Rich Table: Dinner in San Francisco
The question: If you have 7:30 p.m. reservations for two, and one of you is pregnant, will you get seated faster?
On a corner in Hayes Valley, Rich Table is a perfect glass cube tightly packed with a bar, a long communal table, small tables and helpful apron-wearing servers. There is also lots of wood. The text heavy one-sided menu had much to say. I didn't know where to look first. The one item that leapt out to me, in a pre-emptive Portlandia take that: "All of our ingredients are sourced from the best possible places––if you'd like to know more, just ask." But who was I to ask. I was in San Francisco, the uber of perfect produce.
Roasted cauliflower and chicory salad
My nine-month pregnant friend assured me she was up for a dinner out, but I still asked again, "Are you sure?" Yes, yes, she told me. Already being the mom she would soon become. I had been trying to eat at Rich Table for the last year. The closest I got was sending my brother and sister-in-law one evening on a night away from the kids. I stayed home to babysit. (They said it was great but hey, where were my leftovers?)
Rich Table is the creation of a chef couple, the Rich's: Evan and Sarah. They met at Bouley, fell in love, moved to SF, worked at Coi and now here they are on Gough Street. (Cute, right? All we need is a movie about it.)
Farro bread with fresh cheese and onion sprouts
The menu is an assortment of food you know (oysters, sweet potato, & pork belly) and don't know (richilini, farro bread, dried porcini doughnuts). Broken up into three sections, the menu has starters, pastas, and mains. But there are also bites, bread, oysters, and a tasting menu. For such a compact restaurant, the options may overwhelm.
First on the list, carrot soup, arrived with a pile of stuff in an empty bowl: fresh carrots, confit almonds, black onion powder and fresh herbs. Then, while the server poured from a Heath ceramic pitcher, I asked what they meant by confit almonds. She explained: the kitchen cooked the almonds in fat, not its own fat like a duck confit, but a slow "curing" process. The black onion powder began its life as a caramelized onion, it was then dehydrated and...poof. The soup was thick, almost a solid. I dragged my spoon through the bowl, grabbing in the other elements before bringing it to my mouth. It was a hefty taste, rich and round, more meal than appetizer. The burnt and tangy taste of the onion powder accentuated the herby taste of the carrot. I would order this again.
The roasted cauliflower with black garlic and grapefruit, was an easy upgrade of a simple dish you might make at home, with just the right twists of different. I made a mental note to make a vinaigrette with grapefruit soon. The farro bread, doughy, bagely rolls that tasted of a decadent brunch item. The cheese tasted like fresh cream cheese and the onion sprouts completed the idea of a Sunday morning onion bagel. A feel good decadent starter if ever there was one.
Farfalle with dungeness crab, yuzu and horseradish.
Farfalle with dungeness crab, yuzu and horseradish was my choice, and it was the one tiny misstep. It looked messy, and I couldn't taste the bright yuzu, a Japanese citrus I've most often had in cocktails. It was, just okay.
Gingersnap panna cotta? The pregnant lady wanted dessert. Who was I to argue with her? The bowl arrived, a hearty serving easily shared by two and a half. Pumpkin seeds dotted the crushed gingersnap topping and underneath it a creamy panna cotta, which was the perfect understudy to the spicy cookie layer. We ate slow, taking turns at the bowl until there were just a few bites left.
Gingersnap panna cotta
Rich Table is hard to get in, and, I've heard, even harder to make reservations. But oh is it worth it. And, the answer to the question at the beginning of this post? No. We had to wait twenty minutes for our 7:30 p.m. reservation, which was kind of a pain. But they sent out a little mea culpa in the form of the sardine chips, made up of fried sardines tucked into a potato sleeping bag and layered over a horseradish yogurt. It made up for the wait in one, two, three bites.