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In a state of hibernation. My backlog has long become unsustainable. Will probably tweet more and write less full-length stuff.


Da Flora


My mom received a recommendation from someone to try out Da Flora, a small Italian place at the edge of North Beach. The place really is quite small, occupying a weird corner space of a very sharp block on Columbus. Racks of wine cover the back wall, while a presumably tiny kitchen is hidden somewhere in the back. The menu came handwritten, which was a nice homely touch. Completely unrelated: I'm about 80% sure that Chris Moneymaker (he won the World Series of Poker a couple of years ago) was eating a couple of tables away from us. I have no idea what he would be in SF for (this was like 2 weeks ago, so it's possible he was here just before the WSOP started), but it really really looked like him! Anyway, on to the food...

carpaccio a la Harry's Bar - raw tenderloin sliced thin & topped with horseradish caper dressing - $10.75 The menu has at least some of a Venetian slant to it, considering it had this dish as well as a squid ink risotto on there. When I saw the claim "a la Harry's Bar," it was set in stone that I'd order this. My mom briefly inquired about the Harry's Bar part, and our server (who appeared to be the owner) went into the story of how carpaccio was invented at Harry's Bar, and somewhere along the line became served with olive oil instead of Harry's Bar's creamy dressing thing. I don't know how often she runs into a customer who has had the real deal at Harry's Bar (I'm soo awesome aren't I? It was pre-Arthur Hungry though, and still the best carpaccio I've ever had). Since I knew the story already, I was eager to try. The result: meh. It was good, but not great. The sauce certainly tasted a little different - Harry's Bar's had more of an aioli type of flavor to it. I guess when they've set up such a comparison, it's tough not to be a little disappointed. Still, it was a pretty good carpaccio.

burrata, marinated peppers, crostini - $9.75 (I think) This was a special so I'm not sure if I got the price right. It was replacing a fava bean puree crostini that was on the menu and listed at $9.75, so it should be at least in that ballpark. Anyway, here was another dish that immediately set itself up for comparison, this time to the heavenly burrata at A16. I know, it's not like A16 invented burrata, but their version seems to have become a pretty famous dish around our fair city. The one at Da Flora, apparently flown in from Italy that day, was again very good but not great. It wasn't as good as the one at A16, which I guess is not a huge knock considering how good that one is and how hard it is now to get a table there. This cheese was very nice but something was missing - maybe it could have used another drop of olive oil, or the crostini needed another pinch of salt. My mom still loved it and probably appreciated the peppers more than I did.

"their own" sweet potato gnocchi swathed in sherry cream with smoked bacon - $9.75 This is Da Flora's signature dish, and it was definitely the winner of the night. The gnocchi were rich and hearty, and the sauce was delicious. The gnocchi were cooked til they were very lightly browned at the edge, which gave each bite an ever so slight contrast in texture. Excellent dish.

housemade tagliatelle with roasted corn & rock shrimp in a tarragon cream sauce There was a slight bit of confusion and at first I was brought a cavatappi bolognese. The owner had apparently misheard my order and actually written down cavatappi (I checked on the bill later), so it wasn't her forgetting something. I felt bad because at some point while we were eating our apps, she told someone at a table next to us while they were ordering that they were out of the cavatappi bolognese. Anyway, they corrected the mistake quickly and without any complaint - I dunno what happened with that bolognese, but it may have immediately gone to another table that ordered it. Anyway, as you can see the tagliatelle looks absolutely great. The pasta had a good texture, and the shrimp (which were even more plentiful than the picture reveals) were extremely plump and firm - not mushy at all. The corn was a nice bonus. My only complaint is that there was slightly too much tarragon, which during some bites overpowered the other flavors a bit. Overall it was a very good meal and I'd be happy to go back. It's a great nearby option, and there's one main dish in particular that I want to try: sonoma duck livers seared until rosy with caramelized onions, sage & pancetta, over toasted polenta.

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Reader Comments (3)

That gnocchi looks so good! I'm going to make it my summer's mission to try this place. Now if only finding parking were easier in NB.
Monday, July 18, 2005 at 2:07PM | Unregistered CommenterLauren K
The gnocchi look great, a total weakness of mine. And the duck livers with pancetta and polenta sound like a heavenly combination!
Thursday, July 21, 2005 at 3:26AM | Unregistered Commentertara
The gnocchi are definitely worth a trip. Parking was actually pretty easy when I went - just avoid the weekends :)
Tuesday, July 26, 2005 at 6:06AM | Unregistered CommenterArthur Che

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