A taste of old and new at The Saratoga in San Francisco.
Even though it opened in November, The Saratoga feels like it’s been a part of San Francisco for years — which I think is one of the greatest compliments you can bestow upon a bar-restaurant.
The newest establishment by the Bacchus Management Group is housed in a 1907 building in the Tendernob neighborhood that was once a hotel. The original brick in the interior was exposed in the renovation, as were its striking steel beam trusses. The effect is a modish industrial look that’s also timeless — old-school San Francisco spit and polished. I had a chance to check it out on a recent packed Saturday night, when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant.
A wide staircase sits almost in the center of the two-story establishment, making for rather tight quarters between tables. A dramatic steel and crystal chandelier of cascading sparkling hoops dangles from the ceiling into the stairwell, doubling as a sculptural art piece. Tables are set around the stairwell, both on the main floor and the one below. A massive bar with shelves of liquor lighted from below is the focal point of the first floor. There’s also a second bar downstairs. If you need to use the restroom, you’ll have to go downstairs and thread your way gingerly past all the people standing at the bar or sitting at the nearby tables.
The incredible chandelier.
A touch of neon in the dining room.
The Saratoga has that glam yet illicit feel the moment you step in the doors, owing to the quite dim lighting that’s broken up only by that showstopping chandelier and the small candle on each table. Mine was definitely not the only table pulling out a cell phone to use as a flashlight to read the menu. The darkness provides a certain edgy moodiness, but it also makes it hard to really see the food on your plate in detail. And that’s kind of a shame because the food is so playful and inviting here.
Beets and nothing but beets.
You have to love a “processed” snack food that has only one ingredient in the bag. What a rarity, right?
Crunchies is exactly that — freeze-dried fruit and veggies that have nothing added to them. They’re non-GMO verified, gluten-free certified, vegan, kosher, halal, and contain no added sugar or artificial flavoring. The produce is picked, then frozen before being freeze-dried. leaving it dry, light as air and crunchy.
And they’re pretty darn delicious, too, as I found out when I had a chance to try some samples.
Anthony Bourdain’s craveable cauliflower.
Anthony Bourdain is never one to hold back. That’s why fellow chefs and food writers love him.
So when he describes this dish as “This s–t is compulsively delicious,” you can bet that it is.
And I concur heartily after having made it.
“Roasted Cauliflower with Sesame” is from his new book, “Appetites: A Cookbook” (Ecco), of which I received a review copy.
It’s his first cookbook in more than 10 years. This isn’t a collection of necessarily cutting-edge cooking, but rather recipes for dishes that he loves to cook at home — well, on the rare days that he actually is in New York and not traveling the globe for his must-see “Parts Unknown” show on CNN. They’re also dishes that Bourdain thinks every home-cook ought to have in his or her repertoire.
Besides the recipes for fundamentals such as “Sunday Gravy with Sausage and Rigatoni” and “Chicken Satay with Fake-Ass Spicy Peanut Sauce,” you get plenty of personality and snark.
A unique chocolate dessert from Spain recreated and served at In Situ.
A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of dining on signature dishes from Japan, Germany, Denmark, France, Spain and Italy — all from the comfort of my chair at In Situ in downtown San Francisco.
Opened last May as part of SFMoMA’s $610 million expansion, In Situ has to be one of the most original restaurants ever created. Leave it to French Laundry alum, Chef Corey Lee of San Francisco’s Michelin three-starred Benu and Monsieur Benjamin, to fashion a restaurant that’s much like a museum, itself, in curating and showcasing iconic artworks that in this case just happen to be edible.
Latin for “on site,” In Situ, is where Lee has collaborated with chefs from around the world, as well as right here in the Bay Area, to recreate their most iconic dishes. At times, he has traveled across the globe to watch a chef cook a dish; other times a chef has merely sent a video with instructions.
Art on the wall behind a communal table.
The bright dining room that’s lively, but still intimate enough for conversation.
How many times have you longed to try some fantastic dish at some far-off restaurant, only to realize the odds are you would never make it to that destination? At In Situ, that wish is very much possible.
Heady with cinnamon, this easy chicken dish comes together in no time flat.
Inevitably there comes a time for those of us who work in a home office to hear friends or family members remark, “Oh, you can do (fill in the blank) so easily because you work from home.”
Inwardly, we cringe, yet outwardly remain calm as we explain that just because we work from home does not mean we have all the time in the world at our disposal.
Not by a long-shot.
Oh, sure, there is the luxury of being able to arrange our schedules to make it to the gym for a quick workout now and then or to pick up kids from school regularly. But the notion that we bask in long lunches without a care in the world is pure fantasy. More often than not, we’re gulping down a carton of yogurt in-between interviews and conference calls or deep in thought at the computer, trying to put the finishing touches on a story before diving into another one to write.
So just because our kitchen is steps away, we approach cooking just like anyone else who works outside the home: We save the ambitious recipes for the weekend, and live for fast and easy during the week.
That’s why you won’t find me tackling a croque en bouche on a Tuesday, but more something along the lines of “Lemon and Apricot Cinnamon Chicken.”