Friday, January 27, 2012

Best Bars in San Francisco Include Alembic

Alembic Bar and Restaurant in San Francisco

The Alembic Bar is located in the Haight District of San Francisco, offering excellent food and drink served a la California style. Unusual combinations of ingredients and creative presentations delight the eye as well as the palate. The menu features items like pickled quail eggs, sumac potato chips with garlic-lemon yogurt and zaatar, and jerk spiced duck hearts with pickled pineapple and thyme salt. Dishes are what one would expect to see in a fine dining establishment rather than the modest facility Alembic resides in.

Once again, my friend Kate has brought me because she's printed out a voucher from the online discounter, Living Social. Though Alembic's food and beverage offerings are pricey, the coupon reduces the check by about half. On this occasion, we are joined by Joyce, a friend who lives right in San Francisco. She has never been to Alembic before, and orders a drink called The Promissory Note, which contains tequila, dry vermouth, canton ginger liqueur, honey and a dash of absinthe. "This place is so San Francisco," she remarks, "and this is the best drink of my life!"
Wine Club

San Francisco Eating

Instead of sourdough bread, a bowl of popcorn spiced with peppery herbs is brought to our table by a friendly waitress named Jennifer. Some of the online reviews for this restaurant bar denigrate the help, so we are pleasantly surprised by the courteous, prompt service we receive.

Beef and Sweetbread
Because of the voucher special, a two-course meal with a drink is predetermined. The cocktail appears to be a modification of their Gilded Lily, with gin, lemon juice, sparkling demi-sec and cardamon. It has the right amount of tartness but is too small, leaving one wanting for more. The entree is beef with sweetbread, artistically dotted with leafy greens. The beef is tender with an exquisite sauce.

Joyce orders the $12 Roasted Beets and Carrots, with goat cheese ribbon, quinoa, smoked date puree, vadouvan and corriander, a fussy dish that tastes delicious.

Roasted Beets and Carrots

Her dessert is called Cheesecake in a Jar, made with meyer lemon curd, huckleberry jam and candied coconut. It isn't much for $8 but the cream cheese is fresh and wonderfully enhanced by the crunchy coconut. Kate and I have a soft chocolate ganache, which tastes just like it sounds: delicate, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate.

Cheesecake in a Jar With Huckleberry Jam & Coconut

At the end of the meal, Joyce's bill seems pretty high at almost $50, but the chef seems to earn his keep with all the effort he puts into his creative concoctions. The recipes are well planned, the ingredients are fresh and all is carefully prepared.

Alembic is located at 1725 Haight Street, between Cole and Shrader Streets, and opens everyday at noon for lunch. The restaurant closes at 1:00 a.m. and the bar at 2:00 a.m. They don't take reservations, so it might help to call ahead on busy nights if time is a problem. It is in a seedy part of town, quite frankly, and one might have to dodge a few vagrants loafing on the sidewalk before entering. This may be off-putting to some diners, however the cuisine is definitely worth making a visit.

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