Baker’s Hours

June 3, 2009

San Francisco Foodie Tour: Bar Tartine

My second night in San Francisco, I decided to check out another place which I had heard a lot of buzz about. I had already gone to Tartine Bakery, so I figured, why not see what Bar Tartine had to offer. The exterior was identical to Tartine Bakery. Green paint, no signage, and the only indicator of what lay inside was a menu taped to the window. Just like with the Bakery, if you didn’t know about Bar Tartine, you would walk right by it. As a matter of fact, I did. Seems to me that Tartine rely heavily on their name recognition, and word of mouth to motivate people to seek them out. A risky business strategy in my opinion, but it seems to work for them.

I was alone that night, but it didn’t bother me at all since it allowed me to me to get a seat at the end of the bar, which gave me a great view into the restaurant’s open kitchen.

breadSour Dough Bread

First up was the sour dough. It is baked fresh every morning at the Tartine Bakery on Guerrero St. and delivered to the restaurant. In  my opinion, it was the best sour dough that I had tasted during my trip to San Francisco. The sour was very tasty, but not pungent or spoiled like other sour doughs I have tried. The bread was nice and spongy. As you can see in the picture, the air pockets are very uniform in both size and spread through out the bread. Best of all was the crust, which had a nice crumb to it. Not too flacky. I hate it when you bite into a piece of bread, and the crust disintegrates into a pile of crumbs all over your shirt and table.

scallopFirst Course: Dayboat scallop crudo, cucumber, horseradish, hibiscus, sorrel, hazelnut crisp, and chive oil

This was sent compliments of the chef. Not sure if it was to buy some time because the kitchen was behind or because during random conversation the Bartender found out that I worked in the industry, but it was free, and I wasn’t going to complain. The Scallop was fresh, not fishy or slimy at all. It’s a raw dish, so people who are not into sushi or the like should not order this. I, however, liked it a lot. My Fairy Blog Mother Lorelle would love this!  It was a very clean dish with no lingering flavors. By itself, I found the hibiscus was very strong, but when eaten with the rest of the dish, it blended nicely. It was a pleasant surprise, and I’m glad that I had a chance to try it. Thanks Chef!

gnocciMain Course: Potato gnocchi, hen of the woods mushrooms, Bloomsdale spinach, sage, Parmesan, and black truffle oil

I don’t know if it was because of Lorelle’s influence, but I found myself eating a lot of vegetarian meals on this trip. There was a lot of meat to choose from on the menu, Duck, Beef, Goat, but the Gnocchi really appealed to me. The Gnocchi was really good, not grainy at all, with a slightly crispy outside, and a warm soft interior. Despite the potato gnocchi, I found this to be a very light dish with just the right amount truffle oil. I was afraid that the truffle oil would overpower the entire dish, which it didn’t. The mushrooms were nice an meaty, so unless you are a raving carnivore, you shouldn’t be missing meat while eating this. Another great dish.

mezzoIntermezzo: Moscato d’Asti with green apple sorbet

This was another one compliments of the kitchen. At this point, it was clear that I was up to something. I was taking lots of pictures of the kitchen, restaurant, and food. Again, it may have just been them buying time between courses. Generally, restaurants factor in conversation into meals. Since I was eating alone, I was probably throwing off the kitchen’s timing. OR, they were just trying to impress a fellow cook. Either way, the gesture was very welcomed.

The wine was terrific; crisp and sweet, like all good Moscato d’Asti. The green apple sorbet added a whole new dimension to the wine. It was a little tart, which helped to counter act the sweetness of the wine. If you order this, you’ll definitely want to let it sit for a bit like I did. I sipped the wine, and tasted the sorbet, then allowed the sorbet to melt a little. The apple flavor mixed with the Moscato, completely changing the flavor profile of the wine. By letting the sorbet melt a little, I was now getting a faint bitterness in the wine which I loved.

cheeseCheese Course: Minuet goat’s milk cheese with walnut bread, Marcona almonds, Asian pear, and candied apple

Probably my favorite course of my meal at Bar Tartine. Minuet is a soft cheese made of a blend of cow’s and goat’s milk. It was very creamy with a slightest hint of lemon zest, that blended nicely with the walnut bread. The cheese had a very pleasant mouth feel which coated your mouth. However, if you don’t like that sort of thing, it was not so thick that it couldn’t be easily cleansed by eating a piece of Asian pear. The only thing I kind of didn’t like was the candied apple. The flavor was great, and it paired very well with the cheese, but the sugar was gummy, and easily got stuck to your teeth, which I found rather obtrusive. Although, when spread on the walnut bread with the Minuet… Sheer bliss!

dessertDessert: Meyer lemon trifle with almond cake, caramel, and Meyer lemon granita

I hate to say this, especially after the great meal that I had just had, but this was a bit of a disappointment for me. I got very little Meyer lemon flavor from the granita, although I did get every bit of the tartness. I wouldn’t have minded if the granite was a finer grit as well. The cream, however was delicious. Very well balanced and went perfectly with the granita. The thing that really killed this dessert for me was the caramel.

Like in the Caramel Banana Tart that I got from the Bakery the day before, the caramel was burnt. Because I got some burnt caramel from both places, I couldn’t tell if the chef wanted it that way, or the caramel was just being overcooked by an inexperienced employee. In my opinion, the rest of the dessert was light and clean, and the bitterness of the caramel ruined the dessert. I have met many chefs who prefer that well done flavor for their caramel, so I can’t really knock Tartine for the personal preference of the chef. I could see if maybe they were trying to contrast the clean flavors with a strong one, but it just didn’t work for me.

Overall, I loved Bar Tartine. Aside from a minor hiccup at the end of the meal, I thought that the food was phenomenal. I would definitely recommend visiting this restaurant is you are in San Francisco. Next time I am in San Francisco, I would like to go with a group of people so that we can try a bunch of the different menu items.

Song stuck in my head at the time of this post: Hard To Handle by the Black Crowes


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