We're in the midst of a restaurant explosion of sorts in San Francisco, one which shows few signs of letting up. Part of what I love is how spread out these new restaurants are -- Serpentine in Dogpatch, Local on 1st Street (something of a culinary wasteland, to be sure), and my current favorite, Fish & Farm in the Tenderloin.
My first taste of Fish & Farm was a couple of months ago, as part of a media dinner. I didn't feel right writing about that meal since it was fully comped, but I was torn because I knew that I'd be back on my own dime, and soon. I've now been to F&F three times, and I may be a little bit enamored.
The focus here is on local and sustainable, and while those concepts are currently being abused to within an inch of their lives, Fish & Farm is trying to do them right. For example, they're growing herbs on their rooftop garden, and they've committed to supporting local purveyors by sourcing most of their fish, meat and produce from within 100 miles of the restaurant.
All this sounds great, but without delicious food to back it up, it doesn't go very far. So how 'bout that food?
So far, I have enjoyed everything I've eaten at Fish & Farm -- and that covers a LOT of ground. A few key highlights for your enjoyment:
- Oyster & Pumpkin Salad ($11) blew my socks off. The roasted pumpkin was tender and sweet, while the panko-battered oysters were briny and crisp. I can't remember the last time I had such an innovative salad that I enjoyed.
- Pan-Seared Corvina ($25) has been on the menu in a few iterations, and both versions I've tried have been great. The delicate fish is never overpowered by the preparation, but makes a great vehicle for subtle but rich flavors. (One of the accompaniments was a sweetbread raviolo. The pasta was perfect, even if I didn't adore the filling, so I can't wait to try a main pasta dish soon.)
- And then there's the grand-daddy of them all -- a Marin Sun Farms (if I recall correctly) Rib Eye Steak ($38). That may seem pricy, but it's very much in line considering the cost of MSF's beef at retail. Anyway, I have told anyone who wants to listen that this was the best steak I ate in 2007. It's a very generous cut, easily shareable (unless you are C, who can eat his weight in good beef).
- Smashed Potatoes (~$6)... Catherine has already written about these here, and they really are that good.
The wine list is superb and extremely interesting, with maybe my favorite policy in the city: if a wine from the bottle list appeals to you, but you want only a glass, you can have it for a third the price of the bottle. Considering that 90% of the list is under $50, this is an easy way to try a wine you're curious about.
Cocktails are strong and delicious -- none was overly sweet, and all the herby/fruity ingredients are local and/or organic. In fact, the rosemary in the San Francisco Martini ($8) comes from the aforementioned rooftop garden. Bartenders are funny and charming, and great at making cool drinks on the fly, or picking a wine from a bare bones description of what you like. (Even when you insist you don't care for Chardonnay, you might eat crow when they make you taste a Chard they know you'll like. Hmph.)
As to desserts... I have admittedly not been wooed by any of them yet, though the Pug's Leap Goat's Milk Buche from the Cheese Course ($12 for 3), made me want to start rediscovering goat's milk cheeses again. The dessert menu doesn't seem to change as frequently as the savory menu, and frankly, I think that's a wise choice for a place this small and without a pastry chef.
Fish & Farm is a small place -- maybe 40 or so seats -- so you may find yourself waiting a little while, even with reservations. Because of how comfortable the room is, I've noticed that people linger long after dessert. Practice patience, enjoy a cocktail at the bar, and you'll be richly rewarded.
Fish & Farm
339 Taylor Street (inside the Mark Twain Hotel)
San Francisco, CA