Yes, I know, it seems as if I only make it to the same places each week. Well, if you saw my options here in Marin County (okay, I owe Picco and Pizzeria Picco a visit), you would understand. I did make it back to Bushi-Tei Bistro in Japan-town for a 3rd visit, and as threatened in an earlier post, it has become my new "go to" lunch place on the way into the office, as it is right over the hill from (my job in) Cow Hollow. The Chirashi-don is a must, and I've been mixing it up with Pork Ramen or Chicken Ramen, the hugest bowl ever, leftovers fit for a snack pre-service (so I'm not drooling over the Terzo offerings all night, looking as if I'm threatening to sneak bites from my guests' plates). Yes, I supposed Terzo needs some air-time here too. Okay, okay. Now, back to my local fav, practically walking distance: Le Garage.
The rainy weather on Tuesday was perfect for a matinee, a dose of Michael Moore in his new feature: Capitalism, a Love Story. Afterward, a combination of guilt (as I always feel that way after his flicks) and many raindrops found me on the phone with Lisa, making plans for Irish Coffees at the Buckeye, a splendid idea on this windy, "storm watch" weekday afternoon. At 5:00 pm, it was easy to get a seat at the bar where we dished about our jobs, our friends, and men! (what a shocker). We were finished right when the crowds began to descend. As we departed, we laughed to ourselves at the "receiving line" of men, various ages, shapes and sizes, lined up to nab one of our precious seats (barstools, that is). Perhaps we were leaving a bit too early?
An hour or two later, I found myself home alone and not in the mood for the soba and fresh dashi I had planned for dinner. I scoured my memory bank for what I was hankering for: red wine, yes. pizza, no. mexican, no. thai, no. Le Garage, it was flashing like a psychic beacon from down the street. A quick phone call confirmed they were open until 9 pm (and it was 8:40). I better hightail it over there.
The grassy landscaping in the parking lot was blowing sideways with warm, gale force, winds. For some reason, visions of the Japanese seaside popped into my head. I made my way inside to a sexily-lit restaurant and perched myself on a barstool. The hostess/manager asked if I had just called, and I nodded yes, she astounded at how quickly I got there. (well, it is just 4 minutes from my house- I need to remember this)
Funny how things pop out at you from the menu, almost immediately. I always say this is what one should order, instead of himming and hawing over this or that, caloric content, reviewing what you have eaten already that day, or that week. For me, that night it was the squid ink spaghetti with octopus, clams and tomato concasse. I had come thinking I would order one of their amazing mussel dishes: with chorizo or the one with Pernod, but as I looked over everything, the Kobe burger (yum), charcuterie plate (yum), two mussel dishes to choose from (yum), those lovely crab stuffed squash blossoms from my last visit(yum), that lobster salad with watermelon radishes (yum). okay, okay, you get the picture. I ordered the Squid Ink Pasta with Octopus and Clams. Yup, my body knew what to get. My very friendly Japanese barman, Akira, put my order through pronto as the kitchen was about to close. (I must have had a premonition outside, and some mass consciousness programming as I was told later that the weather was due to a typhoon in Japan...) Despite Akira's busy-ness, he helped out by pouring me tastes of wine, as unlike my food decision, I was fickle about what I wanted to drink from the selection of about 10-12 selections of each white and red by the glass, divided into American and French. I finally settled on the Martin Ray Cabernet Sauvignon, perhaps slightly big for my seafood dish, but chewy and rich, exactly what I wanted. Wine selections are not always 100% about the pairing with food (okay, don't cringe). There are obviously major no-nos, but in general, I am less finickey about that and more into the flavors I am in the mood for. Okay some of you, I have just lost credibility, oh well...
My pasta arrived quickly, studded with beautiful manila clams, which I quickly released from their shells so I could enjoy each bite unencumbered. The black pasta had a slight briney-ness to it, the squid ink providing that perfect perfume; and the octopus, I still can't get it out of my head: tender, sweet, delicious flowers of tentacles, succulent, perfectly cooked. Need I go on? The manilas were also expertly cooked, sweet and chewy, mixed with the chopped tomatoes, some butter (well, it is a French restaurant, after all) and some chile flakes to keep things interesting. I savored each and every last bite. The only downside, I asked where the clams were from (local, Washington??) and no one could produce an answer, not even the handsome Sous Chef himself as he poured over his invoices seeking a source. I expected a slight bit more from this level of establishment, but then again, the French do manage to get away with a lot.
After happily chatting with the staff and inviting them to Terzo, just a hop over the Golden Gate, I exited back into the wind blown parking lot, already plotting my next visit.