By Omar Mamoon
By Kate Williams
By Pete Kane
By Molly Gore
By Lou Bustamante
By Anna Roth
Given our mood and the ever-increasing phalanxes of motorcycle cops that swept by our corner - first 10, then 20, then too many to count - it felt like we were sharing the last supper before the Apocalypse. It was a nice, warm place to have it in, too: every table full, with people crowding in around the bar and by the door, awaiting their crack at the Italianate menu. There was a feeling of determined gaiety in the air, reminiscent of London during the Blitz, even though the bombs that were dropping were nowhere near us. I admired the assortment of antique light fixtures above us as we enjoyed the very tasty, very tender chestnut ravioli, which didn't really need its carefully prepared sauce of minuscule diced vegetables and soft shredded pheasant.
That was the high point of our meal. The saltimbocca, though prettily impressed with curls of prosciutto and sage leaves, tasted rawly of the flour in which it had been dredged. Every component of my plate - nicely rare lamb sirloin, olive-fig tapenade, undercooked white beans, and braised spring greens - had been separately salted, so that the combination became, inadvertently, a salt lick. We lingered over dessert, but espresso over ice cream is, well, espresso over ice cream, and I like my zabaglione served warm and thick and redolent of Marsala, not cold, thin, and weak. "Jeez," I said to my brother, "a bad movie, a mediocre meal, and war breaks out!"
I think this was my last supper at the Last Supper Club, but it's wildly popular already (the main complaint I've heard from its fans is that you have to wait even when you have reservations), so I don't think I'll be missed.
San Francisco, CA 94110
Region: Mission/ Bernal Heights
Grilled lamb skewers $6
Chestnut ravioli $12
Veal saltimbocca $15.50
Lamb sirloin $16.75
Open for dinner Monday through Thursday from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 5:30 to 11:30 p.m., and Sunday from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Open for brunch Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Noise level: moderate to high
The next day I wake up to "WAR" in type that fills half a newspaper front page - and two war-related phone calls. My goddaughter Anna, a freshman at Berkeley, has just been arrested for sitting in at Sproul Plaza. (She's upset: The arrests were sexist, she says, as the girls were only cited for obstruction, while the boys also got resisting arrest, "and I was resisting just as much as they were!") Meanwhile, my friend Jack wants me to find another place for our dinner tonight, not where I've booked (unhappily close to Civic Center), but somewhere within walking distance of his office, because protesters have shut down streets all over the city.
I choose Fringale, and not just because it's a couple of blocks away from where he works, but because in this ridiculous day of Freedom Fries (shades of Liberty Cabbage, once - and again - sauerkraut), I'm perfectly happy to throw a little business at the French.
I emerge from BART to find Market Street, yes, shut down, full of people, cops, and news trucks, with hastily printed signs apologizing for the sudden closure of Old Navy, the UCSF bookstore, the UCSF downtown campus, everything. As I walk down Fourth Street, a pair of excited young girls, one with her lower face obscured by a bandanna - half yashmak, half Jesse James - excitedly ask, "Where is the Bay Bridge?" "You're headed in the right direction," I say, as I amble along under buzzing helicopters.
Assembled at the base of the freeway exit on Fourth and Bryant is the largest number of motorcycle cops I've seen since, well, yesterday. They're quite solicitous of me as I pick my way through them ("Be careful!").
Across the street in front of the Hotel Utah, helpful onlookers Brian and Christine tell me that half a dozen or so bicyclists rode up the onramp in a vain attempt to close the bridge, and this is the impressive response.
It quickly becomes apparent that this is not a night when we're eating for pleasure: Jack and I search the menu for food that will offer the least resistance. We're really not hungry. When Jack chooses steamed salmon (steamed salmon!), and I order two cold appetizers instead of confronting pork tenderloin confit or rack of lamb or even roasted quail stuffed with apple and rice in foie gras sauce (which right now sounds marvelous), I realize we don't even have the strength to chew.
Awe, shocks. I'll return to Fringale in peacetime.