Someone gave hubby and me tickets to the Pirates of Pensanze at the Yerba Buena Center Friday night, so we decided to try Oola for a pre-theater dinner. It was our first visit. Oola is located on Folsom between Fourth and Fifth, a short walk from the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.
I arrived early after BARTing over from work, so had a lemon drop at the bar. It was fine, but they used some type of mix instead of fresh lemon juice: if I was just going for a drink I'd probably head to Azie down the block instead (Azie does an excellent job with cocktails, and I think their lemon drop is the best I've found in the city).
Once hubby arrived, we were seated in one of the booths across from the bar. These are quite roomy and private for two, so I really appreciated being seated there. Since we were dining right after the six pm opening the place wasn't too crowded, but it was hopping by the time we left, with loud music, and I imagine some of the tables in the back could get noisy. No problem with excess noise in the booths though. BTW, it didn't matter to us, but in case others are wondering, we were by far the oldest two people in the place, and most folks seem to be fairly hip in dress and outlook.
As for the Chow: I started with a half dozen Kumamoto oysters, yum. Definitely the highlight of my meal. These were perfectly fresh: they looked so good that hubby was tempted to have one, even though he is not an oyster fan. Lucky for me, I was able to fend him off! No need for a mignonette with these, but nonetheless, I tasted the champagne based mignonette and it was as good as I can remember ever having, anywhere.
Hubby had the beet salad, which wasn't as succesful: just tiny bits of Humboldt fog cheese and watercress, pistachios, and the yellow sliced beets lacked flavor. This seems to be par for the course for beets I've tasted lately, expecially yellow ones. One would think beets, being root vegetables, would be good in winter, but I guess not. Anyway, I couldn't help but compare this salad unfavorable to one I had recently at CoCo500.
Mains: I had the duck confit, which I thought was tasty, but not great. Hubby had mahi mahi. He said it was good, but again, he wasn't jumping up and down either. Portions were on the small side, but given that hubby is on a diet, and I am contemplating joining him, we didn't mind. I don't remember exact costs of the mains, but I think both were under $20.
Thanks to that diet, we skipped dessert. We did have two espressos to wire up for the show.
Given the relatively reasonable food prices, the wine list, while interesting, seems a bit weighted towards higher end selections, with only two or so full bottles below $30, and many in the high double digits. Oh well, this does seem to be par for the course in SF restaurants these days...The choice of wines by the glass is fairly limited, though there are a fair amount of half bottles.
Service was very good, but. I guess I would call it technically good: timing was excellent, everything handled as it should have been, and yet: our server had the annoying habit of seeming to try to take every possible opportunity to try and upsell us. For example, after I ordered a glass of Pinot ($10), he made a face and told me that the duck was too heavy for Pinot (it wasn't) and should 'only be drunk with Cabernet' and tried to steer me instead towards a glass of the Frias Family Vineyard Spring Mountain Cabernet ($18 a glass). Earlier, when I ordered oysters, he suggested, 'oh and a glass of champagne with those, perhaps'. Uh, no. He also took great pains to tell us which were his favorite items on the menu, all of which where at the upper end of the range in each category.
We ignored him as best we could, and did enjoy the atmosphere, each other's company, and most of the food (and I loved the oysters!). Dinner for two with six oysters, a salad, two mains, two cocktails, two glasses of wine, espresso, and tax and tip, was around $135.
My conclusion: I'd go there again if I had an event to attend at Yerba Buena or the convention center. However, it won't be a dining destination for us.
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