For all you AQ lovers: TBD [San Francisco]
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.
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.
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!