I was excited to have dinner with my friend Kevin and to spend more time with his wife Leslie as I had just met her once. They LOVE food as much as I do and we all wanted to try Octavia – the challenge was a reservation. Kevin stayed up until midnight, 30 days before bookings opened and still couldn’t grab a table in the time slot we wanted. I nabbed a 9pm, but that is very late for any Californian who works East Coast hours and are up at 4am (Kevin included). Staying up till mid-night was proof of friendship, and score serious points to his food obsession cred!.
After some back and forth, we secured a 6:30pm table. When we arrived, the manager came to explain that the reason it was so hard to secure a 7pm, is because they don’t exist as they don’t book 4 tops on that time slot. She said he could have tried all night….fair point. It was thoughtful that she came to explain….(Kevin had sent them an colourful email expressing his frustration re: inability to secure the 7pm slot).
The space is adorable and they have a nice and open kitchen.
What we ate:
“Deviled egg” with fresno chile relish, marash pepper & spice: these are completely different from what you imagine when you read deviled eggs thankfully as I am not a big fan of the traditional ones. They serve one individual egg, soft boiled and oozing into the hot mix of chile relish and spices. Absolutely delicious!
Mushrooms “ a la Greque” with grilled levain bread: I am still not sure why they are “a la Greque” but it was a nice jar of mixed pickled mushrooms. The highlight was the delicious toasted bread but the mushroom didn’t blow us away.
Halibut crudo, pickled orchid melon, preserved lemon, coriander: simple and fresh, but didn’t blow us away compared to the egg or the salads. The presentation was gorgeous, with the little flowers and the black sesame adding a nice crunch.
Star Route little Gem lettuce salad, yogurt, feta, sweet herbs, pistachio: this was one of not, if not the best little gem salad I’ve had, but probably because it had the very tasty yogurt and feta dressing on top. But the herbs (dill primarily), pistachio with the dressing and the beautiful leaves were perfectly assembled and delicious.
Summer cucumber panzanella, garlic toast, tomato, summer squash: These were the best cucumbers I’ve ever had (maybe rivaling the cucumber salad at Ippudo NY) and I am not even a cucumber lover (like but don’t LOVE). Leslie thought the exact same thing and we were both wondering what they injected into them (jk) to make them so tasty, and so crispy. They were served as little batons and also in thin slices. The tomatoes were sweet and plump, the dressing was light and the garlic toast added crunch without overpowering the dish with garlic – soooo good!
King salmon, Blue Lake green beans, fresh cranberry beans, Nardello peppers: perfectly cooked salmon, al-dente beans and tasty sauce. Simple and lovely.
“Malfatti” ricotta dumplings, roasted tomato, fennel & mushroom ragout: not your traditional gnocchi as they were big dumplings and a little denser than gnudi but still very good. I was glad I shared the dumplings and the salmon with Leslie, as a full portion of just dumplings would have been too heavy. I could also have used even more mushrooms on the dish.
Pork Chop with sautéed treviso radicchio & roasted golden peach: a very generous and juicy pork chop served with ripe and delicious peaches (so many of the menus in LA and SF had peaches on the savory dishes this week!). Very good.
Warm chocolate soufflé tart, cocoa nib brittle, salted caramel ice cream: this was the marriage of a tart crust with a molten cake that was less molten on top. Very good chocolate dessert for chocoholics like me. Salted caramel is everywhere these days, but I am still not sick of it!
Poppyseed Angel food cake, meyer lemon, summer berries: I am not sure how this happened, but I liked this dish even more than the chocolate dessert. I am not an angel food fan and tend to prefer richer desserts but the cake was very tasty and you could even see the poppyseeds speckled throughout. The berries were so juicy and sweet and the whole plate had some crumble bits around for texture. The meyer lemon custard served in small dollops around the plate added a citrus note and creaminess. Very very good.
In sum: Octavia San Francisco defines elegance in simplicity – the kind of restaurant you can eat at over and over and will be there for a long time…vs. just the “hot new spot” that gets old and dies…or you eat there once and don’t care to really go back. Not flashy food…just really nice fresh good ingredients and flavors (these are Kevin’s words, which couldn’t capture our experience any better).
Octavia San Francisco http://www.octavia-sf.com/