Like House of Prime Rib, Rickybobby, and other dens of meat, Salumeria
isn’t exactly the first name that comes to mind for exploring a vegetarian meal, let alone a top-tier one. The entire pig doesn't quite translate to the whole cauliflower. But leave it to the Ne Timeas folks to lecture the world on hummus and avocado at a venue specializing in butchering all parts of the animal ($9).
Being half retail, half the daytime café occupying the magnificent sun-lit courtyard dining room of sibling Central Kitchen, hummus is a key player for Salumeria, made in-house and sold on its own in the shop. For the sandwich, mezzes of the Eastern European served as the inspiration. This is slick, almost creamy hummus that functions as a sauce and filling protein, and has a forceful, persistent chickpea profile.
The hummus joins smoked paprika's sleek smoky character and the sea salt-evoking blast of finely diced black olives. Mashed avocado provides body and a tangy element to the proceedings covering the bread, à la mayonnaise, and the whole the whole package is sliced by the sharp acidity of pickled and shaved radish and the refreshing jolt of arugula. This is teamwork, even with the pickled cucumbers on the side helping cut the occasional piercing olive notes. Keep calm and don’t let the drippings spill down your arm.
Not to be outdone, the small roster of salads aren't merely the supporting cast to the sandwich. Chef Thomas McNaughton also re-imagines one of the most neglected dishes in the picnic canon: pasta salad.
Winter leaps in with segments of persimmon whose juice becomes a unifying light dressing. Sunflower seeds and oft-negelected bitter beat green add brightness and crunch. It’s light, conversation-stopping in its uniqueness, and basically a cold version of the creative pastas San Francisco has come to expect across the street at Flour + Water. (Note that as persimmon season has come and gone, mushrooms and brussels sprouts are now the headliners for the pasta salad.)
And yes, the pasta involved is from Flour + Water. Does San Francisco now have its favorite summer dish discovered in dead of winter? Anything can happen any month in California. With the hummus sandwich it’s a dream meal pairing like Bumgarner and Bochy; enjoyed at Salumeria or at home, either way far from the whole hog.
1550 Bryant; 471-2990.