Savory Morsels

The Culinary Adventures of a California Girl

Monday, April 16, 2007

***April 6, 2007: Slow Club***

Slow Club
2501 Mariposa St.
San Francisco, CA 94110

After a positive experience last week, I decided to brave another restaurant that does not take reservations. I had always wanted to try Slow Club but I had previously been put off by its unfamiliar location and rumors of long waits for tables. I decided the safest time to visit was a weekday afternoon, and last Friday I finally got the perfect opportunity.

Slow Club’s sleek, minimalist décor manages to at once be very chic and at the same time fit in with the surrounding industrial area. Although the restaurant was quite crowded with Slow Club’s eclectic patrons, my friend and I were lucky enough to get seated immediately. For lunchtime it was quite loud despite the purple velvet curtain which lines one wall and must muffle some of the noise. I can only imagine that at night, when there is a packed bar, it must be pretty difficult to hear your companion across the table.

While I could have ordered most of the menu (and have heard raves about the burger), we decided to split the pork loin sandwich ($9) and the salad with mahi mahi ($13.50). The pork sandwich came on a deli roll with a truffled crème fraiche, arugula, swiss cheese, and grilled onion. There was a little too much bread for me, but when I removed the top bun and added some of the lightly dressed side salad, the sandwich became phenomenal. Seriously, I was quite annoyed when I remembered I had agreed to split and could only eat half of the sandwich.

The mahi mahi salad was prepared with spring greens, kalamata olives, feta cheese, cous cous, red onions, red wine vinaigrette, and large grilled strips of fish. The amount of dressing was perfect (no soggy greens!) and the cous cous added a surprising and interesting texture. The salad was actually quite a nice light, fresh accompaniment to the more substantial pork sandwich. We didn’t have time for dessert, but we both agreed it was worth a return trip. While I am not giving up my OpenTable VIP status anytime soon, I am definitely going to continue trying out restaurants without reservations. Next on my list: Burma Superstar!

Monday, April 02, 2007

***March 24, 2007: Pearl Oyster Bar and Restaurant***

Pearl Oyster Bar and Restaurant
5634 College Ave.
Oakland, CA 94618
Last Saturday afternoon I found myself with friends who wanted to go out for dinner, and without reservations. While I normally avoid restaurants which do not take reservations, I realized that in this situation they were my only hope of getting in anywhere good. My friends and I decided on an early 6:15 dinner at the Pearl Oyster Bar and Restaurant in
Oakland. Luckily we snagged the second to last table for four, and ordered a flight of wines to celebrate (three half glasses at a reasonable $17). Pearl’s décor is sleek, minimalist, and arguably cold if it wasn’t for the wall behind the bar which constantly changes colors and the menu full of small plates which encourage sharing.

A glance at the seafood heavy menu made me happy my friends all liked fish. We decided to start with the tuna poke, the Thai ceviche, and the crab cakes. The tuna poke came first and was devoured very quickly. The fish was fresh, the condiments were spicy, and the julienned cucumber provided an invigorating crunch. While the Thai ceviche was also quite good for many of the same reasons, it was less exciting than the poke and suffered from being served second. Moreover, I was disappointed that the topping of fresh horseradish was too weak to taste. Finally, the crab cakes were cooked just how I like them- stuffed full of crab and only lightly fried. One of my friends commented that the crab cakes were almost as good as the ones he can get on the East Coast.
For our main courses we shared the seared sea scallops and the coffee, cardamom, and cacao crusted sturgeon. The scallops were paired with bok choy and, interestingly enough, a Chinese mustard sauce. While mustard and scallops never struck me as a match made in heaven, they actually were an amazing combination. The sturgeon, on the other hand, was overly seasoned. The tender, expertly cooked fish would have shined more with a lighter dusting of spices. I would still order the sturgeon again just for the creamy sunchoke-cauliflower puree.
At this point the service slowed down considerably, and it took our waitress 20 minutes to take our dessert orders. Once dessert came, I also felt that the quality of the food had dropped. While it is hard to go wrong with warm doughnuts and coconut-ginger tapioca, the desserts lacked the sparkle and inventiveness of our previous dishes. Admittedly, I may just be bitter because they had already run out of the panna cotta trio. Nevertheless, despite my disappointments, I will definitely be returning to Pearl. There are a number of items on the menu that I am still interested in trying. And, next time, I am going to order dessert first!