Why You’ll Want To Go Back To Octavia Again and Again
There are restaurants that serve comfort food.
And then there are restaurants that are pure comfort.
Octavia in San Francisco is such a place.
Like her first restaurant, Frances in San Francisco, Chef-Owner Melissa Perello has a knack for creating places that are cozy, warm, and understated. They make you feel right at home from the get-go, as if you just settled into the corner of a favorite couch at your best friend’s abode for what you know will be a lovely, relaxed evening.
Well, if only your best bud could cook as beautifully and effortlessly as Perello and Chef de Cuisine Robert Hernandez, of course.
Even on a recent Monday night, the Michelin-starred restaurant was packed, as I found out when I met a dear old friend for dinner, with each of us paying our tab at the end. What an ideal place for a gals’ night out to catch up with each other’s busy lives.
My gal pal rarely eats bread nowadays. But she made an exception for the fine levain baked in-house, served with a smear of cultured butter on the rim of the bowl. I mean for $2, it’s a bargain for bread with this much tangy, fermented flavor and character. Our server said some folks come in for little more than a glass of wine and that bread. Who can blame them?
The “Deviled Egg” ($5) has become a signature and Instagram sensation. It’s not the picnic or potluck staple you’re thinking of. Instead it’s a sous-vide Dolcini farm egg cooked at 62-degrees Celsius to leave the orange yolk runny inside. It gets its name from the kick of earthy heat provided by a Fresno chile relish, and a sprinkle of Marash pepper over the top. It’s somehow sophisticated and homey all at once.
Curls of halibut crudo ($13) are artfully arranged on the curve of a shallow bowl, along with cubes of quenching yellow watermelon, cucumber and cherry tomatoes. Two shards of seeded lavash are balanced over the top. The fish is silky and meaty, and the overall effect just so refreshing and light.
When it’s summer, I can’t resist local King salmon, even this year, when supplies are limited, making the prices especially staggering. Here, a good-sized fillet ($34) is pure perfection with the skin incredibly crisp like an airy potato chip and the flesh so rich, unctuous and cooked to medium-rare. A touch of creme fraiche and colatura, an Italian salted anchovy sauce, give the dish a real meatiness and hit of umami with almost the taste of Pecorino being present. Sure you can cook your own salmon fillet at home. But chances are it’s not going to be as flat-out sublime as this.
Since we are both avowed chocoholics, it was only right that we indulge in the warm chocolate souffle tart ($11). It has a crackly crust like a chocolate crinkle cookie and a soft, pudding-like interior. Yes, it’s kind of like one of those ubiquitous chocolate lava cakes, but the crust adds a distinctive texture, making it stand out. Cocoa nib brittle and a scoop of salted caramel ice cream rounded it out.
OK, so we didn’t stop there. We also had the wildflower honey crumb pudding ($10). With its light, moist almost cake-like texture, it was a nice contrast to the indulgent chocolate dessert. With fresh berries, it was almost healthy. Well, maybe not, when you considered the honey toffee and puddle of creme fraiche also on the plate. In any event, it was worth every spoonful.
After all, Octavia is that rare place where everything just feels right.