THE PALACE, Outer Mission (3047 Mission St. between 26th and Capp, 415-666-5218)
Think spruced-up dive, a corner restaurant long housing Palace Family Steak House, where Mission and 26th Streets meet Cesar Chavez. It’s now called simply The Palace. Here Chef Manny Torres Gimenez and wife/General Manager Katarina showcase Gimenez’ five-course tasting menu for a reasonable $50, or a small a ala carte menu mainly featuring steak. The five courses are even more of a steal when you consider that featured ingredients include caviar, lobster and grass-fed beef.
With whole animal butchery and chef de cuisine Shawn Naputi, formerly of Incanto, Gimenez’ courses demonstrate the same promise shown in his tasting menus at hole-in-the-wall, Roxy’s Cafe, just up the street. Similarly, The Palace’s humble environs mean lower overhead and more affordable, quality cuisine.
Only open since the beginning of June, BYOB is another money-saving aspect offering the chance to pair a special bottle of wine with whole free range organic chicken ($15), salt and pepper-crusted Snake River Farms Kobe beef ($30, 8 oz.), or local, grass-fed sirloin steak ($30, 1 lb.)
When it comes to steak, the Kobe is my pick: juicy, medium-rare, rich in meaty flavor. In addition, I ordered the straightforward “organic arugula salad” ($5), delicately improved by Black Mission figs and edible flowers. I could be hooked on better-than-the-typical yucca fries ($5) dipped in Peruvian chile sauce (aji amarillo, etc…)
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To begin, Miyagi oysters might arrive topped with black tobiko (fish roe/caviar), cucumber, ginger, and a dollop of Meyer lemon aioli. Move to mini-bites of lobster three ways, evoking the old, three-way Michael Mina format (which I miss): lobster coconut soup, grilled lobster tail in anise sauce, lobster ceviche.
Third course might be comically entitled, “What Comes First?” Comprised of a sous vide duck egg, duck confit and duck breast over squash puree, it’s another three-way beauty, dissecting the duck, interpreting it in varying forms. Lest the theme become redundant, pork is served four ways: as chorizo sausage, loin, confit, and crispy belly, next to wild greens-stinging nettle sauce and fruits of summer: white peach and plum.
Dessert might be guanabana (aka soursop) ice cream partnered with a savory-sweet dulce de leche/queso fresco souffle and pluots.
The earlier comparison to Michael Mina is not far off. An understated dining room makes the quality of bites all the more rewarding. Though everything is just that – bite-sized – five courses plus dessert or a side of yucca fries, lead to a full belly in the end.
Consider it rogue, fine dining food, with an underground cache (and price).