Piperade is one of the better restaurants in San Francisco you’ve never heard of. It’s located off the beaten Financial District path (Broadway between Green & Union; about a ten minute walk from downtown). When approaching, it’s about the last place you’d expect to see a nicer-end restaurant – you’re sure you’re in the wrong place – but the moment you walk inside, you know you are in good hands.
The rustic interior is classy and comfortable without being ostentatious. The hostess greeted us warmly in spite of our tardy arrival (although I did call to warn her after my scolding last week at Claudine). We were seated toward the front window. The warehouses don’t provide much of a view, but the interior design is pleasant enough that this doesn’t deter from the overall experience.
The menu is inspired by the Basque region, but not being a Spanish aficionado, I couldn’t tell you what about Piperade’s menu makes it compliant to this style of cuisine. The menu is fairly standard: fishes, meats, salads, a hamburger, and a few sandwiches. Sensing that the menu weighed heavily on the fish, I opted for the “pacific petrale sole, spinach, fried garlic vinaigrette.” My parents both ordered the “seared tuna salad, potato, egg, green beans.” I have two fears when ordering fish: portion size and flavor. Piperade overcame both. The piece of sole was very generous portion and soaked up the garlic flavor of the vinaigrette beautifully. The vinaiagrette also worked wonders on the thick bed of spinach underneath the fish. I left full and didn’t even have to kill the bread basket!
My parents both reported being surprisingly full after their salads. While I only got a small bite of the tuna (it tasted as I would expect), I did notice that the salad was jam packed with filling ingredients: several thick pieces of very rare tuna, a few slices of egg, a couple potato wedges, and a light coating of dressing. In the case we needed more, a generous bread basket was on hand.
Our food came out so quickly that we had no choice to order dessert to elongate the meal. There were many enticing options (dark chocolate cake, warm apple crisp – to name a few) but we chose the “turron mousse cake, candied almonds.” When the server explained turron = nougat, I was sold (I immediately thought about a candy bar). The end result wasn’t quite what I was expecting as the nougat had a creamy, mousse-like texture (I was expecting something firmer) and the flavor isn’t as intense as a chocolate dessert. That being said, the crunch of the nuts provided an interesting juxtaposition with the nougat and thin cake bottom layer.
The servers were polite and professional. I did notice that everything moved quite swiftly until dessert. After our entree plates were cleared, it took a a solid five minutes for someone to bring us a dessert menu, another ten or so to take our order, and another ten or so to be delivered. So, dessert transformed a quick lunch into a rather long one. But at a place like Piperade, that ain’t a bad thing.