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54 Mint: Unusual Restaurants in Dark Alleyways

Posted By Sparsha Saxena On Jun 19, 2012 @ 11:50 am In Arts | Comments Disabled

Things are not what they seem.

Things are not what they seem in alleyways

It’s around 8 p.m. in San Francisco, and we’re trying to get some food — sandwiches mostly. One would think that Union Square is teeming with authentic cafes and food stands on the streets, but it was an unfortunate discovery to find not one but three closed delis — we weren’t settling for Carl’s Junior. Starving and thus slightly delusional, we ventured into a dim-lit alleyway (something we don’t recommend). In one alleyway by the Westfield Mall [1] however, we were able to find an open restaurant: 54 Mint [2].

Crate and Barrel competition

Crate and Barrel has some competition

54 Mint is a nice place, to say the least.

The owner was extremely friendly. He saw us, and instead of waiting for us to orient ourselves in that clustered restaurant, he came up to greet us and assured that we would be seated as soon as possible. Within moments, we got comfortable seats.

The set-up resembles the intimate feeling of Crate and Barrel — no plastic chairs or tables — that puts us in a place that may not feel like our own kitchen table (it’s a little cluttered) but is definitely a kitchen we’d like to emulate someday, maybe when we have left the 99 percent (if that’ll ever happen).

It’s quite pricey though, and only has 6 choices of pastas (no Alfredo Fettucini!), so selecting the soup to avoid a $16 pasta isn’t possible.

But the pastas are so esoteric that we can’t identify the aisle at Trader Joe’s that offers the same thing. We ordered the Ravioli di Ricotta e Ortiche (also known as cheesy ravioli with sage and nuts). 54 Mint also sells some “exotic” dishes — considering that the only Italian food we knew was spaghetti with meatballs and garlic bread —  such as a grilled Mediterranean octopus on a fingerling potato salad.

We did stick out though, not because of our sheer naivete when it came to Italian food, but because the restaurant caters, or so it seemed, to an older demographic.

After ordering, we eagerly ate the complimentary buttered bread that was served in the interim before our meal. One would also assume that a restaurant that serves only six pastas would quickly serve the food to their customers, yet another example of the problems with assumptions.

Even in the most high end Italian Restaurants, there is spaghetti (though they may give it a more classy name)

Even in the most high end Italian Restaurants, there will always be spaghetti (though they may give it a more classy name)

While our quality of food to price calculator isn’t exactly refined, the pasta was a lot better than Olive Garden. The experience of eating ravioli at 54 Mint was so distinct because the combination of ingredients doesn’t exist anywhere else. Our cheesy ravioli was paired with a lemon butter dressing, not paste or sauce, but a light watery base. When we ate it alone, the dressing tasted like water, but together with the ravioli, the slight tang of lemon and sweetness (of brown butter?) was apparent.

In our opinion though, in spite of the unique tang the pasta had, it was a little too salty — unfortunately, the cost was not directly related to the taste.

Moral of the story: don’t go venturing into dark alleyways in times of extreme hunger. The restaurant does, however, offer a side of Italian that Olive Garden and our local markets have left out. If Italian is a favorite or a passion, then we are sure 54 Mint will be as well — just be ready to spend a lot.

Image source: Sparsha Saxena (all), Daily Cal


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URL to article: http://clog.dailycal.org/2012/06/19/54-mint-unusual-restaurants-in-dark-alleyways/

URLs in this post:

[1] Westfield Mall: http://www.westfield.com/sanfrancisco

[2] 54 Mint: http://www.54mint.com/

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