Sunday, January 5, 2014

1760 ON POLK IN SAN FRANCISCO...IT'S MORE THAN A NUMBER BUT LESS THAN EXPECTED

Expectations, I've talked about them before in relation to trying new places. Going in I usually try to temper down things and just go with the flow of the place and see what they offer. However, with 1760 I had a bit of hope since it is a new venture by the folks from Aquerello, a place I had one of the best meals I've ever had. From the appetizer to the entree to the dessert and the wine pairings, it was a spot on meal (and most expensive). So in the back of my mind there was a little excitement for this new place. The goal and mission statement is to be a local, organic, etc. ingredient driven mid-priced range restaurant. At least that's how I interpreted it.

Me and Miss O decided to give the place a try as a holiday dinner and it was surprisingly easy to get a reservation. Located on Polk Street, past the Tenderloin section, on a corner that used to host a Mexican chicken joint. The space is what I'll call many shades of gray and dark, even though two whole sides are windows to the street.

Once seated at the closely placed tables we are greeted with a server who explains a bit of the menu and says their plates are meant to be shared. Me and O exchange raised eyebrows looks and take a minute to look things over. When I hear that I immediately think small portion servings and start to envision shades of State Bird Provisions without the rolling carts. We try to keep an open mind and order up a few dishes to get started. First was the crispy octopus. 


It's octopus that's been sous-vide then grilled to crisp the outside with roasted peanuts, potatoes and avocado puree, that's what the menu said. But it also had cumin and tamarind salt, basil and lemon. These added ingredients will be a common theme in the dishes we had--the menu listed a few but the plates came out with more. But how was it? The first thing that came to taste was salty. The second was the texture of the octopus, which after sous-viding and grilling, was fleshy and, well, odd. Reminded me of that fake crab meat you can buy in the grocery store.  It wasn't what one thinks of with octopus, not a bad thing per se, but a tad off-putting. The roasted peanuts gave some good texture and crunch which was needed as everything else was soft. The avocado puree (which I'd normally avoid) didn't even taste like avocado, it was so laden with citrus it tasted like a lemon/lime. And true to plate sharing it was pretty much the size you see in the photo and cost $18. Equal to about 4 bites, which would be fine if they were really good, but alas they weren't. Next up were the roasted carrots. 


Coriander honey roasted baby carrots with goat cheese and pistachio (menu) plus raw carrot, parsley and some micro greens. We did like this dish as it hit all the salty, sweet and crunchy notes we enjoy. It was the best of the dishes we had as far as basic simple ingredients done in a tasty way. We didn't really taste the coriander, but for me that wasn't a big deal. The tang of the goat cheese was enough to enjoy. I'd say get this dish if you go, it will set you back $8. Then came the bbq pork belly, because--OF COURSE!


Slow cooked pork belly with cole slaw, purple potato salad and pickled red onion (menu) plus more micro greens, cracklins', shaved carrot bits and the slaw was a puree and onions were more of a gelee--the yellow smear and purple drops you see. The pork was nicely done, tender with a slightly sweet bbq glaze more than sauce. Thing is there just wasn't much pork, particularly at $21. The small bits of cracklins' gave some needed crunch. The slaw puree pretty much tasted like mustard--would have preferred actual slaw. Same with the purple onion gelee, would have liked it's original version instead. We wanted to like this dish but the peripherals with it just didn't come together for us. Thus we decided to just move on to dessert. 


Brown butter cake with apple bourbon gelato and cheesecake mousse (menu) plus candied pecans, sliced plum, celery shavings and an apple brown butter sauce. There's a lot going on here, like with most of the dishes we had. The main ingredient, the cake, was 3 small cubes that by themselves were on the dry side and alas, not very flavorful. As separate bits we liked some of this. The gelato, the mousse, the pecans and even the apple sauce thing were all tasty on their own. But together they just weren't cohesive. And then you throw in celery and plums and we were just left wondering why. 


Here we have chocolate ganache with hickory ice cream, bourbon caramel and marshmallow (menu) plus mint leaves and crumbled graham crackers, like a deconstructed s'more. (Yes we got 2 desserts--don't judge) The chocolate was in a nice curly cue that actually fell apart a few seconds after it was served--which is fine as we would just have cut it up anyway. The hickory in the ice cream was only slight, like a smokey flavor hint. It was kind of pleasant and mixing it all together did give the impression of a s'more roasted over an open fire. We both liked this for the most part. I think the mint was an unnecessary flavor addition. Fortunately they were just leaves we could pull off. Overall it was good to finish on a sweet note. Both desserts will run you $9.

Coming away from the place, the feeling we both got was that the dishes seemed a bit overworked. Somewhere between what the menu describes in a few ingredients and the dish with multiple ingredients that ends up at your table, it's as if someone made the decision to take it up a notch when they should have just stuck with what was stated and done it as best they could. I've seen many a chef on television and in person say one shouldn't over think a dish, yet sadly, that's what seems to be happening here. Almost as if they are testing and refining dishes to maybe try later at Acquerello. But that's just my impression. The did eventually fill up while we were dining and as a neighborhood restaurant it could cultivate a following. I do think that if their mission is to be all about the ingredients they need to cut some of them back a bit in order to let the main ones truly shine. 



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