It was a sad day for us when Incanto, which briefly became the more casual Porcellino, closed its doors earlier this year. It was our favorite place to eat offal bits, Italian-American style, the specialty of Partner/Chef Chris Cosentino. He was crowned the Top Chef Master in 2012 and spent some time thereafter as a television Celebrity Chef, participating in made-for-TV cooking competitions. Earlier this year, he gave a fascinating talk at the international MAD symposium discussing the perils of being on food television, which included destroying his health and playing a part in the demise of Incanto.
It is lucky for us that Chef Cosentino, a regular fixture at the local farmers’ markets, took only a short break from helming a fine dining restaurant and opened Cockscomb in the former Zuppa space earlier this month. The interesting moniker of the restaurant befits him to a tee, as they share initials (“CC”), it can be used to describe his nature (cocky in a good way) and it is an offal organ. We missed his cooking so much that we have already dined there twice, determined to get through the entire menu before it inevitably changes and some dishes are rotated out.
A welcome addition at Cockscomb is the full bar, with a focus on gin-based cocktails to pair with the food. We opted to start with a Classic Gin & Tonic (gin, Fever-Tree tonic water, lime, lemon, juniper) served in a wine glass, Gin Tónica style. There are a couple of choices for the Chef’s Gin Jams that need to be made: which jam (currently a choice of Strawberry or Buddha’s Hand citrus) and whether the drink is topped with tonic or ginger ale. We chose the citrus jam and tonic in our version to accompany the gin and lemon juice. It was surprisingly balanced with not too much sweetness despite it’s name:
The menu is divided into Oysters & Shellfish, The Cured & The Raw, Starters & Salads, Hams & Terrines, Supper, Shared Supper, Offal & Butcher’s Cuts and Daily Requirements. Chef Cosentino is no longer focussing on SF-Italian as he did at Incanto; however, offal is prevalent across many of the categories. It’s a rare occasion when we want to eat everything on the menu, and Cockscomb’s is one that fits the bill.
While it’s listed as a supper item, we decided to get the Oyster Omelet & a Glass of Wine as a starter since it came with its own drink (knowing full well that we would order a bottle of red wine later). We were informed that the white wine was a Sauvignon Blanc of New Zealand with the right amount of tartness to pair with the briny egg dish:
We quickly tore into the omelet which revealed a filling of several plump bi-valves, perfectly on the rare side:
The Little Gems salad came with slivers of fried pig’s ear, tarragon and slices of French breakfast and watermelon radishes. As a nod to historical San Francisco, the salad was mixed with Green Goddess dressing. It was a tasty salad, but like Christopher Walken needed more cowbell, this salad needed more pig’s ear:
The ‘EGGS, EGGS, EGGS’ appetizer will likely become a signature dish. Chicken, duck and salmon ova were served with tarragon aioli, toasted levain and a parsley and celery leaves salad:
The chicken and duck eggs were cooked to perfection with runny yolks suspended within solid whites. The salmon roe added salt and a nice crunch. Tasted side by side, it was easy to tell which egg belonged to which fowl:
We initially wanted to order the Tami Nero D’Avola, but they were already out in the first weeks of service. So we hardly had to settle, turning to a bottle of the 2012 Pertinace Langhe Nebbiolo made with our favorite noble grape. It was listed as available only by the glass, but they will happily sell it by the bottle:
It was time to try an offal dish: the Beef Heart Tartare topped with a quail egg yolk did not disappoint, tasting like the essence of the best parts of a cow. Listed as a starter, it could easily serve as an entree since it comes with grilled bread, salad greens and a pile of crisply delicious smashed potatoes that were fried in beef tallow:
Perhaps as a nod to Incanto, Grandma Rosalie’s Tripe chili is the sole Italian dish on the menu. Made with a blend of at least seven different chilies, the tender tripe picked up the flavors of the peppers, rich tomato paste and mint. It was boldly spicy and appropriately comforting for our cold rainy winter:
The “& CHIPS” dish available in the Supper section is a rotating sausage, served with more of those addictively great potatoes and garlic aioli. This version featured a generously long snail sausage made with pork and herbs:
The Butcher’s Choice in the Offal section of the menu features daily “fall offs” that change upon availability. We were lucky that it just happened to be calf’s liver with onions on that day. We literally had to fight for each lobe it was so good:
The Daily Requirements section of the menu offers three vegetable side dishes. We chose the appealingly named Duck Fat Cauliflower, which came lightly spiced with red fresno chile pepper, garlic, salty capers and mint leaves:
The “HAM”Burger came topped with grilled onions, gooey melted gruyere cheese, garlic aioli and lettuce. The burger is literally a patty made with pork, so the only beef on this dish was tallow that the potatoes were fried in:
The nicely crusted “HAM”burger contained tender pork on the inside:
They didn’t provide us with a printed dessert, menu but our waiter explained that they have a cheesecake topped with stone fruit, a ‘classic’ and a chocolate dessert. The latter was a decadently rich flourless chocolate cake with a hazelnut ganache topped with pomegranate seeds and fresh whipped cream:
The classic dessert is one that we haven’t encountered in San Francisco: a layered crepe cake served with a citrus syrup and a grapefruit supreme:
We don’t recall former occupant Zuppa having a second story; however, Cockscomb not only has dining on two levels, it thankfully has bars on both floors. A view of the busy kitchen from the upstairs bar seating:
Chef Cosentino is quite active and readily visible in the kitchen:
This interesting piece of art on the second floor appropriately titled, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” is a great representation of Chef Cosentino and Cockscomb:
We haven’t ordered any items from the “Plates to Share” section since they tend to be larger, and we wanted to try as many of the items as our bellies would allow. We are intrigued and will come back for the Pig’s Head one day — it might be hard since we were told that it is such a popular item that it usually sells out early every evening. We’re up for the challenge, but we’ll have to work our way through the rest of the menu first.