To Die For!: Giving new meaning to the word â€œchocolate,â€ was a spectacular chocolate budino tart I shared with friends on the night of the recent lunar eclipse. The place was A16 (see the current CondÃ© Nast Traveler), on Chestnut Street in San Francisco. A long, lean series of rooms, the red-hot Italian dining spot is crowned by a pizza oven and house-made salumi. But the budino. Jeez Louise.To-die-for (yes, it IS time to revive that useful phrase).
We began with shared plates of an erotically-textured burrata with crostini and an order of ciccioli â€“ a house specialty terrine of pork that was nothing short of stupendous. No fussy presentation â€“ but the flavors were intense and joyful. We shared a salad of slightly warm yellow beets and marinated fennel, topped with shaved pecorino. God! Our wine was a bottle of round and spicy Cusumano Sagana 04 Nero dâ€™Avola from a menu of Italian wines that is deep as well as wide. A full page just of Sicilian reds! Okay, calm down Christina.
Erik had the skate wing encrusted with orange zest, basil and almonds. Donna and I split a platter of roast Duroc pork done three ways, including a home-cured ham and a spiral of coiled sausage the memory of which is making me just plain speechless. Sides of chard inflected with currents and pine nuts, and another of garlicky cannellini beans kept up with the main dishes.
Which brings me to the chocolate budino tart. Why was it blatantly divine? Iâ€™ll tell you why. The beautiful mousse-like chocolate pudding, tucked into a crunchy chocolate tart shell, had been drizzled with very fruity olive oil and then sprinkled with large grains of sea salt.
With each bite you surfed a cascade of sensations, each opening the door for the next. First the deep plush chocolate, which led to the savory glaze of oil, and then the sparkle of salt up high in some sexy flavor heaven. Here was a spatially complete, three-dimensional dessert that pretty much blew anything else chocolate clean out of the sky.
A16 is totally chic, but not a temple of cuisine in terms of cost. Three of us dined amply and well on two appetizers, two contorni, two entrees, bottled water and a terrific wine â€” AND the killer dessert â€“ for $50 per person.
Please somebody â€“ Sean? Chris? Ben? â€“ put a version of this chocolate, olive oil, sea salt experience on your menu. Grazie tanto!