Top Tastes

Top Tastes is not a list of all-time favorites, rather it’s about the best tastes of the last two weeks (since my last newsletter), often from new openings.

Mini-bruschetta appetizer at Rendezvous

RENDEZVOUS TAPAS LOUNGE, Nob Hill (2080 Van Ness Avenue at Pacific, 415-409-0660)

Goat cheese-stuffed piquillo peppers

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Though the new Rendezvous Tapas Lounge is  a work-in-progress with a blessedly open but stark space (big booths and lighting make it feel more welcoming), I will point out a couple fun tastes early on. On the cocktail menu, I’d order the Bitter Peruvian ($10): an aperitif of pisco, Campari, lemon and Angostura bitters. It’s gently bitter brightness makes a lovely food accompaniment.

Delicate octopus carpaccio

An off-menu cocktail reminiscent of a classic Old Pal (but with bourbon instead of rye), Campari and vermouth, was the best sip of the night: robust alongside a burger on a dreamy, soft bun (vegetarian version available; housemade pickles a crisp touch). There’s wines ranging from France, Spain, Argentina, Chile, Italy and California. I liked an aromatic 2009 La Marouette syrah rosé from Negociant, France ($9 glass; $36 bottle).

Menu items are mostly shared plate/tapas style, though there are a few entrees, and all prepared with care by executive chef Mattin Noblia, who many know from Top Chef fame or at his previous restaurant, Iluna Basque. Though some of the items might read typical (hummus, sliders, fries, charcuterie), sauces and details add layers, and stand-outs include a paper-thin, citrus-radiant octopus carpaccio ($12) and warm, stuffed piquillo peppers ($7) oozing with soft goat cheese, drizzled with apple cider vinegar, contrasted by golden raisins and arugula.

Prawns w/ lemon & capers

There’s fun to be had with mussels Rendezvous ($17) in coconut milk and curry, pear & brie triangles ($7) in phyllo dough and tart raspberry wine sauce, and prawns ($11), plump and simmering in lemon and capers.

For dessert, orange blossom beignets ($7) truly do dissolve in the mouth. Orange blossom is an inspired accent, while eggy-light beignets evoke my favorite Chinese baked goods (not too sweet, fluffy and comforting) by way of France.

Orange blossom beignets

Of note, their weekend brunch sounds like fun: savory or sweet crepes, crawfish bisque, nicoise tuna sandwich, a range of mimosas and Bloody Mary’s… set to ’80’s, old school hip hop from the DJ station. Particularly interesting are cereal cocktails, an off-menu specialty of bar manager, Anthony Baker. Golden Grahams are shaken with Jameson, milk and honey simple syrup for that finish one gets when nearing the milky bottom of a cereal bowl. If you like that effect, you might also like Honey Nut Cheerios with Amaretto or Fruit Loops with a berry vodka.