Oola, 860 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94107 415 995 2061
Date of visit: Saturday 20th November, 2004
On Saturday night Fred and I revisited Oola. Our first visit was on their second night after opening, so this was a great opportunity to see how they'd settled. We called, not long before arriving, to see if they had a table. We were told yes, but we'd just have to wait at the bar until one became available. This was no problem for me, although it was late (after 9pm), I was in the mood for a slow drink before dinner.
As it turned out, we had enough time for two leisurely cocktails. My Negronis were excellent, particularly because I love bitter Campari. I remarked to one of the (very friendly) bartenders, that I am not really a fan of gin since a teenage experiment with an excessive amount of Gilbey's, but that in a Negroni it works just fine for me. He asked me when was the last time I'd tried gin neat. I estimated almost 20 years. You have to try this, he said, pouring me a taste of the Scottish Hendrick's Gin from a cute, dark, stumpy little bottle I had actually been admiring, purely from a visual perspective, earlier. It was delicious, scented with rose petals and cucumber and with a stiff kick of alcohol following. Hmm, I guess Mothers Ruin has a new fan. Good job I don't have any children - I hope that fact makes me exempt from future downfall!
We started with foie gras. The presentation, on a rectangular plate looked much like the foie gras we recently had at Frisson. It was still gimmicky, but not quite as gimmicky, as the Frisson version. Oola's foie gras is served with tiny round toasts, dark, rich, chewy fig jam which made a good match, and vanilla scented persimmon puree which didn't.
I also had a couple of oysters, just two as a taste, Kumamotos, which gave me the fix I needed.
We ordered just a couple of glasses of Australian Pinot Noir, deciding that after our stiff apperitifs, a bottle would be too much. Eugh. I didn't care for it at all. I asked the waiter for something different, totally prepared to bear the brunt of the cost for doing so. He rushed to find me a replacement, after giving my glass to Fred who wasn't as averse to it as I was. I didn't expect it, but later, all 3 glasses of wine were absent on our check. It was a very kind and much appreciated gesture.
For my main course, I had a small portion of baby back ribs. These were sublime. Sweet, sticky, tender pieces of meat that just fall off of the bone before melting in your mouth. My accompanying fries with parmesan and truffle oil were unremarkable, proving that merely garnishing chipped potatoes with such attractive sounding ingredients isn't enough.
Despite Fred's previous disappointment with Oola's burger, he decided to give it another try. This time he declared the burger itself "A+"
The waiter was so friendly with us. He told us he was going to bring us dessert. We protested, but he insisted we had patiently waited too long for our table and that we could choose a dessert on the house. None of the desserts really appealed to me by their description but I finally agreed to try the apple pocket. We were bought complimentary glasses of Black Muscat too, as were the table next door, where a celebration was happening and we all joined in and sang "Happy Birthday". To be truthful, the dessert was bland. The apples were flavourless, they really needed to be ultra-sharp to provide contrast to the greasy, sugary, sweet fried batter surround.
Oola is a lot of fun, great atmosphere, fantastic ribs (I have been dreaming of them ever since), decent burgers and spot-on staff. Michael Bauer in The Chronicle wrote them up this week and reported on inconsistency over several visits. I could see that might be the case, but it's not going to stop me from dropping in for a plate of those ribs, or a late evening cocktail from time to time. We'll be back, soon, for sure.