Rich Table: New American Cuisine in Hayes Valley

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I failed to get a table until the third try. Clearly, the rest of San Francisco had the same hunch regarding this addition to Hayes Valley.  Rich Table, founded by husband/wife duo Chefs Evan and Sarah Rich, exemplifies many of the traits that define San Francisco dishes today: local, New American, delightful. However, this establishment successfully utilizes an element that many restaurants lack: surprise. While I appreciate bacon donuts and seeing Mary’s chicken featured on every menu, Rich Table caters to my view that dining out is a form of entertainment.

Innovation is second nature for this couple. After all, the renovations for this restaurant were quickly funded for using the Kickstarter community, a resource often used to back projects in tech and film, not the kitchen. The meal began with a cocktail that paid homage to a plant that has taken over the Sunset: nasturtium. “Big Night” ($10), a vibrant green mix of mezcal, nasturtium and ginger, was presented with a single flower petal gracing its surface. Later, the bartender confided that his bosses were “market hounds,” which became clear as the food arrived.

I started with the corn fritters ($7), as well as the lamb tartare ($13), which was accompanied by shelling bean puree and flatbread. The fritters were spheres of corn heaven: succulent kernels were miraculously preserved whole within a delicate shell of corn meal and yeast. The lamb tartare was softer than the texture of fatty tuna and its gaminess paired well with the grassy spread. A pork belly panzanella ($24) followed, which was the least impressive dish of the evening, especially given the misguided use of pungent wasabi or horseradish in the dressing. Ultimately, I couldn’t justify the price tag. On a whim I ordered the duck lasagne ($19), where the richness of the duck was excellently complemented by plum and chervil.

One of the most delectable parts of the meal was the dessert: passion fruit curd with tarragon meringue and shortbread. I would have licked the plate if no one was looking. And true to the bartender’s word, I found passion fruit at the farmer’s market the following morning.

Rich Table

199 Gough St / (415) 355-9085

Price Range:  Under $30

Hours:  Open evenings except Tuesdays

Favorite Dishes: Menu changes regularly

Reservations: Yes