Top SF Openings — February 2017Edit Post
Contributed by on Mar 15, 2017
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February brought more notable openings, including another two beer-centric restaurants — Fermentation Lab and Woods Outbound (Woods Beer’s outer Sunset location) — as well as two major cocktail bar openings, Rusted Mule and Over Proof inside ABV (my Liquor.com feature on Over Proof here).
Standout restaurant openings of February were Glena’s, Bayou Creole Kitchen & Rotisserie and ROOH. I have been to all of the above but here are my top three newcomers of the month… and why they stand out.
Bayou’s frog legs
Bayou Creole Kitchen & Rotisserie
Bayou’s cozy space
It’s affordable, casual, great for takeout but welcoming if you want to eat-in. The whimsy comes in the form of funky, playful artwork and Nola tunes. New Orleans is one of my favorite cities in the world (years of reviews and articles here) so I ever crave and miss its food, music and incomparable spirit. While that cannot be recreated, it is comforting to get the food done right… including po boys served on Leidenheimer rolls, flow in from Nola.
Eat This: The po boys ($9-15) are “real deal,” from fried soft-shell crab to roast beef au jus — I go for the fried oyster and shrimp combo. Wall’s heartwarming crawfish etoufée ($17), succulent barbecued shrimp (a special I hope will be a menu regular) and tender frog legs ($12) grilled in brown butter with lemon, garlic and parsley, are other immediate standouts.
On the rotisserie side, there’s Creole-spiced chicken and baby back ribs with whole chickens and pounds of ribs ideal for takeout and for bigger groups. Best of all, meats are sourced from one of my Dogpatch and butcher favorites, Olivier’s Butchery, and Bayou’s Louisiana/Gulf seafood is from the great Gulfish. Save room for comforting beignets ($6) dipped in caramel sauce.
Rusted Mule’s Bicileta cocktail
Entering this 1908 brick-walled space, Rusted Mule is a nautical, steampunk wonderland of dramatic chandeliers, metal and copper works (including the namesake rusted mule), a glowing onyx bar that changes colors and sea-colored flooring. Opened by Kristian Cosentino, Joseph Epstein, Christina Mae Henderson, Chris Mansury and Richard Vila, the lofty space holds a mezzanine with velvet couches and tables made from massive trees under skylights. Along with Cosentino, chef Glen Schwartz hails from Dirty Water and turns out fun bar bites like carrot corn dogs and soft-serve laced with the likes of apples and bourbon.
Drink This: With the initial menu inspired by the German expressionist 1927 film, Metropolis (stay tuned for more film themes behind future menus), there are a range of initial cocktail standouts, including one of four $9 house Mules on draft: La Mula shows off Espolón tequila, lime and ginger beer over crushed ice with fascinating layers from an infusion of ginseng-coca leaf.
ROOH’s jhalmuri bar
ROOH’s visually striking but imbalanced beetroot cocktail
While upscale Indian restaurant, ROOH (which means soul or spirit), is a mixed bag since opening February 2nd in SoMa near the ballpark, the most promising aspect is the food of chef Sujan Sarkar, who has cooked from London to India and brings that kind of international, forward-thinking ethos to his dishes.
As the first US restaurant from Good Times Restaurant Group in India, service aims to please and the decor is both industrial and colorful (love the luxurious, velvet, teal blue booths), even if clubby tunes feel too much like a Buddha Bar soundtrack from the 1990s.
Eat This: There is a seven-course tasting menu ($80), while the á la carte menu allows for a mix-and-match of inspired dishes like the jhalmuri bar ($10), a hearty grain “bar” dotted with avocado, tamarind gel and mint chutney, cooled by a spiced buttermilk sorbet. Asparagus pepper fry ($14) is another joy of lightly-fried asparagus heavy on black pepper over a garlic and potato mousse, with a dosa crisp on top. Sarkar’s breads, from naan to paratha, are lovely — and a bread sampler ($8) let’s you try a range.
ROOH’s tuna bhel
Tuna bhel ($15) is essentially tuna tartare-meets-bhelpuri, one of my favorite Indian chaat/snacks. This version is raw tuna tossed with avocado, tamarind gel, puffed black rice and baby radishes in togarashi spices. It’s a beauty and should be an immediate hit. Amid lovely fish and lamb entrees, Sarkar’s traditional butter chicken ($26) wows in a nearly perfect curry of red pepper makhani, graced with fenugreek and butter powder. It’s subtly spicy, lush, red and irresistible with the tender chicken.
Drink This: Unfortunately, the cocktail menu ($13 each) is where things are the most uneven. The menu’s cocktail flavor wheel is a memorable visual, helpful for those needing a guide through flavor possibilities.
But drink execution is decidedly mixed, with the Beetroot Kanji tasting watered down (like soda water) from the moment it arrived, the tequila and beetroot spice shrub barely distinguishable. A Mustard Old-Fashioned is a brilliant idea — mustard ghee-washed Four Roses bourbon — and subtle silky texture is there from the ghee, in keeping with the fat-washed cocktail craze of recent years. But the mustard, again, is indistinguishable and the one dominant taste of this cocktail is whiskey with astringency the dominant texture.
The most balance comes in the less original drinks — like the frothy, herbaceous Banaras Sour (Bloom gin, basil, cucumber, Green Chartreuse, egg white) — when I wanted to find it in the more original, Indian ingredient-driven cocktails.