Good Taste: Hell on a Plate

Food news and views on the Bay Area's most surprising flavors

By Tamara Palmer
|  Friday, Apr 6, 2012  |  Updated 5:47 PM PDT
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Good Taste: Hell on a Plate

Tamara Palmer

Hell in a Hand Basket at Dante's Weird Fish.

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The perception of a meal ahead can be highly influenced by what's on the menu. Presupposing that it is clean and relatively free of unappetizing spelling errors, what's most important is that a little bit of care has gone into how food is worded.

There's a trend amongst high-end restaurants to just describe the barest elements of a dish on the menu ("Beef, Kumquat, Pine Cone") and leave the rest up to the diner's imagination. Others overdescribe so that there are absolutely no surprises. It's all a delicate balance, though: Call it the Rooty Tooty Fresh 'n Fruity Syndrome, but too many gimmicks on a menu can lower expectations on how everything is going to taste.

The San Francisco restaurant formerly known as Weird Fish recently changed hands and was rebranded Dante's Weird Fish. The new owners are also behind nearby restaurants Boogaloo's, St. Francis Fountain, Crossroads Cafe, and a forthcoming spot called the Perch and have pretty much preserved all that's been decent about this spot. The most popular standards remain and some old vegan-friendly favorites are back.

Little details can make a large difference, and the addition of a few nice new items on the menu with creative names made a recent visit so much more exciting than it would have been. A hankering for straight up fish and chips was the draw that day, but what ended up on the table was called Hell in a Hand Basket, a not-too-sinful combo of fish and chips served with polenta strips, sauteed green beans, and sweet potato fries.

The whole menu hasn't been redone to be named so apocalyptically, so if you want a fish taco, you can order it as such. But if your week isn't going all that well, it's fun to be able to order something that encapsulates that state of affairs.

There was no room for dessert during lunch at Dante's Weird Fish. But when the three options are vegan cheesecake, vegan chocolate cake, and something called Last Train to Downtrodden, it's not hard to predict what would have been the winner when engaging in the delicious art of literary eating.

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