First, a happy belated birthday to my dad! Thank you for indulging my neurotic food tendencies, developing an interest in ballet, and overall just being the best dad I could ask for.
October 13th marked the birthday of not only my dad, but of my good family friend/sister Leslie (my best friend Lauren’s sister, and fellow food lover mentioned here and here and probably multiple other places on this food centric blog). Though we were missing some key players (namely Lauren, living it up in Boston), our families decided to venture to San Francisco to celebrate with some great food (and drinks! Being 21 rules).
I was given the task of choosing the restaurant (a task I took on happily), and after some Yelping, I ended up choosing Absinthe Brassiere and Bar in Hayes Valley. I generally tend to gravitate towards modern Italian restaurants, so I was apprehensive about choosing French food at Absinthe but WOW I was so so happy with my decision. The restaurant itself is awesome, and set up similar to a brassiere in Paris. There are cute outdoor tables, and the inside is dim, very bustling, and slightly romantic – a really great ambiance, even it if was a little loud. Something I was very impressed with off the bat here was the large selection of unique cocktails – there were at least 20, and the majority of them sounded incredible.
I chose the Ginger Rogers, partly because it sounded good, and partly because I am a sucker for old movies (Q: Why is Ginger Rogers more talented than Fred Astaire? A: Because she had to do everything he did, but backwards!….I can thank my wonderful grandpa for that one). I didn’t know that it was their most popular cocktail at the time, but now I understand why: mint, ginger syrup, lime juice, ginger ale, and gin combined to create a drink similar to a mojito, but a little more refined. I loved it.
Foodwise, we chose to get a mixture of small snacks, share plates, and one entree to split between five people, which is something I definitely recommend doing at any restaurant. We are all pretty adventurous eaters so there wasn’t much of a problem, although my dad did wonder out loud “Who did I RAISE?” when I proclaimed my love for caviar. Here is what we got:
Soft Garlic Pretzels with Cheddar Mornay: These were featured on 7×7 as the thing to get when you come here, so I pushed to get them. I wouldn’t normally order pretzels off a menu at a place like this but ummmm these were amazing. It’s hard to describe how perfect the texture was, and don’t even get me on started on the cheddar mornay. I ran out of things to dip into it and started eating it off my fork.
Spicy Fried Chickpeas, with Berbere Spice and Parsley: This was another small snack plate, and it was the only dish that didn’t really wow me. I know I could probably make something similar to these at home, and they were almost uncomfortably spicy – not what I was expecting. To make up for those we also had some spicy pork meatballs (didn’t catch a picture!) that came with some delicious crostini. Noms for sure.
Beef Tartare, with Violet Mustard, Green Apple, Red Onion, Cornichon, Quail Egg Yolk, and Crostini: I know what you are thinking. Raw egg AND raw beef? BUT DON’T BE SCARED!!! Trust the chef and embrace the unfamiliar – this dish was seriously excellent.
Chanterelle and Artichoke Tart, with Poached Egg, Frisee Salad and Black Truffle Chicken Jus: As I post this I am getting sad that I probably won’t have this dish for a while. Super comforting, extremely fresh ingredients, and the egg made the dish. Loved this.
Shellfish Stew, with Blue Prawn, Manila Clams, PEI Mussels, Cranberry Beans, Bell Pepper Bacon Broth, Crostini: I always love me some shellfish, and this did not disappoint. The broth was extremely unique, and the seafood was fresh and delicious. This place must have some crazy stockpile of crostini because they came with a lot of dishes – not complaining though because bread = an excellent sop mechanism.
Hawaiian Albacore Poke, with Habanero Chili, Fried Garlic, Sesame Oil, Macadamia Nuts, Pickled Cucumber, Soy Sauce: Poke will always be my favorite kind of raw dish, and this did not disappoint. I looooooved the crunchy strips that topped this – there is nothing worse than a textureless dish of mushy fish. Beautiful presentation, as well.
Masami Farms Pork Rib Eye, Jalapeno Cheddar Grits, Braised Red Cabbage, Natural Jus: The only entree we ordered. There was some general exclamation around the table that no one really knew a pork rib eye even existed (essentially it was just a huge slab of pork), but this was a good choice. Not being a huge meat eater, my favorite part was the jalapeno-cheddar grits which were ACTUALLY AMAZING (and totally inspired me to make my own); they were so creamy with just the perfect amount of kick. The pork was very nice as well, and complimented the cabbage nicely.
So, as you can tell, the food was awesome. The service was good too, and I especially appreciated that they noticed Leslie didn’t enjoy her cocktail and comped it without having to be told. I could not recommend this restaurant enough, although it is important to reflect that the prices reflect the fancy presentation – this is probably a special occasion restaurant.
We finished off the night at Jardiniere (whaddup Traci Des Jardins and Top Chef Masters) with a glass of rose champagne and I got to fulfill all my foodie dreams by breathing the same air that a celebrity chef does.
Loved this night, loved the company, loved the food – thanks Dad and Leslie for being born!