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Aug 14, 2010 01:43 PM

Food report: Commonwealth on Mission St

Dinner here was simply marvellous: it is perhaps among the best meals I've ever had in San Francisco. The restaurant is only five days old, yet it already seems to be hitting its stride as its kitchen sends out confident, innovative, yet reasonably priced masterpieces.

After meekly asking the hostess this Friday night if there might be a table available for two without a reservation, she promptly and generously seated us at the bar. Unlike many other restaurants that feature bar seating, the countertops at Commonwealth are wide and comfortable -- there was to be no awkward contortions to get at our food. The bar stools are also quite pleasant to sit in.

The menu is small, but very creative. The food is clearly based on New American classics, but showcases a heavy dose of molecular gastronomy and Japanese ingredients. After ordering a starter of the tomato salad, we were given Commonwealth's equivalent of the bread course: house made potato chips with seaweed flakes. Neither salty nor heavy, these were the perfect palate warmer without sitting too heavily in my stomach.

The tomato salad was genius. Full of heirloom tomatoes, five different kinds of basil, black olive crumble, smoked bread, some sea salt, and a deliciously light and creamy Idiazabal cheese, all of the flavours came together to produce a near orgasmic bite. The salad was also served on a piece of slate, which added a very unique visual dynamic to the food.

We both ordered the guinea hen with spot prawn as our main dish. Featuring spinach, artichoke, and a chocolate-amond emulsion, it was spot-on, delicious, and hearty. Plus, unlike many high-end restaurants here in San Francisco, the portion was actually hearty!

Dessert was out of this world. A cinnamon mille-feuille with a fresh, homemade cardamon marshmallow and burnt honey ice cream. The combination of the slight chewiness of the marshmallow with the savouriness of the ice cream was positively orgasmic! And, as a bonus, our bar seats had a great view of the kitchen, and we could watch the sous-chef preparing the marshmallow.

I cannot recommend Commonwealth strongly enough. Run, do not walk, over to Mission Street now!

2224 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

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  1. Nice report, sounds like a really good resto with one glaring exception. Eating off off a piece of slate would spoil the whole meal for me. I have an almost violent reaction to anything resembling finger nails on a chalk board.

    5 Replies
    1. re: annabana

      I think you may be thinking of chalkboard slate — the slate they used was like a paving stone. The texture was far too bevelled to ever make noise like that!

      1. re: SouthToTheLeft

        Thanks for a report on a new resto that made me want to jump on a plane. Near the top of my list for our next visit. I am usually a bit of a stickler for making reservations but those bar seats sound great. Do you happen to know if it is possible to reserve them, or are they only for walkins? Also, do you recall if all the bar seats had the peak-into-the-kitchen angle?

        1. re: grayelf

          The bar seats are in an "L". If you want to see into the belly of the beast, ask get a seat in the upper part of the L. ~3-4 seats in the lower part of the L have no kitchen view.

          compared to MSF, it's nice to have real silverware and glassware :-)

          i stopped in on sat to say hello and have a light meal. i liked the squash soup/blossoms the most. i'm planning to go back for the SPOT PRAWNS (which they said were moving well). i was most excited about the marrow squid although mine seemed a little ground pork heavy and marrow light [i had a really good marrow item at MSF but i forgot the details].

          they have their own parking lot [$5 surcharge to park ... that's interesting. do any other restos "monetize" their parking?]. they also have a rooftop garden where they grow stuff like the RAU RAM they use. the also have a recessed DISCO BALL for reasons i was unable to discern.

          i cannot imagine they would refuse to let you reserve a place at the bar. although it's possible something could go wrong or or logistically wouldnt work out. i think if you go early and with a small party, you'ld be able to do whatever you want.

          they also have a tasting menu ... dunno if that is every night, it was $50 or $60 no wine, and $90 i believe with wine. corkage is now $15, up from $5 at MSF ... but you get real wine glasses, simonized to boot.

          i was surprised at how euro heavy [over CA] their wine list was ... but my opinions in this area dont mean anything. i didnt really like the french chardonnay i had by the glass.

          the squash soup was really good. amazed it was vegan [fat came from oil, not dairy or flesh].

          they seem to have an active FB space. various info and food/venue pix there.

          OK TNX.

          1. re: grayelf

            I am fairly sure they can be reserved, but not positive. But as per the commenter below, only some of the seats have direct views of the kitchen!

            1. re: grayelf

              Hi grayelf! well, i got to try it. very disappointed. you can read my review if you're still interested here:
              i know you had kind of ruled it out when you heard the favorable comparisons to Commis. fear not, Commonwealth is nothing like Commis. but not in a good way. i was bummed!

              3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

        2. i can't wait to try it! been watching the progress of the build-out. Can I ask, how much was your total? Did they have a good wine list?

          most of all, I like that your dinner made you orgasm twice. ( :

          1. I was there on Wednesday and was similarly impressed with the creativity and tastiness of the menu. We had a reservation and were seated at a table--I don't know if you can request the bar with a reservation. I expected the gnocchi and guinea hen+prawns to be the least exciting dishes, but they ended up being the most tasty (especially the chocolate/almond sauce on the hen+prawns). I ordered all 4 dishes in the seafood section, but the fluke with rosewater and douglas fir was never delivered (or charged). The squid stuffed with marrow and tamarind pork was delicious, and tasted surprisingly like squid stuffed with juicy, delicious hamburger. The sea urchin dish with custard was delicious and fresh--both this and the gnocchi showcased some really delicious, fresh caramelized corn. I enjoyed the skate dish, but my dining companions were put off by the skate having some dark flesh (I was under the impression that flesh closer to the center is darker--there were some concerns it hadn't been cut/bled properly, but it tasted fine to me) and it was less done than usual for skate--it was not firm throughout, the thicker area was more gelatinous and dark, meaning my friends avoided it, and I got even more. I'm not much of a desert person, but I enjoyed the mille feuille. Not as much as my coffee, however. It was the best brewed cup of coffee I've had in a long time. The prices were quite reasonable all around, and actually the reason I made a reservation--it is rare to get food this creative and well executed for these prices. I'll be back...
            And since I live in the East Bay and had been intrigued by Mission Chinese food I ordered their char siu and braised beef cheek to go for the next day. Both were excellent.

            2 Replies
            1. re:

              How big was the uni dish? Our served warned us that even though it was on the main side of the menu it was appetiser-sized.

              1. re: SouthToTheLeft

                The dish came in a ramekin--maybe 4 inches in size. It was more like a tapas or appetizer size--we ordered as a group and ordered two more dishes than people.