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Then there are the dishes that make you think Bacar might, indeed, be the real deal.
The smoked sturgeon is so good you'll never settle for lox again: a thick slab of firm, smoky fish cooked to falling-apart, feathery succulence within, then impeccably accented with a bundle of citrus-edged watercress. Another sterling appetizer is the platter of tiny sardines and anchovies, fried and served up hot and crisp. The sensational smoked wild boar sausage has all the deep, feral flavor of its unfortunate namesake, and is unaccountably sweet and juicy to boot. There's nothing more buttery, melt-in-the-mouth, falling-off-the-bone soft than Bacar's stellar osso bucco, a sublime hunk of protein perfectly complemented by a creamy risotto subtly flavored with apple. The mushroom pot pie is enclosed in a rich, flaky crust, and when you lift off its lid a wonderful, oniony, mushroomy blast of steam alerts you to the delights forthcoming. And although the aforementioned kabocha gnocchi is heavy and lifeless, another variety edged in pumpkin is out of this world: pillowy and blissfully spicy.
San Francisco, CA 94107
Region: South of Market
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904-4100. Open for dinner nightly from 5:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Reservations accepted. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: possible; valet available. Muni: 15, 30, 42, 45, 76. Noise level: convivial yet manageable.
Smoked sturgeon $12
Boar sausage $7.50
Osso bucco $24
Pumpkin gnocchi $14
Chocolate torte $7
Saint Agur cheese $9
Luna 1999 pinot grigio $31/bottle
One of the best things about Eos -- and one that has translated to Bacar -- is the way the desserts arrive on a big, beautifully arranged platter, all the better for communal munching. In fact, at Bacar they'll even spell "Happy Birthday" in chocolate calligraphy across the gleaming white china if you so desire. The dessert list changes often, but our choices included a soft-on-the-inside, crumbly-on-the-outside apple galette; an endorphin-raising flourless chocolate torte; and the sort of ice cream one equates with freshly picked berries, hand cranking, and a gallon or two of butterfat. We also enjoyed a perfectly ripe wedge of pungent Saint Agur cheese that was especially dreamy in concordance with a glass of earthy Graham's Malvedos port. Even given all this goodness, another dessert was more or less doomed from the beginning: tangerine-saffron risotto pudding. Alternately gelatinous and tough, sweet and bland, it was unsuccessful at every level.
Given its strong ties to Eos, a place renowned for its thoroughgoing devotion to exemplary wines both acclaimed and unfamiliar, Bacar's list is predictably deep and impressive. ("Bacar" is Latin for "wine goblet.") Wine Director/co-owner Zachareas employed her considerable acumen in putting together a thousand-item cellar, from which a staggering 100 offerings are available by the glass. (The glasses come in a myriad of sizes, which allows you to taste in small quantities a variety of wines over the course of a meal without getting sloshed.) The list is not only wide ranging -- its 28 pages are helpfully divided into categories like "Southern Hemisphere Sauvignon Blanc" and "New World Riesling and Gewürztraminer" -- but it also features vintages from several little-known vineyards and an amazing selection of burgundies. Plus, you'll find reasonable prices (approximately a 100 percent markup on most, compared to triple retail at many places). Luna's crisp 1999 pinot grigio out of the Napa Valley is especially conducive to sipping, noshing, and fostering congenial chat.
Of course, sipping, noshing, and fostering congenial chat are the goals of every good restaurant, Bacar included. Fortunately, Bacar is open until 1 in the morning, a rarity in San Francisco and a boon to the eclectics who populate it. (There are also plans afoot to open at 11:30 a.m. weekdays and to keep serving nonstop until closing time.) One last thumbs-up: The staff is friendly, cheerful, and well informed, a remarkable feat in such a young operation. The millennium's only just started. Stay tuned.
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