Sentinel, The

Overall Rating: 6.200

Address: 35 New Montgomery St.
Cross Street(s): Stevenson St., btwn Market & Mission Sts.
City, State ZIP: San Francisco, CA 94105
Neighborhood: SOMA
Phone: 415.284.9960
Hours: M-F 7am-2pm
Type of Establishment: Cafe
Cafe Rating: 6.00
Barista: 8
Savvy: 7
Ambiance: 3
Presentation: 6
Consistency: Consistent
Espresso Machine: Elektra
Coffee Rating: 6.40
Aroma: 6
Body: 6
Brightness: 7
Crema: 7
Flavor: 7
Taster's Correction: -1.0
Size: M
Primary Taste: Warming
Coffee Beans: Mr. Espresso
Cup Manufacturer: Glass
Price: $2.00
Last Update: 08/01/2008
First Reviewed: 05/28/2008
Notes: Kiosk

This kiosk/cubby hole with old cigar branding on glass above the doorway has only a dry-erase marker menu giving away its name. A former cigar shop, and most recently an outlet of Enzo's Italian Deli for a number of years, this tiny location was opened in May '08 by Dennis Leary, who runs the also very small Canteen restaurant. It has a simple, exceedingly short takeout menu - which isn't nearly as good as the billing - and they serve espresso from a single-group Elektra machine at the Stevenson window side. (Dennis personally makes the lunches to order here.) The barista carefully pre-heats the for-here shotglass and essentially times the shot. She even took multiple tries to make sure she got it right - big points there. However, the resulting shot has only a thinner layer of a lighter brown crema. There's a stiffness to it, but it's too thin. Flavorwise, it tastes of a sharper spice, cloves, and a touch of tobacco - without much of any sweetness. Given the pedigree, effort, and price that goes into the espresso here, we expected a lot more out of it. Things have only become a little worse with revisits: the place has quickly attracted a cult following requiring diners to line up on Stevenson (the glacial service doesn't help), the shots are more often pulled in paper cups when they're busy, and they won't bother with anything but straightforward espresso (no time-consuming lattes, etc.) during hurried lunch hours. The one plus is that they dropped the price from its initial, loftier $2,25.