While we were brunching at CAsper’s (aka CW and JC) place, we decided to make a reservation at Delfina which all of us had been wanting to check out for some time. It was the middle of the week, but we were really surprised how packed the restaurant was… Granted it was the week of Christmas, so a lot of people were probably already in festive holiday mode. I also couldn’t help but be stumped by the crowd that was lined up outside Pizzeria Delfina which was right next door. It’s just pizza after all…. but I guess it’s quite popular.
Anyways, we eventually got seated and perused the menu quickly. Since we were all curious to try a little bit of everything, we decided to go family-style which is exactly how I like to roll. So we ended up ordering a couple different dishes from the antipasti, primi and secondi sections of the menu.
To no one’s surprise (if you know me), my suggested appetizer was the Grilled Fresh Calamari which was served over a Warm White Bean Salad. Even though I was expecting something more like calamari rings, I really liked the actual whole squids that were served. They were grilled just perfectly at the point where there was a nice smokey flavor and the squid itself was tender to the chew. If it’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s chewy squid. This was probably my favorite of the antipasti.
Ever since my trip to Italy, I’ve developed a real love for crostini, specifically chicken liver crostini, so I was quite excited to see chicken liver in the Crostini Misti dish. There were three different types of crostini in addition to chicken liver, white bean-bottarga and cavolo nero-pecorino. Although they were all pretty good, the richness of the chicken liver still won out.
I believe this might have been CAsper’s choice, but it was a pleasant surprise for me, because I’m usually not a big fan of sardines. It was very well seasoned and nicely cooked. There were probably a lot of bones, but I think that is the beauty of sardines. You can just eat them whole, because the bones are so small.
This was definitely the best of the primi dishes and probably the best dish of the night, in my opinion. It was essentially spaghetti tossed in a squid ink sauce and topped with a small piece of uni, but every aspect of the dish was fantastic. The al dente texture of the spaghetti was good, and the flavor of the squid ink sauce was delicious. Surprisingly, the bit of uni on top added a nice twist of flavor.
I’m not usually a fan of tripe, but this particular preparation was well done. The tomato sauce was somewhat able to disguise the odd taste of the tripe. I could still taste the funky after taste, but it wasn’t too bad, relatively speaking, for tripe.
The Pappardella and Pork Sugo was all over the Yelp reviews. The pappardelle was noticeably homemade. It was a little on the thicker side and cooked perfectly al dente, but the Pork Sugo was really what brought the dish to life. Flavorful and delicious!
We debated a bit about ordering the Hanger Steak, because we were worried it would be too much. I actually think by ordering it, we had just the right amount of food. Unfortunately, I think it was the most disappointing dish of the meal. The steak was a little on the dry side even though it looked like it was cooked to a medium rare. The red-wine based sauce was really very good, but it couldn’t disguise the texture of the meat. I liked the french fries that were served on the side though. I think it was seasoned with some rosemary and tossed with fried basil leaves.
The TCHO Chocolate Torta was pretty good. It tasted like your typical chocolate cake, but the Hazelnut Orange Gelato really gave the dessert some different levels of flavor and the actual hazelnuts added some nice crunch and texture.
I was a little bit disappointed by the Panna Cotta, because I think the use of buttermilk made the whole dessert a little too rich and creamy for my liking. The bits of grapefuit and sauce on the side added some nice acidity to help cut the richness, but I still didn’t like it too much.
This was probably my favorite dessert of the trio. The lemon cream filling was was very tasty, and I liked the crunch of the crust. They probably used A LOT of butter.
All in all, it was a very good meal. I felt like we ordered just enough food which allowed us to try a decent portion of the menu. The restaurant space felt a little cramp as we were seated less than a foot from the neighboring table. However, I did like how one wall of the restaurant was lined with mirrors, slightly angled down, which allowed diners a nice full view of the open kitchen. The menu seems to change every day, but given the quality of the dishes, I imagine most any meal would be a tasty meal at this fine establishment.
3621 18th St
San Francisco, CA 94110
PAFO Ratings for Delfina:
Price 4 stars
Ambiance 3 stars
Food 4 stars
Overall rating 3½ stars