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Restaurants & Bars 3

The Richmond on Balboa (long review)

Anya L | Jun 20, 200502:43 PM

On Friday my husband and I had dinner at The Richmond on Balboa @ 7th Ave. The staff was very friendly and welcoming, clearly trying hard to make a good impression on the neighborhood clientele. The chef made the rounds, making sure everyone was enjoying their dinner. The restaurant is nicely decorated for a neighborhood place, with warm paint colors and drapes and old photos of the Richmond district. There is a small wine bar by the front door, though no one was sitting there. The restaurant was about half full at 8 pm.

The menu features organic, local produce (although not many vegetables are featured on the menu). There are about 6-7 first courses ($6-9), 5-6 main courses ($15-22), and 4-5 desserts ($6-7). The wine list is relatively short, but mostly well chosen, with several choices around $20-30/bottle, and a few reds and whites by the glass. My main complaint about the wine list is the Cabernet/Bordeaux section, which has 15 bottles, 9 of which are $100 or more (including 1986 Lafite-Rothschild for $315); I just can't see people spending this kind of money in a neighborhood place.

After we ordered, we were served an amuse-bouche, which appeared to be roe-topped salmon atop shaved, marinated fennel with creme fraiche and chive oil; it was pretty good. Then the waitress brought small bowls of the potato-leek soup with fried crab wonton (listed on the menu) for us to try. The soup was really rich and delicious.

It took a while for them to bring us bread, but when they did, it was a warm from the oven, served with 3 different butters: olive, herb, and gray sea salt (my fave).

To start, my husband had the pork belly and prawn with coconut curry sauce (which was served on a bed of greens), and I got the mixed green salad with 50-year-old sherry vinaigrette. (I ordered it because it was the only item on the menu featuring vegetables, other than the vegetarian main course.) His starter was quite good, but mine was rather mediocre - ordinary spring mix with bland dressing. There was a slight mix-up in service because they forgot to bring my salad at the same time as my husband's starter; a few minutes later they realized their mistake, apologized, and brought my salad right out.

Unfortunately for this review, my husband and I both wanted the same main course, striped seabass (*not* Chilean) with "square" potatoes and cabbage. The fish was perfectly cooked, though slightly undersalted. The skin was nice and crispy. The potatoes were sort of like home fries, mixed together with sauteed cabbage and bits of bacon. We both liked it quite a bit.

To drink, he had a glass of German Riesling ($7.50) and I had a glass of Vouvray ($6); both wines were quite good and were served in Riedel stemware. We were offered tap or bottled water; we opted for tap and our glasses were refilled regularly.

For dessert, we split the panna cotta with raspberries and cookie crumble, which everyone else in the restaurant also appeared to be getting. It was definitely a good choice.

Overall, I would recommend trying this restaurant. We will definitely try it again, especially when I'm in the mood for steak - I saw someone else order it and it looked yummy. It would be nice if they offered some vegetable side dishes though (I am a big veggie eater, although not remotely a vegetarian.)

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