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by Leith Steel

1896 Hyde Street
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415 ) 674-4343

Cuisine: Contemporary Californian, American classics, and Italian influenced dishes.

Pluses: Classic food with a contemporary flair in an attractive space.

Minuses: Service and seasoning alternate between coming on strong and fading away.

Don't Miss:  Salt cod brandade, Coco-Cola braised pork shoulder, Strawberry shortcake

Prices: $ 7 – 13 for appetizers; $ 15 – 26 for entrees;
$ 7 for desserts

Good selection of wines by the glass, half bottle and bottle. Most bottles fall in the $30 range.

Overview: Open for dinner Tuesday – Saturday from 5:30 pm until 10:00 pm and Sunday from 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Like unwrapping a present, an evening at luella (they do not capitalize the L) is full of surprises. It begins when you walk through the door. What appears to be a cozy little neighborhood restaurant from the outside opens into a contemporary space with a separate bar area giving way to a spacious dining room that wraps around a corner and fades out of sight, in front of a partly open kitchen.

Despite all the signs of a noisy restaurant, the volume remains reasonable. My companion and I were able to debate whether we wanted the ahi tuna tartare tacos with lime vinaigrette and mango salsa or the fava bean and artichoke salad with shaved pecorino and red onion. Instead we opted for the crispy sweetbreads with frisee, jicama, and pomegranate seeds in herb vinaigrette and the salt cod brandade with lemon aioli.

Sweetbreads, notorious for being overcooked, in this case were only the barest hair beyond perfectly done. Tender on the inside and crispy on the outside they were a crouton gone gourmet in a vibrant salad combining many flavors and textures, all of them light and refreshing. By contrast, the brandade was a sort of Mediterranean comfort food, rich and addictive. The garlicky crostini ran out too quickly, and soon I was relegated to scraping the bowl with my spoon to make sure that I got every last bite.

Equally additive was the Coca-Cola braised pork shoulder. In a surprising revolution, the common soft drink replaces red wine as braising medium. The sugars from the soda slightly caramelized giving the meat a syrupy glaze and crisp edges masking the spoon-tender flesh. In the reverse scenario, the gentrified veal and porcini Bolognese with housemade fettuccine was overly salty with not enough of the noodle to balance the sauce.

Desserts continued to impress, whether it was the luella sundae with coffee, chocolate, and vanilla gelato, brandied cherries, chocolate sauce, and caramel sauce, or the strawberry shortcake. Such nostalgia evoked by these two desserts, kept us coming back for more, and come back I will. I might not be surprised next time around but I know it will be good.


--Leith Steel

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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