Office lunch at Town Hall (report)
My department at work had its annual "employee appreciation" event today at Town Hall (a huge step up from last year's at Chevy's). Since this time of year people are always looking for places to have office parties, I thought I'd report on our lunch.
We had lunch in the private dining room upstairs. According to the sign, maximum occupancy is 48 -- we had slightly less than that and it was very comfortable. They had a small bar set up in the anteroom, and we started with drinks and passed appetizers: very lightly battered fried shrimp with a soy sauce-based dipping sauce, tiny blue cheese tartlets, and tatertot-sized crab cakes. The shrimp were hot from the fryer and delicious, and the single-bite tartlets were rich and melted in my mouth. I'm not a fan of crab cakes so I didn't try them, but my co-workers said they were very good. The shrimp were so hot I figured we had to be close to the kitchen and indeed, there's a separate kitchen that serves the private room right next to it (they told me in addition to serving the private room it does some of the prep work for the main kitchen).
Then we sat down to a three-course lunch with two choices for each course; all the items were seasonally appropriate. I had the tuna tartare with fried green tomatoes and jalapeno vinaigrette. I'd never had fried green tomatoes before, and they were a revelation (especially since I don't like tomatoes!). The tuna tartare was fine, but not exciting. The other option for the first course was a salad with persimmons that looked very fresh.
The second course was a choice between roasted salmon with apple celery root puree, yukon gold potatoes and winter squash and pork loin with roasted yukon gold potatoes, baby spinach and Manila clams. I decided to be difficult and asked for the pork with the accompaniments for the salmon, and they were happy to accommodate me. A couple of people at my table requested a vegetarian alternative and received a wild mushroom risotto that had large pieces of what looked like chanterelles. I was very happy with my dish -- despite the fact that the accompaniments weren't what had been planned by the chef, they went with the pork very well and were delicious. The pork itself was perfectly cooked to medium: cooked through but juicy with a faint blush of pink. The salmon looked good, but the Manila clams looked as odd in the pork dish as I thought they would.
The dessert choices were their signature butterscotch chocolate pot de creme and an apple bread pudding with honey orange blossom mousse. The pot de creme was as delicious as always, and the bread pudding plates were scraped clean, so it must have been good!
Coffee and tea finished off the meal. I was happy to put Town Hall on the list of restaurants that have decent tea service: individual cast iron pots with loose tea in a brew basket. Our server overheard me complaining to my tablemates about expensive restaurants that have fancy presentation boxes filled with cheap bagged tea and piped up that those boxes were "insulting" which I could only agree with!
The only downsides were that the upstairs room has just as bad acoustics as the main dining room: at times we couldn't hear each other across the table and our group wasn't being particularly raucous; and there were some pacing problems with the serving, with a fairly long gap between the first and second courses and with some people at each table having to wait several minutes for their food after the rest of the table had been served. Overall, though, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Town Hall for this kind of function.
I was thinking the pork/clam combo seemed Portuguese inspired.
Town Hall Restaurant
342 Howard St., San Francisco, CA 94105
I had lunch at Town Hall recently with three business partners. The poor acoustics produce an unbearable (to me) roar - I was embarrassed not to be able to make out what the person next to me was saying.
I had the fish and chips that were a BIG disappointment. Three thin pieces of fish, with a bland, flabby (i.e., not crisp at all) breading that was way undersalted. The chips were merely ok - and only the thin tips were (slightly) crisp. The accompanying malt vinegar must have been watered down, as it had no acidic punch. The small pot of creamy cole slaw was good. I also ordered the jalapeno cornbread, which was awful. First of all, it stuck badly to the iron mini-stick pan. But the taste......WAY to sweet, and only a vegetal (but not hot) pepper taste.
The butterscotch/chocolate pudding is delicious - the only high point of the meal. Service was extremely slow. By the end of the meal we were all dying to get out, and away from the loud reverberations off the brick walls.
I would definitely NOT spend my own money at Town Hall, and will try to steer any future business lunches away to quieter (and more delicious) venues.