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Restaurants & Bars 23

Epic Roasthouse [San Francisco]

Fine | May 24, 200805:06 PM

Kept waiting about 25 or 30 minutes for 9:15 reservation. No one suggested waiting in bar or offered any apology, though they were all friendly and congratulated us on our anniversary.

Impossible to make sense out of provenance--a list of sources on a separate page but nothing connected to actual menu items.

Cornmeal madeleines and pate-a-choux (cream puff dough) thingies served cold, which was not only startling but did a real injustice to them.

BH ordered a very dry gin martini and got something that resembled no martini I have ever tasted--weird, unpleasant flavor.

Noise level made conversation difficult and communication with staff even more so.

Spinach salad with bacon and poached egg truly delicious, even though most dressing discovered on bottom of dish with last few bites. Squid salad featured generous amount of black-on-one-side mollusks but had an overall muddy and muddled quality, amost as if there were squid ink in the dressing. Not really bad but not all it could have been.

There was a very long wait between first and main courses, made even odder by the fact that the busser snatched the appetizer plates away the second we finished, as though our main course were waiting to be served. No one explained, apologized, or even acknowledged the 20-30 minute hiatus.

To my experienced cook's eye, 32 oz was a generous estimate of our roasted rib eye for two($78) , even counting the hefty bone. The beef was drop-dead (!) delicious, served already sliced in strips, and cooked rare, not blue, as requested; however, it was tepid. When I commented on this, the waiter said the chef felt it should sit for quite a while after being cooked. I replied that a possible solution then would be to slice it tableside. (I grew up on this same cut prepared the same way.) Oddly, though the menu described a horseradish cream sauce, the waiter made no mention of it (it was in a pitcher on the plate with the beef) but instead served and touted a Bordelaise. Neither of us tasted the latter; the former was tasty, though good steak, IMO, not only never needs but is diminished if not demeaned by any sauce. BTW, though the waiter had replied to my query that the steak was grass fed (and organic), it was obvious from one bite that it was "corn finished." When I pointed that out, he had to go check to confirm then complimented me on my "palate," though anyone who has any knowledge of beef would have immediately realized this.

Corkage was $25. The sommelier(e) was excellent.

We had ordered two sides of potatoes (@ $10 each!) since the menu and waiter were both silent on the fact that skin-on fingerlings accompanied the beef. The steak fries were inconsistent, one or more tasting reheated, but the good ones were very good. The ember-roasted Yukon had what I consider the unmistkable texture and bordering-on-rancid flavor of a pre-baked and reheated potato. Our cabbage slaw ($9) was generous and pleasant.

The creme brulee ($10) was fine and garnished with nice fresh raw berries as well as a vile cookie filled with something that resembled lard or Crisco in taste; the mini serving of caramel and sea salt ice cream ($5) was "not worth the calories," devoid of any salt flavor and lacking much caramel flavor, but accompanied by a kid's delight of a peanut butter bar.

We were devotees of Birnbaum, especially in the later years, at Catahoula in Calistoga. Given the chef's long and storied career and the restaurant's horrific prices, Epic Roasthouse should not be guilty of any of the lapses mentioned in this report. I can only hypothesize that the restaurant's target clientele is not one expected to pay much attention to those details that make the difference between a so-so and a superb restaurant experience.

A friend asked if I would return. I said, surprising myself, "Yes, for the spinach salad, beef, and view."

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