Commonwealth (San Francisco, CA) [2]

Commonwealth
2224 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
Dining date: 11/29/13

commonwealth

My first two visits to Commonwealth were excellent. The food was creative, well-executed and delicious within a very well-priced tasting menu ($65 at the time with $10 going directly to a local charity). Given I don’t spend as much time in San Francisco as I used to, it’s taken me a full two years to make a return. While in town for Thanksgiving, the family returned for a post-Thanksgiving dinner.

commonwealth interior

Not surprisingly, the price of the tasting menu has risen but I think it’s still priced well at $75 for six courses (and on this evening, two amuse bouches). A la carte is a legitimate option (all plates priced in the teens); with our party of 4 we easily could’ve ordered one of everything on the menu and gotten more tastes for less money. However, we ended up getting the best of both worlds, ordering the tasting menu and adding a few supplemental a la carte courses. The restaurant still allows for the addition of these supplements at the a la carte pricing, effectively waiving any split-plate charge and will seamlessly integrate the courses into the progression of the meal. I love the idea. The wine pairing of six pours was an extra $40.

All meals at Commonwealth begin with a bowl of seaweed potato chips.

seaweed chips

duck confit, pomegranate, pickled ginger

duck confit, pomegranate, pickled ginger

The first amuse from the kitchen was this small bite. Rich duck and sweet pomegranate were the main flavor profiles to whet the appetite.

carrot and fennel soup, puffed farro

carrot and fennel soup, puffed farro

The second amuse was this soup, with the natural sweetness of the carrot shining brightly. The anise flavor of the fennel helped to temper this sweetness, while the farro provided a crunchy bite.

oysters poached in their shells, asian pear, horseradish, sorrel, fingerlime
MELON DE BOURGOGNE, Pepiere, Clos des Briords, 2012 Loire Valley, France

oysters poached in their shells, asian pear, horseradish, sorrel, fingerlime

These oysters, poached in their shells, were pretty tasty – plump and juicy. Floral and citrus flavors complemented while diced Asian pears provided crisp, sweet bites.

sea urchin, cauliflower, seaweed brioche, tapioca, ginger, kimchee, coastal succulents

sea urchin, cauliflower, seaweed brioche, tapioca, ginger, kimchee, coastal succulents

Our first of the supplemental courses, I enjoyed the cool uni with the gentle heat of the kimchi cauliflower. The seaweed brioche, being a sort of dense cracker, overshadowed the delicate textures a little.

abalone, matsutake mushrooms, rutabaga, myoga, sea grapes, shellfish dashi
FRIULANO, Kabaj, Ravan, 2011 Goriska Brda, Slovenia

abalone, matsutake mushrooms, rutabaga, myoga, sea grapes, shellfish dashi

A warm, comfortable dashi was the main element in this dish, showing off a smokier flavor than I’m accustomed to. A variety of mushrooms and sweet pieces of abalone provided extra jolts of flavor, though I would’ve liked the abalone to be more apparent somehow.

smoked sablefish, potato, lardo, sprouting broccoli, daikon radish, citrus vinaigrette

smoked sablefish, potato, lardo, sprouting broccoli, daikon radish, citrus vinaigrette

Our second supplemental course, the sablefish displayed a rich texture and strong smoky flavor. Creamy potato and a citrus vinaigrette rounded out the bites.

carrots roasted over seaweed, avocado, quinoa, purslane, carrot top pesto
PINOT NOIR, Falkenstein, Spätburgunder Spätlese, 2011 Mosel, Germany

carrots roasted over seaweed, avocado, quinoa, purslane, carrot top pesto

This dish had a lot going on with a myriad of earthy flavors from the greens, quinoa and both roasted and raw carrots. There were nice textures involved but I’m not sure everything came together as desired with the ingredients seeming a little disjointed.

My mother, a big fan of the sunchoke, opted to substitute out the carrot dish for this one. She seemed to enjoy it.

jerusalem artichoke, savoy cabbage, trout roe, tarragon, chickweed, oyster cream

jerusalem artichoke, savoy cabbage, trout roe, tarragon, chickweed, oyster cream

sweetbreads poached in beeswax, hearts of palm, cardoon, pear, truffle, chestnut cream

sweetbreads poached in beeswax, hearts of palm, cardoon, pear, truffle, chestnut cream

This was another supplement to the tasting menu, but we didn’t order it – it was gifted by the kitchen. The delicate and soft texture of the sweetbreads was contrasted by its crispy coating, making for some tasty bites. A sweet chestnut cream, pears and hearts of palm complemented the bites.

grilled pork shoulder, celery root, brussel sprouts, apple, miso, pickled mustard seed

grilled pork shoulder, celery root, brussel sprouts, apple, miso, pickled mustard seed

Our final supplement from the a la carte menu, the pork was tender and flavorful. I’m guessing this shoulder was braised for a little while, then finished on the grill. A rich, sticky and savory glaze added some extra flavor.

grilled venison, pumpkin, kale, black mole, huckleberry jus
NEBBIOLO/BARBERA, Tenute Sella, Orbello, 2010 Piedmont, France

grilled venison, pumpkin, kale, black mole, huckleberry jus

This next dish of venison was cooked well, leaving it juicy and tender. Black mole provided more depth to the dish while a pumpkin purée provided some sweetness. Huckleberries brightened everything up.

celery sorbet, verjus soda

celery sorbet, verjus soda

I found this to be an interesting intermezzo; to me, celery isn’t a flavor that can often stand on its own. Somehow, it was done well here in a few refreshing bites. A little bit sweet with a mild celery flavor.

beer meringue, chocolate ganache, pretzel crumble, crème fraîche ice cream
BRACHETTO, Malabaila di Canale, Birbét, Piedmont, Italy

beer meringue, chocolate ganache, pretzel crumble, crème fraîche ice cream

Our final course was this dessert. The tart creme fraiche ice cream balanced well with the sweet meringue, as well as the rich chocolate flavors. I was very intrigued by the beer meringue, though couldn’t taste the beer very clearly in it.

mignardises

mignardises

A second dessert came from an ice cream shop a few blocks away. A great treat even in the winter.

bi-rite

salted caramel, honey lavender

salted caramel, honey lavender

Our dinner at Commonwealth was a good one. I don’t think this meal was as impressive as my first two but it was still a strong effort. Given the food was under $100 per person for what amounted to be 12 courses, one would be hard-pressed to find something in SF with as much creative flair and range of flavors at this price range.


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