Last night we stopped into Maven, a new cocktail and bites restaurant in the Lower Haight (the old RNM space). Compared to the other spots in this neighborhood, they're going for something more refined and high-end, perhaps matching the gentrification that has crept up from Upper Mission and Hayes Valley.
Menu is mostly focused on drinks, with a short list of food: http://www.maven-sf.com/MavenMenu.pdf
The cocktails were the most appealing part of the menu, with playful twists on recognizable classics and interesting combinations I've not seen before. I'm not sure if Neyah White (whose work at Nopa I admired very much) consulted on the cocktail list, but he was sitting at the bar. I liked the tart Global Warming, made with aged gin, sake, Riesling and spoonful of absinthe sorbet.
French fries were fantastic. I think I've had a lot of awful fries lately, and these were just right--perfectly crisp, potatoey without being gummy starch fingers, not too thick or thin. We also liked the Lucky Dog Ranch skirt steak that we split. Most of the customers I noticed were drinking, a few sharing plates, so it'll be interesting to see if their entrees like arctic char and agnolotti remain on the menu or they'll have to narrow the focus.
Space is huge, with communal tables and the bar downstairs, and high-tops upstairs in a small balcony-like section. Pretty lighting. Service was strange--there didn't seem to be servers assigned to specific tables, so a revolving cast stopped by to ask us if we'd ordered, wanted refills, or wanted to look at the dessert menu not knowing we'd been asked the same question 90 seconds before by another counterpart. I got about a quarter cup of rice vinegar spilled on me by a waitress who didn't notice; it wasn't a big deal, but I think there's something about their serving system that feels too loose and disjointed for the quality of experience they're after (and charging for).
The bill was $90, which I guess makes sense but felt steep because the experience was more like dining at a bar than sharing a meal at a fine restaurant. The place was packed while we were there, so hopefully the drink tabs will be enough to cover their rent.
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