California Road Trip, Day Four

May 22, 2017

The drive down Mount Tamalpais, through the tall, dark redwoods, the roads almost deserted, is almost unbearably beautiful. Then we’re driving across the Golden Gate Bridge, and someone is saying that almost all the people who jump off, jump facing the city, not the sea. Little wonder: San Francisco sparkles in the distance like some promise of a better future.

We have many wonderful treats in store. For one, that wild nettle sformato up above, at Cotogna, where the food is never less than wonderful.

Even a simple green salad, which arrives on a bright red plate, looks better here.

A single, gorgeous raviolo bursts open to spill egg across the plate. Irresistible.

And have you ever seen a more appealing sundae? The ice cream arrived on its own cart – a great soft mountain of cream so appealing that all the pastry people got out their phones and started snapping away.

We ended with this lovely confection, all berries, ice and lemon verbena.

Dinner was at Izakaya Rintaro, which may be the purest expression of the Japanese esthetic I’ve encountered in this country. The journey begins with the spare, elegant beauty of the woodwork and continues in the modesty of the food.  This is old fashioned Japan, where the wasabi is fresh but gentle, the soy sauce has no burn, the flavors are restrained.  Everything here is thoughtful and precise, from the sashimi – local big eye tuna and kombu-cured halibut

to fresh anchovies marinated in spicy vinegar and topped with carrots.  

The various kinds of yakitori are all perfectly cooked

a lovely dish of Dungeness crab comes with pickled cucumbers and crab miso

and then these is this most surprising salad.  The bite of baby chrysanthemum leaves is tamed with the tang of kumquat, and then enriched with rosy slices of duck.

It says something about the restaurant that even gyoza are not clunky dumplings, but something delicate, light and lacy.

If you like the food of Japan, you owe it to yourself to visit Rintaro. Whether you choose noodles, natto, a fig-wrapped trout or a few plates of yakitori,  you will not be disappointed.

Tomorrow: a truly memorable meal. Here’s a tiny taste:

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