The Alembic, located in San Francisco's Upper Haight district at 1725 Haight Street, has been serving up some of the city's most sophisticated and carefully sourced cocktails for ten years. Their very tiny gastropub kitchen has also provided guests with a bevy of small, often unusual plates--think sweet breads, pickled quail eggs, duck hearts--to accompany the libations. After nearly a year in the making the restaurant has built out an expanded dining area in the former Red Vic Movie House, directly next door. Executive chef David Faro (Campton Place, Verbena, Google) joined Alembic as a sous chef in 2015 and is now offering a new and expanded menu of both small and large plates, including a 4-course chef's tasting menu for $48.
Photos by Eric Wolfinger
Whether you stop in for a cocktail and a small bite or a full dinner do not miss out on the jerked-spiced duck hearts with pickled pineapple and thyme salt. Not only is it unusual to find duck hearts on a menu but the flavors work so well with the cocktails, particularly the bourbon-based drinks. Once you try these you will order them every time! Another very good and small starter is the sprouted lentil croquettes with yogurt and Calabrian chili. The bone marrow will also not disappoint and--if you are looking for something heartier and stick to your ribs--the fried chicken with collards and sausage gravy will fit the bill.
I love the idea of a 4-course tasting menu as the dishes are all small in size and you are able to try chef Faro's creations without being overwhelmed or overfed. The menu changes frequently but may include notable dishes such as first-of-the-season asparagus (braised pine nuts, meyer lemon, parmesan), Liberty Farms duck (black trumpet mushrooms, young broccoli, chestnuts) or sweetbreads (gochujang, turnips, charred scallions).
Jerked duck hearts with pickled pineapples
Chef Faro has also taken on the very ambitious endeavor of curing 8 different types of charcuterie in-house, including spicy capicola, nocciola, cotechino, smoked house sausage, mortadella, country pate and misozuke duck. Most are very good while some--like the mortadella--do not stand up to their counterparts imported from Italy. It's the sign of a young and very zealous chef taking on a lot of work! I would humbly suggest perhaps focusing on a few types of charcuterie to begin with and doing them very well.
The cocktails--under the stewardship of head barman Jacob Racusin--are as great as they have ever been and are now classified into two categories: “New School” – where every drink incorporates ingredients made in-house, and “The Canon” – featuring timeless drinks that fit the season. Faro and Racusin maintain a 1,000 square foot garden at the back of the restaurant to supply ingredients for the bar and kitchen. Alembic is open seven days a week. For hours of operation and more details see www.AlembicSF.com.
Sprouted lentil croquettes
James is a food writer and Bay Area chef who owns and runs a private dinner party and cooking class business specializing in regional Italian and Spanish cuisine. See CookWithJames.com