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Epic Roasthouse [San Francisco]

Fine May 24, 2008 05:06 PM

Kept waiting about 25 or 30 minutes for 9:15 reservation. No one suggested waiting in bar or offered any apology, though they were all friendly and congratulated us on our anniversary.

Impossible to make sense out of provenance--a list of sources on a separate page but nothing connected to actual menu items.

Cornmeal madeleines and pate-a-choux (cream puff dough) thingies served cold, which was not only startling but did a real injustice to them.

BH ordered a very dry gin martini and got something that resembled no martini I have ever tasted--weird, unpleasant flavor.

Noise level made conversation difficult and communication with staff even more so.

Spinach salad with bacon and poached egg truly delicious, even though most dressing discovered on bottom of dish with last few bites. Squid salad featured generous amount of black-on-one-side mollusks but had an overall muddy and muddled quality, amost as if there were squid ink in the dressing. Not really bad but not all it could have been.

There was a very long wait between first and main courses, made even odder by the fact that the busser snatched the appetizer plates away the second we finished, as though our main course were waiting to be served. No one explained, apologized, or even acknowledged the 20-30 minute hiatus.

To my experienced cook's eye, 32 oz was a generous estimate of our roasted rib eye for two($78) , even counting the hefty bone. The beef was drop-dead (!) delicious, served already sliced in strips, and cooked rare, not blue, as requested; however, it was tepid. When I commented on this, the waiter said the chef felt it should sit for quite a while after being cooked. I replied that a possible solution then would be to slice it tableside. (I grew up on this same cut prepared the same way.) Oddly, though the menu described a horseradish cream sauce, the waiter made no mention of it (it was in a pitcher on the plate with the beef) but instead served and touted a Bordelaise. Neither of us tasted the latter; the former was tasty, though good steak, IMO, not only never needs but is diminished if not demeaned by any sauce. BTW, though the waiter had replied to my query that the steak was grass fed (and organic), it was obvious from one bite that it was "corn finished." When I pointed that out, he had to go check to confirm then complimented me on my "palate," though anyone who has any knowledge of beef would have immediately realized this.

Corkage was $25. The sommelier(e) was excellent.

We had ordered two sides of potatoes (@ $10 each!) since the menu and waiter were both silent on the fact that skin-on fingerlings accompanied the beef. The steak fries were inconsistent, one or more tasting reheated, but the good ones were very good. The ember-roasted Yukon had what I consider the unmistkable texture and bordering-on-rancid flavor of a pre-baked and reheated potato. Our cabbage slaw ($9) was generous and pleasant.

The creme brulee ($10) was fine and garnished with nice fresh raw berries as well as a vile cookie filled with something that resembled lard or Crisco in taste; the mini serving of caramel and sea salt ice cream ($5) was "not worth the calories," devoid of any salt flavor and lacking much caramel flavor, but accompanied by a kid's delight of a peanut butter bar.

We were devotees of Birnbaum, especially in the later years, at Catahoula in Calistoga. Given the chef's long and storied career and the restaurant's horrific prices, Epic Roasthouse should not be guilty of any of the lapses mentioned in this report. I can only hypothesize that the restaurant's target clientele is not one expected to pay much attention to those details that make the difference between a so-so and a superb restaurant experience.

A friend asked if I would return. I said, surprising myself, "Yes, for the spinach salad, beef, and view."

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  1. grishnackh RE: Fine May 25, 2008 01:00 AM

    Thanks for the detailed report.

    Epic Roasthouse
    369 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94105

    1. Windy RE: Fine May 25, 2008 10:37 AM

      The service sounds atrocious at that price point.

      1. b
        Bay Gelldawg RE: Fine May 26, 2008 10:50 AM

        What does it mean to order a steak "blue?"

        1 Reply
        1. re: Bay Gelldawg
          Robert Lauriston RE: Bay Gelldawg May 26, 2008 11:21 AM

          Less cooked than rare. Seared on the outside, raw in the middle.

        2. m
          minettegirl RE: Fine May 26, 2008 03:21 PM

          Was there for lunch last week. My friend's burger was fine, though not at all worth $27. For that, I expect quality ingredients along the lines of Daniel Boulud's burger at DB Bistro Moderne (foie gras, short ribs, etc.) not simply beef "freshly ground daily". Any local butcher can do that. My chicken entree was literally raw in the middle. Upon finally getting our waiter's attention, it was whisked away by a manager and replaced with a salad (at that point, we didn't want to take the time to have something else "cooked"). The salad was virtually inedible, with dressing made up of seemingly nothing more than lemon juice and salt. No one bothered with further follow up to ask why I left the salad virtually untouched, which was surprising since they'd already gotten off to a bad start. To add insult to injury, they charged us for the (uneaten) salad! In addition, this was our second experience with slow, annoying service. We won't be back.

          1. steve h. RE: Fine May 28, 2008 01:53 PM

            saturday morning in san francisco was pretty dismal: constant drizzle, chilly weather. the farmers' market was uninspired (maybe it was me). i took some comfort at yank sing. i cancelled reservations at cottage eatery (tiburon).

            later, when the weather cleared a bit, i checked epic on opentable. it was booked. deb and i weren't real hungry but decided to walk over and eat at the bar. glad we did. the salumi was very good. so, too the tempura-like frito misto veggie platter. wines by the glass are fairly priced. the vodka gimlets are excellent.

            service, food, and views of the bay/bay bridge made for a tasty sunset. we'll go back.

            1. Robert Lauriston RE: Fine Mar 11, 2012 10:52 AM

              Finally got around to trying Epic Saturday. No wait to be seated for our 7pm reservation, though the place didn't fill up until maybe 8. They were fully booked and sending walk-ins to the bar or counter seating. The room's a glass box, so almost every seat has a view of the bay. The pumphouse-inspired decor is kind of goofy but unobtrusive. The lighting was exceptional, as usual for Pat Kuleto-designed places. Service was friendly and polished, the only glitch was that our first courses came out almost instantly, before the wine.

              The cornbread madeleines were delicious, I didn't think it was a problem that they were cold, but the gougères should have been.

              Gulf shrimp (the chef's from Baton Rouge; $15) were delicious with a remoulade-like garnish of basil aioli, frisée, and shaved radishes. Butternut squash soup ($10) had a surprisingly deep flavor, maybe from brown butter, also delicious.

              The rib eye pricing is odd, $55 for 25 oz., $88 for 32 oz. We went for the larger one as that's about how much we ate at Alfred's. They presented the steak, which looked smaller than Alfred's 30-oz. ($48), then took it away and sliced it. It was perfectly medium-rare as ordered. I prefer longer aging but it was entirely satisfactory. They put two salts on the table, some super-fine pink stuff which is easy to overdo and some very coarse stuff, personally I'd prefer just regular salt as I know how much to use.

              The steak came with horseradish crème fraîche and Bordelaise sauces, both excellent but unnecessary, and some fingerling potatoes that were dry and completely unseasoned, the only off note of the meal. Truffle whipped potatoes, brussels sprouts, and sautéed "wild" mushrooms ($9 each) were all great and generous portions for the price, four people could easily share them, we took more than half home.

              The wine list has a lot of laughably expensive bottles but some very interesting good values in the $40-70 range. We had a Laurent Kraft Vouvray ($48), a 2001 Chateau Lalande St.-Julien ($55) which was exactly the kind of wine I want with a steak, and a glass of 2007 Inniskillin Cabernet Franc icewine ($29 for a ~2-oz. pour, not bad considering the 375ml retails for $80), which was all the dessert we had room for.

              For a steak dinner, I prefer Alfred's, but the first courses, sides, and wine list make me want to go back to Epic for a different sort of meal. The whole fish (currently dorade) with andouille ($28) sounds great.


              2 Replies
              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                steve h. RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 11, 2012 12:13 PM

                Another informative review. I'm getting a kick out of your steakhouse roundup. Looking forward to the next installment.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                  vincentlo RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 24, 2013 04:16 AM

                  The next logical question is how it compares to Alexander's Steakhouse.

                2. mariacarmen RE: Fine Sep 23, 2013 12:44 PM

                  We were there Saturday night with a 9:00 p.m. reserveration for my father's 85th birthday. 2 of us arrived 1/2 hour early and were seated immediately. the other 2 in our party arrived right on time. Our server never made us feel rushed. She was convivial throughout the evening. Our table had a gorgeous view of the rising moon, the bridge and the newish twinkling lights.

                  Two of us ordered the lobster salad to share - a play on a lobster Louie. the lobster was delicious - but a pretty small portion even if it were for one - as a salad, i would not have expected it to be for only one. of course, i recognize that its a luxury item. the lobster came with a tempura-ed avocado, which they split in half as well. I think i missed that when we ordered it - because besides the fact that a deep fried avocado in a dimly lit room makes the avocado look like it's past its prime, i don't like hot avocado.

                  Two of us split the $47, 14 oz., dry-aged ribeye, ordered medium rare. we also ordered the chanterelles with that, and bernaise on the side. we also got the miso/truffle butter for the steak, and wished it had also been on the side - it was a bit sweet with no discernible truffle flavor/odor. the bernaise sauce was good, but truly, everything on the plate, including the chanterelles, were superfluous, and actually a distraction, to the wonderful flavor of the steak. perfectly cooked, a little on the rarer side as we like it, perfectly marbled throughout with good fat, the steak was perfection. after scraping off the butter we thoroughly enjoyed it.

                  the other two in our party got the short ribs with a cauli puree and brussels sprouts. the ribs were meltingly tender (a plus for my dad) with a great beefy, wine flavor, and the puree was silken and buttery. the sprouts were a little tough, tho tasty.

                  for the table we got a side of mashed potatoes - wonderful potato flavor, even while being very buttery - mac-n-cheese - orrechiete, was the pasta, and it was really good; there was something with a bit of heat in this dish, tho no specific chili flavor was detected - and creamed spinach - not my favorite rendition of this dish. needed salt and for me there was some type of a minty flavor in the mix (which didn't bother me), tho the server said there was no mint in it.

                  our server was fantastic. she let me try a couple of different wines as a blind taste test, and when we inevitably mixed up the glasses, she just pretend-sighed and brought out another two to taste. very fun woman. at the end of the meal we were too stuffed to contemplate dessert, tho we had wanted to have the old guy blow out a candle. when he said he didn't want dessert, our server took it upon herself to bring us a tiny plate with salted chocolate and jelly squares, with a little marzipan sign that said happy birthday, and a candle.

                  we had 2 glasses of bubbly, one glass of wine, and a cocktail. our total bill was much more reasonable than i anticipated. i'd definitely go back.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: mariacarmen
                    Civil Bear RE: mariacarmen Sep 23, 2013 12:58 PM

                    Thanks for the great report. The ribeye sounds like a steal!

                    1. re: mariacarmen
                      Robert Lauriston RE: mariacarmen Sep 23, 2013 01:08 PM

                      I think you made a typo, per the menu the $47 ribeye is 14 ounces.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                        mariacarmen RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 23, 2013 01:28 PM

                        oh jeez, that would be a steal! yes, sorry, it's 14 ounces, and i changed it in my post. Thanks.

                        1. re: mariacarmen
                          Civil Bear RE: mariacarmen Sep 23, 2013 04:13 PM

                          Aw, darn! ;>)

                      2. re: mariacarmen
                        steve h. RE: mariacarmen Sep 23, 2013 01:30 PM

                        Sounds like a good time. Epic has been a mainstay for my wife and me for some time.

                      3. d
                        Dustin_E RE: Fine Sep 24, 2013 07:07 AM

                        this sounds like a place i need to try. thanks for all the detailed reports.

                        1. Robert Lauriston RE: Fine Sep 24, 2013 09:46 AM

                          Jan Birmbaum just left, so there may be some changes.


                          6 Replies
                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                            mariacarmen RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 24, 2013 09:55 AM

                            so we had the chef de cuisine cooking. well, the steak was fantastic, so.... i'd say go check it out now, Dustin_E!

                            1. re: mariacarmen
                              Dustin_E RE: mariacarmen Oct 2, 2013 07:56 AM

                              made it here last night. dined solo in the main dining room. great open space with lots of natural lighting. was very nice / quiet when i sat down at 6:30, became pretty loud once the place filled up by 7:30. service was good.

                              bread - really great. on par with the bread at gary danko, which i also like a lot.

                              lobster bisque - also really great. i've tried this dish a lot of places, and it is usually terrible (i think it is hard to do this dish well at a $9 price point). but this was surprisingly very good.

                              ribeye - best ribeye i've had in sf, on par with the best steaks i've had in town.

                              creamed spinach - meh, pretty bland. almost like spinach just poached in cream

                              yuzu cheesecake - meh, too much going on, citrus overpowering everything else.

                              i didn't see spinach salad or lobster salad on the menu, so it looks like they switch things up every so often.

                              1. re: Dustin_E
                                Robert Lauriston RE: Dustin_E Oct 2, 2013 08:56 AM

                                They just switched chefs in the last few months and the new guy made a lot of changes.

                                There's currently a lobster glut, wholesale prices are low.

                            2. re: Robert Lauriston
                              nocharge RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 24, 2013 10:45 AM

                              The chef change happened about two months ago (about a month before the Inside "Scoop" people heard about it). What happened was that Parke Ulrich from Waterbar took over Epic and now runs both kitchens. You'd see him in a chef's jacket with the Waterbar logo on one sleeve and the Epic logo on the other. I think he should be pretty much done with the changes he planned to implement at Epic.

                              1. re: nocharge
                                Robert Lauriston RE: nocharge Sep 24, 2013 12:35 PM

                                The Louisiana-ish dishes seem to be pretty much gone. Too bad I didn't get back to have that meal.

                                1. re: nocharge
                                  nocharge RE: nocharge Oct 23, 2013 01:13 PM

                                  The Inside "Scoop" people have finally realized that Parke has taken over Epic about a month after my previous post.

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