Radio Africa & Kitchen, perhaps the grandaddy of pop-up restaurants in the Bay Area, as a February New York Times piece pointed out, dishes out Mediterranean-Northeast African fusion cuisine on Thursday and Friday nights at Coffee Bar. The tasting menu is a great deal that gets you everything on the short menu for $40, says Melanie Wong.
In this case, starters included a velvety edamame hummus (“delicious slathered on Tartine’s bread”) and parsnip-leek soup with just the right amount of smoked paprika for warmth and a jolt of salty Spanish ham. Yellowfin tuna kitfo crostini is an Ethiopian take on tartare, with just a light touch of spices; it also comes with a sea urchin créme fraîche mingled with microgreens. Chiffon-like wisps of butter lettuce, barely dressed, make up an exquisite salad with juicy tangerines, radishes, and creamy goat cheese. “So striking in its quiet simplicity and perfect balance,” Melanie says. The house-smoked trout and shrimp bacala, on the other hand, was on the salty side.
The mains (after an intermezzo of blood orange slices) didn’t disappoint, either. Melanie’s favorite was the sautéed striped bass with Ethiopian mixed vegetable alicha and roasted chestnut salsa. Sounds like a culinary mishmosh, but somehow it worked—super-fresh fish, exotically spiced collards and root vegetables, plus the sweet-and-savory chestnuts made for many an exciting mouthful. Roasted leg of lamb is great: “beautiful, medium-rare slabs of lamb rubbed with North African spices,” served with couscous, green beans, and chermoula. There’s a lighter version of the puff-pastry dish bastilla that uses mashed butternut squash and rainbow chard instead of the usual chicken or pigeon. Crunchy and light pastry gives way to the sweet and buttery filling that gets more complexity from citron raita and more of that roasted chestnut salsa.
For dessert, “chocolate decadence” pretty much lives up to its name, but is nicely balanced by the acidity of Meyer lemon whipped cream and hibiscus sauce.
The wine list is small but well-chosen, especially the whites and lighter reds, Melanie notes, with nearly all under $35.
Radio Africa & Kitchen [Mission]
1890 Bryant Street, San Francisco