Monday, August 04, 2008

Café Tiramisu at Belden Place

Disclaimer, preface (or whatever you would like to call it): This is the absolute last of my pre-NOLA San Francisco posts. It will be New Orleans restaurants from now on. Promise. Like cross-your-heart-hope-to-die-or-stick-a-needle-in-your-eye promise.

I’ve expounded at length about how I absolutely adore the little alleyway hidden near San Francisco’s Financial District endearingly named, Belden Place. (See my previous posts regarding the Spanish restaurant, B44 and the French restaurant, Café Bastille.) As I’ve said before, Belden Place offers San Francisco locals a taste of Europe, and now, with today’s exchange rate, it does so at a much more affordable price.

Just to give you a flavor of how Belden Place really is a bit of Euro-utopia in a crazed U.S. city, according to its website, the investors and proprietors of Belden Place converted an ubiquitous urban alleyway in San Francisco (once chockfull of dumpsters, litter, and probably, the smell of urine) into a successful and fledging real estate enterprise consisting of multiple Italian, French, and Spanish-themed restaurants.

Any visitor to Belden Place will be enraptured with the restaurant storefronts, the glowing metallic heat lambs, the dangling web of outdoor string lights, the summery outdoor umbrellas, and the overall European flair unique to Belden Place. Sitting on the outside terrace at any of their restaurants, you could easily get lost in your imagination, and envision yourself sitting in an outdoor bistro and gazing wistfully at impressive and intricate architectural details unique to Europe. Unfortunately, if you crane your neck, open your eyes and direct them upwards, you will inevitably be greeted with a cold, harsh reminder you are still in San Francisco. Cold concrete skyscrapers tower overhead and smoky billows of fog obscure and blanket the skies.

Knowing how I love the pleasant Euro-vibe at Belden Place, my beau decided to take me to celebrate my last birthday in San Francisco at Café Tiramisu, an Italian restaurant at Belden Place.

For our starting course at Cafe Tiramisu, my beau and I shared two hearty appetizers, the first being steamed black mussels marinating in a shimmering saffron-fennel broth. The soup was liquid heaven, for it was both light and free from impurities, but also laced with invigorating and powerful licorice and turmeric-like flavors. The mussels were stripped of their tangled beards and sat in open shells in a shallow bowl, alongside jutting slices of bread, artfully drizzled with sharp scribbles of herb-infused olive oil. The entire entrée made for a beautiful presentation.

Next, we also shared chewy Monterey calamari. The rubbery squid bodies were stuffed taut like swollen balloons with a simple mashed potato and crab mixture, and served over a crusty slice of potent garlic bread. The bruschetta-like bread had been moistened with herbed olive oil and what tasted like a rich tomato or roasted sweet red bell pepper sauce.

For our entrees, the beau ordered ahi tuna encrusted with fresh black pepper, and served over a spicy shrimp risotto. While the tuna was well-prepared and executed, the gluey risotto was saturated in an overly concentrated sauce, which, I daresay, had an overpowering shrimp essence. The excessively shrimpy taste redirected the entire focus of the entrée from the subtle tuna flavors and the elegant simplicity of crushed peppercorn crust, to the almost putrid shrimp flavor.

Unlike the tuna and risotto dish, my entrée was a resounding success. I ordered thick and chewy sheets of gummy gnocchi, which were served with a chorus line of diminutive pork meatballs, and a jellied, custard-like goat cheese zabaglione. The density of the potato pasta squares were so hearty and substantial, I originally thought that our server accidentally served us ravioli instead.

Finally, the server brought out one last treat to end our evening: a lone slice of tiramisu with a flickering candle on the top. The chocolate, the coffee, and the dense ladyfinger cookies all came together as one deliciously moist cake, which made my birthday ever the sweeter.

Thank you for the birthday wishes, beau. Here’s to many more birthdays together (hopefully at the restaurants in Belden Place)!


  1. I could happily eat those mussels for starters/entree/dessert. Delicious.
    So is your birthday now?

  2. wah....sinful nye! and i am hungry now, js had my lunch 3 hours ago...

  3. thanks for suggesting Filipino-Cajun fusion! Don't know if it will happen at the reception but maybe at the rehearsal dinner or another time?

    I'm going to be asking you for restaurant recs soon. Love the food blog- keep it up! - Sweet Tea

  4. Melinda, actually, it is my birthday today! We are both kindred spirits because we are both Leos!

    Thanks for your comments Xin and Sweet T!

  5. I love Belden Lane too. The only part I don't like is how the hostess/host stand kind of on the sidewalk and try to entice you to sit at their table as you walk by. It's almost like being in Thailand and hostesses pulling you in to check out their girls. OK, maybe not exactly like that, but pretty close. :)

    I really thought those gnocchi looked like ravioli. They're huge! And of course, you can't go wrong with tiramisu at a place called Cafe Tiramisu. Ha! Happy belated birthday!

  6. Happy Birthday to you! One day short of being 08/08/08! Hope you did something fun or naughty! lol!
    We are special Leo's!

  7. Wow, look at that tuna! That is a gorgeous shot!

  8. Thank you, thank you Chef Ben, Melinda, and Foodette! And I agree about the Belden Place solicitors, they can be a bit much!


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