Dinner at Absinthe – April 6, 2012 – San Francisco, CA.
This brasserie has been around for 14 years, but who knew that it would pack such a punch. With it’s superb food and fun atmosphere it really needs to be taste tested again. It has recently won some note worthy awards: San Francisco Chronicle, April, 2012 – Absinthe named one of the top 100 restaurants in the Bay Area, Absinthe featured on SFGate.com. Eater SF, April, 2012 – Absinthe named one of the 38 Essential San Francisco Restaurants, Absinthe featured on Eater.com.
The first time I ever went to a Brasserie was in Paris with my father. He loved Parisian food, especially Onion Soup Grantinee. He took me to a place called Aux Trois Petits Couchon, 3 little pigs. The onion soup was out of this world. When I visited him in San Francisco years later he took me to Perry’s on Union Street, and it was just as good, if not better then Aux Trois Petits Couchons. (You can see a photo of my Dad and I at Perry’s below.) Absinthe will give both of these places a run for their money. By far the best onion soup I have had since I was a kid. This review is dedicated to my dear father Philip Henry Jackson, if not for him, I would have never been exposed to such an eclectic variety of foods at such an early age.
Brendan, my server, really made my night complete. With his slick demeanor he managed to compliment me in ways I never knew were possible. He said “You’re the best customer ever, and you can’t do anything wrong in my eyes.” He added just the right amount of charm to my already fun-filled experience.
Here’s what I tasted:
Marinated Mixed Olives with herbes de Provence, Meyer lemon. Salty, fresh and lovely, perfect start to a great meal.
Soft Garlic Pretzels with Vermont cheddar Mornay sauce. This sauce oozes with cheese and adds a great creamy texture to these nice soft mini pretzels.
Hearts of Romaine with garlic croutons parmesan, Caesar dressing. The croutons are so crunchy and filled with lots of garlic flavor.
French Onion Soup Gratinee – they caramelize their onions all day, and add a bit of sherry to the mix. It doesn’t have a lot of melted cheese on the top, but is still so rich. The best I have ever had!
Oysters, Beau Soleil, New Brunswick. They gave me 2 little oysters that were fresher then fresh, fantastic.
Hawaiian Hamachi Sashimi with salmon roe, pixie mandarin, Easter egg radish, and spicy-lemongrass ponzu, basil. The yellow tail was so shiny, and the salmon roe added that extra zing.
Atkins Ranch Lamb Sugo with pappardelle paste, pancetta, peas and fava, mint, crumbled-herb croutons, and fruity olive oil. Wow, what an amazing pasta dish, I am at a loss for words.
Potato-Crusted Arctic Char with little gem lettuce,
Yellow wax beans, red radish, and niçoise olives. This is a feast for your eyes as well as your stomach. Artfully presented, with rows of thinly sliced crusty potatoes, a must have menu item.
Absinthe Hamburger with Storm Hill Angus beef,
aioli, baby lettuces, red onion, smoked gouda, gruyère, gorgonzola, sautéed mushrooms, house-made pickles, and French fries. A crazy good hamburger, with all the fixings and then some.
Meyer Lemon Tart with basil meringue, Meyer lemon curd, candied Buddha’s hand.
Parsnip Cake with iced buttermilk, cocoa nib, mild jam, and oxalis. The pastry chef is from Michael Mina’s restaurant. Both of these deserts were works of art…very delicious.
The wines I tried:
Mungeard-Mugneret Bourgogne Pinot Noir ’09, France. It paired so perfectly with the French Onion Soup and the olives.
Luc Lapayre, “L’Amourier,” Minervois, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre,’09, Languedoc-Roussillon France. A perfect accompaniment to the lamb pasta.
Copain “Tous Ensemble,” Syrah ’10, Mendocino County, CA. This wine is so perfect with the hamburger.
Ojai, Biennacido, Chardonnay ’08, Santa Maria Valley, CA. ’08. The wine went great with the 2 deserts.
Chef Adam Keough, who worked for Michael Mina in Southern California, has completely revamped this 14-year-old spot. I met him at Best Chefs last year in Union Square in SF, and he kindly invited me to try his culinary expertise. Add to that the always great cocktails and the bustle of pre-and post-performance revelers and you have an enticing package in the heart of the Hayes Valley.
I can honestly say that my father would have been proud, and put his seal of approval on everything that Adam presented to me. When in Rome, do as Romans, but when in San Francisco come to this wonderful newly charged brasserie.
Absinthe Brasserie & Bar
398 Hayes Street
San Francisco, CA 94102