Firefly - 24th Street - Noe Valley - San Francisco
4288 24th Street - Noe Valley - San Francisco - CA 415-821-7652
Re-visited early December 2004, with two girlfriends
Almost exactly a year ago and with the same two girlfriends, I visited Firefly, which I had heard so many good things about. On that occasion, I wasn't impressed. This is what I wrote about that experience at the time: My tuna tartare was bland, flavourless and lacked any kind of punch from the 5 spices that were allegedly part of its preparation process. The choices of main courses were unappealing and didn't taste any better than they sounded. Dessert lacked any finesse, the waitress didn't smile once and the wooden tables are completely styleless. This restaurant wasn't bad but no where worthy of its accolades.
Because of my less than stellar memory of the place, I wasn't convinced when MB suggested we give Firefly another try. But I pondered for a while, thought again of all the good things I'd heard about it, and decided to give it a second chance. The ugly, quite uncomfortable, wooden tables and chairs are still there, but this time our waitress was super smiley, friendly and gracious. Before we'd even made our choices from the menu, it already felt better than the previous visit.
Hannukah Potato Latkes with Sierra Beauty Applesauce and Sour Cream 6.75 was my appetizer choice. This was a nice thin pancake with a crispy (almost, but not quite, to the point of burnt) surface and a soft inside. The applesauce was mildly spiced, offering a hint of excitement to the otherwise plain flavours. I have no Jewish background whatsoever so I asked my friend, P, who has, to try it for an authentic opinion. She declared it to be spot on, just like her mother used to make. This was a comforting start to the meal, proving that a dish doesn't have to be fancy or exotic in order satisfy.
P's Yummy Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Reggiano Parmesan and White Truffle Oil 7.75 totally blew me away. It is a fact known worldwide that I detest brussel sprouts as strongly as their strong flavour. I knew that P would implore I try one and because, well, they looked and smelt really good, I did. Their menu description - yummy - was not inaccurate. These sprouts were great (truffle oil can do wonders for unappealing food, obviously). But I now have to concur with P, that when Brussels are lightly cooked in oil instead of being boiled to death and presented with no other garnish or thought (which is how we both grew up with them in England), sprouts actually don't taste so bad after all. My mum is hardly going to believe I elected to eat a sprout of my own free will.
MB's Roast Butternut Squash and Quince Soup
with Crème Fraiche 5.75 was warming and comforting. I did try it but it didn't grab my attention like that provocative little plate of sprouts did.
MB's Holiday Braised Beef Brisket in Pot Roasty Gravy with
Horseradish Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Broccoli 16.75 was equally as comforting as her soup. This wouldn't have been a dish I would have chosen from the description, but I loved what I tasted of it. Succulent, juicy slices of melt-in-your-mouth beef were given a saucy touch by the gravy with the freshly grated horseradish in the potatoes adding a welcome little oomph. MB, a Texan gal who knows her cows said she was surprised the meat was Nieman's ranch because it tasted more like the beef from back home. I haven't been on a Beef-tasting course just yet so I am not sure of the difference. Either way it tasted pretty good. MB left her untouched broccoli on the edge of her plate. Naughty girl - don't you know you're supposed to eat your greens? I don't know why I am giving her grief, I would have made exactly the same move. That broccoli certainly looked boring.
P's Porcini Crusted Blue Nose Seabass with Braised Farro,
Dino Kale, Cippolini Onions and Sorrel Cream 18.50 was another comfort choice. The aroma of the funghi and a rich creamy sauce melded together with the wholesome little farro grains resulting a slightly heavy, but infuriatingly delicious plateful of food. (Infuriating, only, because I couldn't decide whether I preferred P's delicious fish or my own!)
I plumped for the dish of Grilled Mahimahi with Griddled Fennel Risotto Cake, Rock Shrimp Bouillabaisse and Roasted Chile Pesto 18.75. Pulling me out of the comfort zone my companions were basking in, this entree was fresh, sharp and bright. Tender white fish was perched on the little island of risotto floating in the sea of thin bouillabaisse, surrounded by a shoal of little shrimp. It was difficult to detect the flavour of fennel in the risotto but I loved the character griddling imparted, a crispy outside and the soft pillowy centre. The roasted chile pesto was not hot as I had expected it would be but it had a clear mildly sour flavour that heightened the freshness of the fish. This was a light, healthy main, not a deliriously decadent one. No worries there, I had been provided with the perfect excuse for ordering dessert.
My choice of sweet was stellar. A beautiful, perfectly-formed little Warm Apple Charlotte with Caramel Sauce and Crème Fraiche 7.00 was a delicate, delicious and perfect end to dinner.
P's Warm Flourless Chocolate Cake With Vanilla Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce 7.50 didn't fair so well with her. She declared it to be dull and dry. After no more than two spoonfuls she announced that it was unsatisfactory and laid down her spoon to rest. Sitting happily with my tangy little apple treat, I didn't feel even the slightest temptation to try her reject.
Because it was part of the Prix Fixe I decided (in an unusual move for me) to end my dinner with a decaf Caffe Latte 3.50. I shouldn't have bothered. It tasted peculiarly watery and unappetizing.
My faith has been restored in Firefly. It's one of those places like The Slow Club and The Public where the food turns out to be much better than its description on the menu would have me believe. I don't think I am going to be able to persuade Fred to visit anytime soon, though. This vegetable heavy, eclectic, and without fries kind of menu really isn't his cup of tea. No worries, I'm going to keep it as an oasis for those special nights out with the girls!
Prix Fix Menu Sun.- Thurs.;
Any Appetizer, Entrée and Dessert Plus House Coffee or Hot Tea
$29 Per Person
(Remember To Tell Your Server When Ordering)