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Get Cozy With Top Chef's Mattin In San Francisco

Where: 701 Union Street [map], San Francisco, United States, 94133
October 15, 2009 at 5:08 PM | by | ()

As we uphold our weekly tradition of highlighting ex-cheftestants, giving due attention to the poor souls that didn't make it to the Final Three, we arrive at sprightly French chef Mattin Noblia. With a million-watt smile and red neckerchief that we hope he was wearing ironically, Noblia stole our hearts for being so disarmingly sweet...or maybe it was the accent. Either way, Padma and Co. bid Mattin au revoir after he presented a disastrous ceviche that Tom Colicchio found so offensive he actually spit it out. Tragic.

When he's not flashing his boyish grin on national television, Mattin can be found at Iluna Basque, his San Francisco restaurant. As you can guess from its name, the cuisine is inspired by the Basque region, served up on small plates that diners are encouraged to share.

His approach is decidedly more traditional—and seemingly more palatable—than that of fellow Top Chef cast member Hector Santiago. On the menu you'll find familiar combinations of regional flavors and ingredients, like Roasted Mussels with Garlic and Parsley Butter, a Baked Spanish Tortilla with Caramelized Onions and Chorizo, and Stuffed Calamaries in Ink Sauce over Spanish Rice. For those of you who haven't sampled the oceanic delight that is squid ink, don't blanch in disgust; it's actually delicious.

Desserts could be more inspired, with predictable inclusions of Crème Brûlée and Caramel Flan serving as the sweet coda to a warm, communal meal at Iluna Basque. Mattin's youthful charisma is what's allowing us to overlook what the menu lacks in overt experimentation. This passionate chef can amuse our bouche any day.

Related Stories
· Iluna Basque [Official Site]
· Former Top Chef Hopeful Cooks 'With Heart and Balls' in Atlanta [Jaunted]
· Top Chef coverage [Jaunted]

[Photo: Bravo]

Archived Comments:

SF restaurants

Iluna Basque is a rare treat in San Francisco, which has tons of fantastic restaurants featuring cuisines from around the globe, but not too many Basque entries.