forkfork fork

very good

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February 2003 3 moderate-expensive 306 Market Street
Mahi Mahi, Duck, Chocolate Raspberry Tart Dessert

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We like Fork.
We still can't figure out why it took three years to return.
We couldn't remember anything about our first visit.

Actually, that's not quite true. We had salads. Goat cheese was involved. I think that we liked them. I had some sort of Duck. I'm pretty sure it was Asian-influenced. It was good. We can't recall anything about our other entree.

So I asked some friends about Fork. Sure, they had been there, they really liked it.

You guessed it...

They can't remember anything about it either.

The one thing from our first visit that escaped that fate was desert. We shared a chocolate raspberry tart that was just incredible. The crust was like an intense cookie, or the crispy edges of brownies. The filling had a concentrated raspberry flavor. A scoop of raspberry sorbetto flirted with over-kill, but it was just perfect.

That amnesia effect is even more mystifying, considering our second excellent and quite memorable meal there. It was a lovely summer day, and we were feeling like something light yet sophisticated. This turned out to be just the right place. A bottle of German Riesling (a quite acceptable $30) set the scene perfectly, its refreshing fruitiness laying a foundation for a variety of foods to follow.

DDP started with a calamari salad, a simple, almost minimalist combination of tender squid and olives, cradled in cups of radiccio. By the end it was calling out for a splash of vinegar, but most of the salad did fine with the fresh infusion of olive.

I started with a fig salad: a couple of quartered figs, a few slices of sopressata, two spears of blanched asparagus whose bases had been wrapped in good prosciutto. It was a slight revision of the classic, but maintained the refreshing push-pull of sweet and salt.

Entrees were even better. DDP's Mahi Mahi was impossibly moist and full-flavored, and even seemed like a larger, plumper cut that we've ever encountered. It was accompanied by a cold black-bean salsa, and hearty slices of grilled sweet potato.

I had the duck (a variation on the other duck, which was similarly szechuan-spiced, but presented over spinach and potatoes) which for the summer is a large breast, spiced with szechuan peppercorns, pan-seared, sliced and fanned across an over-large mound of soba noodles. The duck was delicious, if a touch under the requested medium rare. It's a fine-line with duck, and many kitchens have been sending it out at this temperature lately, so I guess it's fashionable, but I find that the meat is a bit chewy at that degree of (under)doneness. And on the other-side of the scale, the noodles were a bit over-something... they were either originally cooked too long or had been sitting in their dressing a touch too long, as they had just barely headed down the hill toward mushy. Nonetheless, the contrast of the warm, rich-flavored duck with the cold sesame-dressed noodles was very nice.

We went for dessert as well, trying a decent if unthrilling torte, and an upscale ice cream sandwich, constructed from two chocolate-chip cookies and coffee gelato. The flavors didn't quite mesh as well as expected, and the cookies themselves were a bit doughy... and what was the point of the thick brick of peanut brittle, unbreakable despite assaults by all tools I had at my disposal? Oh well, I hope that raspberry tart comes back...

A later visit with CDP for dessert only was better results, although her chocolate torte was so dense she couldn't get a fork through it. We were very impressed that the bartender that had taken our order went to great lengths to get a new piece, make sure it was heated a little and accompanied by some ice cream, that it really made our experience extremely positive. I had an elegant rendition of a peach crisp, wonderfully warm and crunchy.

Despite the slight let-down in earlier desserts, we still enjoyed our meals there quite a lot. Two appetizers, two entree and two desserts came to $70 before wine. Service was excellent, sophisticated yet casual, a similar balance maintained in the decor as well. I'm trying not to resort to commenting about the oversize banquettes that stretch half-way up to the ceiling ---damn! there I go! But seriously, it is a lovely restaurant, with an inviting bar. Prices were average for this kind of food, appetizers and salads about $6-$7, entrees in the mid-to-upper teens.


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