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AQ - SF

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New place opened yesterday in a former beauty school, on Mission near 7th, across the street from the Court of Appeals. Great wine list with bottles from $19 to >$200 and including a full page of Loire whites. Open for lunch11-3 weekdays and dinner 5-11 daily. Currently beer and wine only, full liquor license is coming soon, as is brunch.

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AQ
1085 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94103

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  1. www.aq-sf.com

    1. I had a nice beetroot & quince salad with farmer's cheese ($9), a great autumn vegetable salad that was presumably inspired by Manresa's "Into the garden" ($9), and an amazing toasted barley with Dungeness crab, mushrooms, and spruce ($13) that was like nothing I've ever had, tasted like it might have had squid ink in it.

      1. I worked in this space from 2000-2002 (Eyematic Interfaces, Inc)
        It's a really beautiful space.

        The beauty school (Miss Marty's) was next door at 1087. Don't know where you got your info, but you so often correct.... Possibly they moved there after our business left?

        At any rate, I plan to go, and I plan to request a table where my old desk used to be.

        2 Replies
        1. re: pauliface

          You're right, the beauty school was next door.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            nearly next door is de La Paz coffee roasters, open Fridays from 8 am to one-ish - pouring delectable brewed coffee while they finish their build-out.
            http://www.delapazcoffee.com/
            1081 Mission Street, San Francisco 94103
            The San Sebastian is complex with a l-o-n-g finish that delights. I am truly astounded when the finish lingers so pleasantly like soft velvet in my mouth 45 minutes later.

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            De La Paz Coffee Roasters
            1081 Mission St, SF, CA 94103

        2. had dinner there tonight and was quite impressed. had the charred avocado and squid (8), Lamb tongue (13) Toasted Barley & Dungeness Crab13) swiss chard cannelloni (24) the thyme blancmange (8) cheese plate (8). There was not a single dish we didn't like and the smaller plate really stood out for their flavours. The chef has real skill with vegetables and grains and the vegetarian entree was as good as any of the meat based dishes. The service was quite good too for only being open less than a week and the decor was pleasant and follows the modern trends of being oldtimey and filled with wood without being too twee and pretenious.
          I liked that the dessert was light but still satisfying and the cheese was not as good as at Quince but came with honeycomb and peppered jellies.

          We already have plans to go back in two weeks to try more of the menu.

          -----
          AQ
          1085 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94103

          1. I agree with everyone above - I had a great meal here tonight.

            The favorite was the barley and crab dish that was unique and delicious. The toasted avocado was also fantastic, but nothing was less than great. The wine list, as mentioned, is well selected and well priced. I'll be back soon.

            2 Replies
            1. re: tomotsu

              I keep thinking about that barley and crab dish. Have to get that again.

              The other night I tried the lamb belly with lentils, I was dubious about the smoked dates but it was really good and not sweet. Same sort of deal with the hanger steak, I was dubious about the licorice but it was subtle and worked well. Came with a sort of savory brioche bread pudding on the side.

              1. re: tomotsu

                those were my two favorites too. I do think it's a good place for people who like strong flavours and creative dishes. I overheard a neighboring table complaining the barley was "too strong" and the food was "too crazy". It's certainly not the dumb downed "comfort food" that is so popular right now.

              2. They reportedly have a scrapple Monte Cristo on today's brunch menu.

                1. Went back again tonight and had another very good dinner exploring more of the menu. While the barley and crab and avocado dishes remain my 2 favorites, I also really enjoyed the monkfish.

                  Was also told that they just received their liquor license so they should be serving drinks soon. They also continue to add to their wine list, including a number of wines below $40 (as low as $19). I think it's one of the best wine lists around with lots to get a wine geek excited. Tonight they were pouring Lopez de Heredia rose by the glass.

                  1. Just had lunch at Deli Board nearby. There's a sign at AQ that they're closed for lunch for the time being with a mention of retooling and opening again in the new year. Still open for dinner, and per the website, for Sunday brunch.

                    1. San Diego Chowhounder reporting in.

                      Had a great dinner tonight - on a whim - our hotel is 20 yards away and we were feeling lazy.

                      Lucky us!

                      We had great service at the bar over a nice leisurely dinner.

                      Shared the charred avocado with squid, grapefruit with turnip purée; the toasted barley with crab (was told going off the menu tomorrow); and the cauliflower in different textures. Later, we split the Cobia with spinach and salsify w/ black garlic.

                      Everything was excellent and I would order all of them again - my favorite being the charred avocado with squid - loved the textures, and the bright favors. SO loved the barley crab dish - similar to risotto and very warming. The cauliflower reminded me of a dessert I had at Ubuntu last year - a study in carrots - and it really could've been a dessert - sweetened with raisins it had what seemed to be a cauliflower mousse, braised cauliflower, roasted cauliflower and raw romanesco. Incredibly fun and tasty.

                      Corbia was a perfectly cooked piece of fish, meaty with nicely braised salsify on a bed of puréed spinach.

                      We ended with the thyme blancmange and huckleberries - totally fun plating that was a play on caviar and eggs - three small rounds of blancmange, like hardboiled eggs, with mounds of individual huckleberry seeds in the center - like caviar. We were impressed that someone in the kitchen was tasked with separating each seed. The dish was finished with toffee hazelnuts, brown butter ice-cream (amazing) and caramel.

                      Nice, reasonably priced wine list with lots of unusual wines to this Southern CA diner - we did glasses of a nice Spanish white. Ended dinner with the house Manhattan - great winter drink full of cinnamon, nutty pumpkin seeds and a hint of raisins.

                      Good looking spot. Word is a whisky lounge is moving in downstairs.

                      This was a very good meal - the attention to detail was impressive from front of house to the back. We lucked out by picking dinner based on proximity to our hotel. Next time up, where ever we stay, this will be one of our destinations.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: zmirzlina

                        Glad you enjoyed your meal there. I also had a recent dinner with their new Winter menu that I mentioned in another thread. Did they still have the duck aged on the bone tonight? That was a stand out dish from our meal last week, but it's not on their website.

                        They aged the duck carcass for an extra week before slicing off and roasting the breasts for the dish. It was served with an assortment of beet textures (roast, powder, tartare, etc.). This was one of my favorite dishes of the whole year. Just a beautiful duck with deep, complex flavors. My whole family hasn't stopped talking about it all week.

                        The other favorite dish was a new blood sausage and chestnut dish served in some sort of foam. The blood sausage was very delicate and surprisingly light, pairing nicely with the richer chestnut. Even my mom (not a fan of blood sausage) loved it - so maybe a good introduction.

                        I wasn't a huge fan of the cocktails, but perhaps I ordered wrong. They ended up just a tad too sweet for my tastes.

                        1. re: tomotsu

                          The duck was still on the menu. As I was sharing plates with my SO who is pecatarian there were a few items we had to pass on - this was one of them. Came highly recommended by the bartender however.

                          The house manhattan was sweet - but a perfect liquid dessert and I'm glad I ordered it after my meal.

                          As for price - we found it reasonable. Dinner with four glasses of wine and cocktail came to $130 pre-tip. It's hard to compare as there are very places of this caliber in San Diego so for me dinner was a bargain. My SO, who is very price sensitive (she puts me on a food budget when we visit), didn't balk at the price. Agreed it was very good and asked when we would be coming back.

                          1. re: zmirzlina

                            pecatarian? Does the mean our partner only eats the breast meat?

                            1. re: pauliface

                              pescetarian = vegetarian + seafood

                      2. what do you guys think about the pricing? looking at the brunch menu, $18 for pancakes or $18 for scrambled eggs would put them higher than foreign cinema....even $18 is high for a burger (without fries) in SF

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: vulber

                          Haven't done brunch, didn't even know they had started it but I will say I think the dinner prices are quite good, nothing over 24 and smaller dishes at smaller prices. We've been three times now for dinner, having three course each time and the bill came out to less than at Bar Arigole, Commonwealth or Flour + Water when we've had comparable food.

                          As for the brunch if 18 is too much for you eggs Benedict is only 8 dollars which is far less than it is in most places. We're going next Sunday so I'll report back then on the brunch details.

                          1. re: tjinsf

                            sure; but i'd have to guess it'd be a much smaller portion...

                          2. re: vulber

                            Ok I went to brunch at AQ this past week. The menu ranged in price from 5 dollars to 14 dollars. The pancakes are 12 dollars not 18 dollars.

                            We got: omelet of the day which had duck confit (12), yogurt with black tea, quince confit and granola (5), soft scrambled eggs with wild mushrooms, marscapone & brown butter (12) and the corned beef & hash with two fried eggs.

                            The portions are all good sizes and one dish from the 12 or 14 dollar range would be fine for one person.

                            They gave us two tiny sweet blueberry muffins (that they called scones but they were muffins) that were light and flaky.

                            The omelette was really good and quite rich with the confit and the confit wasn't overcooked.

                            The soft scrambled eggs weren't overwhelmed by the wild mushrooms. It was served with a very large portion of a shredded potatoe cake that was underseason and needed salt.

                            I didn't realize that the corned beef dish was listed as corned beef & hash and not corned beef hash. What was served was good but not a corned beef hash. It was shredded corned beef on top of fried potatoes and fried eggs. It tasted great but wasn't what I was expecting.

                            They take reservations for brunch and when we were arrived at 11 there were only a handful of tables occupied and when we left it was only half full.

                            The only negative is there aren't that many vegetarian choices which is also my only negative critique of the dinner and lunch menu.

                            The price is in line with Foreign Cinema but a bit higher than most local brunch places.

                            it still pisses me off they add 1.50 per person for health care for employees since the employer get to keep any money that isn't spent at the end of the year. At this price point they can clearly cover that cost.

                             
                          3. Tried the winter menu tonight. The standout for me was the venison tartare probably because I grew up hunting and eating venison. It was good portion and really well prepared. We also had the cardoons which was my first time having them and the dish was really creative with dungeness crab, a persimmon foamy mousse. It was another one the dishes that AQ seems to be good at that are complex but not too much.

                            Our entrees were the duck breast and the cobia. Both were prepared right but my duck while having a nicely rendered skin didn't amaze me but the diced salad that can with it and the little puffs did. The spouse didn't feel the cobia had been cut right but it was cooked well and the puree it was one was so tasty and rich.

                            We had the cheese course and then dessert that was a play on s'mores with a dense chocolate cakes, some gramham cracker crumble, one of the best homemade marshmellows (and I've made them myself) and a chocolate sauces.

                            The winter menu hasn't wowed me as much as the fall menu but I would happily eat any of the dishes again.

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: tjinsf

                              I had dinner there 3/22, as the menu was transitioning from winter to spring. I was interested in the beet/duck dish, so I had emailed them and asked if it was still on the menu. They wrote back that although they had technically moved on to "spring" the would be transitioning the popular winter dishes out over the next 4-6 weeks. I ordered three highly regarded dishes from winter: the cauliflower, the venison tartare and the duck. The dessert was "spring citrus" (lemongrass panna cotta with vanilla yogurt and spring citrus). I was really impressed. Everything was beautiful and delicious, and the modernist techniques were used to provide an interesting variation in flavors and textures without being inharmonious or overwrought. I thought the prices were reasonable for the quality and complexity of the dishes -- I've certainly seen similar dishes prices much higher around town. In addition, I really enjoyed the house special cocktail I ordered (BISON ROSE: zubroska bison grass vodka, cocchi americano, meyer lemon, rosemary shrub), and thought it was better, and a more generous pour, than the cocktails at Bar Agricole. I wasn't interested in going back to Bar Agricole, but I'd love to go back to AQ!

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                Was this your birthday meal? I hope AQ makes it past your bday curse.

                                1. re: hhc

                                  It was an unofficial birthday meal. Hopefully the unofficial status will protect it from the curse! I have to say, though, that except for the noise factor, it would have met the criteria for an official Ruth birthday dinner (interesting but not overly tortured or precious food, reasonable prices, good parking, etc.: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/766590).

                                2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                  that vodka is exceptional stuff and a worthy birthday libation, felicitations. for a long time, the real bison grass vodkas could not be imported because the feds wouldn't approve the bison grass for consumption -- if it was bottled for the u.s. market it was a simulated bison grass, artificial flavour. it's only been a few years since the f.d.a. (there's a small trace of an anti-coagulant or something like that in the grass) lifted the barrier.

                                  1. re: moto

                                    This is very interesting, the first I've heard of it. I certainly thought a bottle I bought a few years ago was harsh compared to the bottles I drank in Poland as a student, but I chalked that up to nostalgia.

                                    1. re: bbulkow

                                      Yes, apparently the "real thing" contains traces of coumarin: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%BBub...

                                  2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                    Zubrowka ....

                                    1. re: bbulkow

                                      Don't look at me -- I just copied and pasted from their online menu.

                                3. Went for the first time recently and really enjoyed the food. It was the early days of the spring menu so there were probably a few carryovers from winter. The highlight for me was this really interestingly plated asparagus salad, different textures, beautifully presented, and using the addition of bits of white chocolate spheres that are torched. Nice combination. The tortolloni with stinging nettle wasn't that spectacular but really enjoyed the duck, which sounds like a carryover from winter. I had marginal service (waiter seemed really bored for some reason) and do feel the serving size seem small for the entrees, especially at $25. But I feel the other price points for the other courses are spot on.

                                  Here's my complete review with link to my photos:

                                  "Spring is my favorite season, with its bright colors and sense of renewal (Happy Easter BTW). And that’s why I waited until now to check out the new AQ.

                                  AQ is the concept restaurant by Chef/Owner Mark Liberman, who changes the menu and the restaurant esthetics every quarter with the season. The styling of the food is a mix of Mediterranean simplicity with touches of molecular gastronomy and seasonal ingredients from California.

                                  Opened last fall, AQ sits alone in a gritty block on Mission Street not too far from the new federal courthouse. When I arrived to check out the new spring menu, the red-brick walls were accented by lime green-and-gold tapestries to signal spring. Blossoms on branches were the other touches to shift the focus onto the new season.

                                  Sitting at the counter, I was able to watch the efficient kitchen staff, each sous chef responsible for a particular station.

                                  “A.Q.” is the initials found in classic restaurant menus to mean “as quoted” for those dishes that are market priced based on the season. But even though everything on the AQ menu is seasonal, there are set prices for each category of courses, with starters ($10), first courses ($14), main entrées ($25), and desserts ($8).

                                  The pricing actually works well for everything except, IMHO, the main courses. The plates are beautifully presented, but the sizing is very similar to what you’d find on a tasting menu. This means it helps to order four courses for the evening in order to feel satisfied, which means your tab can end up to be $57 just for the food (not including any drinks, tips, tax and a separate San Francisco health tax).

                                  A side note about my evening: my service was perfunctory but lacking. When I arrived, my server greeted me and gave me water, without asking if I wanted any starting cocktail or drinks. I sat for probably five minutes before my waiter finally came back to check on me, and by then I already decided about my cocktail (a classic martini) and my menu choices.

                                  Throughout the evening, my server came and went with my dishes, but was always a step behind. For example, I was the one to mention that I wanted a glass of wine with my entrée, or that I was ready for dessert (all things servers typically ask me about). Plus, my waiter didn’t seem that engaged (I call it the “no personality” service).

                                  Despite this one particular waiter (everyone else who helped me were great), I was blown away by the food. My choices were a celebration of the spring season, from the asparagus salad to the stinging nettle tortelloni with citrus.

                                  The asparagus salad was my favorite – a varied preparation that showcased the abundant spring vegetable in different textures, from a mousse to grilled stems to thinly sliced and barely cooked ribbons. Then the plate was amazingly accented with unusual ingredients, including spots of bright orange steelhead roe and (the most genius) use of white chocolate drops that were torched for caramelizing. The bits of salty and sweet made this dish transcendental.

                                  My main course of duck aged on the bone is a duck breast that’s presented with a dance of beets prepared almost like a salsa and separately decorated with a ribbon of beet gel. The aging on the bone of the duck allows the flavor of the meat to be concentrated, giving the duck a more intense flavor.

                                  For my dessert, I probably should have ordered the strawberry creation to fit more with the spring theme, but I went with one of AQ’s signature desserts of popcorn, caramelized sponge cake, banana and marcona almonds. The plate was late a fancy Cracker Jack poured out on a plate with touches of banana cream and squares of sponge cake. It was good, but not spectacular or filled with revelations like the rest of my dinner.

                                  AQ is a mix for the senses, from the contrasting textures on the plate, the changing décor of the dining room, and the smack of humanity when you walk outside. But the kitchen provides the most excitement, and that, I predict, is what will be the constant in all four seasons."

                                  http://focussnapeat.com/2012/04/08/a-...

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: singleguychef

                                    Great review. I too stopped by AQ for their early spring menu recently. The food ranged from good to excellent, and I also really enjoyed the nettles dish and a few other appetizers. My main (sous-vide chicken) was interesting and filling. The strawberry dessert was light and definitely reminded me of spring, but, however, was not particularly satisfying, so I don't think you missed out.

                                    I, also, had distracted service. Service resulted in odd pauses in the meal as well as the "looking around to flag the server" moment at least twice, - which shouldn't happen at a restaurant in this price range. It wasn't bad enough to bring to management's attention - just absent enough to distract from the food.

                                    1. re: goldangl95

                                      I had the same experience a few weeks back. Food surpassed the service, and distracted is the right word. Overall a very positive experience but the service is a step or two behind the food. I was satisfied with three dishes however. Entree size seemed to really vary based on the particular dish.

                                  2. Summer Menu begins on Tuesday.

                                    1. I went the other night mostly to drink, had dinner plans so just had a few little snacks from the $10 section.

                                      "HEIRLOOM TOMATOES, cream cheese & jalapeño, preserved sesame seed" was a salad, more or less. Preserved sesame seed was similar to the sauce in Japanese spinach. Good.

                                      "SUMMER SQUASH & ZUCCHINI, thousand island, 'pastrami' heart & caraway" was a composed dish with a variety of squash presentations (shaved raw, roasted, puréed) so every bite was a bit different. The smoked lamb's heart was a nice addition.

                                      The "HONEYCOMB TRIPE, plums, charred lemon, szechuan & wild ginger" came in a small bowl with a thin broth / dressing, looked so much like things I've had in Shanghai restaurants that I felt like they should have given me chopsticks and a Chinese spoon, but it tasted like something not at all Asian but very familiar. It took me a couple of minutes to figure out it was maybe a riff on chermoula. Very good.

                                      This place is doing a good business. The place was so jammed at 7ish on a Tuesday that it took maybe 20 minutes to get a seat at the bar.

                                      11 Replies
                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        Going tonight at 645. Unfortunately my sons college angst is putting me in a funk.

                                        1. re: Shrinkrap

                                          What do you think of AQ?

                                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                                            What did you think, Melanie? ;-)

                                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                                              Interesting. I had the tasting menu. Something like, but not exactly this;

                                              http://sanfrancisco.grubstreet.com/20...

                                              At first I was thinking "is this a COURSE"?, but by the end, it was "I can't go on!". At the beginning of each course someone explained what I was being served, but I lost track and had questions at the end of each course, and the waiter was less informed. It was a great experience, as the waiter said it would be, but it would not have made my husband happy.

                                              Sorry I am not better details.
                                              Tonight, Gitane.

                                              1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                " but it would not have made my husband happy."

                                                Why is that? Your post hints to small portion sizes, and some mysterious dishes, so maybe that's what you meant.

                                          2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            i went earlier this week to check out the autumn menu. i was looking forward to a slice of their artisan wheat loaf they had offered just a couple months ago but in its place was a disappointing somewhat stale white epi.

                                            the highlight of the evening was the warm octopus app. perfectly tender, flavorful and hearty server mentioned something about an octopus bolognese as the sauce that looked like it included some squid ink and some delicious chickpeas. i thought serving size was also quite generous. the brussel sprout app had good flavors (sweet apple cubes, beer cream and crispy salty pieces of cured ham) but i decided that cold fried leaves of brussel sprouts simply isn't my thing. would be so much better if they served this dish with warm sprouts to contrast chilled apples and beer cream.

                                            the two entrees we had were swordfish (i didn't taste this one) and the petrale sole with roasted cauliflower and sea urchin butter sauce. brininess of the urchin flavors shone through and while the sole was very well cooked, it lacked salt and some other flavor impact. was a decently executed dish, just not very exciting. the veal with charcoal and roasted pumpkin (beautiful presentation) may have been better choices...maybe for the next visit.

                                            1. re: huckleberry

                                              interesting.... i went last night with fellow CHer grayelf and hubby.

                                              3 of us had: an amuse bouche from the chef - leek-wrapped rabbit sausage; potatoes with sea veggies and oysters, radish cream; brussels sprouts; poached/crispy chicken; roasted beets with robiola; swordfish, duck, petrale sole.

                                              my favorite starter was the potatoes/oyster dish. earthy and briny and wonderful. loved the radish milk, and was happy to find two poached oysters underneath.

                                              the chicken two ways (actually, 3 - chicken liver pate was featured as well) was the weakest of the evening for us - it wasn't terrible (tho i think CH will argue that point!), just not great - there wasn't enough crispy in the dish, and the whole thing was just rather meh.

                                              the brussels sprouts were great, ours came warm - we didn't find cold leaves, and i loved the crispy brownness of them.

                                              the beets were nice and sweet, the robiola a great foil for them. didn't think the huckleberries (sorry, huckleberry!) added much except a little too much sweetness.

                                              the swordfish was the best main of the evening for me. smoky cabbage, earthy sunchokes raw and roasted, and the fish was perfectly cooked.

                                              i agree that the petrale was missing something. grayelf, who ordered it, actually asked for lemon and she said it much improved it. unlike your experience, however, we could barely discern any sea urchin in the goat butter sauce until tasting it by itself at the very end.

                                              my duck confit was well prepared, and i liked the fact that the 5-epices wasn't overbearing - a nice light touch. also on the plate were quince, chicory and camargue rice - the oversalted rice made the dish not stellar. and i love salt.

                                              the serving sizes are indeed generous - our server tried to get us to order a main and two sides each, which would have been way too much. as it was, we were stuffed to the gills, and had no dessert. the desserts did not look appealing to us anyway.

                                              we got to sit at one of the high tables by the kitchen, which we loved. I had a Palanquin cocktail - lillet blanc, lemon juice honey, lavender bitters topped with IPA beer - very good, but better was grayelf's Caribbean Knife Fight # 2 - blade gin, lime juice, st. elizabeth allspice dram, velvet falernum. she'll have to expound on those elements as i missed the explanation.

                                              i also had a glass of Chateau Flotis St Noire Negrette Fronton France 2009 with my dinner - a deeply dark red, earthy, muddy, smoky, wonderfully dry wine.

                                              all in all - a very good dinner with good company!

                                               
                                               
                                               
                                               
                                               
                                               
                                               
                                               
                                              1. re: mariacarmen

                                                Odd that you describe it as "very good" when you didn't seem to like many of the dishes! From the reports I've been reading I get the impression that the Autumn menu isn't quite as successful as some of the previous ones.

                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                  i guess that does sound odd. there were elements that were really good in each dish, and at least 3-4 of the dishes were great - i didn't say much about the leek/rabbit amuse but it was delicious. i liked very much the chicken liver pate in the chicken dish. i loved my duck but not the rice. i really liked the beets with the robiola, despite the huckleberries. loved the entire sprouts dish, as i loved the entire swordfish dish. but you're right, this is not a complete rave review, not an oh-my-god-i-MUST-come-back.

                                                  1. re: mariacarmen

                                                    Thanks for the write-up. Very informative.

                                                2. re: mariacarmen

                                                  oops, and i did not mean to say that the company was not VERY good too!

                                            2. We just came back from dinner at AQ. While I enjoyed my meal, I'm sorry to report that the rest of my table were underwhelmed. I had the brussels sprouts and the swordfish, and I guess I was playing it safe, because bacon makes everything better. They were both very tasty. But the other diners left feeling less than thrilled, and I rather agreed with their assessment of their dishes. I tried the lamb tartare, which I had high hopes for, but which really only carried the fatty taste of raw lamb, and mint. I felt some salt and acid would help, but maybe I didn't get some of the garnishes, as I really only tried the meat. And my mom was a little flummoxed by the octopus dish, as it was quite strongly doused with squid ink, of which she is not a fan, though the menu didn't mention it. Plus, the biggest component of the dish was the tete de cochon, which she also wasn't quite prepared for. I tried the tete de cochon, and wasn't excited, though the squid ink sauce tasted good to me.

                                              Actually, several members of my table had a hard time ordering, as the a la carte menu is limited. With about 6 appetizers and 6 entrees, one of which was turkey and cranberry, and each one containing a more adventurous ingredient, like charcoal, not everyone was seduced by the vague descriptions. And in the end,despite being relatively sophisticated diners, they found the whole concept a little precious, overcooked, if you will.

                                              One nice thing our server did was to bring us a dessert on the house, the chocolate mousse on a whisk, when he heard it was my husband's birthday, and we weren't going to order any. And my cocktail, the caribbean knife fight 2, was tasty, though be warned, on the sweet side.

                                              1. Had another great meal last night.

                                                Compressed jicama with masa cakes and (Chinese) black beans was good though the banana puree seemed out of place. I think that's the first dish I've had there that didn't entirely make sense to me.

                                                Brassicas and quinoa, great salad-ish thing with an interesting dressing.

                                                Smoked chowder with cardoons, fantastic, if we hadn't already ordered more dishes I'd have been tempted to get a second bowl.

                                                Porchetta with chestnuts etc., very good, I haven't had that combination in years.

                                                Rye and other grains with brassicas, egg yolk, and smoked truffle, amazing, probably the best vegetarian entree I've ever had. Really complex from the truffles. I don't think you can go wrong with at AQ with any dish featuring grains.

                                                Didn't really need dessert but had to try the beets with citrus, candied peel, and whipped cream foam. Really light and except for the peel the beets were the sweetest thing on the plate. Clever.

                                                Place was still full at 9:45, SF is so different from Berkeley.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                  I've got a reservation for next Friday the 8th.

                                                  Has anybody tried the rabbit and sweetbreads?

                                                  Looking at their menu I guess they no longer offer the tasting menu like they had on the Autumn menu

                                                  1. re: tatuaje68

                                                    They have a tasting menu, it's just not online.

                                                2. I finally got to AQ last night. wow.

                                                  Reading some of the comments here, I have a feeling people have gone there eating entrees. Our entree - short ribs - was a nice rib-filling touch at the end of a meal but not where the excitement was. We had two "choke" dishes in parallel (sunchoke and artichoke) which were complex, spring-ish, flowers, and really interesting. Then a scallop soup, which included some of the freshest and sweetest scallops I've eaten in recent memory. The short ribs, at the end, were a good cap to the meal but not the best part. Sitting at the "chef's counter" (the bar by the kitchen) we saw quite a few dishes being made, and I wanted what looked like a strawberry desert - which turned out to be a strawberry gaspacho from the tasting menu. So we had the rhubarb desert, which was gloriously similar (in tone) to the choke dishes early on. Lots of ingredients, meshing nicely, sort of in a big heap.

                                                  We hit the place no reservations at about 6pm. There were various bar seats available through the evening (tuesday) so a couple could have walked in at any time. Out-the-door-with-alcohol-and-tip was $130 for 2, which I considered quite good.

                                                  take away: ignore the entrees!

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: bbulkow

                                                    The vegetarian entree with black truffle I had a couple of months ago was one of the best things I've had there.

                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                      On the spring menu, the veg option involving grain, egg, and "burnt truffle" was really good looking. AQ clearly seems better at complex dishes, not basic protein. I'm responding to some of the comments here like "I got the salmon and it didn't seem that special".

                                                    2. re: bbulkow

                                                      That rhubarb dessert is out-of-this-world fresh and delicious.

                                                    3. Report on the new summer tasting menu from uhockey:

                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9047...

                                                      5 Replies
                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                        The octopus mapo and razor are no longer on the summer menu this week. There is a lot of seafood especially fish on the menu currently. The dishes that stood out for us this week were the chicken liver and summer berries ($16) which a very smart deceptively simple dish. The spouse loved their salmon ($26) which was prepared both as a whole piece and as a sausage which was served with turnips and a sweet pickle that really brought out the freshness of the barely seared fish. They are doing a version of pozole ($16) with some of the tenderest goat in it and had great texture and seasoning. We also had the cucumbers, roasted seeds, sweet onion, tahini & egg yolk ($10) and cured halibut, cactus & burnt jalapeno, green chickpeas, lime leaf ($10) which were both good but on the small size and not nearly as interesting or tasty as the other dishes.

                                                        We finished with a "grasshopper" which was basically chocolate pudding, mint cream with coconut macaroons. It was tasty and not too sweet but could have used some more difference in the textures.

                                                        The tables next to us were both having the tasting menu and it looked so good and more creative The service was the smoothest I've ever seen it here and as mentioned the bread was amazing and very good to have as almost every dish we had, had a sauce we used the bread to sop up.

                                                        I really don't understand why they didn't get a Michelin star last year as the food has always been at that level and the service has consistently improved.

                                                        1. re: tjinsf

                                                          I think it's kind of like Plum, they're just not playing Michelin's game.

                                                          1. re: tjinsf

                                                            We had a few of the same dishes earlier this week: chicken liver, halibut, pozole, and grasshopper pie. Also had the potato pulp and squab. My favorites were the pozole and potato pulp.

                                                            Asked about the bread because we liked it so much. Not baked in house, but it's a collaboration between the chef and Pinkie's Bakery.

                                                            1. re: Kirk_T

                                                              Calling it a collaboration is really unfortunate.

                                                              1. re: Kirk_T

                                                                I forgot we also had the potato pulp with brandade. I liked the taste but the brandade was really a cream and I found it rather small for the $16 price.

                                                          2. Went to this peculiar event where the Lincoln Motor Company bought out the place and gave people free meals as a reward for going on a ride around the block in one of their cars. I'm guessing the dishes on the prix-fixe-ish menu will probably show up on the regular menu at some point.

                                                            Marinated peaches with bacon vinaigrette, shaved fennel, baby kale, and Marcona almonds was surprisingly savory. I can see making a PLT for people who don't like raw tomatoes. They said the chef did something with roasted apricots and bacon that worked well. If they were really peaches and not nectarines the chef did something to get rid of the fuzz (wouldn't put it past him).

                                                            Tasted a summer corn soup with wax beans, oregano, roasted shisito peppers and mascarpone, fantastic, essence of fresh corn.

                                                            For my second course I ordered the vegetarian dish because I'm always impressed by what they do with grains. Farro verde, braised carrots, allegedly coconut (didn't really taste it). Thin slices of fresh turmeric root made the dish, unusual and exotic flavor. Great combination of flavors and textures.

                                                            Had a bite of chicken, they managed to get a nice crunchy crust while keeping it juicy, nicely paired with some vinegary braised herbs / lettuce / spring onions.

                                                            Dessert, "textures of chocolates" (which is on the regular menu) was a nice mix of a brownie-ish round of cake, some dollops of mousse, something white and creamy, something like kiwi or passion fruit puree.

                                                            Tasted a strawberry sorbet with apricots, chamomile, and poppy seeds, should have ordered that, a better choice for someone like me who's not big on sweet.

                                                            Very nice light meal. If that's representative of what they do for large groups I'd highly recommend it for that purpose.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                              I forgot to mention the fantastic caraway (rye?) bread they served with delicious Straus unsalted butter and coarse salt. It's a collaboration between the chef and Pinkie's Bakery.

                                                            2. We went for dinner last night and got the tasting menu. The ma po octopus was a stunner, the revelation of the evening. Marcona almond soup with yuzu marinated razor clams and tapioca pearls was elegant and novel. Three little bites of black footed iberico pork with blood pudding and puffed rice got a big smile from my DC, who liked it so much he stole one of my pieces.

                                                              I only didn't favor the two dessert courses, which offered fewer "aha!" moments to me--rose geranium clobbered by a very assertive goat cheese for one, after that a big, hulky corn bread weighed down with a scoop of tarragon ice cream.

                                                              I wasn't drinking alcohol, and the bartender made me a drink that highlighted the true, tart essence of a raspberry. I would never order a "raspberry mocktail," so I'm glad the server suggested that he just bring something delicious my way.

                                                              1. Any report from the Autumn menu? It reads well and delicious. Is there a table/seat that allows the view of the kitchen? Is there much interaction between the kitchen and the diner directly?

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: Kurtis

                                                                  Yes, it's an open kitchen and there are several tables set up perpendicular against the counter. My feeling is that they will interact with you as long as you respect the fact that they're working, but they don't initiate it.

                                                                  1. re: Kurtis

                                                                    There are counter seats along the kitchen and adjacent tables.

                                                                  2. AQ just sent out an email saying that they're switching to a four-course prix fixe menu (plus tasting menu) as of the Spring menu. Which is kind of a bummer, IMO, in that I liked the flexibility of making a meal of smaller plates, share easily, etc., as well as choosing more affordable options if need be.

                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                      For those who haven't received it:

                                                                      Announcing AQ "2.0"
                                                                      We're making many changes at AQ and are excited to share the news with you!
                                                                      "AQ 2.0" will launch later this year with an updated menu style, revamped private dining room, and all around improved experience for our guests.

                                                                      Refocusing our concept in the kitchen:
                                                                      We have always strived to be on the cutting edge of California cuisine and will continue to push the envelope with our culinary program led by Chef Mark Liberman. Beginning on the first day of AQ Spring 2014, we will move to a Prix Fixe menu style, offering a 4-course option alongside a grand tasting menu. We have some fun new toys in the kitchen to show off, and will be experimenting with both new and classic cooking techniques and technologies.

                                                                      Changing Decor:
                                                                      As usual, our hallmark seasonal change will continue to defy San Francisco weather patterns... our vernal Spring decor will replace the crisp whites of Winter on March 18th, 2014. Come in to stop and smell the flowers and have a taste of the Bay Area's finest spring produce.

                                                                      Last Brunch:
                                                                      As we refocus and improve AQ, our team agreed that although it has been beautiful, brunch service is too far removed from the style, concept, and mission statement of the restaurant. To that end, Sunday January 26th will be the last brunch service at AQ. We thank everyone who joined us for a lovely Sunday morning ritual over the past two years! If you are one of our best regulars or if you have never made it to brunch at AQ, we strongly recommend a visit for the final service on Sunday, January 26th. Pasted below are a few "food porn" images from brunches past.

                                                                      Private Dining:
                                                                      Later this year we will be unveiling a revamped and remodeled "Cellar Room" and "Whiskey Lounge", our two private dining spaces. We've hosted many memorable parties in these rooms and look forward to improving our offerings for your next birthday dinner or corporate function. We will be concentrating on providing banquet service and food without compromise--we feel that large parties should receive the AQ experience and should never feel that food or service must suffer due to party size. We look forward to raising a glass with you at your next occasion!

                                                                      Thank you for your support and patronage. We look forward to serving you.

                                                                      Cheers,
                                                                      --AQ

                                                                      1. re: OliverB

                                                                        Brunch was one of their strong suits. I agree it didn't match what they're trying to do in the dinner hours, but this move to become less accessible smacks of a bad business sense.

                                                                        Is it me, or are San Francisco chefs going out of their way to one up each other in eccentricity as soon as they gain a reputation? They never trust their concepts, or allow them to settle in, evolving organically. It smacks of immaturity.

                                                                      2. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                        Sounds like they'll still have an a la carte menu of some sort at the bar:

                                                                        http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/blog/...

                                                                        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                          It is indeed a bummer. What I loved about AQ was that I could have the style of food being served at the more high-end tasting menu places without having to do a tasting menu!

                                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                            From what they told Paolo Lucchesi, I think their idea is that TBD is now doing that so at AQ they can focus on competing in Michelin land.

                                                                          2. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                            On one hand I'm disappointed because it's less likely I'll just stop by for a quick bite, one the other hand $50 dollars for four course isn't bad at all at this level of food and dining.

                                                                            TBD has been too inconsistent to be a good replacement for AQ for casual dining.

                                                                            I hope they do get a star but Michelin has been quite cold on them.

                                                                          3. Here is an email I just got

                                                                            "We're making many changes at AQ and are excited to share the news with you!
                                                                            "AQ 2.0"

                                                                            nevermind....

                                                                            1. I had a very pleasant dinner at AQ last Wednesday night. We went with the 4 course menu. The highlights for me were the asparagus with pork collar dish, and the beef with fava beans and morels dish. My companion loved the artichokes dish in the first course. Everything was cooked perfectly, and 4 courses ended up being a nice amount of food.