Lunch Is Served — At Bird Dog
Bird Dog has been a hot ticket ever since it opened in downtown Palo Alto in 2015.
In April, it added lunch service, which is a much easier way to snag a table at the ever-popular restaurant run by Chef-Partner Robbie Wilson, and his wife, Managing Partner Emily Perry Wilson.
If you’re used to mindlessly grabbing a giant burrito or burger on the run, this is decidedly a more leisurely type of lunch that begs you to take time to really enjoy and marvel. That’s because Chef Wilson, who has worked previously at the French Laundry in Yountville, Craft in New York, and Maison Troisgros in France, creates food that is not only delightful but inspired. And when’s the last time you felt that way about lunch?
One of my editors and I were invited in as guests of the restaurant, shortly after the lunch menu debuted.
Something as ordinary as miso soup ($10) takes on new life here because it’s made with chickpea miso. Yes, fresh chickpeas, peeled, fermented, then pureed. The soup has the golden color of shiro miso and tastes of sunflowers. There’s also a whisper of sweetness to this version of miso soup that’s an unexpected little surprise.
Slivers of raw salmon ($16) are arranged with burnt cucumber, lush creme fraiche and biting horseradish so you get richness, smokiness and heat in every bite.
I couldn’t believe how excited I got about something as mundane as broccoli stems ($15). But the way they are done here is magical. You won’t be able to stop eating them. As Emily Wilson so rightly pointed out, most people are apt to just throw out the stems. I usually end up cutting them in coins to stir-fry. But Chef Wilson slices them vertically instead, exposing more surface area that he then sears with ras el hanout until tender and caramelized, before garnishing with burnt onion and tangerine. I can’t wait to try this technique at home.
An oozy organic egg ($11) is serves shashuka-style, afloat in a mushroom broth. Crispy potatoes ring the dish like a necklace, as if you were eating breakfast at noon.
The pine-smoked unagi sandwich ($19) is a stunner, served on a petite golden Dutch Crunch roll with mustard leaf kimchi for a dose of heat. The plate is encircled with airy, crisp nori chips that are as addicting as potato chips.
Juicy compressed chicken ($23) is hidden under a burnt cabbage leaf. Underneath all that is a puddle of congee, as thick as spoonable polenta, and redolent of ginger. It’s not your mother’s jook. Nor my mother’s, either. But one taste brought back vivid memories of my family’s beloved rice porridge.
For dessert, there was a moist financier ($9) the color of pale gray, owing to buckwheat flour. It was accented by burnt honey, which added a wonderful floral quality without piling on the sweetness.
For an even more refreshing bite, there was a dish of fresh strawberries ($9) served with strawberry granita, Greek yogurt mousse, and torn shiso leaves.
Lunch at Bird Dog will set you back more in money and time than your usual fast-food joint. But when you try it once, you’ll realize you deserve it.
More: Dinner At Bird Dog