rehydrated dried chanterelles -- the species doesn't dry well.

The wine list is long and potentially terrific, but steep and mainly young, with no full-size bottle under $20 and few reds old enough to have reached their peaks. (This is often a problem at new restaurants.) The stars, running $80 and up, are listed in a section called "Pete's Cellar" (after proprietor Peter Osborne, whose other restaurant is the Washbag). Our jailbait '96 Chateau St. Jean merlot ($24) proved friendly but undeveloped. If you're on a budget, look for the half-bottles (most about $15), which mature more quickly, if never quite as fully. By the time PacBell Park sees its first game, some of the affordable choices will have grown up. The beer list (with five lights on tap, five heavyweights by the bottle) centers on unexotic baseball beers, distinguished for their Rocky Mountain waters or chatty mascot frogs.

Melissa Roberts, fresh from a year at Rose Pistola and Rose's Cafe, is in charge of desserts. Those we sampled were very big, sweet, and American -- and many people enjoy this genre, even if I don't. Our hulking slab of butterscotch pumpkin cake ($6.50) with a hefty buttercream frosting was accompanied by a scooplet of vanilla ice cream dusted with crackly candied cinnamon. Sorbet ($5) is house-made, but in that evening's tangerine rendition, sugar outscored fruit.

If the food and ambience at MoMo's sound appealing, now's the time to go for it. Once the park opens, for nine months each year the bases will be loaded with barbarian hordes seeking booze and bites -- and who knows how the kitchen will cope with them. If some dishes, even now, seem designed to anticipate post-game noshers, many others (especially salads and entrees) will please the local food-fans on whose enthusiasm MoMo's existence still depends. I'll return for another meal some week when the Giants are playing across the street (although probably not on game day). Until then, the restaurant's for the home team.

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