Expectations are a funny game. Often, one seeks out the repetition of a familiar pleasure, be it the way a favorite outfit makes us feel, or the enjoyment found in a favorite film as we relive the emotions its story inspires. There are things we know will always be the same, that will always reward our anticipation in just the same way. They never disappoint. We can find them to be always exactly as we remember them to be.
Then there are times we seek new experiences. We want them to be just as satisfying, so we begin that search in places we feel have the highest potential for reward. We read a new book by a trusted author, or watch a film from a director whose work has touched us in the past. When successful, we add another pleasant experience to our reservoir of things well done. This is how we learn. We know a little of something, and if we like it, we go looking for more of that something. Needless to say, when we find it, we know it.
1760 Polk, a new restaurant from the folks behind the enchanting Acquerello, was just such an experience. I have loved Acquerello from the
moment we met. My youngest had suggested we try it to celebrate her impending trip to Italy and it seemed appropriate. But it was more than a great dining experience, it felt like I’d come home, so when I heard there was a new venture by the same people, I had to get in on the action. The anticipation, you see, can be overwhelming.
Located in San Francisco, at 1760 Polk Street (no kidding!), the new space is fresh and modern, beautifully renovated within what was formerly a rather dowdy Mexican restaurant. It’s beauty is no surprise, as the new owners took several years to perfect the look, uncovering and highlighting the beautiful 1930s window structure that lines the restaurants upper walls, replacing just about everything else with sleek, modern architecture, the result a very appealing and open space conducive to the commingling of community. Nice work.
1760’s soft-open featured some delightful fare, among the offerings: a remarkably memorable beef tartare, a lovely plum hamachi crudo and of course, the duck slider that’s become such a hit with patrons. My daughter and I were so impressed with the samplings we immediately made ressies to return, knowing it would soon be a “hot ticket” and thus harder to get in. Just two weeks later we were at a four-top and ready to be wowed. And wowed we were.
On our second visit, we basically ate our way through the entire menu. I don’t think we missed a dish, as the Chef brought out the few items we hadn’t ordered as gifts. Perhaps he sensed our unbridled enthusiasm, perhaps he’s just a swell guy. Perhaps both.
The first bites were provided the table in the form of a lovely amuse bouche from Chef Tortosa. Delectable bites of apple in slithers of honey. Simple perfection. Next we had the hamachi, a refreshing and buoyantly light combination of pluots, rice and beautiful fresh fish, presenting as clouds of seafood with the last of the summer stone fruit harvest. Next up
was the Dungeness Crab, served as a “side” and bathed in a soup of watermelon gazpacho. This was a stellar invention and one I barely captured a bite of, as my table-mates devoured it quite rapidly. Shared dining is my preference these days, but occasionally it can be like wild-game hunting. The prey can get away.
The Lobster ceviche was a beautiful concoction of the flavors of the South Pacific, the rich caramelized coconut, with pineapple and a hint of coriander blended together to balance the natural briny sweetness of lobster. It was a perfectly balanced plate of seafood. Speaking of seafood Chef Adam’s Crispy Octopus is mind-blowing. I’m often tentative about tentacles. These, I just dove right in to without looking back.
The hits just kept on coming. We had the beef tartare, which is tangy and savory and vastly different from any other species of the same name. This is my all-time favorite rendition of beef tartare and like a favorite song, I intend to enjoy it over and over again. The corn ravioli was another orgasmically delicious mouthful. Delicate and fluffy pasta mingled with the flavor of lingering summer corn. There, in that moment, was a nice shout out to the cloudy soft pastas of Acquerello without being derivative. Chef
Tortosa is his own man, but Chef Suzette wouldn’t have it any other way. She didn’t hand this kid the reins for nothing.
Pork belly, Bucatini, Cavatelli, (etc) and the Fried Duck Sandwich later, the four of us were ready to cry “Uncle,” but instead we ordered all three desserts. Though all were delicious, I believe our collective favorite was the s’mores disguised as Ganache concoction of hickory ice cream, caramel and gently toasted marshmallow. Just sweet enough, and the happy camping memories that flood back at the taste of a toasted marshmallow get me every time. Smart move.
All in all, 1760 Polk was a damn near perfect experience. I came because it had the Acquerello connection, and I found what I was looking for. But don’t fall into the “I’m expecting it to be Acquerello” trap. It’s just not the same, because it was never supposed to be. Just as Suzette Gresham reigns supreme at the former, Adam Tortosa is bringing his own spin and point of view to the Polk Street Resto. And that’s okay. If all we ever did was repeat exactly the same experience, we’d be pretty bored, after all. It would be like having a favorite child. Each is different and meant to be appreciated independently.
So for those of you who go in “expecting” Acquerello, I would repeat the caution. Don’t. Expect to be entertained, surprised, and provided with dishes representing the best of Chef Tortosa’s bountiful imagination. Expect the unexpected. You won’t be disappointed.
1760 Polk St
San Francisco, CA 94109