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Feb 21, 2011 09:36 PM

Sons & Daughters

Anyone been to Sons & Daughters recently? I've heard it can be uneven, albeit inventively so. What do you think?

Sons & Daughters
708 Bush St, San Francisco, CA 94108

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  1. My first visit there a few months ago was excellent, great execution and service. My last visit a couple weeks ago, granted it was near closing, was not nearly as good. The menu was totally different though.

    1. I was there for the first time about a week ago. Yes, the food is inventive. The combinations of ingredients were interesting and, for the most part, worked well. I particularly enjoyed the cream of parsley root soup with several varieties of mushrooms and the abalone dish. My entree of squab wasn't as creative and a bit less flavorful but fine. I also tasted the beet salad and fish dish that my husband ordered and found I preferred my own choices, although he really liked the salad (served with a bergamot sorbet and house-made cheese). The brioche roll that accompanied the meal was delicious, and the amuse bouche and additional small items along the way were nice touches as well as tasty (the amuse bouche was a lightly pickled cauliflower with a cauliflower puree). I thought dessert wasn't as strong as the savory dishes; my husband's chocolate/beet cake dessert tasted fine but didn't look especially appealing.

      A few other notes: A couple of the dishes arrived at a cooler temperature than was ideal. The server was more programmed than welcoming; she did what she had to do (bring and describe dishes and silverware) but did not say a word more. I'm certainly not asking for a server to entertain me, but her disengagement was noticeable.

      This may sound like a very mixed review, but I would definitely go back for the food, which was creative, complex, and largely flavorful. They have a few improvements to make, but it's worth trying.

      1. Amydeastbay, your review is EXACTLY our experience last night. (Are you my doppelganger?) The three of us ordered all the things of which you write, and our reactions mirror yours. IMO, the Cream of Parsley Root Soup was the evening's star, although my son was quite fond of his beet salad, and the pork loin was tasty, especially the crispy fat bits. ( My chef husband was not enamored of anything in our three meal orgy but then he's a crotchety old fusspot.) The service was smooth, except for the initial over-familiarity of the server, who told us all her favorite things (my least favorite thing in a server). She also dissed my wine choice-- Radio Coteau La Neblina 2007-- as "not that great." I ignored her, and found the pinot to be outstanding. Overall? I wouldn't return, but a few dishes (out of many) were inventive and memorable.

        1. pane and I tried this place out for dinner tonight. I’m still trying to figure out how I felt about it – I think they’re trying really hard, but miss the mark in several key areas.

          The room is casual – kind of goth bistro, with lots of black and white, studded leather chairs, dark wood, no tablecloths - but the dinner had many of the flourishes you’d expect from a fine restaurant (amuse-bouche, entremet, petit fours, silverware changes between courses). However, the silverware appeared to be chosen indiscriminately, with spoons appearing at every course whether or not they were required. They were also repeatedly put down in the wrong order, and on the wrong side. As a lefty, I didn’t mind, but it drove pane nuts, to the point where she began to cringe every time someone approached with the cigar box o’ silverware.

          Our first two courses were served by (I think) a less experienced waiter and arrived with minimal descriptions, so we were left trying to remember the menu descriptions while poking at a buttery puree here, a miniature fern there. This is one of those restaurants that lists disparate-seeming, sometimes obscure ingredients for each dish on the menu – while I don’t always need an in-depth description of each course before it's served, I could have used them tonight.

          On to the food... in brief, I thought their more classic preparations were quite good, while the dishes that featured ingredients that sounded bizarre on the page also tasted bizarre on the palate. Some restaurants can pull together odd combinations and make them brilliant – I’m thinking Commis, Plum, Commonwealth, and Ubuntu. Sons and Daughters, along with eVe in Berkeley, can’t seem to pull it off (the one exception was the candycap mushroom cake with truffle ice cream, which I really liked).

          Both of our first courses (aprium/nectarine/rhubarb/brunost/green almonds/chamomile/yarrow/mustard green and foie torchon/cherry/oatmeal/ginger/quail bush) were oversalted, as was the amuse bouche. Luckily, the next two courses were very good – my rabbit dandelion greens baby fennel egg yolk white strawberry had perfectly cooked rabbit (a small roulade, a bit of leg meat that may have been confit, and the tiniest ribs I’ve ever seen). The tart, roasted white strawberries didn’t add anything to the dish. I don’t remember seeing any egg yolk.

          My third course – Lamb agastache barley fiddlehead artichoke king trumpets – was terrific. Again, beautifully cooked meat, and this time everything on the plate made sense.

          As I mentioned before, I thought the candy cap mushroom cake with black truffle ice cream was very good. I also had a taste of pane’s roasted red pepper cake, which I liked, until I hit the caramelized white chocolate sauce, which was unfortunately spiked with cumin. Neither of us could finish it.

          The brioche was a little too dense and yeasty, and the only thing I remember about the entremet was that it was some sort of sorbet with bits of candied celery at the bottom. Candied celery/fennel was a fad in NYC about 4 years ago, and I sincerely hope it does not become one in the Bay Area now. I liked the pate de fruits that was offered for petit fours.

          I've been complaining for years that there aren't enough restaurants in the Bay Area pushing the envelope on creative flavor combinations and techniques, but I'm starting to rethink my stance. In Sons & Daughters' case, I think they would do well to reign in the creative impulses a little.

          Sons & Daughters
          708 Bush St, San Francisco, CA 94108

          3 Replies
          1. re: daveena

            Yep, this was....weird. It felt like dining at the student showroom of a culinary school--friendly staff who didn't have the level of engagement or experience of restaurants of a similar price and caliber in the Bay Area. And Daveena is right; it drove me nuts that they placed the silverware incorrectly at every single course.

            Things that I liked: the abalone second course was great, really lovely texture and delicacy of flavor. I had the squab two ways as a third and liked that very much, especially the confit bits. I had a few bites of Daveena's lamb and agree that it was fantastic--both the meat and the accompaniments on the plate.

            Canteen down the lane does a fantastic brioche, and the geography made the comparison more immediate. Canteen's brioche is buttery yet bright, while S&D felt weighed down and puck-like.

            1. re: daveena

              Totally agree on some points -- the silverware replacing with every course drove me crazy! (the environmentalist in me wanted to yell: you're wasting water I didn't even use that spoon!!!) Also, the dining room is unusual -- someone said gothic bistro and that pretty much sums it up. But I actually liked that it was a cozy place, and that the wait staff was actually pretty casual -- we felt welcomed and really at ease and we had a great time. Also, the most important thing: WE LOVED THE FOOD.

              I thought the first three courses were excellent -- loved the abalone, the squab, and I had the nectarine salad; husband loved his potato skin soup, arctic char, and I forgot what else he ate. But the desserts were pretty disappointing. I appreciate that they are trying to be creative in having vegetables flavor the cakes, but seriously, they didn't taste great enough to overcome their names: mushroom cake? red pepper cake? That is *not* going to please a chocolate girl. And my mushroom cake was topped with black truffle ice cream. Think about that for a moment. Clever intellectually, but truffle ice cream... that's just too much.

              But we will definitely go back -- I thought $58 for their 4 course tasting was quite reasonable.

              1. re: sfwork

                I didn't like either of the cakes, but thought mushroom cake was the better of the two. I had a bite or two of the red pepper cake I ordered, let Daveena at the rest, and we still didn't finish half. I'm all for more creative desserts than chocolate lava whatever, but these weren't palate pleasing.

            2. any comparisons to commonwealth?

              2 Replies
              1. re: vulber

                I went to Commonwealth when it first opened (August 2010?) and Sons and Daughters in January or February of this year. I think they're at a pretty similar price point (spent $80 - $100/pp for four courses with drinks). If I had to choose one to return to I think it would be Commonwealth. Come to think of it, I remember everything that we ordered at Commonwealth very well, but I don't even remember half of what we ordered at Sons and Daughters.

                When I went, Commonwealth had sea vegetables and fish flavors showing up in a lot of dishes--an amuse bouche of potato chips with seaweed, fried smelts as an appetizer, an anchovy vinaigrette on a salad--so it might appeal to you more or less depending on how much you like those flavors. Commonwealth had much better dessert; the burnt honey ice cream that came with one dish was pretty much perfect. The service was also really outstanding.

                Sons and Daughters probably had the more technically creative cooking of the two (lots more crisps, spheres, foams, ingredients somehow transformed from their original state), and had exciting amuse bouches and other "freebies". The only element of any dish that stood out to me was a really excellent squab mousse. I also remember being baffled by one dish that had a burrata crisp. Why would you take an expensive cheese prized for its creaminess and make a crisp out of it? Also, it was listed on the menu as just "burrata" instead of "burrata crisp." I guess this goes along with their style of listing only the ingredients in their menu descriptions, but it was kind of disappointing to expect a luscious cheese and end up with a fancy Cheeto.

                Overall, neither one was among the best meals I've had at this price point in the Bay Area, but if you're looking for some creative preparations, either one would be fun to try.

                1. re: vulber

                  Commonwealth was better across the board - I think I actually criticized them for having a well-executed but non-ambitious dish on the menu (the gnocchi). Their avant-garde stuff is better-conceived and better-executed.