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Bright Lights and the Big City at Epic Roasthouse

Hawaiian ono at Epic Roasthouse, which lists on the menu where all its seafood is from and how it was caught.


Epic Roasthouse on San Francisco’s waterfront is the kind of place you go to impress.

There’s the unparalleled view of the Bay from most any table, including the jaw-dropping LED “Bay Lights” flickering installation on the Bay Bridge.

There’s the over-the-top clubby decor by famed restauranteur-designer Pat Kuleto that showcases the dining room in a sort of pump-house-gone-glam look.

And of course, there is the menu, full of luxurious ingredients and spendy dishes including a 4-ounce A5 Miyazaki Wagyu steak for $98 and “An Epic Meal for Two” (a 32-ounce Tomahawk rib steak plus a 2-pound lobster) for $198.

The view outside the windows.

The dramatic dining room ceiling.

Part of the pump house-like decor.

Last fall, Park Ulrich, also executive chef of adjacent restaurant Waterbar, took over the same position at Epic Roasthouse when founding chef, Jan Birnbaum, departed. I had a chance to dine at Epic Roasthouse recently as a guest of the restaurant, though, it was a night when Ulrich was not there.

The “Bee Flight.”

A wonderful way to begin the night is with the unique “Bee Flight” ($12) of three sparkling meads by Heidrun Meadery of Point Reyes Station, the only maker in the United States of honey wine made in the traditional French methode Champenoise. There is Hawaiian Macadamia Nut, California Orange Blossom and California Avocado Blossom. They are all brut dry but with the unmistakable taste of honey in them, along with nice minerality. The macadamia one actually tastes nutty, the orange blossom one has a bright citrus note and the avocado one has a distinct grassiness. If you’ve never tried mead before, do indulge in this flight of fancy.

Kale salads seem to be everywhere now, so it wasn’t surprising to find one here, tossed with tangerines, pine nuts and ricotta ($12). The combination of ingredients worked well together, but the leaves were a little overdressed.

Kale salad with pine nuts.

Somen with uni.

Bone marrow crowned with crab gratin.

Somen noodle salad gets dressed up with sea urchin, daikon and red shiso. If you’re used to big bowls of somen at your local Japanese noodle joint, you’ll find the portion here much daintier, even at $18. The noodles are tossed in a creamy, sweet, citrusy sauce that reminded me a little bit of Thousand Island if it were made with sweet Japanese Kewpie mayo. The uni was not garnishing the noodles, but part of the sauce, which made its presence difficult to discern. That was a little disappointing because if you’re in the mood for uni, you definitely want to taste its sweet, creamy briny flavor full-on.

The bone marrow and Dungeness crab gratin ($18) with a white truffle glaze had a similar issue. A riff on surf and turf, the large bone had been split open, with its marrow sitting underneath very rich crab gratin. It’s a decadent dish to be sure. But the marrow itself gets a little lost underneath the creamy, cheesy crab.

Dry-aged ribeye.

Fries too good to pass up.

My husband can never pass up a good ribeye. Here, it’s dry-aged ($56) and comes in a manly 12-ounce portion. It arrived perfectly medium-rare, as requested. You can choose from one of four sauces to accompany it. But the meat is so buttery and unctuous, you almost don’t need anything else.

Well, except maybe a side of French fries ($7) that are super crisp on the outside and custardy within. Bernaise sauce comes on the side to dip into.

My wood-roasted Hawaiian Ono ($34) was meaty and moist. Just like at Waterbar, Epic Roasthouse lists on the menu where the fish came from and how it was caught. In this case, it was by long-line off the Hawaiian islands. Baby artichokes and leeks added a wintery touch, along with the subtle sweetness of blood orange.

Bananas, cinnamon and rum make this cheesecake special.

For dessert, we couldn’t resist sharing the most excellent, fluffy Bananas Foster cheesecake ($10) that was garnished with bruleed slices of banana, a cinnamony-rum sauce and candied walnuts.

Dinner might not have been 100 percent epic, but if you choose wisely, it definitely can be quite impressive.

Another San Francisco Waterfront Restaurant: Coqueta

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