Three of us went down the Axis Cafe for dinner last evening and I have to do it more often. Not only was the food very good -- two of the entrees we enjoyed were truly outstanding -- but the short wine list was exceptionally interesting and service excellent. Moreover, between 5-7, their happy hour offers two dollars off wines by the glass. There is a decent selection of bottled beers as well as the usual variety of non-alcoholic beverages.
The place is a bit of a cross between an upscale coffee house/lounge and a restaurant, with what looks to be a large outdoor patio for during the day. After 7, things are pretty quiet even on a Friday evening, so great if you want someplace for a semi private dinner.
We started with a shared beet salad, which was beautifully composed between golden beet slices, roasted red beet pieces, arugula, a light, whipped feta ('foam" -- which it wasn't really) and a hazelnut relish. While the beets themselves were perfectly cooked, the flavors of the dish as a whole didn't come together as anything more than a bunch of different parts.
We fared much better with two of the entrees:
The first was a very tender braised pork (shoulder?) with a subtle and delicious cherry sauce that really complemented the meat to great effect. This was served with one of the creamiest polentas any of us had ever eaten and some grilled asparagus.
The other was a grilled, sliced flank steak served with English pea risotto and lightly sugar glazed carrots. Complementing the medium rare steak was a very complex and delicious sauce with enormous depth of flavor (meat on the bit of sauce, not smothered in it)
Our 3rd entree, a roasted chicken with lemon caper sauce and a potato salad, was unfortunately exceptionally tough and sent back by one of my companions in favor of another order of pork.
Standout wines of the evening were a lovely Torrontes from Argentina and a minerally and aromatic muscat from Hungary on the whites, and a Mendocino syrah from Campion. We also had a taste of a really lovely, fruity Greek cabernet sauvignon that would have been my choice had we not bought a bottle of the syrah.
1201 8th Street, San Francisco, CA 94107