Short version: had an absolutely amazing lunch at Bushi-Tei this weekend, and have put it on my top five list for lunches in the city. Dare I say, I might even take visitors to lunch here before board darling Canteen in the future.
I went in with very tempered expectations because when I went for dinner, I found the food delicious but not delicious enough to justify the high prices. At the $100ish mark, I can name several places in the city I'd rather eat.
Lunch, however, is a different story. Entrees are priced around $15, and well worth it. My husband and I shared a salad and two entrees:
The lunch started with a complementary cup of soup of the day, which was carrot puree. Brightly flavored like they used nothing but beautiful young carrots and a little good olive oil.
Arctic char on a bed of greens: long strips of marinated raw fish on top of a be, of microgreens and cucumbers sliced to resemble spaghetti. The flavor of the dressing was delicate without resulting in the salad tasting like a plate of grass. A very lovely way to start.
Penne: Fresh tomato sauce infused with bacon flavor, a non-inventive but well-executed dish. Quite a generous portion, and one of the cheaper items on the menu at $12.
Pork cutlet: Our server said this is the favorite of return customers, and I can see why. I rarely see pork cut so thick, well over an inch and cooked until juicy and barely pink in the center. The piece was the size of my palm, which I was definitely not expecting at Bushi-Tei. It was breaded and fried tonkatsu style, but better than any tonkatsu I've had in a long time. It was served with a small amount of macaroni salad, greens, and a good helping of french fries. I could have used more greens than fries given that the pork was fried, but everything was very good.
Desserts, were unique, varied, and delicious, especially the apple dumpling and sesame blanc mange. Teas were interesting but nothing exceptional. Total bill after tax for five people was $129: six entrees (one shared salad), four non-alcoholic beverages, and three desserts. A restaurant.com gift certificate made the meal extremely affordable for the quality of food and level of service, but even without coupons we plan to be back often.
I put my overall satisfaction with Bushi-Tei right up there with a lunch at Zuni, but I spent about $30 pre-coupon at BT and have never left Zuni for under $40. It isn't just a place to grab a tasty bite, it's a lovely way to unwind with soem friends over a long meal. Caveat: lunch is available Mon-Sat, Sun you have to do a $25 brunch. The brunch menu looks like it serves similar dishes but requires that everyone eat two courses.
Sigh. I wish lunch at Bushi-Tei held up over time. In recent months, the best I can say about lunch is it's uneven. The last couple of times I've gone there, the food has been flavorless and indifferently prepared. The rice was dry and cold, as though it had been left over from the night before. Even the burger, which had been notable, was, at best, ordinary. Of everything. the cold salads were acceptable. I suspect there may be no real cooking going on in the kitchen at lunch, and the server (not Scott), who is not the greatest as waitstaff, slaps a lot of it together himself.
I might go back for dinner or Sunday brunch, but lunch -- not.
1638 Post Street, San Francisco, CA 94115
Correction: the pork was as long as my hand, not just my palm. It also had a nice section of fat that was extremely flavorful without being greasy or chewy. Perfect if you don't mind a little fat with your lean meat.
1638 Post Street, San Francisco, CA 94115
Wow, this is exciting--thanks for the report! A large group of us had dinner at BT a couple of years ago when it first opened. We thought the food was delicious but the portions were really, really small and the price was unjustifiably high.
A year later I went again for dinner and ordered like six dishes for two people. I went on a weeknight (maybe Tues?) and distinctly remembered being sorely disappointed by the food. It could very well the case that I went on an off night (i.e. the kitchen was just not up to par that night or the chef responsible for the good food the last time had taken the night off) but that was the last time I went. It didn't help that Michelin had taken away their star soon after that last experience. Even though I disagree with many of Michelin's choices, I do pay a lot of attention to which restaurants they (and other food critics) downgrade because that means quite a bit.
Anyway, the lunch deal sounds really good though so I will have to give it a try again.
Looks like a good fixed-price ($25) Sunday Brunch menu, too:
French Brioclie Toast with mixed berries, syrup
Herb marinated Arctic char with cucumber
Salade Maison with bacon, tomato,soft boiled egg
Jamon Serrano, haricot vert, quail egg, almond, Champagne vinaigrette
Soup du jour
Ahi-tuna epice with celery root remoulade
Eden natural farm pork sandwich, choucroute, whole grain mustard, tartare sauce
Red crab cake and Poached egg with Herb hollandaise sauce
Frittata with tomato coulis and cheese
Roasted Cornish game hen with whole grain mustard sauce
Grilled Hotate scallop with Pasta and vegetables
Croque-washugyu, caramelized onions, Mozzarella cheese