No. 4: Beef Stew from Il Cane Rosso

SFoodie's countdown of our 92 favorite things to eat and drink in San Francisco, 2011 edition.

What's known around here as Cal cuisine, the meridional French/pan-Italian hybrid that emerged in the 1980s as Northern California's regional style, has taken its hits, and not just from David Chang. All those confit duck legs, ratatouilles, and short-rib braises over soft polenta ― cooked without conviction they're as dreary and formulaic as the elaborately garnished plates of boeuf bourguignonne and duck a'lorange they replaced, back when sun-dried tomatoes were as rare as Umbrian truffles.

Since launching in 2009, Il Cane Rosso has revived our respect for bistro cooking. Under Lauren Kiino, the cooks here wring serious depths of flavor from the kind of luxe local ingredients that weave through earnest menus all over town ― greens form County Line Farm, meats from Marin Sun Farms. Various forms of braised beef, which often appear as the piatto del giorno on the daily-changing menu, are among our favorite things to eat here. The beef sugo over polenta is good enough to stick in your memory as the archetype for long-cooked meat, all succulent fibers, syrupy juices, and root-vegetable sweetness. The flavor of Cane Rosso's Marin Sun Farms beef and vegetable stew is built around the tannins in roasted tomato, its olive oil-glossed surface breached by sprigs of cilantro and crisp, soothing stalks of agretti, reviving on a couple of levels.

Il Cane Rosso: One Ferry Building (at Embarcadero), 391-7599.

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