Piperade

I've been to Piperade exactly once so far. It was just over a week ago with my sister, husband, and in-laws. We had a great meal and I already find myself recommending it to friends. I really ought to go back and validate this suggestion before posting, but with our schedule already quite full in the coming weeks, here are some notes on our first visit for those interested now.First off, the staff is wonderful. Between some scheduling miscommunication and traffic, we were running a bit late for our very early reservation (the majority of our party was on East Coast time). I called the restaurant about 40 minutes before the time of our reservation to let them know that we might be as much as half an hour late and to ask if they would rather that we re-book for another night. The hostess was wonderfully gracious, informed me that there was another party booked at our table at eight, but that we should have plenty of time for a nice meal, as long as we didn't mind being hurried up a bit should we stay too long. Having worked the indecisiveness our of our systems at La Folie the night before, we were determined to make this work, and work it did.Our waiter was great: prompt, efficient, kind, helpful, and we never felt rushed. On his recommendation, we had the inexpensive and fully decent (given my usual distaste for Spanish wines) Rioja Ljalba Graciano 2001 Lograño, the first 100% single-varietal Graciano. It had strong tannins and a pleasant earthy quality, but none of the... how to say this politely... "barnyard waste smell" common in Riojas.From the all-around fabulous sounding Tipia, or small plate, offerings we made some difficult choices and were thrilled with the results. The piquillo peppers stuffed with goad cheese, pine nuts, and raisins, with a painterly stripe of green pesto across the plate and a Moscatel vinaigrette were fantastic. The toybox tomato tartlet was also excellent, though the pastry could perhaps have been a little thinner. The warm sheep's milk cheese and ham terrine came served in as a striped, half inch thick slice that was a rich and satisfying take on the classic pairing, if perhaps a little too substantial a starter.We were equally satisfied with the big plates. Marinated lamb chops with potato gratin was surprisingly tender and flavorful. This is only the second time I have tried lamb since before going vegetarian at six and it brought back a happy memory of the taste of holiday lamb and mint jelly (though there was no mint here). I couldn't get enough of the creamy gratin. The pork tenderloin was reported to be good, if nothing spectacular. The Basque classic cod was perhaps slightly over salted but was perfectly tender with a lovely balance of flavors in the sauce. The shoestring fries on the side were oh so deliciously thin and crispy.We tried a number of the desserts, the names of which I neglected to write down, but the specialty Basque mousse was the best of the good-quality bunch. All this, at a fraction of the cost of our meal at La Folie and with two more people, and we were still out the door at just two minutes past eight, fully satisfied, and eager to go back.Piperade1015 Battery St.San Francisco, CA 94111415.391.2555Reservations available on OpenTable.