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Tablehopper reports on The Progress [San Francisco]

Happened to take a sick day last Tuesday and, sitting around, bored, snotty, clicking "refresh" on OpenTable, managed to make a reservation for tonight.

Several items we got (pig fries, treasure chest, matsutake dumpling, crab noodles, floating island) have been covered in this thread. We also got the the dried duck with prunes and potato croquettes, which was probably my favorite dish of the night, hitting all the right sweet-savory-crisp notes. It was reminiscent of one of my favorites from State Bird: duck ham with pecan pancakes.

Everything else was very capably prepared, I would say at about the same level of cooking as State Bird. The snacks at the beginning of the meal--fried broccoli, smoked trout, lapsang souchong--were also delicious and a bit eclectic. The one execution error was the pig fries, a few of which were burnt and unpleasant, though the accompanying minted cauliflower salad was good.

With tax and tip, things came out to around $140 per person for two tastings, two cocktails, and one half-bottle of wine. That just seemed high, whereas my meals at State Bird have always seemed like an excellent value. Though we ended up full at the end of the evening, some of the dishes (two mushroom potstickers, half of a squab for two people) seemed a bit small.

State Bird also has that freewheeling atmosphere that is just plain fun. While there weren't any hiccups in service tonight, I don't know if they've quite figured out the vibe they're going for at The Progress yet. Overall, the meal was good, but I think I'd rather eat next door for the time being.

Urban Putt - Mission, SF

Went for a birthday party and golf game last night.

We arrived a little before 7 PM and unfortunately our first impression was a really weird, unpleasant time ordering from the downstairs bartender. It was probably exacerbated by the bar being a little understaffed and the staff being forced to card because the venue is under-21 until 8 PM. I really liked the new-to-me Blood Orange Gose from Anderson Valley though.

Golf was thoroughly enjoyable--not something I'd do again in my spare time, but the Maker Faire type decorations are cool enough that I'd bring friends from out of town. There are a few "bottleneck" holes and it seems like it takes about 1-1.5 hours to play through at a peak time.

Upstairs at dinner, we got some poutine and empanadas to share for the table. The empanadas were good; the poutine had nice fries, but the duck confit was a little muddy and not at all crisp. Duck confit poutine just may not be the best idea, although I like both elements individually.

For an entree, I got the chicken meatball sandwich, which was excellent and balanced by a really nice pepper relish. A side of brussels sprouts with pork belly and apples came out all a little one-note and overcooked for my taste, though I like my sprouts a bit crisp. I heard only good things about the deep-dish pizza but was too full to try any.

Overall, it was nice to try once. I probably wouldn't go back on my own for either the food or golf, but I'd happily go back for another birthday party, or to show visitors (during an off hour).

Dec 13, 2014
tripit in San Francisco Bay Area

Odd request for a "bar & grill" [San Francisco]

There was quite a discussion of the merits of Chow Church/Park Chow on this board the last time someone brought it up, but I do think that this is a situation where Chow would be very appropriate. No online reservations, but you can call ahead.

It wasn't my favorite the one time I visited, but Ironside in Soma might also fit the bill, and does take reservations.

Dinner in SF for 6 tonight, 2 kids, not too pricey, not Asian, pizza, or Mexican

I believe that the suggestion was not intended for Bar Bambino, but the similarly named Bambino's in Cole Valley, which appears to still be open, and served an OK brunch the last time I visited a few years back.

http://www.bambinosristorante.com/

Nov 25, 2014
tripit in San Francisco Bay Area

Re-thinking Berkeley icons at holiday time

Maybe it's my nostalgia for my first apartment in the Bay Area at Shattuck and Rose, but I really dig the combination of crispy, almost-fried crust doused with garlic oil. Now that you mention it, all of their pizzas do kind of taste the same, but occasionally you'll get a nice accent like corn or pesto, or a sharper cheese.

I agree with Ridge below that the basic breads are nothing special, but I do like the scones, cheese rolls, and chocolate things from the bakery. I think they kind of hit the same rustic/decadent balance as the pizza.

Nov 21, 2014
tripit in San Francisco Bay Area

Sir and Star at The Olema

Thanks for sharing! I didn't want to ding the service too much, because ours was mostly fine except for receiving the check before the dessert. But based on observations of tables around us, this all sounds totally plausible, and we also noticed the huge pile-up in the lobby halfway through our meal. I copied your message to my friend and she reminded me that we also referenced Portlandia a few dishes in.

Nov 10, 2014
tripit in San Francisco Bay Area

Sir and Star at The Olema

Went up to Marin for a weekend getaway and decided to try their Saturday supper.

The food was on the whole very good. We started with all of the supplementary courses: oysters, duck liver mousse, and bone marrow (topped with braised oxtail, to the point that it was really an oxtail dish served on a marrow bone), all tied together by a rich champagne with cocoa nib notes. The first course, smoked sable with french toast and pea shoots, was perfect for me: tender yet not overly fishy. Cauliflower soup with bacon and mustard was standard. A generous goat cheese souffle was perfect, and nicely complemented by a well-judged portion of bitter greens and tomatoes. Duck with butter beans and radishes felt classic, the astringency of the radishes really coming through. The vegetarian entree, kale fritters with wheatberry porridge and "garlic dulce de leche", was hearty and quite delicious but would have benefitted from a better plating: a smaller, deeper bowl would have made it look more abundant, instead of like three green hushpuppies on a huge plate. My dining companion was not excited by the hazelnut cake for dessert, but I was really into the accompanying persimmons, so I liked it a lot.

Service was pleasant and solicitous, but overall kind of haphazard, as others have mentioned. Given this, and the butcher paper on the tables, this felt more like a $50-$60 menu than a $75 menu. We got a glass of riesling and a glass of zinfandel as well--both were very nice, but the by-the-glass list is quite short. Together with a half-bottle of champagne and the food above, we came out at just over $150 per head.

I agree with wearybashful below: the food was great and I'd definitely stop in again on my way through Point Reyes, but for a glass of wine and a few a la carte items, rather than the prix fixe.

Nov 09, 2014
tripit in San Francisco Bay Area

Maine hounds SF trip report [long]

Thanks for the detailed report! Sorry to hear another disappointed report on Bar Tartine. I've had a lot of great meals there, although the last one was in the spring. With these couple disappointed reviews (including Bauer's, whatever that's worth) and prices creeping upward, I may take it out of the regular rotation for a bit. Maybe they've lost some focus as they concentrate on expansion--I know that's the reason they dropped the Wed-Fri lunch counter.

On the other hand, it's been a long time since I've been to Dosa or Slanted Door, and this is a good reminder to get back.

Nov 06, 2014
tripit in San Francisco Bay Area

New Yorker looking for quintessential San Francisco cheap eats 2014

How is La Oaxaqueña recently? I used to go all the time 3-4 years ago, but had a couple disappointing visits (cold food, incredibly slow service) after they closed and reopened. If it's back to its old quality, I'd love to put it back into the regular rotation.

neighborhood restaurant recommendations for November in SF?

I think executing a diverse, seasonally changing menu at a the price point of a $15 entree consistently over several years is impressive in San Francisco. Maybe it's because I live in the Castro, but I'm sure could name 20 restaurants that fail at that goal.

You're right on the family appeal--a lot of the time I'm there, it's with a picky eater. It's great to have a place accessible to the trickiest palates my family, but with more interesting options that my other friends and I will enjoy.

Oct 02, 2014
tripit in San Francisco Bay Area

neighborhood restaurant recommendations for November in SF?

Chow is very reliable. I'm always impressed by how they're able to maintain a fairly diverse menu with many seasonal elements, yet still execute most of the items consistently. With the exception of some misfired huevos rancheros one morning, I've never had a bad meal there across five or ten visits.

Best Cocktail Bars

I honestly wouldn't even have known Saison had a bar except for your posts on Chowhound and one Serious Eats article from March or April. I had wanted to go over and try it for a while, but could never find any information at all on their website regarding when it might be open, how much cocktails might cost, whether food was available, if it even still existed, etc. Given this, I'm not surprised they are having trouble retaining talent.

Sep 27, 2014
tripit in San Francisco Bay Area

Weekend Trip Report Day 3 and 4 (Maven/Frances/Bar Tartine/The Cavalier)

I have seen my server numerous times during all previous meals at Bar Tartine. I'm sorry to hear that this was not the case during your visit.

I agree that Frances has consistently excellent service. Interesting to hear that you preferred the Josey Baker Bread--I'll have to ask what variety they serve the next time I'm at Frances. I have never been that impressed by Josey Baker Bread for the price, but perhaps it's a loaf that I haven't tried yet.

Sep 24, 2014
tripit in San Francisco Bay Area

Weekend Trip Report Day 3 and 4 (Maven/Frances/Bar Tartine/The Cavalier)

I prefer Tartine bread to anything else I can obtain easily in SF: Semifreddi's, Acme, Josey Baker, Della Fattoria, Firebrand... Nothing else achieves the same combination of crisp crust and pliable crumb. Toasted, I think it's really magical, the caramelized surface against the warm, slightly spongy interior. I'm going to LA in a few months and would be interested to hear of the numerous loaves you prefer there.

I've really liked the smoked potatoes on previous visits to Bar Tartine. The texture has been deeply roasted, almost to the point of falling apart, but has never had a crisp crust, so I don't think that was what they were going for. I don't remember them ever being dry.

I have found the service at Tartine Bakery to be frustratingly indifferent at times, but I've had great service at all of my 5-6 visits to Bar Tartine.

Sep 24, 2014
tripit in San Francisco Bay Area

Is Frances regularly so difficult to book?? [San Francisco]

Just saw this thread and wanted to chime in: almost this exact thing happened to me last year. We were trying to make a reservation for a friend's birthday, started clicking at 12 AM, noticed all the tables were reserved in 1 second. We sent them an e-mail and they explained that they were undergoing renovations that week, but we could have first pick of a table the following Saturday.

Frances does have great customer service! They've sent me recipes too.

Adventurous menu for special occasion

I had a late-night meal at Rich Table a few weeks ago. We had a three or four small appetizers, two plates of pasta, two desserts, two cocktails, and two beers for a total of $170 all included. The menu is on the more progressive side of California cuisine, and service is great, although I don't think the space is anything special.

Though the vibe is a little more downscale, Trick Dog would also fit easily in your price range, and is definitely unique cuisine--they've got some of the most interesting cocktails you can find in the city. The space is not necessarily high-design, but kind of cute in its own way--eating in an attic or loft above a bar.

Jul 15, 2014
tripit in San Francisco Bay Area

Cocktails in SF -- 7x7 "big drink"

Maybe it's just because I live at 17th and Market, but I can't believe that neither Blackbird nor The Residence is on this list.

The former has one of my favorite cocktails ever, the Bayonet (gin, Cherry Heering, and angostura bitters). It's usually only served on the fall menu, but I make a serviceable version at home.

The latter, while never a critical darling, has a wide selection of NOLA-inspired, whiskey-and-bitters driven cocktails, at prices that are more than fair.

The Alembic has never been my absolute favorite, but it's also surprising to see newer places like Brass Tacks, Ziryab, and Chino over somewhere that's been around for 5+ years.

Jul 01, 2014
tripit in San Francisco Bay Area

YALAHAFA (Yet Another L.A. Hound Asking for Advice) on Great Eats in SF Proper (Muni accessible, non-high end)

That is one possible etymology, but googling "Michael Jackson Jesus Juice" provides one that is more likely.

San Francisco loves lines. It's definitely not tourists standing in line for 2 hours at Dear Mom for bagels imported from NYC, or for mac-'n'-cheese-filled burritos. I get cranky standing in line 90% of the time, but on the right evening I'd wait a bit for Bi-Rite or Nopalito or something.

Jun 23, 2014
tripit in San Francisco Bay Area

Cherry Season 2014 - Prices seen in the SF Bay Area?

I got some cherries (not advertised as organic) at the Castro Farmer's Market for $4/lb last week. I didn't write down the name of the farm, but it was one of the back stalls, further from Market St.

Honestly, the quality of these cherries was better than any of the $10/lb handfuls I've bought at Bi-Rite this year.

Jun 17, 2014
tripit in San Francisco Bay Area

Bar Tartine, Nick Balla era [San Francisco]

Yeah, I agree with the menu descriptors veering a little far toward minimalism. I wasn't bothered, but someone who doesn't like surprises or is especially picky might have trouble.

I am actually not sure about that rice and trout dish. I had been looking at the menu a week or two prior and saw it described as narezushi there. However, on the menu that we received, it was described as only "rainbow trout with brown rice." I didn't ask about it, no mention was made of fermentation/preservation, and it didn't taste especially tangy, so I figured they must have run out of the narezushi or decided to abandon that preparation. I didn't think to ask about it at the time.

Jun 11, 2014
tripit in San Francisco Bay Area

Bar Tartine, Nick Balla era [San Francisco]

Stopped in to try the Friends and Family menu last night and everything was great, a fully realized meal of twelve dishes centered around dark, fermented flavors. My only minor complaint would be that a couple of dishes might have veered into overly rustic territory--"king salmon with peas" was literally just a barely-cooked piece of salmon nestled under a mound of pea shoots--but the flavors were always spot on. I particularly liked warm kale salad with sunflower tahini, the poached chicken with crispy potatoes, and the two contrasting desserts: a bright, tangy pound cake balanced against the bracingly sweet sesame custard (which I think includes a big slab of carob). Celery root puree with lovage oil was also a surprisingly good, bright green condiment for their bread.

Contrary to reports from years past, they now seem to have moved away from culturally loaded descriptors ("goulash", "soba") on the menu, and they also asked about dietary restrictions at the beginning of the meal. Maybe some growing pains. Service is still casual, but they're doing fantastic stuff now.

Jun 10, 2014
tripit in San Francisco Bay Area

Moving to SF - Critique my list of neighborhood must-trys?

I'm a native East Coaster as well, and I find the food at Palmyra to be great. Were the OP visiting San Francisco for one week from NYC, I wouldn't advise her to bother with it, but she's making a permanent move to the Haight, and I find it to be a solid neighborhood option for this cuisine.

Moving to SF - Critique my list of neighborhood must-trys?

I'd definintely add Palmyra to your Haight list. The food is not quite as good as Old Jerusalem in the Mission, but it's still very good, and it's a great atmosphere with really friendly employees.

May 29, 2014
tripit in San Francisco Bay Area

Startup Sells "Prime" Reservations (Table8)

Two years, ago, the restaurant Next in Chicago did make one seat per night available in a charity auction. Many people paid $5,000 for a two-top.

http://chicago.grubstreet.com/2012/02...

Next's business model is completely different from any restaurant in SF (pre-pay for a ticket to dinner, tickets are transferable but not refundable, no money changes hands at the time of the meal). Also, demand at the time Next did this was so great that months of tables were being booked within minutes, after being released on facebook at an arbitrary time during the day. So it's probably not directly applicable to Table8 or a similar system, but there is precedent for this model.

Apr 19, 2014
tripit in San Francisco Bay Area

Startup Sells "Prime" Reservations (Table8)

The menus are not quite the same at Chez Panisse--Mondays ($65) are typically three courses, Tuesday through Thursday ($85) are four courses, and Friday/Saturday ($100) are four courses plus an aperitif.

Depending on how much value you give to the aperitif, or to an extra appetizer, you could argue that the more expensive menus are very slightly marked up per-course. But I think it's minor, and I think it's actually a pretty smart arrangement for a single-menu restaurant.

Apr 17, 2014
tripit in San Francisco Bay Area

Great China (Berkeley) still great

Has anybody been to Great China recently? Melanie Wong reported that the beer and wine license came through in January--was wondering if they have a program set up yet. Also wondering how difficult it is to score a table these days!

Mar 18, 2014
tripit in San Francisco Bay Area

Quintessential Bay Area in 4 Days

Even better:

http://sfist.com/2014/02/04/local_mag...

(not a direct link, but I love this headline)

Mar 18, 2014
tripit in San Francisco Bay Area

Sunday night dinner: Sons and Daughters vs AQ or Commonwealth [San Francisco]

I didn't have a great meal at AQ. There were a few execution and service errors. I realize that a lot of people on this board have had a different experience, so maybe I hit them on an off night.

Regarding Frances vs. State Bird, I think I prefer the atmosphere at Frances, but it's also much easier for me to go to Frances. I think that one factor contributing to your feeling that people on this bird find State Bird overhyped is that the only reliable way to actually dine at State Bird is 1) show up on Fillmore St. at a time inconvenient to most 9-to-5ers; or 2) make a reservation between 4 and 5 AM PST exactly 60 days before your preferred date. If you're just visiting SF and can plan your day around it, it's actually a little easier. But it's hard not to let the question change from "Is State Bird good?" to "Is it worth jumping through these hoops to go there?"

Sunday night dinner: Sons and Daughters vs AQ or Commonwealth [San Francisco]

It's been a long day--what I was trying to express, likely in too few words, is that many recent openings in SF seem to compose dishes that highlight a single ingredient, with only a few supporting elements, with most of these elements prepared in somewhat traditional ways. This is fine by me; somewhwere like Frances is certainly in this set. High-quality ingredients, correctly cooked, are great.

In comparison, the dishes at State Bird seemed to have more going on and contain more separate elements, often in more complex and whimsical combinations (pecan pancakes with duck ham is one example I can remember). At this price level, I don't think you can do much better for cooking that is both creative and refined in its execution.

To BacoMan, I've been to Frances 6 or 7 times--it's right around the corner from me--and I have never had a dish that I have not found excellent. Black bass, chicken liver mousse, and baked clams stand out in my memory, but really, everything has been great.

Mar 07, 2014
tripit in San Francisco Bay Area

Sunday night dinner: Sons and Daughters vs AQ or Commonwealth [San Francisco]

I went to State Bird right before the NYT article in 2012, and went again last month. I loved it both times. Just about every dish I had was delicious, and seemed to break free from the typical ingredient-focused SF mold while at the same time not being too showoffy.

Michelin one-stars in SF seem kind of arbitrary to me--I'd say at this point, just take a look at the many places you've been recommended on Chowhound, pick a few menus you find interesting, and go with those, rather than worrying about star ratings. Personally, I much preferred State Bird to AQ, and Frances to both, but there are bound to be some who disagree.

Mar 06, 2014
tripit in San Francisco Bay Area