His bigger plates, in particular, rely less on dairy richness than their small-fry relations; a steak of grilled walu ($19), for example, was plated atop a mound of cannellini beans enhanced by crisped flaps of guanciale (a baconlike form of cured pork) and halved green olives fried tempura-style. (Walu is one of those wonderful fish with meaty white flesh taken from the waters of the Hawaiian Islands.)
Kitchen voyeurs (of whom I am one) will appreciate the dinner bar a half dozen or so seats at the very cusp of the kitchen, with an unobstructed and intimate view of chefly goings-on. (This bar is not to be confused with the bar bar, an impressive affair nearer the front of the dining room, stacked with a full complement of booze.) The dinner bar, interestingly, is another echo of Boulevard, which offers similar seating. A further advantage of the dinner bar at Conduit: it's near the restrooms, so you can make a brief visit and perusal while the pastry chefs (who are working right in front of you) put together your dessert.
A sundae ($8) sounds like an 80 mph fastball right down the middle of the plate in other words, banal and sluggable but a major wrinkle at Conduit is that the pastry chefs make their own ice creams, such as one with cherries and chocolate chunks, a kind of boutique Cherry Garcia, creamy and rich as gelato or frozen custard. Hot chocolate sauce spooned over? A nice touch, as is the pair of triangular chocolate wafers stuck into the ice cream. The clear plastic cup in which the sundae is served, meanwhile, seems like a good joke whose punch line is "Downmarket." But really, you could serve ice cream this good practically any way and send people into transports. Bi-Rite Creamery? What's that?
A final huzzah for noise management. It is expert. Conduit isn't quiet and how could it be, with throngs of 1999-vintage tech androids swarming the place? but the floors are laid with some sort of charcoal rugs of hemp or sisal, and they soak up sound like sponges. Impressive!
Dinner: Mon.Thurs. and Sun., 5:3010:30 p.m.; Fri.Sat., 5:3011 p.m.
280 Valencia, SF
Noisy but bearable
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