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Apr 15, 2012 08:21 PM

Dinner at Bar Tartine - Report [SF]

A few weeks ago, I went to a dinner at Bar Tartine for a friend's birthday. We were a large group, so the menu was pre-planned for us, and it included a lot of the regular menu (I'm pretty sure everything we got was something that any diner could have ordered that night). I wasn't a part of the planning process, so I am not sure how much things cost for our meal (served in multiple courses, family style), but I can report on the meal itself.

Overall, I thought the food was excellent, but some things were better than others.

First course in included homemade pickles, spinach and goat cheese dip, and langos (fried potato bread). The highlight here was definitely the langos - it was like a cross between poori and fried dough, with sour cream, garlic, and scallions on top. I could have eaten an entire one of these myself.

Next course was chicories with preserved lemon, horseradish, coriander and radish; chopped salad w/ salami, haloumi, and other ingredient; warm beet soup with smoked brisket. I remember that the chicory dish was refreshing, but the big standout in this course was the beet soup. Holy cow, this was really good, and this is coming from someone who doesn't even like beets that much. The smoky brisket was fall-apart tender (it was hard to distinguish the pieces of meet from pieces of meat), and the deep purple soup was creamy and rich. It seems like some beef stock was involved in the soup itself. As of right now, it's on the regular menu for $14 and it is definitely worth that price!

Third course was chicken paprikas, nokedli, roasted cauliflower w/ seven spice and seaweed, and asparagus w/ cardoon sauce. Everything was very good, although nothing in particular stood out as much as the salads and appetizers had. The cauliflower and seaweed combo was different, and the experiment paid off. Meanwhile, for me, the chicken paprikas was a little too refined and rich. I would have preferred a more homestyle version; this was very fancy.

Dessert course was next, and for me, this was the weakest part of the meal. Cheesecake was fine, but a bit pedestrian, and chocolate dobos torte was a bit dry and plain. I liked the salted caramel that came on the plate with the chocolate torte - very salty. I would have honestly preferred to eat another order of langos for dessert. It would be cool if they could make a sweet version of the langos, maybe with some cinnamon and light dusting of sugar.

Overall, Bar Tartine was enjoyable (this was my first time dining there for dinner, so I never tried the previous chef's dinner menu), and I'd definitely return, particularly for the langos and the beet soup!

Dave MP

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  1. Birthday celebration here last night:
    Elderflower Cordial. Refreshing.
    Smoked onion goat cheese (dusted with powdered kale), kale chips, crispy shallots, sprouted rye bread, sliced radishes - delightful blast of smoky richness
    Chicories with creamy anchovy dressing, rye crumbs and kohlrabi - wonderfully perky balance of flavors
    Nokedli: farmers cheese dumplings, chard, and sweet corn kernels - jump in your mouth hot and cheesy goodness
    Fisherman's Stew; collard greens, paprika broth, hen of the woods mushrooms with chunks of sturgeon - excellent spiced broth and perfectly cooked sturgeon soulfully satisfying
    Candied beet and sunflower tart with bay leaf ice cream - loved this perfectly playful not-sweet ending
    (if I had read your post earlier, I would have ordered the Langos. Now, I'll have to go back soon)
    Service is well-paced, attentive, and friendly. Tartine bread is fresh and delicious at the table.

    1 Reply
    1. A few of us went over to Bar Tartine last week, one of my fave restos. And I was stunned to see how it has used the stepping stone of the Hungarian motif to create what I think is an entirely new cuisine. And it's amazing.

      To be honest, when I sat down and took a look at the menu and failed to find my fave dishes, I was crestfallen. No buckwheat noodles. No pate with housemade pickles and dark bread. And no chicken paprika. Sheeeeesh. I was almost poised to get up and go somewhere else. Even tho I knew that whatever would come out of the kitchen would be excellent, I was having a hard time making the transition.

      But simply put: each dish was dazzling. Just as inventive and successful as my recent dining experience at AQ, but earthier favors. And less formal an environment.

      Here's what we had (some overlap with Cynsa's meal):
      - The house-smoked goat cheese was dusted with powdered kale, and had crispy shallots, and yummy rye bread on the side.
      - Lentil croquettes with coriander yoghurt and cherry molasses: It was the plainer of the dishes, but it was most appreciated by the pescartarian in the group, aand spruced up by the delicious cherry molasses. And of course, the yoghurt was yummy.
      - I was completely overwhelmed with joy over the grilled tripe served in a paprika broth. The tripe was slightly charred, and totally flavorful. Thanks to the nice folks at the table next to ours for the commendation. Spot on.
      - Stuffed chicken with sauerkraut & king trumpet mushrooms was an excellent dish of the classic Hungarian style.
      - desserts: a lemon kamut pound cake with kefir creme, honey and bee pollen was light and delicious. and a most exotic and fabulously enjoyable Chocolate & fir tip ice cream sandwich, with black walnuts & burnt sugar.

      Tho much of it sounded wierd, all of our choices, at least, were amazingly successful. While I still miss the buckwheat noodles, I am already looking forward to the next opportunity to go back and enjoy this new and dynamic exploration food combinations.

      8 Replies
      1. re: escargot3

        I forgot to mention the soup!
        apple curry soup with hazelnuts and sour cream -- did not sound like something I would enjoy.
        But we almost scraped a hole in the bowl trying to get the last bit of it. It was fantastic.

        1. re: escargot3

          Cold fruit soups are a high point of Hungarian cooking. The most famous is sour cherry. Balla at Bar Tartine consistently scores wonders with these. Don't miss them when they are offered.

            1. re: escargot3

              Really looking forward to trying Bar Tartine in its current incarnation in November. Will cross my fingers he has a sour cherry soup on offer, as I haven't had one since I was a child.

              1. re: grayelf

                Not the season. That's an early summer thing. Should be done with fresh sour cherries. There was a report of an apple soup on menus these days, maybe in November. Be sure to have the blood sausage, fish soup, and langos (Hungarian fry potato bread).

                1. re: Thomas Nash

                  Recently they've been serving apricot soup.

                  1. re: Thomas Nash

                    Duh, that makes sense about the cherries. escargot3's report on the apple soup is a convincer! And the langos is a huge draw, as I haven't had it in ages either. Did not know it had potato in it.

          1. re: escargot3

            By "coriander," do you means the spice?


          2. This was one of my favorite restaurants until they changed chefs/menus. I just can't get into what they are serving now.

            1 Reply
            1. re: olyolyy

              I had one disappointing meal there last spring. Good starters, great bread!, lukewarm-veering-into-cold mains, very distracted, slow service. Thought I'd give it another shot, maybe it was an off night, etc., but just haven't had any desire to return.