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“Wonderful service, food not so much”
Review of Chiaroscuro - CLOSED

Price range: $31 - $40
Cuisines: Italian
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Special occasions, Romantic
Dining options: Dinner, Reservations
Dining style: Casual Elegant
Neighborhood: Financial District
Cross street: Montgomery St
Reviewed December 23, 2012

Visited this restaurant with my family last night (5 people total). We picked this restaurant after watching Check Please. We were very excited to try this for our family Christmas outing after going to Beach Blanket Babylon. We were all disappointed.

Previous reviews that mention the pasta, and all dishes, as being served lukewarm were spot on. The portions of entrees varied from too small, to just right. Best part of the meal was the gnocchi - very good! The second best part of the meal was the pork belly - good portion; this dish tasted the best, but I have had much better (JoLe in Calistoga). We tried a few different dishes and sort of shared around the table:

Dad had the insalata and carbonara (you can order carbonara as a full plate, not just part of the trio). He was not impressed. The carbonara was way over-peppered and he could not eat much of it. He ended up not finishing it and asking them to box it because we felt bad.
Mom ordered the gnocchi and tortelloni. Gnocchi was delicious! I did not care for the tortelloni. It may be that I'm not a fan of the taste of ox-tail (?), but I'm fairly certain I have had it before and liked it. I did not enjoy it combined with balsamic.
Brother ordered the trio to start and enjoyed the rigatoni. He felt the carbonara and vermicelli were both overly peppered as well. For his entree, he ordered the pork belly and liked it.
Fiancee ordered the Pike and the portion was tiny, maybe half the size of an iPhone. The corn tasted as if it were from a can. The 'crispy brussel sprouts' were 3 to 4 leaves of a brussel sprout. The dish lacked flavor.
I ordered the carbonara to start, again, way over pepperd, so much so that I had to stop eating it. I also ordered the pork belly. The meat was good, the accompaniments were odd and I did not eat much of them. The cranberry chutney was much too sour to eat, even with the sweet potatoe puree and pork belly to balance.
We received an amuse-bouche from the chef prior to the meal - a potatoe and leek soup. It was lukewarm, but was very good otherwise. I wish I could have ordered this!

Overall, the food was a disappointment; lukewarm, not very flavorful or contained too much pepper. On the other hand, the service was great. Our waiter was attentive and very sweet. We did not have the heart to tell him the food was lacking. We declined to try dessert and instead ate some homemade cookies and brownies in the limo on the way home. Next year, we will try a new restaurant and its back to the ballet - no more BBB!

    • Value
    • Atmosphere
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    • Food
Thank tyopp
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviews (92)
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55 - 59 of 92 reviews

Reviewed December 15, 2012 via mobile

Best pasta we have ever eaten. The food is ' creative Italian' but try the trio of pasta and you get a typical traditional pasta from Lazio ( (Rome area). My husband is Italian and normally will not eat Italian abroad. He likes to try local food but also because he never finds the good Italian food abroad. Chiaroscuro is the exception.

1  Thank Lyndi_e_Gipi
This review is the subjective opinion of an individual traveler and not of TripAdvisor LLC nor of its partners.
Reviewed December 2, 2012

Like other reviewers here, we came across this restaurant after seeing it on Bay Area Check Please on PBS. We wanted authentic Italian, and we sure got it. The only reservation we could get was at 9pm (we called around 5pm that same day--and whoever answered the phone was awesome). When we arrived, we were greeted by a friendly hostess who led us into the absolutely beautiful dining room. The space is small--maybe 15 tables or so, with an open kitchen (always reasurring to me!) The decor is simple, elegant, and undeniably Italian. A gorgeous blend of soft colors, ambient lighting, and beatiful stemware, plates, and flatware make this an ideal place for a date night.

We were promptly greeted by the sommelier. We had brought a nice bottle with us, but also wanted to sample his selection. He presented a delicious Prosecco for us to kick off the meal. The service was outstanding throughout the meal, as everyone knew the ingredients and preparation inside and out. We were then served a gezpacho--we all agreed we didn't like it that much, but hey, the thought was nice. Out came the degustazione di salumi--San Daniele prosciutto (for you prosciutto-lovers, this stuff is really good), bresaola, and salame with fennel. All three were delicious, and each meat came with a great accompaniment (prosciutto with melon, the other two with either mustard seeds or pickled cucumber). We then moved on to the primi: we ordered the trilogia to share (three samplings of their most popular pastas). The pasta here is to-die-for. It tastes like it was made moments before we ordered it--and it probably was. One curious note, however, was that each of the pastas came out lukewarm--not piping hot which we would've expected (my only guess is that the freshness of the pasta limits the amount of time it stays in boiling-hot water). This did not detract from the perfect balance of sauce, meat, spice, and pasta in each of the selections (cacio e pepe, amatriciana, and carbonara), however. We also ordered the winter truffle special, which was vermicelli pasta with fresh chanterelle, sauteed porcini, and fresh winter truffle tossed with olive oil. Out of this world! Finally, we ordered the braised pork belly--and as you might expect after reading this much of the review--it was incredible!!! No surprise there!!!!

With 2 bottles of wine (they waive corkage if you order one of their selections), antipasto, 4 pasta dishes, an entree, and an espresso, came to $70/person with tip. While the number is high, the value is spot on. There are a lot of places, some of which we even really like, that are far higher for less value. As a nice parting touch, the owner/chef Alessandro came by each of the remaining tables to talk with the diners. He was extremely gracious and appreciative (as was the sommelier I might add) about our coming to his restaurant, and I told him this was without a doubt a dining experience that transported me back to Italia. Our advice: load up on as much of this fresh pasta as you can--it's truly special. This may be our new go-to for fine Italian dining in SF!!!

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    • Atmosphere
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Thank Dan B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 29, 2012

Just returned from a month in Europe, and the fav dish was the Cacio e Pepe in Rome... could eat it every day... Chiaroscuro makes an excellent version of the dish.

2  Thank NorCalBill
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 24, 2012

This little gem sparkles! The food is so unbelievable fresh, it melts in your mouth. The portions are small enough that you can enjoy them and still feel wonderful and satisfied afterwards. The pastas are among the finest I've sampled. While the flavors left you wanting more, the portions are just right. The profiteroles dessert had the finest chocolate topping ever. The service was delightful. Sign me up for a repeat visit.

Thank fozzetti
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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