Several months since its high-profile debut, Park Tavern remains the destination restaurant for savvy diners who range from barely past the must-be-carded Zynga demographic to the suits, the social movers and shakers and the usual San Francisco hipster types. Throw in a few tourists for good measure.
The team of Anna Weinberg (owner) and Jennifer Puccio (chef) have leveraged their success at the modest little Marlowe’s on Townsend with a far more ambitious new venture, an American style brasserie, in the location that had been home to the storied Moose’s.
The space is divided into three areas. Near the entrance is a marble-topped bar flanked by a long communal table. On the nights I visited, the energy here was palpable. The front of the restaurant, with low ceilings and large windows, faces out to the park, while the main dining room, done in understated shades of black and grey, with distressed wood beams, tile floors and cushy leather banquettes, completes the casual but sophisticated ambience. An open kitchen is located at the rear.
The menu is divided into several categories starting with small tapas-like plates that work as bar nibbles but do easily as well as appetizers. There is a choice of three different preparations: smoked, raw and fried. The deviled eggs, bacon, pickled jalapeno & chives are at once creamy, but with a bacon crunch, salty and spicy. The Brussels sprout chips, thin as phyllo, crisp and salty, melt in your mouth and are totally addictive.
The dinner appetizer list offers several salads and soups. Wild arugula salad, with mushroom conserva, porcini and charred vinaigrette is a tasty combo, but my order was slightly overdressed. The Waldorf salad strays successfully from the classic by using vibrant lemon vinaigrette instead of the usual mayo and includes pickled concord grapes.
Of the seven or so entrees, I’ve sampled four. Grilled pork chop with baby turnips, carmelized apple, Nueske’s bacon and mustard jus, dazzles. Although bacon with pork might sound a bit over the top, in this case, it isn’t. The pork is juicy and delicious .
Steamed mussels, with fennel sausage, leeks, crème fraiche, white wine was satisfying, but not a showstopper.
The same can be said for the Hawaiian tombo tuna served with crispy sunchokes, white anchovies, baby artichokes and salsa rustica. On its own, the tuna was quite bland, however it became somewhat more exciting when complemented by the accompanying flavors.
The coup of the evening was the “Poulet Rouge” with Bloomsdale spinach and Peewee potatoes. The chicken is prepared in a wood-fired oven on a vertical roaster. It arrived wearing crisp skin, standing upright, surrounded by the spinach and potatoes. Of course the potatoes had absorbed the cooking juices, which made them irresistible.
There’s a short dessert list, featuring a unique birthday cake for each month. We tasted the chocolate offering which was decadent. That’s not a complaint. Other desserts include chocolate crème brulee and lemon cheesecake parfait.
Service is attentive and knowledgeable.
The bar, featuring both classics and creative combinations, is certain to appeal to cocktail mavens. There’s also an extensive wine list by the glass and by the bottle. Corkage is $15.