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Dec 31, 2006 09:16 PM

Bar Tartine - update

Two nights ago I visited the Mission hoping to find a new third worldish cuisine. Instead, I ended up at Bar Tartine, 561 Mission, betw 16th and 17th, for more of a splurge but well worth it. The last post I noticed about this place was a year ago, just after it opened, so I'm offering this update.

Without a reservation my only option was the bar seating. Sitting at the bar at first reminded me of the Universal Cafe, with similar layout of salad prep station and all the cooking in full view off to the right. Otherwise, though, the decor is very different. Bar Tartine's countertop was an impressively wide, 4-inch thick, immaculate marble slab. Clearly, the desired effect here is an upscale, but relaxed, bistro atmosphere--none of Universal's endearing industrial grunge style.

Like last year's reviewer I enjoyed the celery root soup. It captured the celery root flavor well and played it out nicely, thickened with chestnut puree and cream, and lightly dotted with a clear aioli. Simultaneously delicate and satisfying, filling. The accompanying bread, presumably from Tartine bakery, was a moist, gluteny treat.

Of about four entrees on the menu, I chose the vegetarian option, gnocchi with hen-of-the-woods (maitake) mushrooms and kale. Nice complementing of flavor and texture: earthy, gently fibrous maitake, slightly bitter (and vitamin-packed) kale cooked to a surprisingly al dente tender texture, and ethereally light gnocchi. Somebody knows how to handle difficult veggies here.

That's it! I watched the salad guy meticulously sculpt leafy constructions, but have no idea how they taste. I had a pleasant glass of red wine but can't say anything intelligent about wines yet since I'm still a beginner on that subject. I inquired casually about the history and learned that the current chef, Jason, who does full hands-on cooking duty, is the third chef since the opening. The hostess claimed that his specialty is the matching of subtle flavors. I'd say this chef has a gift in that respect--a good reason to try this place when you're not in a raging jalapeno or vindaloo frame of appetite.

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  1. Thanks much for the update, especially for the veggie focus.

    Here's another recent report -

    1. We have really been looking forward to trying Bar Tartine, especially my husband, for some reason. We ended up having brunch there today after seeing the line at Weird Fish. (We didn't have our heart set on Weird Fish, but we were in the neighborhood and famished.) I had French toast (7.50) with carmelized fruit (2.50). Husband had Leb Lebi ($10), a Tunisian chickpea stew with harissa, poached egg, capers, and other things I can't remember. Both dishes were egregiously overpriced. I received 1 slice of French toast for that $10 and almost wanted to laugh. Was this a joke? It was way too sweet, just not balanced at all. Leb Lebi was a really stingy portion too. Husband said he'd had basically the same thing at Universal Cafe, where it was much better and twice the size.

      I know, I know. "The food is terrible, and the portions are so small!" It's not lost on me.

      I've had what I call snooty brunch at most of the places in the Mission now (Universal Cafe, Slow Club, Maverick, Foreign Cinema come to mind), and this was by far the worst. I would happily return to all of those other places (well, maybe not Slow Club, but that was much better than Bar Tartine).

      1 Reply
      1. re: Atomica

        I had a very different experience at Bar Tartine this past weekend when we strolled in for brunch. I got the Ham and poached eggs, and my dining companion got the pork belly sandwich with egg salad and fries. My plate came absolutely covered with generous, salty, and luscious slices of La Quercia ham. This ham is Jamon Serrano like, American, artisanal, and amazing. The portion was extremely generous for the price, which was pretty close to $10, I think. The eggs were cooked perfectly to my specs ( i like my eggs a litle firm), and the hearty slice of grilled bread underneath tasted of smoky fat in the best way possible. My companion's sandwich consisted of several large chunks of unctuously braised pork belly atop a tasty egg salad (according to her, I didn't taste it), and Cesar-like herbed fries with deep fried sage leaves. I believe her dish also came with a salad. The pork belly was divine, I got to have more than one chunk, and again, very generous portions for the price, i thought. To wash it down, I got a pot of fresh mint tisane, done like Chez Panisse. Perfect. Loved the scale and decor of the room, too. Our food took forever to show up, though. Note, we got there for a very late brunch (1.30ish), so the room was almost empty.

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        1. I'm headed tonight for the first time and looking forward. For future reference, the address is 561 Valencia (between 16th and 17th). Not Mission.

          4 Replies
            1. re: Melanie Wong

              As usual, we were derailed en route, but we'll make it for sure next Saturday. I'll post.

              1. re: ncardozo

                Result: fantastic. The lamb stew was the standout, but also good were the onglet and the gnocchi. One of the deserts (milk & honey) was outstanding, one (chocolate cherry crepe tart) was good, and one (strawberry napoleon) was too sweet. We sat at the family table and had shockingly speedy service. We will definitely be back.

                1. re: ncardozo

                  Super! Hard to believe I haven't tried it yet.

          1. I have recommended this palce many times. They serve brunch now FYI.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Lori SF

              I reported on brunch in this very thread. Extremely unsatisfactory brunch.

              1. re: Atomica

                Atomica what was unsatisfactory about it?