I went to Marlowe for DAT Lunch Friday 1/21/11. It's a long walk from Market Street, but I did it. Across from Caltrain Station, on Townsend between 4th & 5th.
Got there later than I usually eat lunch around Noon. It's a small restaurant and other people had reserved tables, but I was able to eat at the bar. The bar can fit 6 people and 2-3 on the little counter at the end.
Got FREE iced tap water.
You can pick a starter (soup or little gem salad) & a sandwich (burger or shrimp roll) for $17.95 for DAT Lunch. My picks:
Jerusalem artichoke soup - I thought it was ok, very creamy. Green artichoke soup w/ cream fraiche, & some crispy sunchoke chips - I took out the crispy stuff & mixed in the cream fraiche. Tasty enough.
Burger w/ side of greens or fries. I requested a medium rare burger & side of greens. Burger was tasty enough, it was medium rare, cheddar cheese & some bacon inside. Greens were average.
$7.95 DAT soup (reg. $9)
$10 DAT Burger (reg. $12)
+.72 SF Healthy Tax
$1.78 sales tax
$20.45 before tip & tax.
One unisex bathroom left side of bar.
I went to Town Hall for the DAT lunch. For lunch, you get a two-course meal. The choices were seafood chowder or a beet salad to start; and catfish or pork chop as the entree. All choices were on the regular menu but the catfush. I selected the beet salad and the pork chop. My friend selected the other two. My salad was very refreshing and delicious. It had an assortment of baby beets, mixed chicories, sliced pomelos and a sprinkling of goat cheese. It was enough (with some bread) to be a meal of its own. My friend enjoyed her chowder. I didn't try it because I don't like cream-based soups. We split the entrees. The catfish was phenomenal! It was perfectly cooked and the flavors were lovely. The pork chop was also very good, but I'm sure it would have been better if I wasn't already so stuffed. I liked that it was cooked all the way through (unlike Nopa's), yet still juicy and tender. I highly recommend Town Hall for a DAT lunch. Too bad they don't do DAT dinners.
Town Hall Restaurant
342 Howard St., San Francisco, CA 94105
560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117
Thanks for the thread. Unfortunately late last week, we had to cancel our annual winter trip to San Francisco. All my careful arranged DAT and non-DAT meals selected with diligence, were alas cast aside. I was able to give my reservations away to a Chowhounder, hopefully he had a nice meal last night.
I will live vicariously through the reports posted here.
It seems, Ruth, that the fault with your meal was not the DAT aspect, per se, but rather with the overall weaknesses of the restaurant and perhaps its' newness. Better to have had at least one DAT prix fixe meal and make these discoveriers that to have had to pay full fare for 2 meals.
Windy and I usually try to hit at least one DAT, and this year we decided to try Lafitte, which neither of us had been to before.
Lafitte is a new-ish restaurant by chef Russell Jackson (formerly of The Black Cat and Sub-culture Dining). It has a lovely location on Pier 7 (which unfortunately doesn't seem to be attracting much traffic). Windy and I arrived early for our reservation and at 6 p.m. were the only diners in the restaurant, although it did fill up briefly while we were there. I didn't notice the noise level, which means it must have been pretty good.
The DAT menu was offered on an iPad, which also contained the full menu (also available in paper form) and the wine and cocktail lists. The DAT menu offered two choices for the first two courses and a single choice for dessert (chocolate mousse). Right off the bat this seemed awkward, as we were planning to share and although both choices for the courses appealed to us, we didn't need two chocolate mousses! In the end, we ordered one DAT and one set of choices off the regular menu.
"Terrine of the day" -- DAT
Beef tartare "Bistro style" -- regular menu
There was a terrine of the day on the regular menu, but it turned out to be a different one than on the DAT menu. Basically, while the DAT dishes were similar to those on the regular menu, they seemed to be scaled down a little and/or contain less expensive ingredients. Not necessarily bad, but I did think the portions -- such as the small disk of bacon-wrapped pate de campagne that was the DAT terrine of the day -- were a bit skimpy. The pate was unremarkable, but we did like the pair of pickled grapes that joined the cornichons on the plate. The beef tartare was a disappointment: mushy and bland, I ended up trying to scrape the salt crystals off the butter (decent butter, but why bring two people three dinner rolls?).
The second course was:
Seafood in papillote -- DAT
Porchetta with roasted sunchokes and Brussels sprouts -- regular menu
Our waitress advised us (after we'd placed our order) that there was a "misprint" on the menu and it actually came with black-eyed peas, not Brussels sprouts. She assured me there would be sunchokes, but they were not in evidence in the dish I was served. That said, even though it didn't resemble the dish I ordered, I liked it a lot. The "porchetta" was actually a thick slice of what appeared to be unsmoked ham, with the outer fat layer crisped. It had apparently been cooked with the black-eyed peas, creating a delicious braising liquid. It more closely resembled an upscale version of Hoppin’ John than porchetta, and there were no veggies. The seafood in papillote was a mixture of clams, mussels, some firm white fish and prawns with the heads and shells on. Since I’m not much for shellfish, I just had a bite of the fish and a couple of spoonfuls of the broth, which was definitely the highlight of the dish.
Chocolate mousse — DAT, it may have been a different version from the Tcho chocolate mousse on the regular menu
Sticky toffee pudding — this was my choice off the regular menu
Both were good, but again, the DAT dessert was small and bare bones: just a dollop of mousse at the bottom of a deep round-bottomed tumbler with a small opening (it rolled around the plate like the infamous Zuni nectarine) without even so much as a mint leaf. We both enjoyed the slight bitterness and tanginess in the mousse, but it was awkward to eat. The sticky toffee pudding was excellent, especially after we pushed aside the scoop of icy, grainy ice cream on top (I think it was supposed to be vanilla bean, but it had no discernable flavor, and in San Francisco, 2011, there’s just no excuse for serving bad ice cream!).
It ended up being fairly expensive, and my overall impression was that I could have done much better elsewhere for what we paid. Basically, I thought it was kind of amateurish: dishes not as described (“porchetta”), dishes poorly executed (steak tartare), dishes poorly conceived (ice cream on the sticky toffee pudding, which would have been better with either whipped cream or crème anglaise). The iPad was too clumsy and bulky for the two-top, the bench seats were oddly angled and slippery, the spoons were small, with a long narrow bowl, which made them singularly useless for enjoying either our brothy mains or our desserts, and our young waitress, while pleasant enough, often seemed a bit “deer in the headlights.” Nothing was really wrong, but nothing was really right, either.
5 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94105
re: Ruth Lafler
Yeah, I had the feeling this could be a very good place if it got its act together. As long as you're not a vegetarian, or feeling broke. As Ruth said, beautiful space. Imaginative drinks but not a lot of flavor. I thought the menu was interesting, but when it came down to it, they were into the big slabs of meat with hardly any vegetables on the menu.
This was their strength: the terrine, shellfish and prawns, slab of porchetta. The guy at the next table got a whole branzino (or something), and his date wondered what they were supposed to do with the head and eyes.
Chocolate mousse was very good, despite the awkward but stylish spoon and weird wine glass. At that price point, especially $12 cocktails, stakes are high. I really wanted to like it more than I did.
re: Ruth Lafler
I had the exact same impression after DAT at Lafitte this Friday. Our table of 7 got 4 DAT, and the 3 of us who ordered off the normal menu did FAR better. The porchetta was meager and looked overcooked, and the seafood papillote got reports from 3 people as being overcooked and not well-flavored.
For the same price as DAT, my friend and I shared:
-beef tartare. Nicely done though not revelatory.
-veal porterhouse for 2. This was $48 and came on a HUGE platter piled high with roasted sunchokes and brussels sprouts, and an impressive display of a 2" thick porterhouse sliced into large slabs before being brought out.
-sticky toffee pudding and ice cream. Far, far superior in quality, creativeness, and portion size than the DAT dessert, which tasted like a dollop of chocolate frosting. The sticky toffee pudding was warm and melty with just the right combination of stickiness and crunch from the toasted nuts embedded in it. I even liked the grainy ice cream, though I think that style of dessert has to have its own name. It's like granita-meets-ice cream.
I stuck with wine after tasting a few of the cocktails. Like Ruth and Windy said, they sounded great but didn't follow through on flavors. My friend said her vin'orange tasted like grandmas.
Overall, I didn't regret going to Lafitte but I won't be rushing back or recommending that others do so--unless you want a giant veal porterhouse, which at $48 is a solid deal. And the DAT menu deserves a big fat STAY AWAY warning. But that's how I feel about most DAT dinners. I've had far better luck with lunches.
Luckily our server was wonderful, so I have no complaints on that front. Hopefully the other servers will take some cues from him. The biggest drawback for me was the noise level in that main room. the exposed pipe ceilings and all the steel and concrete make for a ton of echoing. I had to shout at people sitting three feet away from me, and we all left the restaurant a little hoarse.