Sunday, June 01, 2008

Daily highlight #11: Cosentino knows about parts - Restaurant: Incanto (San Francisco)

Cosentino loves parts - animal parts that is. His menu at Incanto, located in a quiet residential neighborhood of Frisco, is peppered with all manors of head-to-tail eats. I found plenty of intriguing combinations from starters to pastas.

From the starters section, I selected a combination that married two of my favorite things, pig's trotter and foie gras. Deviating from the usual bone-in trotter presentation, Cosentino sliced up the collagen-rich goodness and concentrated its stewing liquid into a lip sticking sauce for the grilled foie gras. J and I moaned much through this dish as our lips were stuck together during most of the chewing.

In his usual style, J ordered the antipasto platter. All house-made, Cosentino's skills were easily apparent from the assortment of Boccalone salumi. Like many, I eagerly await the opening of his Boccalone Salumeria in the Frisco Ferry Building this summer. See that snow white stuff in the foreground? That's pure lard in all its glory. Delivered on top of a slice of crusty toasted country bread, the lard felt smooth and cool on the roof of the mouth, then dissolved quickly into the bread, making a texturally evolving bite.

For the main meal, I couldn't help but order what sounded like a very interesting twist on carbonara. Sure enough, many of the classic carbonara elements were present in this dish. Al dente Bucatini were dressed lightly in rendered pancetta with plenty of black pepper and the crispy pancetta bits added back in. The bucatini cradled the requisite egg yoke, ready for mixing. The major change showed in the replacement of the grated parmigiano-reggiano with shavings of a Sardinian cured tuna heart. The flavor of the new combination was not exactly akin to that of the classic, but was a clever interpretation of the same fifth taste perception that the classic parmigiano was there to address. This realization came to me suddenly as the mixing of the yoke and the tuna heart shavings sent out the unmistakable smell of umami. It then occurred to me that both tuna heart and parmigiano are naturally umami rich, making them unlikely, but genius substitute for each other in this dish. It's hard not to applaud the chef for this creative twist. The tuna heart, however, did add an additional taste dimension, that of irony minerality, which I never detected in parmigiano. For anyone that likes pasta and was brave enough to order tuna heart in the first place, this dish should please with a new taste that reminds of an old comfort.

While Cosentino didn't win the challenge to become the new American iron chef, my meal convinced me that he is definitely deserving of being listed with Batali, Flay, and Morimoto, if he is able to consistently turn out what he delivers in his own domain of Incanto.

1550 Church Street
San Fran, CA, 94131

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