Outerlands [Outer Sunset District, San Francisco]
Can anyone report on the changes since Brett Cooper (Rubicon, Coi, Saison) joined the kitchen?
Can't help you with that since my experience is more recent.
My first day of summer kicked off with discovering a flat tire in the morning. But a quick repair and Mom and I made it up to San Francisco and Outerlands in time for lunch. My hope was that showing up at 12:55pm on a Thursday might be an easier way to get in . . . dream on. Fortunately, Mom was swathed in a full-length down coat for the wait outdoors. Despite my fleece jacket and heavy pants, I still needed to avail myself of one of Outerlands crocheted afghans to ward off the chilly 55 degree fog.
Mom had studied the menu while we were waiting and declared she wasn’t very interested. At the same time she was puzzled that so many people would wait in the cold and fog for “just sandwiches”. I assured her it was all about the bread at Outerlands.
We snagged the corner table, snuggled up against the counter, sharing it with a local chef. Mom ordered the soup and grilled cheese combo, $10. Soup of the day was a light vegan bouillon with chunks of roasted vegetables. Cheese melted between 1” thick slices of Outerlands airy bread satisfied with the requisite stretchy ooze (as shown in the photo below) and browned edges crusty from sizzling on the skillet.
For me, the roast beef sandwich, pink medium-rare and tender slices of top sirloin with horseradish crème fraiche, tiles of pickled cukes, peppercress, and thinly shaved red onions. Loved the combination with two kinds of peppery bite originating from the horseradish and cress, then cooling off with the tart and watery cucumbers. With a side of bitter greens and bountifully stuffed, this was well worth $11. A half-sandwich was enough for a meal.
During the delay in getting an indoor table, Mom turned grumpy and hungrier. I’d bought a cookie, the Oreo-esque chocolate wafers sandwiched with lime cream, when I placed our order at the counter to tide her over. But she waited till she was done with lunch then broke it in two. And she did the mom-thing, taking the smaller piece for herself. After her first bite, she put her share of the cookie down, and then carefully broke off more from my side to even us up. I think this meant she liked it.
With a pot of genmaicha, tax and tip, our tab came to $34. Mom’s review: “T&A truck stop at home makes better soup. This was good. But you have to like bread.”
not sure if I missed a more recent thread ..... with the recent MB review I dreaded not checking out this place earlier but the wait wasn't bad. it was a Tuesday lunch though. got there a bit after they opened and waited 15-20 minutes. it was worth waiting for. we shared a large squash soup with spiced walnuts and sage brown butter w/ bread. the waiter had the kitchen split the soup into two bowls - generous portion and nice of the kitchen to do. a squeeze of lemon gave the soup just the right touch of brightness. The hot ginger, lemon apple cider was very nicely balanced: not too sweet, not too acidic and too hot from ginger. a good way to warm up if it's cold / foggy. (most of the time) I had the pork shoulder and spicy tomato sandwich with greens - one of the best sandwiches I've ever eaten ! generous filling of tasty ingredients plus the ideal sandwich bread - griddled to a nice crunch and rich with butter. I ate only half - had the second half for dinner. SO's turkey sandwich was OK/good but paled compared to my pork sandwich. it also came on house bread but wasn't grill toasted. Finished off with a nice caramel: buttery and salty. Then a cookie - chocolate with lime filling ? It was interesting but didn't quite do it for me. A lovely lunch, all in all.
I had dinner at Outerlands recently and was happy with our experience. We arrived a few minutes before our reservation and were seated promptly. It has been at least a year since I'd had dinner here and the style is much more refined than I remembered (and very different than their casual lunch offerings). I glimpsed into the kitchen area and didn't catch Brett Cooper, but I believe I saw Brandon Jew.
We tried almost everything on the menu. I imagine the menu changes often, but one constant (and must-order) would be the bread -- the type they served with butter was outstanding. All the vegetables were well executed. A few of the dishes reminded me of original menu at Plum, similar flavors though not as fancifully described. For example, we had a broccoli dish with chicharrones crumbled on top adding texture and a bit of spice. There was a fish dish with perfectly crisp skin which was built on top of some vegetables that were straightforward but outstanding. A turnip soup was a bit under flavored, but we devoured quickly a pork belly entree with a kimchi component to it. One other dish that sticks out in my memory is a starter that had some vegetables with crunchy grains. I look forward to returning.
"the style is much more refined than I remembered"
I think this is entirely accurate, even at lunch where the menu remains true to the original incarnation, but much more paired down, with the disciplined of a well seasons executive chef mindset. It makes the place feel a lot less freewheeling, and more of a concept than an eccentric and very original personal vision. It's a little boring and formulaic compared to before.
Dinners changed to the fancier and finessed menu that got them all the write ups, but now they have the team with the skillset to pull it off. I don't miss vegetable-rice soup with bread holes as an entree and soggy pie for dessert, and it's nice that they're buying more diversified ingredients instead of the farro, kale, etc. overload from before.