The menu did not give the bread's provenance, and Tartine would be a reasonable guess, but the question was mostly mooted by the tastiness of the topping: a coarse purée of brown mushrooms seasoned with berbere (an Ethiopian form of chili powder) and swabbed onto the toasts along with bits of basil and shreds of manchego cheese, for a hint of tang.
Seared Maine sea scallops ($6) came embedded in a granular purée of cauliflower (about the consistency of riced potatoes) that had been stewed alicha-style. Scatterings of minced chive helped this plate avert a complete white-out, as did the nice crusting on the scallops themselves, which can be overpoweringly rich and sweet but weren't here.
Usually a special vegetarian plate makes me suspicious, but Radio Africa's fantasy ($16) was a small ensemble masterpiece. The dramatis personae included lentils in two guises (green were mashed into something like dal; beluga remained whole), an expertly seasoned eggplant caviar, a wintry tagine of fennel and chard spooned over a foundation of couscous, and (also charmingly wintry) a chestnut salsa to bind the players into a whole of still-discernible parts.
The fantasy was so good that the menu's premier item, a chunk of true Alaskan cod ($20), crusted with flaps of artichoke heart and seated on a low hill of couscous in saffron broth, slightly paled by comparison. We devoured it nonetheless, while noisy birthday parties unfolded at spacious tables on either side of us.
As befits the abbreviated menu, dessert is typically limited to a single possibility, such as vanilla ice cream ($6) organic, in two scoops with a couple of fabulously intense lemon cookies, a few blueberries, and a puddling of chocolate sauce, the last two items combining in a strange harmony as well as providing a wealth of antioxidants and going well with coffee, which not surprising given the circumstances is available. Wine and beer too.
RADIO AFRICA AND KITCHEN AT COFFEE BAR
Dinner: Thurs.Fri., 6:3010 p.m.
1890 Bryant, SF
Beer and wine