Halloween San Francisco Events
Related Articles: Restaurants, All


Rustic and Refined Meet on Union Street

Cow Hollow has been reinvigorating its restaurant scene with the likes of Umami, Jovino, and Osha Thai. The newest addition is Palmetto, which replaces Home on Union (and Cafe de Paris L'Entrecote before that). While Home leaned more towards the casual with comfort food like mac and cheese, Palmetto goes for elegant metropolitan, serving arancini and smoked sablefish with caviar.

The dining room manages to simultaneously exude the theme of sophistication and informality thanks to the deft designs of Cass Calder Smith, the talented architect responsible for many of the cityís clean and elegant restaurant interiors. Partly enclosed in glass windows that make for an airy, sunroom feel, the full dining space has many nooks, with the front dining alcove possessing a more casual ambiance housing tall tables and a bar outfitted with a TV transitioning into a slightly more formal dining area towards the back.

We sat at a tall table that accommodates up to four that seemed spacious for two, but too tight a space for four and were uncomfortably close to the next table. There is plenty of space so itís strange that tables are set so closely as to bring on claustrophobia if the dining room becomes full. However, our location was central and enabled full people-watching, but do prepare to speak loudly as the walls are not soundproofed. Friends who have dined at the regular height tables in the front sunroom report a quieter, cozier experience.

Chef Andy Kitko leads the kitchen with his impressive resume, which includes Aqua, Gary Danko, and Cafe Boulud in New York. His combinations on the plate are a play of rustic and refined elegance.

Within moments after we ordered our first course, our attractive server, garbed in black shirt and jeans, served us a delicate and flavorful amuse bouche of heirloom tomato soup topped with a singular crouton and drizzled with basil oil. We ordered the blue cheese-stuffed dates rolled in a thin layer of Serrano ham ($6), an appetizer that has become ubiquitous in many Mediterranean restaurants these days. The ham and blue cheese lent a nice contrast to the sweet dates. Taking advantage of the heirlooms that were still in season on our visit, Kitko presented the colorful tomatoes with burrata and aged balsamic ($12), a simple combination that lets each component shine.

While Iím a sucker for fried things, the fried squash blossoms stuffed with Dungeness crab and ricotta ($12) were only average. The squash blossoms were not very crispy and the crab was barely noticeable, which was disappointing since friends had cited that dish as the absolute high point of their meal, in both flavor and presentation.

The highlight of our evening, on the other hand, was the sweet corn ravioli with mascarpone and wild mushrooms ($12/$18). The sublime sweetness of the corn against a backdrop of smoky mushroom flavor and a dash of cream made this a beautiful signature dish.

Our main course, a yoghurt marinated salmon ($24) dressed with pesto, was extremely tender and delectable. However, more thought needed to be given to the accompanying cumin carrots, which were also pickled, leaving the juxtaposing flavors unpleasing on the palate. Friends note that the steak, served with a velvety, bright green watercress puree, was excellent, and high marks were given to a plate of braised oxtail ravioli as well.

The dessert selections ($7-9) call out to the sweet tooth, with seasonal fruits making an appearance on most items. For something different, I recommend the Galaktoboureko, a Greek pastry, with mission figs in lemon-lavender syrup. The lemon semolina custard hints quietly of citrus but doesnít overwhelm the variety of other flavors that come into play.

The wine list showcases wines from the Mediterranean and California appropriate to the cuisine, all at a very reasonable price point,

Palmetto is a combination of great location, a diverse menu, and flawless service. Throughout the meal, our attentive server kept up with our pace of ordering one course at a time, and always seemed to be within a few feet away when we had a request. While some of the dishes might need some fine tuning, Palmetto possesses all the key ingredients to bloom into a regular neighborhood hot spot that is here to stay.

Cow Hollow

Reservations Essential? Yes.