Commonwealth – 12/28/10
2224 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
In my opinion, one of the most exciting dining trends is chefs cooking serious fine dining in reasonably-priced, casual environments. These chefs are focusing on putting good food on the table – that’s what everyone’s there for; and, because they’re cutting out the expensive decor and extra waitstaff, the prices are very reasonable.
Commonwealth opened in August and immediately became a hot restaurant in San Francisco. SF Chronicle food critic Michael Bauer said about the food: “what lands at the table could have come from the playbook of the four-star Manresa or Coi.” Those were some pretty bold words – and Commonwealth is less than half the cost of either of those two.
So, when I was able to get a reservation for 2 on a (very) stormy evening, my mother and I ventured out to try this cuisine. We opted for the six course tasting menu which is priced at $60, with $10 of each menu going to a rotating charity (Meals on Wheels, in this case).
Instead of bread, Commonwealth serves these potato chips with seaweed.
They were normal potato chips (think Lay’s) with just a little bit of seaweed in them. Unique.
Dungeness Crab, green apple gel, Jerusalem artichoke, tarragon
I would have liked the tender, sweet chunks of crab on their own. Add to it that it was paired with the acidity of the pickled sunchoke (Jerusalem artichoke) and creme fraiche, and had a little bit of herbaceous complement of the tarragon, and this was a nice first course.
salt cured foie gras, umeboshi, seaweed brioche
I really liked this dish. The foie gras was delicious – rich and creamy as a spread to go with this wonderful seaweed brioche. Toasted to a crisp, the subtle sea flavor of the seaweed brioche went together nicely with the foie gras.
kabocha pumpkin, black kale, yuba, broccolini, coconut milk, peanut
This was my mother’s favorite dish. The ingredient list was very unusual; I was wondering how everything would go together. Even though there was no meat in this dish, it had a savory feel to it. The pumpkin and broccolini were cooked to an al dente texture, contrasting the tender, squishy yuba (bean curd). I thought the coconut milk foam was an interesting touch too. The flavors melded pretty well together.
sweetbreads, chestnut veloute, celery, asian pear, truffle cream
I am a fan of sweetbreads, and these were no exception. They were fried, giving them a crispy exterior and a soft, rich interior. The celery added a little bit of crunch, while the chestnut veloute added a little bit of richness and sweetness.
quince-rooibos sorbet, vanilla soda
This was a bit of a palate cleanser. The quince flavor was definitely front and center, and the sorbet had a nice richness to it as well.
cinnamon mille-feuille, cardamom marshmallow, burnt honey ice cream
Lastly, we had a deconstructed mille-feuille. The layers consisted of, from left to right, cinnamon cookie, chocolate ganache, cinnamon cookie and caramelized cardamom marshmallow. I thought this was a pretty cool presentation and delicious too. Putting them together was kind of like a s’more, and the burnt honey ice cream was a nice accompaniment.
I was impressed with this meal; I think it was the strongest of my week-long San Francisco stay. The menu was fun, inventive and executed well. Chef Jason Fox successfully melded together flavors that aren’t commonly seen on the same plate. The fact that he can put a menu like this together for $60 ($10 goes to charity), with a la carte dishes all being $15 and under – it’s no wonder this has been such a popular spot in the city.
Great post, I guess I have more places I’ll need to visit when I’m in nor cal next time.
By the way, I like the idea of “great food, cheap decor”. In the end, it’s all about food, decor is just a bonus.
Haha I know, right? And yes, there’s a whole bunch of places in SF to visit!