Through the past many months, I’ve been able to experience some of SF’s top restaurants. What’s most interesting to me that expectations and reality often don’t match.
Some restaurants when I least expected it, exceeded my expectations. Others fell a bit short, and I felt surprised. To me, good food isn’t about price tag, service, or ambience. It’s about state of mind that I’ve reached when encountering some top tier food. Good food can be found in any cuisine. In my case, I’ve found cheap good food as equally comforting as designer food. And while New American cuisine is my favorite and Traditional American cuisine rests on the other end of the spectrum, I’ve encountered a few Traditional American restaurants that comforted my soul. It happened when I bit into double hash burger (hi, Scotland Yard) slathered with bone marrow aioli, beef lean and grilled to perfection, and brioche bun buttered like no tomorrow.
Recently, I had the honor of dining at Rich Table, which really showed me how judgement we are as humans. Before going in, I already had these preconceived opinions, knowing that it’s one of the top .1% of restaurants of SF, let alone SF Bay Area. The bill came to a humble $128, wouldn’t I expect to be sipping away to god’s nectar - or at least something like Project Juice in the form of solids? The dry aged rib eye from Los Angeles was amazing - lean, flavorful, yet no wow factor. It’s as though I were waiting for the angels to come out from the beef.
While my experience was greatly positive, the cuisine came across as too try hard, even for someone who really enjoys the creativity that stems from New American cuisine.
It's too easy to form judgements about something just based off photos. I'll have to monitor what I'm thinking subconsciously because apparently I'm supposed to not have opinions before going into restaurants. This is why social media (especially Instagram and Yelp) is so unfortunately powerful to the success of restaurants. And especially if a critic (like Michael Bauer of SF chronicle) posts an unpopular opinion, it's potentially destructive to the growth of lesser known more deserving restaurants.
Here is a quick round-up of 5 great restaurants I’ve eaten at within the past couple of months:
Scotland Yard: I’m actually not a fan of Traditional American cuisine; yet, Chef Jason Raffin, who has experience overseeing Marina’s Bin 38, set my expectations high, and the execution ultimately exceeded expectations in every way. What interested most is that Scotland Yard infuses New American cuisine into Traditional American. That is, Chef Raffin designed the menu to reflect American comfort food, yet many he infuses other cultures into his food. The Korean fried chicken, for example has candied kumquats, nigella seeds pepitas, gochujan ginger glaze, and parsnip puree. It is a clear standout dish, along with the double smash burger. I’d dare to say Scotland Yard has the best burger in SF (many critics like Causwells, with no good reason).
3232 Scott St, San Francisco, CA 94123, scotlandyardsf.com
Rich Table: I impulsively tried the tasting menu which costed $128 after tax and tip. I started the meal with some bites of 7 things with a side of pear cider. The anchovy dip was delightful. I enjoyed the seared foie gras toast. These 7 things spoke to me about the chef’s likes and recent experiences. Chef just returned from a trip from Asia - namely Japan and India. As such, the curries were imbued with so much flavor. The Alaskan halibut was accompanied by Japanese green curry. The chitarra was beautiful - great contrast of flavor from wasabi and farmer’s cheese - tasted sweet, savory, and spicy. The burrata was accompanied with strawberry gazpacho and country ham - beautiful contrast of colors and flavors. To finish, the grilled ribeye was perfection with black garlic, ramps, and snap pea chimichurri. Lastly, the dessert started with a palate cleanser: a macaron hybrid. For the dessert main, I had a chocolate crisp with mint ice cream topped with chocolate mousse. It was decadent, rich, and memorable.
199 Gough St, San Francisco, CA 94102, richtablesf.com
Omakase: I had the 10 piece omakase. Needlesstosay, this 10 piece platter was the best omakase I’ve had in my entire life.
665 Townsend St, San Francisco, CA 94103, omakasesf.com
Cockscomb: I’ve been here two times and had amazing experiences. I was happy to see Michael Bauer’s recent 3 star reviews of the place. Cosentino’s space is rustic, spacious, and very masculine. It feels like a butcher’s shop and very well is. Cockscomb is the king of meats in SF. I enjoyed a half dozen of oysters to start, some terrine, and pork belly sandwich with fried clams. The variety of oysters was magnificent. Loved the small sweet oysters. The terrine consisted of chicken and foie gras, pickled quail egg, salad, and crostinis. It was beautiful. Then, the sandwich was extremely rich and crunchy, flavorful… something that I’d dream of in a sandwich every single day. The bread was fresh, crunchy, crispy, buttery -- I’d pretty much eat lunch here every day if health were no issue.
564 4th St, San Francisco, CA 94107, cockscombsf.com
Corridor Cafe: This place is phenomenal. From pastries and coffees, to HK style milk tea and wraps, Corridor Café is like the pret-a-manager (grab-and-go) of SF. I feel that we need more grab-and-go cafes in SF. In the current state of the market, we have two kinds of restaurants - one that caters to the extremely high-end and the other that caters to the general public in the form of hipster modern casual fast food. This is evinced by places like Asian Box, Sajj, Glaze, Roam Artisan Burgers, Super Duper, and much more. With Corridor Café, many people are in a rush to get something quick to eat and want something simultaneously healthy and tasty. The croissants, whether plain or chocolate, are to die for. They're extremely buttery and melt in your mouth. The HK style milk tea is as authentic as genuine ones from HK. They’re also same owners as the top name restaurants Trestle, Stonesthrow, and Angel. Whole heartly recommend.
100 Van Ness Ave San Francisco, CA 94102, http://corridorsf.com/