Levende Lounge - 1710 Mission, San Francisco - CA
1710 Mission St San Francisco, CA 94103 Phone: (415) 864-5585
date of visit Wednesday September 22nd at 8pm.
Levende is a cool, open loft-style space with moody lighting and live DJ. Impossible to describe as a restaurant, Levende is better depicted as a bar that serves food, principally 'small plates'. I visited on a Wednesday night with 3 girlfriends. The staff confirmed to us that Wednesday is one of the quieter nights. As such this makes Levende an attractive midweek place to meet friends for drinks and a few nibbles in a relaxed, laid back atmosphere. Despite the presence of the DJ, conversation is sufficiently audible and the tables are spaced far enough apart to allow a feeling of privacy. I have read reports that on weekend nights the place gets a little crazy and service suffers as a consequence, so bear that factor in mind if you plan to pay Levende a visit.
The waiter reiterated to us that the plates are all small, even the entree choices. As none of us wanted large meals we elected to share a selection of five plates from the varied and interesting menu between us, accepting that would only get a forkful or so each from each plate.
artisan cheese plate/braised figs/walnut bulot 11
3 great cheeses which were described to us by the waiter but the names of which I can't recall, with a large pile of the dark, stewed figs which tasted more like dates. Plenty of bread (too dry) was whimsically presented in a conical container on the side. There was no evidence of walnuts anywhere on the plate and I assumed "bulot" referred to some kind of bread from the context of the menu description. After internet research, the only meaning I can come up with for "bulot" is "large sea snail or whelk". Confused? Yes I am!
indian spiced mini lamb burgers/cumin yogurt sauce 9
3 cute-looking little burgers in mini bread buns. The lamb had a good spice balance but the meat would have benefited from being a little more moist. Nevertheless I found them very tasty despite not being able to discern the advertised cumin yoghurt sauce element in particular. Two of our party didn't much care for them, especially the bread which was characterless and dry, despite is very twee, doll-like appearance.
tilapia ceviche/black bean taquito/avocado puree/jalapeno vinaigrette 12
This was my favourite dish for it's lightness, fresh taste, texture and subtle marriage of flavours. The heavy, deep-fried, graceless taquito did nothing to enhance the other more punchy ingredients. It was an unnecessary extra that brought down the impact of the dish. Left out, I certainly would not miss it.
pan seared crab cakes/pea shoot & corn salad/sweet chili sauce 11
The two who had declined the second mouthful of lamb both loved the crab cakes more than everything else. They had a spicy, forceful flavour but I found their texture to be too mushy, there was no crispy outer crust to balance the softness of the crab mixture inside. Lying on a bed of pea shoots which, to me, taste like chlorine, only one other girl could work out what I was talking about when describing them in such chemical terms. Maybe I possess a strange gene that can detect that mysterious taste in many sprouted vegetables?
hangar steak/goat cheese & all blue potato gratin/leek fondue/potato crisps 16
This was the favourite of the remaining friend. A fairly decent-sized potato mush was topped with thin slivers of steak and then crowned with blue potato crisps. I don't recall tasting a leek in this dish. The gratin was no such thing - more a pile of boiled, slightly crushed potatoes with some melted cheese and confusion going on under the pile of meat. The meat was too thinly sliced - presumably in attempt to make it look like you were getting more for you money (this was one of the most expensive dishes on the menu). I would have preferred the fatter, juicier, pink slices of meat that show off a hangar at its best. The potato crisps, a nice adorning touch, gave a satisfying crunchy contrast to the other softer elements.
The wine expert in our group was fairly non-plussed by the list, remarking to the waiter that it had no cohesion or depth. This didn't stop us sharing a couple of bottles of red. The first, I can't recall, the second was a 2001 gundlach-bundschu mountain cuvee at $46 which satisfied us all.
Total bill for 4: $138