It rained, it poured, traffic was snarled and we were 30 minutes late for our reservation at The Striped Pig in Redwood City. We frantically called en route and the calming voice on the phone told us not to worry. When we finally made it, we were immediately greeted with a warm smile and assurance that all was well.
Upon seating though, my dining companion said she forgot her reading glasses in the car. Instantly, a female staffer appeared with a selection of readers draped over her arm.
"Happens all the time," she said.
It was an astonishing attention to detail I hadn't thought possible in a small downtown restaurant on a rainy weeknight. Usually, it's the Michelin-star restaurants that show that level of civility. I had a good feeling about this place.
Opened in October 2015, The Striped Pig is an extended family affair. Andrew Mitchell and Al Pacheco are the chefs; Mitchell's father, a contractor, built the restaurant, and his mother manages the books.
The kitchen boasts impressive credentials. Mitchell earned a degree at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. His resume includes PlumpJack at Squaw Valley in Lake Tahoe, John Bentley's in Redwood City, and the now-shuttered 231 Ellsworth in San Mateo, Station 1 in Woodside, and Kaygetsu in Menlo Park.
Pacheco trained at Le Cordon Bleu in San Francisco. He has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants, including The Village Pub in Woodside and Madera in Menlo Park.
The Striped Pig's interior is compact and contemporary. The bar seats are upholstered, allowing guests comfort while they scan the cocktail list or peruse the food menu. Tables surrounding the bar give the space a snug but not cramped feel. Conversation never competed with noise level. Groupings of colorful modernist acrylics on the walls add to the upscale vibe.
The small plates menu was compact, but dishes were well-conceived and perfectly executed. The apple-based dry rub barbecue wings ($8), pieces of crisp chicken wings served in a mesh basket with a piquant dipping sauce, were spiced just right. The sauce left a lingering kiss on the lips.
The bone marrow ($13) with brown-buttermilk crumble and chives was silky and rich; it was served with toast points for spreading the marrow and adding crunch.
The artistically plated shrimp ($16) was flanked with fried polenta and red watercress, plus a roasted piquillo pepper aioli. The piquillo, a medium-sized red pepper with a sweet and slightly tart taste, made for a delicious savory sauce.
There were several smaller small plates that made good appetizers: deviled eggs with chorizo crumble ($7); crisp fries with lemon aioli ($6); and marinated olives with Manchego cheese, fennel and herbs ($7).
Speaking of herbs and vegetables, most of the seasonal produce comes from Mitchell's own garden, about a mile away from the restaurant. The bar also uses his herbs in the craft cocktails.
The special one night was duck confit ($22) with chanterelles and shishito peppers drizzled with lavender honey. The duck was crisp, juicy and meaty.
Small cavatelli pasta shells ($19) bathed in squid ink came layered with wild mushrooms, pumpkin seeds, herbs and edible flowers. The pasta was accompanied by two delicious sauces, a butternut-squash cream and a Parmesan cream.
The flat iron steak with cauliflower sauce ($24) shared the plate with delicata squash that was roasted then puréed. The mouth-watering chunks of steak were seared rare.
Finally, the grilled swordfish ($24) was thick-cut but cooked through. It was moist, fork-tender and served with bacon-fat potatoes, broccolini and dollops of whipped lemon-butter.
The best was yet to come: desserts. There were only two on the menu (three if we included the cheese plate).
My dining companion, a self-proclaimed pot de crème expert, declared Striped Pig's take, with caramel sauce and whipped cream ($8), about the best she's ever had.
The decadent hard root beer float ($8), which is 5 percent alcohol, had hints of vanilla, licorice and birch. It was served in a heaping mug with ice cream, whipped cream and chocolate shavings. It took me back to hot summer days in the Midwest, where similar soda fountain treats, called "black cows," were served -- but made sans alcohol and with cheap chocolate syrup squirted from a pump dispenser. The Striped Pig's float was updated and unequivocally better, but still nostalgic.
The Striped Pig offers over a dozen craft and specialty cocktails ($12 to $16), plus draft beers and wines by the glass.
The front-of-the-house staff was excellent, headed by General Manager Natalie Ercolini-Lastaria. Servers were gracious, helpful and attentive, and interacted well with guests. Mitchell praised his team, both front and back of the house.
"After all," he said, "that's who makes it happen."
I had no argument.
The Striped Pig
917 Main St., Redwood City
Hours: Kitchen: Tuesday-Thursday 5-9 p.m., Friday-Saturday 5-10 p.m.
Bar: Tuesday-Saturday 5 p.m. to closing.
Credit cards: yes
Parking: street and city lots
Alcohol: full bar
Happy hour: Tuesday-Thursday, 5-6 p.m.
Outdoor dining: no
Noise level: moderate
Bathroom cleanliness: excellent