>Located in the heart of San Francisco’s “Little Italy” district, The Stinking Rose is a serenade to that most Italian of additives, garlic. The Stinking Rose specializes in Italian classics and other fare in which the star is, you guessed it, garlic. My husband is a huge fan of garlic, and when we saw the sign for this place, I knew that we had to eat there. So we did.
The décor of the place is as expected: kitschy, a little better than a TGI Fridays, with a little bit of classic black and red thrown in to provide the feel of Little Italy. It was fun, and just the silly experience for which we had hoped.
After perusing the menu, I was pleased to discover that they offered non-garlic options as well, but the point of going to a garlic restaurant is to order the garlic, right? The signature dish at TSR is a garlic-laden appetizer called Bagna Calda (a spin on the classic bagna cauda), which was simply a small pan of roasted garlic and olive oil, served with bread for dipping. Not to shy away from the threat our breath knocking someone flat, we ordered it right away.
The appetizer arrived very quickly (how much prep does it take, really?), and we set to tasting what we were certain would be garlic nirvana. Not so. When roasted, garlic takes on a delicate, nutty flavor, not the electric salty taste that one is accustomed to with classic garlic dishes. I added a bit of salt and pepper to the pan, as I noticed other diners doing, and it tasted better, but not amazing.
Not really in the mood for pasta, we ordered the Garlic Prime Rib to split, which came covered in roasted garlic cloves, as well as accompanied by garlic mashed potatoes and creamed chard. Again, not very garlicky. The prime rib was good, but seemed very fatty and lacking in flavor for $30. The garlic mashed potatoes were also quite bland, and a little runny. The chard was wonderful, however. Perfectly cooked and seasoned, I wish that they had given us twice the chard and half the potatoes and steak. The portions were enormous for the meat and potatoes.
The dessert menu contained garlic ice cream, but we weren’t quite up to that, particularly after such a huge meal and appetizer. The service was perfectly fine, and the restaurant clean. The meal was good, just overall underwhelming. I think that this is one of those places in which you visit for the laughs and kitsch, rather than the actual food.