Baker & Banker Team Up to Create A Warm Neighborhood Joint in San Francisco

Baker & Banker? That would be Pastry Chef Lori Baker and her husband, Chef Jeff Banker, who have taken over the beloved Octavia Street spot that was once home to Quince and the Meetinghouse.

Their two-month-old, namesake restaurant, Baker & Banker, not far from the Hotel Kabuki, serves New American dishes  that are both familiar yet freshened with real flair. Think creamy cauliflower soup ($9) — only made anew with trendy Vadouvan curry. Or grilled top sirloin ($26) — with a short rib-stuffed twice-baked potato for a meat lover’s fantasy. The restaurant also bakes its own breads and churns its own ice creams.

The bistro, with its blackboard walls adorned with the names of the day’s cheese offerings and specialty beers, was bustling on the weeknight that I was invited in as a guest for dinner.

The meal started with a bang, with probably my favorite dish of the night — silky house-smoked trout atop a crispy celery root latke ($12). A tangle of shaved fennel was strewn over the top. Pickled beets added a zippy and colorful note. Horseradish cream gave it all a bright bite. But what really made the dish was the drizzle of fuschia-colored beet syrup. Thick like a molten candied apple, it was sticky, fruity and sweet. The dish was  so many things — smoky, sweet, tangy, crunchy, soft, cooked and raw — that all came together for a lively, exciting taste sensation that changed with every bite.

Jones Farm country rabbit and French prune pâté ($11) was served in an adorable little glass canning jar. Its surprising loose and fluffy texture made for a lighter-tasting pâté.  The pink peppercorns, which added a spicy floral quality, was a nice touch, as were the cornichons, which were actually shaved thinly over a handful of peppery greens.

For entrees, we chose the quail ($23), partially boned for a neater presentation, which was stuffed with wonderfully moist cornbread-pecan stuffing redolent of sage. A mulled red wine-huckleberry sauce was the epitome of winter.

A fillet of black bass ($26) was nicely moist with a crisp skin. Crispy shallots and a lemongrass-infused broth gave it Asian flair. The foundation of Thai shellfish risotto with bay scallops was tasty, but a little gummy.

Dessert time brought three brown butter doughnuts ($8) — among the most ethereal I’ve ever had — that were filled with huckleberry jam and accompanied by zesty lemon curd for dipping.

Kumquat-prune sticky toffee pudding ($8) arrived warm, soft and punctuated with that irresistible bittersweet taste of citrus rind. A dollop of candied kumquat ice cream and a puddle of blood orange sauce completed this homey, yet sophisticated dessert.

Because the pastry chef thought we needed just a little more sugar, she sent out a scoop of her housemade Bailey’s toasted almond ice cream. Rich and smooth, it was like a boozy, creamy frozen cocktail.

Indeed, had I had a cocktail, I would have drunk a toast to the new Baker & Banker, a neighborhood place with a surfeit of charm. Instead, I happily finished my last spoonful of ice cream in tribute.

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Date: Wednesday, 17. February 2010 5:24
Trackback: Trackback-URL Category: Chefs, Donuts, General, Restaurants

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11 comments

  1. 1

    That kumquat-prune sticky toffee pudding looks delicious! I’ll have to stop by there next time I’m in SF!

  2. 2

    WOw, this place looks amazing! I’ve never even heard of it, so thank you. I love that space. I still mourn the loss of the Meetinghouse so many years ago–that place had the best ice cream sandwiches (and biscuits!)

  3. 3

    You’ve done it again, great post, and loving the inclusion of the rabbit pate…with French Prunes?? amazing…rabbit just a great meat to cook with and eat.

  4. 4

    A lovely meal! The flavors of the trout & celery root latke dish sound incredible!

  5. 5

    Hungry Dog: You know you can still get those incredible biscuits? Chef Joanna Karlinsky, formerly chef-owner of the Meetinghouse, oversees Sweet Jo’s cafe inside the San Francisco Jewish Community Center. She still sells those awesome biscuits; you can buy them frozen to bake at home at your leisure. http://www.sweetjoscafe.com/

  6. 6

    I had a chance to visit Quince in the new location, and was wondering who what happened to the old space. I am swooning right now over Baker and Banker! The rabbit pate and quail could not be more beautifully presented. The mulled red wine huckleberry sauce sounds amazing!

  7. 7

    That smoked trout starter looks almost like dessert! Another place I’ve been meaning to try. Hope I can get out there one day.

  8. 8

    Whoaaa . . a doughnut fried in browned butter! Must be heavenly. That trout does look lovely.

  9. 9

    You sold me, I’m going soon sounds perfect! Those pics were incredible.

  10. 10

    celery root latke? ooh la la. I can hardly believe the prices, too. It’s such a bargain!

  11. 11

    I loved how you described the house-smoked trout dish. It makes it sound like such an adventure!

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