Binn makes a lovely little salad ($9) from organic strawberries; the slices are marinated in aged sherry and plated with effusions of wild arugula, almond slivers, a syrupy balsamic reduction, and a warm goat cheese fritter on top.
As if to offset the white-flour megadosings in the dinner rolls, the kitchen serves an Alaskan halibut fillet (at $24 the priciest dish on the menu) on the slope of a farro hillock. Farro is an ancient wheatberry much used by the Roman legions; it's quite similar to barley but different enough from both ordinary wheat and barley to be nutritionally valuable, not to mention tasty, especially when cooked with leek. (Although farro is a whole grain, Binn's grains were plump and fluffy, which mystified and impressed me until I made my own a few nights later, having first soaked the farro overnight, and voilà.) Apart from the fish itself, sautéed to a golden tender-crispness, the plate held a royal flush of red-beet slices whose vivid, Burgundy-colored sweatings added some welcome color to a floe of fiery but wintry-white horseradish cream.
The Spork experience might be at its most quasi-Southern when your swift and friendly server, clothed in black, presents the dessert menu. Beignets and root beer floats? Elvis would like those, but he'd probably like "Elvis has left the building" ($6) even more. Despite its arty deconstructedness, it was a housemade peanut butter cup beside a blob of vanilla gelato beside a chain of banana slices, with caramel sauce underneath and salted peanuts scattered all around. All of it was good and swirled together nicely, but the peanut butter cup was quite spectacular. It had been warmed through in the oven to the point of melting, and its peanut butter filling was granular and (unlike the blindingly sweet commercial kind) not particularly sugary a close relation of homemade peanut butter, which you can make in a food processor with good quality unsalted peanuts and some neutral vegetable oil as a binder. You could even scoop it out of the bowl with a spork, if you have one. *
Dinner: Mon.Thurs., 610 p.m.
Fri.Sat., 611 p.m.
Lunch: Tues.Fri., 11:30 a.m.2 p.m.
1058 Valencia, SF
Beer and wine
Loudish but bearable
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