Restaurants & Bars

The Richmond on Balboa -- Another Two (Six?) Thumbs Up (Long)

mspea | Jul 16, 200509:32 AM     5

Inspired by the comments on this board, I took my Richmond District-dwelling daughter and her BF to The Richmond on Thursday night. We were all thoroughly delighted. We walked in at about 7:15 and were seated right away, as only three other tables were occupied. The host/server offered us our choice of the two small rooms but kindly informed us that the party in the back room included a somewhat restless 16 month old. We opted for the front room.

Our three glasses of wine arrived promptly in beautiful (Reidel?) stemware, followed shortly by an amuse: one perfect canteloupe ball atop a watermelon dice surrounded with concentric rings of chive oil and seasoned yogurt. It was lovely to look at and tasted fine -- probably would have been even better if it hadn't been a very foggy 55 degrees outside.

Once the amuse dishes were cleared, our server brought out a loaf of warm bread with three butters: chive-tarragon, kalamata olive, and "plain" topped with fleur de sel. I think we could have made a meal of that. Our starters were a roasted beet salad accompanied with a triangle of Laura Chenel goat cheese baked in pastry; heirloom tomato salad topped with a "salsa" of avocado, corn, and onion; and the "artisan cheese trio": roquefort salad (mostly frisee with a tangy roquefort dressing and some roquefort crumbles); crescenza "foam" (more whipped than foamy), studded with tiny waffle cut potato chips; and sliced manchego over a to-die-for walnut levain. I thought the cheese trio was the least successful of the three - fine, but nothing special (except for the levain). The other two, however, were both delicious and beautiful, with contrasting tastes, textures, and colors. The folks at the table next to us proclaimed the potato-leek soup the best they'd ever had.

As a confirmed dish freak, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the absolutely stunning dishware, which includes a variety of different sizes/shapes/textures, many oversized, and each obviously and carefully chosen to enhance the beauty of the food.

Mains were wild line caught salmon; crispy skinned sea bass; and New York steak. (They were accompanied by another loaf of bread, which was delayed slightly, since it was still baking.) The sea bass (mine) had the promised crispy skin and was sweet and succulent, without a hint of dryness. The New York was a good 1" thick, medium rare as requested and, from the small sample I was allowed to try, very tasty. I didn't try the salmon but I could see that it was cooked to just-done-in-the-center perfection. The BF pronounced it delicious and ate every morsel. One of our next-door tablemates had the hamburger and fries, which looked worth a return visit in itself. (This was, in fact, their fourth visit for that very reason.) Another was rapturous over the wild mushroom ravioli.

Dessert was a peach panna cotta that daughter and BF liked a lot and I thought was just OK.

The owner/chef came out to speak with every table. During our chat, he explained that everything is made in house by him and his wife (with whom he was quick to share credit), and then brought her out to meet us as well. He seemed genuinely pleased with our interest in their background, the food, the dishes, etc. and apologized that service was a little slow because there was only one server that night. (In fact, they ended up comping us a round of wine.) 3 starters, 3 mains, 1 dessert, 3 glasses of wine, 1 coffee and 1 tea was about $135 before tip. I thought it a very good deal.

These are people who are obviously passionate about what they're doing and are trying to create a neighborhood restaurant that, while unpretentious, has food worthy of an upscale destination restaurant. I hope they make it and look forward to returning soon.

[The menu linked below is similar, though not identical, to the current one -- several of the starters have changed, the wild mushroom ravioli has replaced the sauteed vegetables, and some of the accompaniments for the mains are different.]

Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

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