Bar Crudo Celebrates 10 Years

Avocado toast -- and with uni -- at Bar Crudo.

Avocado toast — with uni — at Bar Crudo.

 

For folks like my husband, the antidote to too much fancy food is a good ol’ burger.

For folks like me, it’s fish.

Raw fish, to be exact.

So when I was invited in as a guest recently at Bar Crudo in San Francisco, I jumped at the chance.

After all, with the overload of cookies, rich appetizers and big hunks of meat at this time of year, what better way to give the body a rest than with raw fish — Italian-style.

Plus, the restaurant is proudly celebrating its 10th year.

The packed dining room.

The packed dining room.

You can sit at the bar, too -- if you can snag a seat.

You can sit at the bar, too — if you can snag a seat.

I still remember its teeny-tiny, original Bush Street location. Now ensconced on Divisadero Street, it’s still not huge. But the long, narrow quarters here definitely offer more breathing room.

On a recent Saturday night, it was packed inside, with even more folks outside, hoping to snag a table.

The appeal of this modern raw bar is easy to understand. Its attention is firmly on the seafood, which is impeccable, much of it sourced locally and sustainably. You can enjoy a glass of wine and a dozen oysters on the half shell, and call it a night. Or you can bore deeper into the menu to enjoy a handful of hot entrees, as well.

The crudo sampler.

The crudo sampler.

Of course we had to start with crudo. Five different ones were offered that night. You can choose one ($14 for 4 pieces) or a sampler of four crudos (8 pieces for $28 for two people). You can even get a sampler of all five types for an extra charge, which is what we did.

That night’s offerings included: Arctic Char with horseradish creme fraiche, wasabi tobiko and dill; scallop with pomegranate, chervil and Meyer lemon; butterfish with celery root, apple, pink peppercorn, and almond oil; Tombo tuna with citrus, chili, and yuzu tobiko; and Kona Kampachi with soubise, Castelvetrano olives, and Espelette pepper.

Each was fresh and bright. The scallop may have been my favorite. Its natural sweetness was heightened by the sweet-tart pomegranate arils and fragrant Meyer lemon. A close second was the Artic Char, rich like salmon, which, of course, just pairs so naturally with creamy horseradish.

My dining companion, a former executive chef, was impressed with Chef Melissa Perfit’s hand with the acid throughout the meal, knowing precisely when to use it — and how much — to really tie together and bring out the flavors in every dish.

I’m a sucker for uni whenever I spy it on a menu, so we couldn’t pass up the Uni Toast ($14) — crostini topped with avocado, uni, a touch of yuzu, and a fluff of chicory salad. I only wish the sweet-briny taste of the precious uni was more front foreward. It got a little lost amid everything else. So much so that olive oil was the predominant taste I was left with.

A delicious seafood chowder.

A delicious seafood chowder.

Whole Branzino

Whole Branzino

On a chilly evening, the Seafood Chowder ($8 for a cup; $16 for a bowl) hits the spot. It’s indulgently rich and creamy just like a great chowder should be. Dig your spoon in to find a motherlode of fish chunks, mussels, shrimp, squid, potatoes and bacon. With some crusty bread, this could be a meal unto itself.

But of course, we pressed on — to the Whole Branzino ($28), with cilantro, mint, pickled chilies and uni butter broth. Do dip your spoon into the soupy sauce so you can really taste it. Or ask for bread to dunk into it. It tastes of the sea with Thai-like flavors. The fish is flaky and so moist that you’ll easily pick it clean.

The last sweet bites.

The last sweet bites.

Lastly, the server brings a plate of hand-rolled hazelnut, coconut and chocolate truffles with honey-dipped almonds.

It’s a simple, honest, straightforward way to end a meal that epitomized all of that so well throughout.

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