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More Than Just a Date Spot

If you ask me, lots of restaurants these days seem indistinguishable from each other. Interiors boasting chocolate hues, exposed brick walls, dark wood floors, marble-topped bars, vaulted ceilings and Edison lamps, with menus highlighting the ubiquitous small plates trend (that I thought was ending, but was wrong). You know what I’m talking about. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but sometimes a girl craves something more unique.

That’s when you start thinking about the classics. Last week, I went to Zuni Café—an old standby going on 20-some years. Yesterday I had lunch at Kuleto’s (21 years). Next week, I’m going to help both Farallon and Citizen Cake celebrate their 10th anniversaries. And just the other night, I had one of the best meals of ‘07 at Sociale, which celebrated its six-year anniversary last month (September).

I’ve been waiting for an occasion to go to Sociale—renowned for being a super romantic date spot—for far too long. Finally, I got my chance to try the restaurant, but without one iota of romance. Turns out, my “date” was a friend of mine, who’s a girl (story of my life)—we gossiped about guys, if that counts. Anyway, here’s my message: If you’ve been saving Sociale for a first date, anniversary or other special occasion, don’t. Just go!

If you can only get one thing (which would be a shame), get the braised rabbit with spaetzle. I’m not a big rabbit eater, but this dish should not be missed. Tender chunks of milk-braised meat, the brightness of a few pieces of tomato, the bite of spaetzle and the crunch of fried leeks—all come together to make a memorable dish.


Watermelon burrata salad and bone marrow

Other highlights include: a watermelon salad with housemade burrata, roasted marrowbones with fresh figs and crostini, and fried olives to start. As mains go, the fish stew, bursting with prawns, scallops, snapper and potatoes in a thick roasted tomato and saffron base, far surpasses your average cioppino. And stuffed quail and cappellini with meatballs (the size of a big basketball player’s fists) are safe bets. The portions are pretty generous, so try to save room for dessert. If you’re at all fond of berries, the Lambrusco zabaglione is the only way to go. (Otherwise, you can’t go wrong with fresh, housemade donuts and an espresso milkshake.)


Donuts and zabaglione

In the end, it’s probably a good thing that I wasn’t on a date, as all I could do when I got home was pass out on my sofa.