St. Vincent [San Francisco]
I had a great meal at St. Vincent's last weekend. Looking on the online menu posted a few weeks earlier, there seem to be a few items on the menu that change their accompaniments as the weeks go by. Some of their preparations are deceptively simple, but they are skilled with creating good, but not elaborate, textures and there are lots of interesting flavor combinations. Given the homogeneity of menus that are seasonally focussed, I found it refreshing to see dishes that seemed more fitting for winter:
Rabbit meatballls were served with grilled figs : a few of the figs were overly charred, but otherwise this was a great dish.
Sunchoke soup with thin slices of burnt orange : burnt orange added crunch and a citrus flavor that paired really well with the heartiness of the soup
Beet pickled eggs with freshly grated horseradish : $3. Much more satisfying than deviled eggs.
Cherry tomatoes, corn, and flowered cilantro : well executed for such a simple salad. We loved the use of flowered cilantro.
Corn risotto with lobster mushrooms and purple basil : very enjoyable. In retrospect, could have used a meatier flavor.
Malted milk ice cream with "honeycomb" : delicious.
We enjoyed a delightfully "baroque" feast as my husband called it. Yes, from the marrow to tripe...it was a wonderful adventure. I savored the Alto Adige Schiavo wine with the gnocchi. The honeycomb brittle with malted ice cream topped off all of the prior savory tastes. Thumbs up. (We even brought our kids...They loved it.)
Stopped in last night. Even for a Monday, there were only a few other patrons.
We started with the peanut boil, which was spicy and a great beer accompaniment. It was only $3, and the portion was so big that we had them take the uneaten ones away once the small plates began. Big nutmeats too.
The Laverbread was interesting and hearty. The ingredients list sea laver, steel cut oats, chanterelles, and oysters and I can't remember what was what except for the oysters.
The sardine dish was fantastic. The sardines were too salty, but forgivable given their condensed flavor. I'd always assumed lobster mushrooms were named for their color, so it was a treat to eat a nicely textured and seafood flavored mushroom. The sweet potato, sea lettuce, and thickened buttermilk helped spread out the salt heavy aspects of the dish.
I didn't quite "get" the roasted sunchoke dish, which also had papalo, turnip, popcorn, and very tasty mission fig. The components were all good, except for the sunchokes. The sunchokes were too coarsely cut, and their skins too thick for the preparation. Cutting them to a smaller size with a knife didn't occur to me at the time (ah, beer...).
The bone marrow was excellent. We received three canoes of marrow. Two were filled with marrow and well prepared, and the third was a bit skimpy in marrow, but the marrow within had an almost bacony flavor to it. It was served with smoked chilies and lots of frilly greens, both of which were great for balancing out a potentially rich dish. Just the right amount of tartine bread helped scoop up the marrow
I was skeptical, but the fennel, sprouted rye, and pumpkin seed was a really nice side.
The ham chop was juicy and delicious. It was accompanied by nicely paired slices of cooked apple and an overly eggy spoonbread.
I enjoyed almost everything, but there's something about the food I can't put my finger on holding me back from wanting to return soon. I'll have to sit on that... but in any case, the server was great, and she had a good command of the food and beverage menus. We ate a lot of food and the dishes were sized larger than expected. Still, even with drinks, we still felt good after eating such a hearty meal.
I had sort of a similar experience...went here Thursday and had a good meal, but there's something keeping me from raving about it that I haven't been able to figure out.
I didn't find the portions to be larger than expected (I guess we had different expectations!) and my ham steak was good...if just warm enough. Temperature was a consistent issue in both courses.
My dining partner and I both started with the pear celery soup, which was almost cold. I got the disconcerting impression it had been microwaved, since it had warm spots and cool spots. I am NOT implying they did that, just trying to describe how odd the temperature was. Not enjoyable. Plus, the pear flavor was a bit more sour than I anticipated, which was amplified by the sharp cheddar cheese shredded on top…although I did like how they shaved wider strips of cheese over the soup instead of the classic cheese grater shreds - that was interesting. Something I’ll remember next time I make a soup.
I’ll readily agree with many others that their wine list is wonderful, and the beer list impressive. I also have to say we had a really great server who answered my multiples questions (the menu has a lot of unusual ingredients + somewhat vague descriptions) with charm and ease. He was also very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the wine.
So while I will be back, I won’t be rushing back. It’s conveniently located near my home and the service is really great and the menu is really interesting. I had a hard time making my choices, and I think I just made a bad choice with soup. Although ideally, you shouldn’t be ABLE to make a wrong choice.
I've had some very interesting soups the last few years, including ones where the make a small ice cube of the same soup, intending to create different temps --- also hidden bits in the bottom of the soup (but still liquid) so you get a different taste in different spoons.
This isn't to say your soup was made right. When I've seen this, the soup was delivered tableside with the icy parts in the bottom of the bowl, then the piping hot soup poured on top, just so you could know the effect was intentional.
Yet another great meal. Tried a few new things:
Bone marrow ($15), two big perfectly cooked pieces with grilled Tartine toast. It's rare that I get it cooked just right, people tend to undercook it so it's meh or overcook it until it's all runny fat. The server said the other night a couple of women got three orders in a row.
Perfect piece of halibut ($26) with fresh peas and smoked potatoes playing the role of bacon.
Dry-aged sirloin ($58 for two) was seared, sous-vided to medium-rare, then seared again. Good treatment for a challenging cut of meat, end result is reminiscent of prime rib roast. Came with a big portion of excellent potato gratin, some al dente Chantenay carrots, and salad. Great match for the 1999 Ch. Grand-Puy-Ducasse.
Had another great meal with lots of great wine. The new curry pickled egg was great. Peanut boil was a huge portion for $3. "She-crab" with uni, rice, and lobster and corn chowder was lovely with a 1995 Kalin Chardonnay. Laverbread, the seaweed was a minor note in a delicious Hen-of-the-Woods bruschetta of Tartine bread. Dug leg confit with griddled apricots (with the giblets substituted for the pits) and rye berries, great.
Chilled King salmon was literally that, raw, not bad but personally I would have preferred smoked or gravlax or poached and chilled.
My report might be more detailed if the wine list was not so exceptional. The bit of being able to buy half of almost any bottle on the list is great. Good thing BART is just a block away. I think the place eventually filled up but there were walk-ins available until maybe 8 or so.
re: Robert Lauriston
re: Robert Lauriston
I was able to walk in on during the week a couple of weeks ago and get seated promptly at the bar.
The wine list is excellent -- both the bottles and the by the glass selection. I had the rabbit sausage bourage (sp?), which I thought was excellent despite not generally being a huge fan of okra or polenta. It was rich and complex with a nice chile kick. Interestingly Michael Bauer in his two star review described the dish as bland. Maybe the chile is a new addition because there is no way you could describe the dish I had as bland.
Anyway, I would recommend ignoring MB and going there for both the food and the wine.
Wow. Amazing that they've been open only a week, food and service both excellent. Food reminded me a bit of AQ and Bar Tartine with, at the moment, a bit of Sean Brock southernness.
Medium-boiled egg pickled in some sort of beet liquid with fresh horseradish, butter-poached pretzel with coarse salt, rich cauliflower soup with dulse seaweed, broad beans with pork trotter and more herbs (including society garlic) than I've seen outside of a Vietnamese restaurant, baby collards in pork broth, Fiscalini cheddar, Tartine sesame bread, everything was delicious.
Fantastic wine list. Almost everything available by the 375ml carafe at half the bottle price.
Former Heart space on Valencia near 24th, much improved by the remodel. There were a few seats free at the bar all evening but I doubt that will last long.