Since rolling into American Chinese restaurants in the 1970s, pushcarts loaded with little dishes have become synonymous with Hong Kong–style dim sum. But at State Bird Provisions in San Francisco, owner-chefs Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krazinski have refashioned the dim sum cart to be the vehicle of their small-plates bistro, a place where you won't find a single shumai or steamed pork bun. Each night through the narrow dining room, servers wheel the custom-built, orange-framed cart (a midcentury-modern Scandinavian tea cart inspired its oblique angles), stopping to ID cold dishes like Miyagi oysters on the half shell, drizzled with a sauce containing dashi. Hot dishes likewise circulate on custom wood trays, and you can order some things in the traditional way, off a short printed menu of "Commandables." It feels like a cocktail party with a cool edge, or what local restaurant critic Jonathan Kauffman calls “a meal of constant motion and surprise.”
Clockwise from upper left: Stuart Brioza pauses with a tray of tofu salad; handmade ceramics add to State Bird's rustic vibe; sea urchin pancake; duck liver mousse with almond financiers; nori chips; smoked duck and fingerling potato salad; mini cast-iron pan with asparagus, lentil dal, and sunchokes; price markers ready for the cart.
Photographs by Christopher Rochelle / CHOW.com