I preferred our first courses to our mains: Delicious Deviled Egg with Fresno chile relish ($5) featured a warm soft-boiled egg, which the server kindly alerted me to, and a nicely spicy sauce. Beef Tongue w. charred broccoli, toasted garlic, and marrow broth ($9) was a generous serving and v. tasty indeed, especially since I grew up on and much prefer pickled tongue. Spring Onion Soubise w. roasted cipollini, maitake, and pistachio pesto ($10), another nonfavorite, was delectable, with a nice tart finish that at least gave the illusion of cutting some of its richness. Paccheri (a new word in my culinary vocab that means pasta cut into broad tubes), olive oil-poached baccala, w. fennel pollen pangrattato ($14) could have been improved only by replacing the white flour in the pasta with white whole wheat--I'm so accustomed to whole wheat pasta, white tastes like baby food to me now.
Tolenas Farm quail w. morels, spinach, and English peas ($27) was perfectly fine, but lacked the wow factor of the earlier courses; also, the quail in Chinese restaurants taste like dark meat--this one was all white. My better half thoroughly enjoyed Brandt Farms ribeye w. charred radish, baby turnips (+ greens), and Stilton butter we asked be served separately; I wouldn't have been happy with it because I found the slight sharpness of the vegetables took away from rather than complemented the beef.
We were too stuffed for dessert, although if the sherbet that accompanied one had been offered on its own, I might have succumbed.
Corkage is $25. No bread was offered. Water was optional because of the drought but, oddly, staff kept picking up unused cutlery between courses.
Service was excellent with one exception: No one explained or apologized for the at least 20-minute wait before our first dishes arrived.
No fan of open kitchens, I see a kitchen most nights of my life, in this small, slightly too dark space, it helps give a more expansive feeling.
The one time we went to Frances--sister restaurant of Octavia--it was painfully noisy and we couldn't begin to carry on a conversation with our two friends; that's my only recollection. With only one or two tables unoccupied, this place's noise level was also higher than comfortable, but at least two of us could hear each other.
I'd consider returning, which is extremely rare for me to say of nonethnic places.