First, some dates for your diaryâ€¦
For those of you who donâ€™t eat out that often, make an exception today, Thursday, April 26. The STOP AIDS Project invites us all to the 6th Annual Dining Out For Life. Itâ€™s really simple. Just dine at one of the participating restaurants and 25 percent of your food bill will benefit the HIV Prevention programs of the STOP AIDS Project. I know I shouldnâ€™t really play favorites, and all participating restaurants deserve your patronage on this special day, but knowing that 25 percent goes to a worthy cause might inspire you to push the boat out a little more than usual. With that in mind, my suggestions would be Ebisu, Eos, Foreign Cinema, Mooses, RNM and Rubicon.
For the boozers amongst you, then check out Chenery Park, Tangerine, Fringale and Le Colonial, where they will also donate 25 percent of liquor sales! The kind-hearted souls at Wells Fargo are, again, standing behind our community in sponsoring the event, which last year raised a staggering $180,000. Just remember, the more Kobe beef you eat, the more is raised for charity.
Now, on with this weekâ€™s review.
Espetus seems to go from strength to strength, if the numbers are anything to go by. Since opening in 2004, this place has expanded like the French under Napolean, annexing neighboring properties and tripling its floor space. What could be the cause of such rapid expansion? Well, I am not usually an advocate for â€śeat all you canâ€ť establishments, as more often quality is sacrificed on the sacred American altar of quantity, but here they do it rather well.
What the menu lacks in variation is more than made up for by consistency. Before I proceed any further, however, a word of warning. If you are a vegetarian or a carnivorous glutton with an eating disorder, stop reading now. No, if mountains of scorched flesh make your stomach turn or have you running screaming to an OA meeting, this place is not for you, nor for the fainthearted. Make sure you are hungry and in the mood for lots of meat before stepping across the threshold. This is the closest youâ€™ll probably get to an abattoir, unless that is, of course, if you happen to work in a slaughterhouse.
There is only one menu here, at least to begin with, and this is how it works: After being seated and ordering a beverage, make a trip to the salad bar, which is well stocked with an interesting variety of appealing nibbles such as hearts of palm, tabouleh and asparagus, and then, move on to the steaming serving dishes filled with rice, beans and other fillers.
By the time you return to your table, a small plate of cheesebread, fried plantain and fried polenta will have arrivedâ€“a trio worthy of thorough investigation. Then, skewer upon skewer of roasted meat will rain down upon you in something resembling a culinary blitzkrieg.
When I last visited, the opening salvo consisting of shrimp with garlic was hideously overcooked to the point of being unpleasant. The shells were practically welded to the flesh, and I gave up trying to prise them open. I pushed them to the side of my plate like unexploded bombs. The lamb, which followed, was well done but still juicy and marvelously flavored by the charred rosemary. Hot on its heels came the rib of beef, a bit too well done for my liking, but succulent still. Next came a serving of that from which even my meat eating American friends shrinkâ€“chicken hearts. For me, this was one of the high points, dense, chewy and earthy, yum! Several cuts of beef followed, tenderloin, top sirloin and the chefâ€™s â€śspecial sirloin,â€ť which was, ironically, tougher than old boots. After the intense beef assault there was a momentary respite before the chicken bricks wrapped in bacon arrived. And then, for me, the hands down winner, home made sausageâ€“meaty, moist and gently spicy. Also arriving on a skewer and not to be missed is the cooked fresh pineappleâ€“wonderful for cutting through all that grease.
The wine list, though extensive, is unsurprisingly, overwhelming bloody in character. The bargains can be found in the section of Argentinean malbecs and exotic Brazilian vintages. Avoid the outrageously priced and not very worthy French interlopers.
Although it was a busy Sunday evening, the noise level was surprisingly low. But from experience I know that it can become quite boisterous here, especially if a few large parties are presentâ€“which is often the case. The tables are a good size and the management has done a good job with the dĂ©cor without being too clichĂ©dâ€“lots of wood and large pictures of cattle, gauchos and campfires.
A few other tips: English is not the first language of most of the servers here, fetching though they may be in their authentic gaucho-esque costumes, and some appear to have only a rudimentary knowledge of the Queenâ€™s vernacular. Such words as â€śrareâ€ť are met with blank looks, so donâ€™t expect your meat to order. Most of what arrives tableside is well roasted, although if you are dining with others, the later you wait for your slice, the more rare it gets. Also, the meat skewers come in such rapid succession that it can produce a hurried feeling. The dial on the table, which switches from green to red, should be used to regulate the flow of eager servers with their lances of meat. Donâ€™t wait until you are full and bloated to flip it to redâ€“alternate. Neither should you worry about tasting everything. The skewers of each delicacy come around more than once, and so you can leave extra room for your favorites.
All of the above comes at the universal price of $39.95.
Dessert might seem superfluous, even ridiculous, but those in the know will leave a corner (or two) empty. The desserts here exceed expectations and are well worth a â€śshare of stomach.â€ť I went for the Mousse de Maracuja (passion fruit) for the princely sum of $6.95. This was soft, creamy and gently subsided into the mouth like a kiss. Not only that, it had a near perfect balance of sweetness and acidity. For those who are interested, there is a fairly broad, if pedestrian, selection of ports shockingly referred to as â€śthe great chocolate pairing drink.â€ť That rumbling noise was my Grandfather, Valentine, turning in his grave.
Although you may well indeed leave this place â€śstomach groaning on a stretcher,â€ť I cannot, in all conscience award Espetus the coveted Witherington Five Stars. However, they do what they set out to do here very well, and as far as â€śeat all you canâ€ť venues go, this is as good as you are ever likely to find.
Oh, and one other thingâ€“donâ€™t dream of asking for a doggie bag!
1686 Market Street
Open for lunch and dinner,
seven days a week.
Tell them Teddy sent you!
Price Guide: $$$
Rating Guide : ***-1/2
Ratings Guide $
$ : Cheap
$$ : Moderate
$$$ : Expensive
$$$$ : Very Pricey
$$$$$ : Take out a second mortgage
Ratings Guide *
* : Forget it, Iâ€™m never going back
** : Unremarkable
*** : OK, Iâ€™ll eat there if
someone else is paying
**** : Yummy, yummy
***** : Carry me out, stomach
groaning, on a stretcher