Last Friday, my step-dad was celebrating his birthday at a beer-and-grill bistro joint on Masonic and Fulton in San Francisco, called Bistro Gambrinus.
The seafood platter.
For anyone who thinks that Gary Vaynerchuk's Russian dad is a nice guy, check mine out:
2007 Firriato "Altavilla della Corte" from Sicily is one of the best values I've recently discovered in white wine. Made out of Sicily's Grillo grape, it clean, flavorful, balanced, and a welcome alternative to Pinot Grigio, a perfect pairing for seafood. Sicilian wines are making quite a strong showing in the last year in the US. Grapes like Frappato, Nerello mascalese (used in Etna Rosso), Nero d'Avola, and Grillo are being discovered in this country and are bound to grow in popularity, selling for $10-20/bottle, excellent with food.
Next, the meat-n-potatoes platter.
Pork ribs, lamb chops, chicken kebabs, potatoes topped with mushrooms, and various savories were very good.
These sorts of meats have a slightly sweet charred flavor and go well with wines that have body and ripe fruit. The two wines I picked indeed worked very well, the classic - Las Rocas Garnacha - easily beating out the excellent Napa Valley Cab from Mario Perelli-Minetti ($19) even in the crowd of devout Cabernet drinkers. The Spanish was just more interesting - full-bodied, ripe, fruity, reasonable acidity, and spice which really titillated Russian palates. Hands down winner, the Russians bought out the rest of the Las Rocas inventory at Vineyard Gate, especially sweet since it went for around $10/bottle.
Note: unfortunately they have a very limited selection of desserts, so bring your own if you must have 'em.
Bistro Gambrinus is still relatively unknown in the Russian community, but the word is spreading. For those who want to ease their way into Russian food, this place offers a softer transition (less culture shock) than the more traditional Russian restaurants like Fandorin or Russia House. Gambrinus manages to walk the line between American, European, and Russian, taking beer bar food and atmosphere up a notch - which is just the ticket for my crazy americanized(?) Russian-Jewish mishpocha - oy gevalt!