Fork U

Everyone's a critic on KQED's restaurant show Check, Please!

"The starters were better than the main courses," Martin points out later. "And how many times have I written that sentence about Italian restaurants?" I reply. Still, my braised duck, served in a flood of its cooking broth, is as good as it can be. Both my friends prefer the accompaniments to the meat or fish they order (red cabbage and chestnut spaetzle that I find too firm, topped with medallions of venison, and spaghetti squash and blood orange segments under a slab of sturgeon). We finish with excellent renditions of tiramisu and panna cotta. Just as described: a reliably warm and lovely neighborhood spot.

I hadn't been particularly taken by Cha Cha Cha at a lunch I had there a couple of years ago, but the three Check, Please!-ers are so enthusiastic (especially the chooser, a charming Episcopal priest whose big healthy-boy looks should have set off bells in my head, and whose courteous manner helps create an unusually agreeable show) that I invite Hiya and Jonathan to join me there for dinner. The place looks a lot grungier than it did on TV. We put our names on a waiting list, order a seemingly inevitable pitcher of sangria in the packed bar, and, in my favorite restaurant trick, get shown to a table in 10 minutes rather than the 20 estimated. We share small plates (actually quite large) from the tapas menu: fried calamari on a sea of garlicky mayonnaise; chunks of fried platanos embedded in puréed black beans; what the kitchen calls "Cajun" shrimp in a lake of creamy, tomato-y, mildly spiced sauce; spinach salad; two kinds of button mushrooms sautéed with butter and garlic; and jerk chicken, several meaty, plump pieces perched on white rice that taste rather timid despite the Scotch Bonnet peppers promised in the marinade. Everything is tasty, especially the yummy platanos, though nothing deserves the show's come-to-Jesus enthusiasm.

Inside & Out: The cozy Antica Trattoria drew us in.
James Sanders
Inside & Out: The cozy Antica Trattoria drew us in.

Location Info

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Details

Antica Trattoria

Burrata with peppers $10

Asparagus with Gorgonzola sauce $9

Braised duck $16.50

Tiramisu $6

Cha Cha Cha

Fried calamari $8

Fried platanos $7.50

Cajun shrimp $9

Antica Trattoria, 2400 Polk (at Union), 928-5797. Open for dinner Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday until 10:30 p.m. Closed Monday. Reservations accepted. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: difficult. Muni: 19, 41, 45. Noise level: high.

Cha Cha Cha, 1801 Haight (at Shrader), 386-5758. Open for lunch daily from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and for dinner Sunday through Thursday from 5 to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday until 11:30 p.m. No reservations. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: moderately difficult. Muni: 7, 33, 43, 71. Noise level: high.

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When Hiya and Jonathan drive me to where I'm parked, I note that it's my first time ever in a City CarShare vehicle. I pick up a CD. "People leave mixes in the car," Jonathan tells me. "Do you listen to them?" I ask. "No, they inevitably suck," he says. Everyone's a critic.

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