Sunday, April 19, 2015

Hit and miss at Tartine

Tartine Bakery on Urbanspoon
Contrary to a lot of sleepy-till-11:30 breakfast places, Tartine (French for "slice of bread"?) was already by 8 AM when I got there, though much of the line-up appeared to be take-out orders. (On Tuesdays to Fridays they are open as early as 7.30 AM if you want to try to early-bird it.) There were still lots of seats, though some at increasingly popular "communal tables".

One of the first things that jumped out at me was signs that read, "Kindly bus your dishes behind the register". I hope this trend doesn't catch on. On the other hand, it could mean diner dollars saved from having to tip.
The next thing: They serve wine and beer!
Finally: Still no signs on the building. I guess everyone just knows where they are. Is this some sort of hipster move?

My first time here during my 2015-April trip to San Francisco, and possibly my last time here ever since it was on my very last day of my trip. So I asked the person at the counter what made this place famous. He suggested the breakfast bun, then the frangipane double-baked croissant. With the croissant, he emphasized that it would be a crusty non-fluffy croissant because they were baked twice. The breakfast buns were like muffins with oversized tops making them look like giant mushrooms. The croissants were like fat diamonds about 50% larger than a more "normal" looking one; maybe two and a half of them would equal a loaf of bread in volume. His personal favourite, however, were the lemon cream tarts.

I went for a lemon tart and a house coffee. Afterwards, inspired by the very nice lemon tart, I gave the frangipane croissant a try. Mistake.

House Coffee ($1.75)
  • Self-serve. I don't know if it was also unlimited like Bette's Oceanview Diner and I didn't try going for a refill.
4" Lemon Cream Tart ($6.75; $40 for 9" tart) sweet pastry shell filled with rich lemon cream, topped with unsweetened cream
  • The cream has a nice, sharp lemony flavour without being too much on the sour side.
  • Cream is also firm enough to not ooze, but not so firm to be custard-like. This item is therefore surprisingly easy to share as you can carve small bites out of it without making a huge mess.
  • Beyond just being nice lemon tart in a shell, there was something about this tart that made it oh-so-good. Could be the fact that there's such a thin crust and you are simply enjoying a rich, delicious, lemon cream?
Frangipane Croissant ($5) almond cream
  • The "almond cream" mentioned is the "frangipane" part of this item.
  • If you open it up, it looks like a croissant was cut open, frangipane slathered inside, and the item then inexplicably baked again. I say "inexplicably" because I feel they totally ruined it by doing so.
  • In double-baking this, the top is so browned as to be nearly black in many places, and it is as crispy, crumbly, and bitter as you might expect. I actually recommend peeling off the very uppermost layers and just discarding it before eating the rest of the croissant. No idea why people rave about this.
  • Maybe it was fluke in my croissant, but the almond cream inside had been absorbed by the croissant, with the next result that this item is really on the too-dry side considering how much croissant there is, plus it being double-baked into dryness. You do see abundant evidence of almonds though.
  • Make sure you have some kind of drink on hand. You're gonna need it.
If you are fine with a light breakfast, Tartine offers a very nice well-under-$10 niche breakfast alternative to boring breakfast joints with mains of $8-$10. You can even put together a sweet lunch with two of their heavier pastries and have your bill come in comparably with going to lunch anywhere else, assuming you are not on the Atkin's Diet of no-sugar no-carbs.

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