What does "summer" mean in San Francisco? Report of dinner at AQ.
A recent dinner at the bar at AQ was the best meal I've had in this price range lately, and for one dish in particular the kitchen was punching so far above its weight that the dish would have seemed of a piece at Crenn, Manresa or Coi.
The menu and decor emphasize the seasonality of the chef's approach--the glass boxes set into the bar were filled with bathing suits, flip-flops and sand. Menu, likewise, was themed and titled "Summer." A funny thing about July in San Francisco is that while perusing a menu of squash and watermelon, the fog rolls down Mission Street as thick as tumbleweeds in a Spaghetti Western. As the bartender fixed drinks, we both looked out the window at the 50-degree evening. "Stupid San Francisco" she said. It was a funny aside, but also true that the menu had the effect of walking into a chain store in Union Square to buy tights and a cardigan only to find the racks stocked with bikinis and beach cover-ups.
A watermelon appetizer described as "watermelon, lovage, cactus, buttermilk and basils" was more straightforward than I expected--the melons were shaped and compressed, but the execution didn't amplify or reconsider the elements enough to feel interesting--it was, basically, a big piece of watermelon on a plate. The punchy pickled rind and slick matchsticks of cactus appealed more than the melon brick.
In between the appetizer and second app I ordered as an entree, an amuse bouche arrived. The clams and raisins in broth were the highlight of the meal--a pairing I didn't expect that made perfect sense and was flat-out, knock-down delicious. Put this on the menu! I want more.
The gnocchi plate with tomatoes and whey was excellent--pillowy and well formed, the tomatoes and whey gave it a summery feel while still being substantial enough to knock a hole in the bleakness of the day. Bread by Oakland's Firebrand and salted butter from Straus Family Creamery. Both excellent as usual.
Overall, the service was professional, knowledgeable and warm without being too formal. Super enjoyable dinner and one I hope to repeat soon.
I went for brunch last Sunday. That's the only day of the week they're open in the daytime.
There was a watermelon amuse with cheese, basil, and I forget the other ingredient, unusual and good. Donut holes were warm and tasty. House-made charcuterie was awesome, mortadella with some rabbit in it and a spicy, chewy sorpressata. My rabbit confit "hash" was actually a composed dish, really good combination. Tasted the burger and eggs benedict, both very good. They still have really good wines at the bottom end of the price range.
Went to AQ for their Summer Menu 6/28/12 I took pics. They keep the menu for the entire Summer with some dishes coming out. Each season is a different menu.
It's walking distance away from Civic Center Bart so no need to drive. Best to come here with Reservations because it's really popular. We got there about 6:15pm on a Thurs and they told us we could have a "high" table which we accepted. It's higher than the regular tables with tall stools that swivel near the open table area.
Loud restaurant so you have to almost shout to be heard.
They make good Manhattan Drink & Old Fashion per waiter. B. got an Old Fashion he liked, I found it strong.
FREE slice of bread & soft butter with salt. They bring more bread if you want it.
Tried a few things:
Eel & Potato Terrain $14 - thin slices, I liked them both.
Watermelon $10 - grilled a bit small piece, one cantaloupe scoop. Nice.
Honeycomb Tripe $10 - B. liked it.
Striped Bass $25 - nice fish, something crispy, pepper, & sauce.
BBQ Pork $25 - nice. Small but thick piece of pork, tender, some creamy thing that tasted like cornbread, some beans.
chocolate dessert $8 - tasty & creamy.
2 blackberries with sugar that came with the bill. I liked it.
SF Health Fee 2 pc @ $1.50/pc - $3
SubTotal $116 + $9.87 sales tax = $125.87 before tip. Charged it.
Separate bathrooms. Women - 1 sink/1toilet.
Open for Sunday Brunch 10a-2p