I’m fairly certain I was whining about the demise of the daringly bloody roast beef sandwich when chuckeats told me about the one at Il Cane Rosso, Daniel Patterson’s walk-up eatery in the Ferry Marketplace in San Francisco. It could be a quick lunch option, he suggested.
We made it happen.
In between oysters at Hog Island Oyster Co. next door and canelés – the last ones left – at Boulette’s Larder, we shared the Il Cane Rosso roast beef sandwich ($9).
Here’s the thing about roast beef sandwiches for me: the roast beef has got to be what my college roommate Hue lovingly referred to in his native tongue as sanglant, mais pas bleu – bloody, but not blue.*
Chuck was right, the roast beef in the sandwich at Il Cano Rosso was pretty rare in the middle. Sliced thinly, it was juicy, moist, and just ropey enough to give it some meaty back, though at times, it was hard to chew through the beef, resulting in whole lengths of it being pulled out of the sandwich at once.
The ciabatta-like bun had a sturdy crust that crackled and splintered. I like crusty crusts, but this one was a little too crusty, too hard. It cut my mouth. The inside crumb of the bread, which was slightly dug out to accommodate the filling, was quite hefty. Toasted and slathered with a bit of lemon aioli, it stood up a little too well to the juices from the beef and the tomato conserva (a tumble of crushed cherry tomatoes dripping with sweet juice). Be prepared to gnaw and chew a lot.
Upshot: the flavors were great (although I couldn’t taste any lemon from the aioli), the ingredients were clearly top-shelf (the beef, for example, is from Marin Sun Farm, which also supplies meat to Patterson’s Michelin two-starred restaurant, coi), but the bread, unfortunately, upstaged the meat and hogged all the attention. I eat roast beef sandwiches primarily for the roast beef, not the bread. Sometimes you need a well-structured bun to contain the filling. This was overkill.
I also ordered a side of “miso pickled turnips.” They were a disappointment. The turnips had been marinated so long that they had lost all their snap. They were rubbery and limp. The pickling was heavy on the rice vinegar, light on the miso. In fact, I couldn’t taste any miso whatsoever.
A word on ambiance: Il Cane Rosso ain’t got none. There’s a row of metal tables and chairs lined up against the wall in the breezeway between the bathroom and the doors to the outside terrace. You have a lovely view of the line for ordering food and of The Slanted Door through the wall of windows, but not much else. I can’t possibly imagine wanting to have a 3-course, family-style supper there, even if it is only $25. If the weather’s nice, I recommend finding a table or bench outside.
il Cane Rosso
One Ferry Building, # 41
San Francisco, CA 94111
* Hue and I used to enjoy the amazingly bloody “Gatsby Arrow” at Booeymonger in Georgetown. Back then, that was their only location. Now, that sandwich shop has expanded to three other locations in the D.C. metropolitan area. The Gatsby Arrow was a simple proposition: slices of very rare roast beef topped with Brie on a baguette. You could order it cold or hot. I could never make up my mind. Hue knew that I slightly preferred it cold, so he would just make up my mind for me.