BEER + WINE ISSUE Two new restaurants foreground tasty brews, and SF's unique new cider bar tickles taste buds
THE ABBOT'S CELLAR
Abbot's Cellar opened in July and is Monk's Kettle sister restaurant. The Lundberg Design (Moss Room, Quince, Slanted Door) space immediately impresses with 24-foot ceilings illuminated by skylights, and a long, 3000-square-foot dining room marked by reclaimed woods for a rustic, urban barn feel. A two-story stone cellar houses beer at proper temperatures, listed in a book that pulls out from the side of each table.
The volume lists more than 120 rotating beers — curated by co-owner and cellarmaster Christian Albertson with co-beer director Mike Reis — grouped by style (sours, saisons, etc.), with two pages dedicated to drafts. There's a wall of glassware suited to every type of beer served, whether Jolly Pumpkin's Madrugada Obscura Sour Stout from Dexter, MI, or Italian 2004 Xyauyu Etichetta Rame. A pricey ($14.50 for a six-ounce pour) Belgian Brouwerij De Landtsheer Malheur Brut is a dry, elegant Champagne-style beer served on the stem, one of ten offerings in a by-the-glass selection from large beer bottles rarely available by the pour.
As a temple dedicated to beer, the Cellar succeeds immediately. The bar and chef's counter are ideal perches from which to sip, accompanied by hand-pump cask engines (sample Firestone Walker's Unfiltered Double Barrel Ale from these classic pumps), and a reading shelf lined with Dulye's collection of cookbooks.
Chef, co-owner, and experienced craft beer restaurateur Adam Dulye explores flavors optimal to brews. Dishes — a la carte options or tasting menus: three course $45, $60 with pairing; 5 course $65, $90 with pairing — are well-crafted and artful. As at St. Vincent, some dishes stand well above others, although there's generally promising possibility. A coon-striped shrimp salad ($11) makes a dramatic presentation but, similar to crawfish, you'll struggle to pull a tiny bite of meat from the shrimp. Cumin-roasted heirloom carrots ($11), elegantly displayed with quinoa, oyster mushrooms and sprouts, lack distinctive flavor.
Alternately, braised rabbit on tender handkerchief pasta ($23), dotted with English peas and hen of the woods mushrooms, is heartwarming, particularly with beer. "Wow factor" is in play with a unique beef bone marrow ($12) dish. The bone is topped with crispy house pastrami, alongside spicy greens, more pastrami, pickled mustard seeds, and rye croutons — one of the more exciting of countless bone marrow dishes I've had. While roast pheasant ($24) with lacinato kale and non-existent (but listed) cauliflower puree was too dry, a generous pork chop ($25) is insanely juicy and satisfying over chewy caraway spaetzle, topped with grilled peaches. A dessert of warm, roasted parsnip cake ($9), co-mingling with whipped cream cheese and a ginger molasses cookie, is a homey highlight, lovely with the coffee-almond malt of Great Divide's Yeti Imperial Stout.
742 Valencia, SF. 415-626-8700, www.abbotscellar.com
UPCIDER: SF'S FIRST CIDER BAR
Ever since savoring a fantastic New England cider pairing with each course of a fall dinner at NYC's Gramercy Tavern years ago, I've wondered when we might witness the arrival of urban cider bars. SF's new Upcider and Bushwhacker in Portland are it thus far.
Two aspects of Upcider jump out immediately: Ozgun (Ozzie) Gundogdu and his sister's warm welcome — Ozzie opened the bar with former roommate and co-worker Omer Cengiz — and a second story upstairs space with floor to ceiling windows overlooking Polk Street. One can sit at the windows, gazing below at a busy street scene, enveloped by low-ceilings and a cozy glow, transported to a European bar or maybe even one in Turkey, Ozzie and Omer's homeland.
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