Bar Agricole – 1/8/11

Bar Agricole
355 11th St
San Francisco, CA 94103

I’ve been curious about Bar Agricole for a little while. Opened in August, much of the hype was around the fresh, artisanal cocktails. I wondered – how about the food? It’s called a ‘bar,’ so it sounds like the emphasis is on drinks first, food second. However, a lot has been said about the food as well. Food critic Michael Bauer just named it one of the 11 best new restaurants of 2010. Given my newfound appreciation for cocktail pairings (fostered at Los Angeles’ Test Kitchen), this was a must-try place on my list.

It took me a while to notice it, but the napkins are actually denim. Soft denim. Weird.

Tequila Cocktail with sweet vermouth, stonefruit bitters and orange

We started with this small cocktail compliments of the bar. It had a strong citrus and peach nose, and actually went down rather smooth with a pretty strong orange flavor.

Moonraker Cocktail with brandy, peach whiskey, cocchi americano and absinthe

This cocktail had a strong caramel flavor; slightly sweet, yet slightly savory too.

Ti Punch with white agricole and lime zest

The punch had a noticeable lime flavor and an interesting sweet/bitter interplay.

Grilled squid with meyer lemon, potatoes and cilantro

The squid was cooked well, yielding tender and rather meaty pieces of squid. The meyer lemon was instrumental in adding a little bit of citrus and acidity to accompany the squid, as well as the savory potatoes. Yum.

Dungeness crab with farro, dandelion greens and chili

The farro had a really nice chew to them – perfectly cooked. The crab chunks varied in size, and the smaller pieces were rather overwhelmed in the farro. However, when the ratios were correct, this was a delicious bite. A little heat from the chili and some extra body from the greens rounded out the dish.

Spaghetti alla puttanesca with a meatball

Next was this rather ordinary looking spaghetti. However, this was a very good pasta. The pasta was al dente with a sweet and tangy tomato sauce. The meatball was moist and had some good fresh herb flavor; this was a surprisingly strong pasta, especially after having some good ones for lunch at Cotogna.

Long Rhum Buck with ginger and lime

This next cocktail was probably my favorite of the night. Ginger and lime flavors were both evident, and worked very well together.

Wood oven roasted pork chop with savoy cabbage and scarlet turnips

The pork chop was cooked to a medium temperature. There wasn’t as much of a sear as I would’ve liked, but we still have a lot of food flavor. The pork chop was pretty juicy too, and I liked the savoy cabbage to go along with it.

Chicken al mattone with chickpeas and purple carrots

We were thoroughly enjoying the food, so we ordered one more entree. The chicken was cooked okay – it wasn’t dry but not that moist. However, the skin was nice and crispy, and the chickpeas and carrots combined for a little bit of sweetness and earthiness.

For dessert, we opted to head out to my favorite ice cream shop anywhere. It was about 10:30pm and 40 degrees outside – still, the line was out the door. The honey lavender at Bi-Rite Creamery is so good.

I was impressed with the food at Bar Agricole. This is in some part due to the level of expectations (I was cautiously optimistic going in), but the food here really is quite good. And the cocktails? I had high expectations and they did not disappoint. I expect Bar Agricole to remain a popular spot for the foreseeable future, drawing in both cocktail-seekers and foodies.

Father’s Office – 5/8/10

Father’s Office
3229 Helms Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90034

Father’s Office is one of the best (in my opinion – the best) gastropubs in Los Angeles. In my opinion, they also have the best burger in the city. Granted, I haven’t tried a number of the chief competitors (Umami Burger , Rustic Canyon, 8 oz., Foundry come to mind), but this burger has so far been my #1 – taking into account the Counter, Lazy Ox, 25 Degrees, Pie ‘n Burger, Back Abbey, and Golden State. This was the first stop in a mini tour of burgers/gastropubs with Golden State.

Father’s Office is an extremely popular spot, with those seeking chef Sang Yoon’s gourmet fare for reasonable prices, top-notch beers,  or just a place open late with food and drink. Yoon, who comes from a fine dining background, is one of the first in the trend of fine dining restaurateurs opening up burger joints.  While the menu consists of a number of great dishes, the biggest draw is the burger.

Office Burger – dry-aged strip steak, blue cheese, arugula and bacon-onion compote on French bread

The patty was a nicely cooked medium-rare – so juicy that the bottom of the bun was getting a bit soggy. I don’t think the French bread bun is anything special, and would maybe prefer a brioche-type, or something softer. The caramelized onions add a nice sweetness to counteract the arugula’s bite, and really go well with the beefy meat. A very rich burger – it’s definitely the best I’ve had in LA.

The sweet potato fries are also a big draw and are delicious. Nicely crisp, with a soft, moist interior.

TO paid with my burger, I had one of my favorite beers – Pliny the Elder. Father’s Office is one of only a handful of bars in the city to offer Pliny.

Father Office rarely disappoints. The biggest drawback, however, is that it gets so damn crowded all the time. Given the quality of the food, the impressive selection of beers and wines, and the relaxed atmosphere – it’s no wonder why it’s so popular.

The Golden State – 5/8/10

The Golden State
426 N Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036

After visiting Father’s Office, the second stop in our burger/gastropub mini-tour was The Golden State.  Similar to Father’s Office, The Golden State’s claim to fame is their beer selection, their burgers, and, uniquely, their beer floats (made with Scoops ice cream). I had to give their burger a try, to compare to FO’s.

The Burger – Harris Ranch beef, Fiscalini Farms cheddar, glazed applewood smoked bacon, arugula, housemade aioli and ketchup

The burger was not as pink as FO’s, but it was medium rare. The meat also wasn’t quite as beefy, and not as moist. However, make no mistake – this was a good burger. The patty was nicely thick, and the bacon was fantastic. I love arugula on a burger, and this was not an exception. The cheese was fairly mild and somewhat hidden. The bun also was rather un-extraordinary, being a fairly standard burger bun. This was a lighter burger – not as much as FO’s. Depending on what you want, this could be a good thing. We got sweet potato fries along with the burger, which I thought were way too charred…burnt..on the outside.

To drink with the burger, we got a Deschutes Jubel 2010. The deep, malty flavor was mildly sweet, and was actually relatively light. I tend not to prefer dark beers, but this wasn’t a bad one.

Also, we had a Stone Cali-Belgique. This Stone IPA, made with Belgian yeast, was pretty good. However, I think I like Stone’s Ruination better.

I’d come back to Golden State. The burger was good, not exceptional, but the beer list is quite good. I still need to come back to try one of their beer floats.