Best One-Man Band San Francisco 2006 - Canteen
This tiny spot, a chicly remade diner attached to the Commodore Hotel, has four booths and eight counter seats, all of them usually booked for the three dinner seatings (at 6, 7:30, and 9) offered Wednesday through Saturday. Every dish is prepared in full view of the happy clientele in the small open galley kitchen by chef Dennis Leary, late of Rubicon. His style is light, market-driven (the menu changes nightly), and full of fragrance and flavor: If crab is in season, you'll be offered a spicy crab salad topped with a cooling scoop of cucumber sorbet, or ribbons of asparagus ringed with fat crab flakes. Main courses might include a traditional roast chicken with baby vegetables or a vegetarian pot pie filled with meaty shiitake mushrooms, artichokes, and lentils in a cumin-scented gravy. Leary likes to accent meat with fruit (a textbook veal scallopini, unexpectedly paired with tangy grapefruit) and pair sweet with bitter (chocolate croquettes with chicory sauce). Don't miss the rich, buttery brioche rolls.