State Bird Provisions
1529 Fillmore St
San Francisco, CA 94115
Dining date: 12/28/12
This was one of the restaurants I really wanted to try while I was in San Francisco (probably #1 on my list). Opened on the last day of 2011, it was named to numerous lists for best new restaurants of the year, including being the number one best new restaurant in America according to Bon Appetit. Stories of hours-long lines (yes, multiple hours) and consistently strong reviews fueled the buzz throughout the year.
Not surprisingly, reservations are still very difficult to come by, probably one of the most difficult in the city. I checked their website multiple times per day for a couple of weeks, and the best I could do was a party of 2 at 5:30 (looking for any availability over a week span). The day before, some cancellations yielded a 10:30 table for 4; very late, but it allowed our whole family to dine together.
One of the distinctive features of the restaurant is its use of a dim sum-like cart. It’s loaded up with a variety of dishes and pushed through the dining room, letting diners get a glimpse of the dishes before choosing. And, if you don’t see what you want, anything can be ordered off the menu to be directly delivered to your table. It’s a fun concept that really works with a small plates restaurant, one I would expect to see duplicated…and not just in Chinese restaurants.
Rather than checking their website for reservations multiple times per day, I’d probably recommend walking-in for counter seating. You might have to wait a bit, but the counter offers a front-row view of kitchen operations and first pick of any dish before it makes its way onto the cart or into the dining room.
duck liver mousse with almond biscuit
The rich mousse was pretty tasty on its own, but the warm biscuits (scented with almond) were a great pairing.
porcini dip with rosemary buttermilk cracker
Another spreadable dish, it showcased clean porcini-cheesy flavor with crispy rosemary crackers. This was pretty nice too.
garlic bread with burrata
If I saw this on the menu, I probably wouldn’t have ordered it (it sounded kind of plain). But seeing this come out of the kitchen, it was clear that my assumption was wrong. The hot, fried bread was light and airy and just oozing burrata and olive oil. The garlic flavor was fairly subtle but present.
fuyu persimmon with caraway cream
This was one of the lesser memorable dishes of the evening, showing off predictable sweet and tart flavors.
Scallops, mussels and clams were bathed in a jalapeno salsa; a little heat complemented the seafood but this one wasn’t particularly noteworthy either.
shrimp, avocado, nori
A strong seaweed flavor and texture came from the fried nori, complementing the tender avocado chunks and grilled shrimp. Black garlic provided a mellow garlicky flavor throughout.
guinea hen dumpling with aromatic broth
A nicely-chewy ravioli was stuffed with rich and flavorful guinea hen, sitting in a comforting, savory chicken broth. Quite tasty.
CA state bird with provisions
The restaurant’s namesake dish did not disappoint. Fried quail (the state bird of California) was both juicy and crispy, while sweet onions and pecorino provided additional depth of flavor. I just wanted more of this addicting bird.
vinegar glazed smoked potato with tonnato
The potatoes exuded a strong smokiness that paired pretty well with the albacore tonnado. Crunchy onion rings added the crunch in each bite.
steak tartare salad with anchovy & castelfranco
We didn’t care for this one. Too much salad, not enough steak.
glazed pork ribs with swiss chard, togarashi
Luscious, tender ribs were delicious, especially with a slight heat from the togarashi spice. Swiss chard helped to balance everything out with its earthiness.
hamachi spring roll with fuyu persimmon
Cool hamachi and sweet persimmon were a good duo, but the spicy dip overpowered the subtle flavors a bit.
buttery lobster with farro “spezzato”
The lobster was cooked well, leaving it spongy and succulent. A very buttery-rich farro base added a creamy starch presence.
sweetbread meatball with quince & pickled veg
There was something kind of chewy inside the meatball, but I liked the flavor. Pickled quince added a sweet acidity to balance the richness of the meat.
red trout, mandarin, hazelnut-garum brown butter
The trout was well-seasoned and cooked to a nice crispy skin and moist flesh. Hazelnuts and citrus provided some nice complementary flavors to go along with the fish.
‘world peace’ peanut muscovado milk
Moving on to the sweet part of the menu, we began with ‘shots’ of this milk that really resembled Reese’s peanut butter cups.
cocoa pudding, huckleberries, white chocolate buddah’s hand crunch
Next we had a rich chocolatey pudding with a lot of fresh huckleberry flavor. The white chocolate brittle added crunch to each bite.
eggnog ‘ice cream’ sandwich, sherry chocolate coulis
This was my favorite of the desserts, which I thought was executed very well. Eggnog ice cream was delicious, particularly with the soft cookie, chocolate and almonds. A touch of salt was a difference-maker.
This was my favorite meal during my holiday stay in San Francisco. I felt like we tried a ton of flavors throughout this meal and most everything seemed thoughtful in concept and execution was pretty strong. Sure, there were some plates that I found more successful than others, but that happens over 18 different dishes. The spreads/dips, guinea hen dumpling, fried quail, pork ribs, trout and ice cream sandwich were excellent. State Bird truly lived up to its high expectations.