The chilled tomato tower ($7.75) — basically a napoleon, layers of red and gold tomato slices buffered by disks of mozzarella and seasoned with basil and balsamic vinegar — would be a lovely dish in summer, when the tomatoes are soft, juicy, and deeply flavored. At the end of winter, one tastes mainly the chill. The mango quesadilla ($7.50) is a worthy attempt to dress up a possibly overfamiliar friend; the decorations include a nippy blend of jack and brie cheeses, the aforementioned mango, and slices of strawberry on top. The strawberry slices looked a little forlorn on the golden half disk, as if the door to a party had been shut in their faces and they were left to pace around outside. At the same time, their presence did suggest not just seasonality but the possibility of some clever innovation: How about pureeing them with some garlic, cilantro, cayenne, and lime juice into a kind of spring salsa?
One of the best of the Southern-inflected dishes is the bayou butter-BQ dippin' shrimp ($21.50), eight or nine big sautéed prawns accompanied by three lengths of grilled fresh okra — a surprisingly appealing bit of exotica — and not one but two dipping sauces: a peppery bourbon-butter number and a fruity-sharp jam of ginger and chilis that's reminiscent of something you might be served with pot stickers. I would say this dish is well worth its sticker price, while noting that the sticker price is slightly lofty for a neighborhood joint. And it isn't alone in being on the high side of $20; two other dishes also wander above the tree line, while several more are in the upper teens. But ... this is the new Noe Valley, the Beverly Hills of the Googleocracy.
This can be a depressing line of contemplation, and a ready antidote is the infantile pleasure of dessert: a slice of rich amaretto cheesecake ($7.95), say, with blood orange sorbet. Or just a cookie — maybe chocolate chip ($1.50) — if you're not nuts about such a rich finish. SFBG
Dinner: Wed.–Sat., 5:30–9:30 p.m.; Sun., 5–9 p.m.
Brunch: Sat.–Sun., 9 a.m.–2 p.m.
4123 24th St., SF
Beer and wine
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