Don’t go to this restaurant before an evening performance, unless you arrive by 5:30pm. Luckily we had all the time in the world, because having arrived around 6pm, our wait was over an hour. However, before the hostess took our information for the wait list, there were a number of decisions to be made: an inside table or an outside table, a high-top communal table or a regular table. After completion of this survey and having provided the necessary information, we received a text; we were on a Yelp app that let us keep track of our queue position and would let us know when our table was ready. (I’m not sure what would happen if you don’t have text capability.) Meanwhile, we could go anywhere in Hayes Valley to while away the time, enjoying specialty cocktails or artisan beer. Luckily there were spots at the A Mano bar, so we were close by when the text finally came through. We ended up at the communal table, but I wondered if the regular tables might have been quieter, because this was a noisy restaurant.
A Mano is the newest restaurant in Adriano Paganini’s Back of the House group, whose other neighborhood eateries include Belga, Beretta, Delarosa, El Techo, Lolinda, Starbelly, Super Duper Burgers, and Uno Dos Tacos. A Mano has received mixed reviews with Eater SF’s Rachel Levin being unimpressed and Michael Bauer giving it a solid three stars. What was interesting to read in Levin’s article is that Paganini was responsible for Pasta Pomodoro. It’s easy to see A Mano as an artisan version with handmade pastas.
The appetizers were solid, very well done but unsurprising. We had Cauliflower, followed by Fontina arancini. If you haven’t had arancini, they are balls of rice and cheese, breaded and fried. You would have to try hard to go wrong with that.
The three pastas we ordered, with a bit of help from the friendly and professional server, were all different but delicious. There are enough pastas at A Mano to please every taste preference. Ken found the Chestnut campanelle with brussel sprouts, roasted chestnuts, and celery root crema a bit bland, but I thought it was delicate and a nice foil to the other pastas. Because he tends to like stronger flavors, I wasn’t surprised that Ken loved the Torchetti with lamb sausage, broccoli de ciccio, garlic, chili, and olives. The lamb was prominent and the chili and the olives complemented it well and gave the pasta quite a kick. At the suggestion of the server, who noticed we hadn’t picked any of the red sauces, the last pasta we ordered was the excellent Bucatini all’ amatriciana with tomato, pancetta and pecorino. Originally, we were going to order four different pasta dishes, but when the people next to us received their salmon, Linda changed her order. The salmon skin was crispy and delicious, although the salmon probably could have been cooked a bit less. Still, the fish with it’s bed of mushrooms and vegetables was a good choice and made a nice contrast to the pasta. We even had room for dessert, although just one dish shared between the four of us. The Chocolate budino with coffee nibs, whipped cream was rich and dark and the perfect end to the meal.
A Mano is definitely a place for a reasonably priced bite, if not a quick one. When the check came, Ken was surprised, “Is that all?” I reminded him that we had paid for the booze at the bar before sitting down, but it was still a very reasonably priced night out. The portions are not huge, but big enough to be shared comfortably, and at the lower price point, you are free to order a dish or two more than you might otherwise.
A Mano: 450 Hayes, San Francisco. Dinner Sunday to Thursday 5pm-11pm and Friday to Saturday 5pm – midnight, Lunch everyday 11:30am – 3:30pm. No reservations accepted at this time.
Boboquivari’s is one those places that you’ve driven by hundreds of times. Perhaps you thought it is geared towards tourists because it is part of the motel next door, but it is not only for tourists. I couldn’t tell if it was part of the motel.
Unless you are under 40 years of age, you will probably split dishes here. We started by sharing good-sized salads: the baby blue with pancetta and Point Reyes bleu cheese dressing for us and the salad with apples, walnuts, and sundried cranberries with crumbled bleu cheese in a raspberry vinaigrette for Art and Lena. Because Bobo’s also touts their seafood, we ordered the lobster crostini and the dungeness crab crostini as appetizers. The burrata that came with these toast points made them a bit special, but next time I think the steak and salad will be plenty.
We were in a steakhouse, so we had to their dry-aged bone-in specialties. Each couple shared a 20+ ounce rib-eye and, like the salads, one order per couple was plenty. These hunks of meat were full of flavor and tender, perfectly cooked to medium rare. All the food is a la carte at Bobo’s, so we ordered accompaniments. “In for a penny, in for a pound,” we thought and got the mushrooms and mac and cheese, which were very good but unremarkable next to the excellent steaks. For dessert all four of us shared the refreshing blood orange sorbet, a light and citrusy palate cleanser.
Tiny booths are tucked into every corner at this restaurant. We climbed at least two flights of stairs to get to our lovely little alcove on the top floor. According to the website, Boboquivari is the Venetian court jester, as portrayed by marionettes. If you have coulrophobia, or a fear of clowns, just don’t look too closely and you should be fine. If you have claustrophobia, ask to be seated in one of the dining rooms, rather than the very small and close booths. However, if you don’t mind playing footsies with your dining mates, the booths are wonderful because you can hear every word said and there is a lovely feeling of intimacy.
Carnivore guests from out of town would love Bobo’s. The ambiance is fun and different, the staff is friendly and professional, and the food is well prepared and recognizable, with nary a raw piece of fish or shishito pepper in sight. And for San Franciscans, Bobo’s has something rare and wonderful, free valet parking in the Marina, which alone may be reason enough to go there.