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Feb 10, 2012 10:45 PM

State Bird Provisions takes a gimmick and makes it work [San Francisco]

Didn't see any posts about State Bird Provisions. Went last night for dinner and going back in a couple days for another one. Here's my thoughts on it so far.

Highlights are 4 dollar desserts that are AMAZING and the trays and carts that come around with lots of tempting treats.

On to the good stuff. If there was one issue I had with the food is I found some of it unseasoned and not enough acid in some dishes.

We gorged and had eight small plates, one snack, one large plate and two desserts for 2 people. We could have easily been happy with 4 small plates and 2 desserts. The total for all of it plus sparkling water and one house made spritizer was 87 without tip.

Dishes we had:
1.oysters with vinaigrette 2 for 5 dollar-good quality and not overdressed
2.halibut tartare & quinoa with bonito-rosemary aioli $6 -best savory dish we had, quinoa added a great texture, rosemary didn't overpower the halibut and it was a good serving size
3.marinated raw scallops with yuzu-jalapeno vinaigrette $6- most disappointing dish, wasn't marinated enough, very little flavour, there was a nice contrast with some crisp veggie slices
4. Beet and radicchio salad with anchovy dressing. It was crisp and nice mix of sweet and bitter but not memorable and I would have liked a stronger anchovy taste.

SNACK: . chips and dip, homemade potato chips with large roe and dip. The chips need to be thicker to carry the roe and dip and it wasn't salty enough even with the roe,$5 -Wouldn't get again

5. sourdough, sauerkraut, pecorino & ricotta pancakes, opinions were divided on it, French spouse liked the texture and the taste, I found the texture seemed doughy and undercooked and didn't taste any sauerkraut. $6

6.half portion of CA state bird with provisions $8- It was deep fried breaded quail. I love quail. I was raised eating wild quail. This quail tasted like chicken. It was moist and juicy, it was coated beautifully and crisp but it did not taste like quail. It had been de-quail. It came with sauerkraut that wasn't pickled enough for me (but then again my German dad use to make his own).

7.ricotta cavatelli with wild mushrooms & spinach $16- the French spouse who eat most of this really liked the addition of crunchy bits and the mushrooms but thought it was overpriced for the portion size. I wish they would do two sizes of it, an 8 dollar one and a 16 dollar and have a larger portion for the 16 dollar one.

8. Oxtail on flatbread, I forget how much it cost. The flatbread was too thick although you want something sturdy with the oxtail and it's drippings. It came with two sauces. The oxtail was cooked perfectly but it's not as good as my grannies in terms of flavour.

We finished with two AMAZING desserts and all the desserts are only 4 dollars and they aren't too big like many American desserts and they aren't overly sweet but still full of chocolate goodness.

1. milk chocolate sesame crunch, clementine-cocoa jam 4, this was like a dark chocolate pot with layers of creme, candied clementine and topped with two piece of sesame brittle. You really had to get all the elements together and then it was complicated bliss in your mouth.

2.dark chocolate-pear ‘ice cream’ sandwich 4 This dish was the height of simplicity, two thin layers of perfect chocolate with frozen sabayon between them. And the French Spouse, a horribly picky dessert person, loved every bite of it. I did too.

With nothing over 20 dollars it's easy to think you are going to have a cheap meal but both the size of the dishes and the temptation of the trays going around will mean you are more like to end up spending 30-40 a person than 20-30 a person. For sure if you pick right you can order all small dishes and come out quite full only spending 25 dollar a person.

The wine menu is small but most wines are offered by the glass and many for 7 dollars.

Located in the Western Addition/Fillmore street area the decor and style is pretty hipster (as a middle aged women said to me when she say the sole bathroom was labled "brotherhood") but the clientele is a mix of more 30 and 40 years olds from neighborhoods north of the area. It is very noisy but the tables weren't packed in too tight, it was relief there was no wood on the walls, but YAY for vector art on peg board. You will be seeing more that in restaurant design. I really wish sound baffling would become a hot trend in restaurant design.

For only be open for 5 weeks, the service was good and they were able to seat us before our reservation since we got there early. They brought trays out very quickly and there was lots of good selections. The menu print was too small but I liked the way they kept track of what was ordered and that the menu stayed with you.

I can't wait to go back and try more dishes especially the duck ones.

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    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      the gimmick is doing instead of just having things of the menu, they are serving them "dim sum" style with a carts that goes around and trays that get carried around although in terms of food it has nothing to do with dim sum staples. The majority of our dishes were off the cart or trays.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          it works well especially with the cold dishes, the only problem for the diner is you want to try everything!

    2. Great review from Patricia Unterman too.

      Is there a bar area?

      2 Replies
      1. re: Windy

        no, it's a small space. the kitchen which is completely open is at the front of the restaurant and the dining area has three row of table with room between the rows wide enough the cart to get through.
        It's not a large place so it's good to have a reservation.

        I've been back a few times now and despite always planning on only trying a couple of dishes we've gotten 7-10 for 2 people each time. I've gone with different folks and I think the biggest complaint I've heard is that some of the seasonings are underwhelming especially when it came to the Korean inspired dishes but other than that the range of dishes has been impressive and pretty successful.

      2. We ate at State Bird Provisions last Friday, as a walk-in. No tables available, but we were able to stand at the "chef's counter," where the chef served as our waiter. Wonderful experience and great food. Will definitely return, especially before a Fillmore show.

        1. I've had the pleasure of eating there 4 times's really good. Probably my favorite restaurant to open in SF in a long time. The dim sum aspect is a hit. The savory dishes are smallish but affordable and of very high standard. The chef is very talented. You can go and eat as much or as little as you want/need depending on your night. There are always new dishes along with a few standards. The desserts are on par with any Michelin * in the bay area.

          It's fun, easy and delicious.

          1 Reply
          1. re: jacksonkev

            I love the desserts, I've been back 4 more times too and each time there has been new things to try as well as things that have become favorites.