I already wrote about my first experience here for Examiner, but after another meal that left me in disbelief, I have to write about it again. I'm making it my personal mission to make sure that anyone considering dining in the Mission doesn't overlook one of this areas best options: Bar Tartine.
I could name the decor as one - sophisticated, dimly lit, romantic, but with the charm of a neighborhood restaurant. Or, I could write about the service - friendly, attentive and knowledgeable, but laid back at the same time. I could assault you with details about the comprehensive wine list, or hell, I could even talk about the eye-candy behind the stoves: Executive Chef Chris Kronner, whose sight can't help but make your night a little bit better. But why expound about setting, service, and wine selection when it's the food and the food alone that is the real explanation for why Bar Tartine stands out from the crowd.
While anyone would be impressed with the food, my uninhibited love of Bar Tartine's menu may go beyond that of your average customer. If you read my blog then you may have noticed that local, seasonal menus, which emphasize the freshness and simplicity of ingredients without over-complicating a plate, are what especially gets this foodie all hot and bothered. Maybe its because I grew up eating food straight from my parent's garden, or maybe its because I'm part of a new generation of diners raised to appreciate a slow-cooked farm egg as much as duck a l'orange. Whatever the reason, the type of cuisine served at Bar Tartine is the kind that's most likely to have me licking my plate in public.
Did I? Well, no, but I was so close to licking up every last crumb from each dish that I began looking around to assess who might notice - and if I cared. Our meal started with crispy summer squash served with a chive/creme fraiche dipping sauce. Succulent, perfectly fried, and refreshing at the same time. Next up, baby radish served with a fig and walnut anchoiade; the discreet sweetness of fruit hiding behind the veil of salt elevates the refreshing, young, mild flavors of the baby radish.
Next came the most impressive appetizer: chicken liver pate served with grain mustard, a strawberry compote, pickled shallot, and pickled chard (stem) cooked with star anise and currants. While at first this seemed like too many accompaniments, not a single element on the plate was distracting; every ingredient added character and provided balance. It might've been made from chicken liver, but it didn't need to be foie gras to have me closing my eyes, putting my head in my hands, and repeating "Wow...oh my god that is good."
Also, if you haven't gotten on the bone marrow band wagon, it's time you hopped on. Few dishes can beat the fatty, salty, deeply rich flavor of this restaurant's roasted marrow bones - one of their signature dishes.
After taking a minute to find my second stomach, my entree arrived - a hamburger made with Prather Ranch grass-fed beef, a white cheddar aioli, pickles, lettuce, and served on a toasted brioche bun from Tartine Bakery. I don't know if using grass-fed beef is the secret, but that meat was so succulent and tender that it almost melted in my mouth...that's what she said. While some prefer a denser, just-off-the-grill flavor, this was hands down the best hamburger I've ever had.
Chef Kronner's contemporary Northern Californian cuisine, combined with those heavenly slices of Tartine bread, is an unstoppable force that will enthrall your palate and leave you completely devoid of any self-control. How so? Because even at the end of your meal, when you're 9 months pregnant with a food baby, it'll still have you reaching for more.
561 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110-1114