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For all you AQ lovers: TBD [San Francisco]


A 'fire-driven sequel' to AQ.


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  1. That is one of the weirdest decorated restaurants I've ever seen....

    Drawers in the tables? Typewriters? Tree stumps for loungs tables?

    1. aq has drawers in the tables?

      1. i know they change the decor for the 4 seasons but the food is prettier then it tastes. not cool

        1. my take after one meal:

          The decor is hipster hunting lodge with antler art but the food is pretty damn good. I personally hate the whole hipster love of faux hunting having been raised a real hunter but the it's not too heavy handed.

          The place was hopping and we didn't have a res. so we got a spot at the bar. The bar person/server was friendly and knowledgeable about the dishes and able to answer all our questions.

          We got a ton of food, more than we needed as two people but damn we wanted everything on the menu.

          The menu is plates ranging from 6 to 24 dollars and the price depends more on the ingredients than the size so ask your server what ones work best on entrees. For example the potatoes and sea urchin was 18 dollars but was a small plate which the clams at the same price were more entree size.

          The dishes we had were:
          1. Bread, butter & seaweed- 6, a high price for bread but holy crap do they make the perfect yeasty bread then grill to just the right char and then top it with seaweed that gives it the salt it needs. It was awesome.

          2. cured wild salmon, rye waffle with dill- 12 again this was simple dish but so damn good, the dish reminded me of eating lax on rye bread in Sweden on a cold winter morning. The rye waffle were so rich in flavour and the salmon was cured beautiful, the dill and the cream sauce were just perfect. If they do brunch they had better put that on the menu.

          3 young potato, sea urchin, kalapeno, scallon, 18- this dish was a total miss for us. It felt incomplete and there just wasn't enough sea urchin to potato ratio and I would have liked the potatoes to have more of a roasted or char flavour.

          4. pumpkin soup, onions and hay 12, this is some fancy dancy soup and yet it taste just like pumpkin soup should taste on a fall evening. Texture was added with pumokin seeds, the pickled onions and the hay.

          5.turnips, calf's liver and blackberries 12, This to me was such a homey fall/winter dish. The liver wasn't over cooked and it was cleaned pretty well ad the turnips and berries were the perfect counter point to the deep flavour of the liver. I like that they cooked all of the turnips not just the bulbs. Really satisfying dish if you like liver.

          6. cabbage, local clams, hot peepers, dashi 18, the French Spouse had this as their entree and they loved the clams, the bread and the broth. The cabbage could have used some braising before being put on the fire to grill.

          7. S'mores, 12 If you like to burn your marshmallows and then eat them, this is the dessert for you. Homemade marshmallows are a thing of beauty and then toasting them til they char is so damn good.

          They only have license for beer and wine but they have a ton of beer on tap and the prettiest beer tap despencer. They also have some non-alcoholic drinks that aren't afterthoughts like egg creams and grilled lemonade both very tasty.

          So the decor is more causal than AQ but we ended up spending more than at AQ. I think you could get by spending only 25 a person for a full dinner but I 30-40 per person is more realistic for the average dinner.

          It's wheelchair accessible for the first floor and bathrooms. There is a mezzanine that will have more tables in the future. The biggest issue is noise. There is no sound baffling at all and lots of hard surfaces. How hard is it to add some sound panels, heck cover them in plaid to keep with the camp theme. If you are hard of hearing this place would be an issue. I missed about half of what our server said and they were quite close to me. The lighting is good.

          1. Had an excellent meal the other night.

            The highlight for me was the "andouille," which to me was closer to a hot link, only supersized. Came with a really unusual fenugreek sauce.

            Buckwheat waffle with smoked rainbow trout and dill cream was great.

            Smoked cauliflower with gribiche and raisins was surprising and good. Same goes for the smoked scallop ceviche with persimmons and sunchokes, that was the most AQ-like dish of the batch.

            Country ham was great and came with a ton of pickles we nibbled on throughout the meal. Josey Baker toast with house-made butter and seaweed was good, but I preferred a similar dish I had at St. Vincent. Arepa with cheese and mushrooms was good though would have been better with some pork.

            Total for food was $72, decent value for the quality and quantity, that was plenty for two. I wish we'd had enough appetite to order the clam dish, that looked great.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              I also enjoyed my meal there a lot. In fact, I give TBD the nod over AQ, where my meals have been uneven and the service has seemed to worsen each visit. In contrast, our server at TBD was [enthusiastic and helpful, and everything we ate was both interesting and flavorful. The carrot dish, the scallop ceviche, and their version of a dolma (chard/feta/farro) were particularly notable. People at the adjacent tables also seemed very happy with their meals, and the dishes they ordered that we didn't looked great, too. Obviously, I disagree completely with the negative review in SF Weekly!

            2. How has the "focus on live-fire cooking" translated onto the dishes, or is it more a concept?

              1 Reply
              1. Anyone eaten a meal at TBD this month? Friends who have enjoyed several dinners report that the latest about a week and a half ago was a total flop due to staff change. This was before the fixed price menu went into effect. They also reported that cooking with fire has been cut back.

                TBD has been looking to hire a chef de cuisine since last month. Alex Phaneuf seems to have left a big hole. Others experiences?

                5 Replies
                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  Yikes. I didn't realize TBD had gone prix-fixe as well.

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    I wrote to them to ask why if they were trying to be a neighborhood place they opted for prix fixe only and was told that you can still get a la carte at both TBD and AQ at the bar if you are just stopping by for something light.

                      1. re: farmersdaughter

                        I had exactly the same thought about the change, but not your initiative. Thanks for following up. I'm still interested in hearing if the quality of execution is still there.

                        The ala carte supplements are indeed light, and calling them that makes them sound like not elements of a light meal but an addition to prix fixe that's not enough to satisfy. Though I will admit that the second week fixed price menu sounds more substantial, almost too much so.

                        Here's week of June 10:
                        Chicken liver mousse, granola & blackberry $9
                        Blistered padron peppers, apricot mustard $7
                        Seasonal pickle plate & olives $9
                        Grilled street corn, queso fresco & lime $6

                        Josey Baker bread, butter & seaweed $7

                        Barbecue sandwich "AQ"

                        Soft serve ice cream sundae $6
                        S'mores: marshmallow, chocolate & chicory $13

                        And week of June 17:

                        Rustic pork terrine with blackberries $8
                        Seasonal pickle plate & olives $6

                        Josey Baker grilled bread, avocado & seaweed $10

                        Blistered padron peppers, apricot mustard $6

                        Street corn, lime, miso & cotijo $6
                        Kale salad, cauliflower, raisins, pecorino $9

                        CATCH OF THE DAY "AQ"

                        Soft serve ice cream sundae $6
                        S'mores: marshmallow, chocolate & chicory $13

                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          I personally think the first two menus they've rolled out were really smart, and accessible. There's a lot on the menu I want, whereas the old system seemed like it could get pricey, with a big margin of error when ordering. I shy away from elaborate tasting menus, so these hit the sweet spot. I think it's a good idea, and hopefully the ala carte dishes will bring back variations on the hits from the fixed menu to handle people who prefer ordering that way.