I didn’t expect much from Foreign Cinema, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Let me back up.
Yesterday was a day as San Francisco as they come—summertime cold with an arctic wind. It was my partner’s birthday, so we went shopping for expensive sunglasses (mmm…Prada), drank in the afternoon (mmm…gimlets) and watched a cardboard robot fight in an alley off Valencia (mmm…weird—and easily the best part of the day). We were high on love for our freaky city. Why not top it off with dinner at a San Francisco institution?
There are a lot of things to love about Foreign Cinema. It’s an ideal urban oasis, set back off the street with a long corridor that makes you feel as if you’ve truly arrived somewhere. And the whole showing movies on the big, white wall thing is a stroke of genius—a gimmick that doesn’t even feel hokey. The scene makes you feel like you’re on vacation in your own town.
Sadly, the food doesn’t measure up.
We started with warm olives and baked fromage d’ Affinois. There certainly wasn’t anything wrong with either. But at the same time, there wasn’t anything overwhelmingly right. Where Pizzeria Delfina added orange zest to their warm olives, giving them a layer of wonderful complexity, Foreign Cinema’s just tasted of salt.
Next, I had a field green salad with beets, which was executed well, but was largely forgettable. My partner had more luck with the Beef Carpaccio—booyah for her. She said it was great, but her beef wasn’t doing me a damn bit of good.
And then, the risotto.
EXHIBIT A: SNOOZY RISOTTO
I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, aren’t I? There was nothing else for me to order, so there you go. Another freakin’ risotto. And a rather poor one, at that. The rice was still a bit crunchy, and the porcini mushrooms were lost in a sea of bland. I mean, if I’m going to get stuck eating risotto again, it should be good risotto, at least. I asked our waiter (who was very kind) whether their nightly-changing menu ever featured a non-risotto veggie entrée. “It’s usually risotto,” he replied. “Sometimes pasta, but usually risotto.” To their credit, he did mention that the chef is always willing to pull together a veggie plate on the fly. I wish I’d asked for it, but I’ve been so disappointed by that option lately, I didn’t even bother.
On to the cannoli. (Which was good, but not the interesting part of the story.) We asked our waiter for a dessert wine pairing recommendation, and he was stumped. STUMPED. Which seemed odd. He actually admitted to having no clue what to pair with a cannoli. So I asked if he might check with the sommelier. And get this—the sommelier was stumped. Now, isn’t it, like, his JOB to know what to pair with everything on their menu? That’s why they pay him, right? It’s not like we asked him to pick a wine to go with a Peanut Buster Parfait from DQ. He busts out with his “best guess”, some rose something or other that I’ve since forgotten, and says he hopes it works. Well, it didn’t. Not even close. In fact, it tasted like alcoholic Welch’s grape juice.
So our waiter came back and asks how the wine paired. I’m actually not much of a complainer when I’m in a restaurant, but this time, I piped up. Bad pairing, bad wine. He asked if we wanted a different glass, but by that point, we’d lost faith. I told him not to worry about it. We just wanted the check.
If you were Foreign Cinema, wouldn’t you comp that glass? Eat the $8 bucks and work on figuring out what to pair with your own food?
Yeah, so would I. But there it was, on the bill. Sigh.
Still, we had a fun evening. Even a boring risotto couldn’t ruin our good time. I mean, we saw a robot fight, for chrissake. It just doesn’t get much better than that.