Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Dish on Dining: Range

Good food well within range
842 Valencia St. (between 19th and 20th Streets), San Francisco
Mission District
PH: 415.282.8283
Open daily, 5:30 to 10 p.m. (until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday)
Reservations, major credit cards accepted

When did restaurants start taking Sundays off instead of Mondays? During a recent hunt for Sunday dinner in the Mission district, several new places I wanted to try were closed. That’s when I was drawn to the warm glow of Range.

Range isn’t that new, having opened in 2005 by the husband-and-wife team of Phil and Cameron West. (He from the kitchen of Bacar and she from the front of Delfina.) But it was new to me and my tired feet.

I was warmly greeted by the front-of-the-house staff, who gladly seated me at a bar table since I was dining alone. The service was friendly from beginning to end, including my waiter, other servers and a brief visit by Cameron West herself (see, some restaurateurs do work on Sundays). You feel welcomed in the décor that’s contemporary and very California. (I was, however, perplexed by the name of the place. I didn’t really see any stove-top ranges but there were a few nostalgic pieces decorating the walls such as a “watch repair” sign and a huge refrigerator at the center of the bar that looks like it used to be a blood bank.)
Range’s menu isn’t very extensive, but it highlights what’s fresh and in season. If nothing else, Range introduced me to the wonders of the aprium. Never heard of it? Neither did I.

The aprium is another one of those hybrid fruits. And it’s supposedly a plum and apricot, but leaning more toward the apricot side. It was featured in my starter salad of shaved fennel and goat cheese tossed in a light lemon vinaigrette. The aprium slices, which reminded me of persimmons, added a nice sweetness to contrast with the vinaigrette. This was all complemented by the crunch of the fennel.

Most of the main entrée offerings on the menu focused on fish. But that damn Anthony Bourdain’s tip of not eating fish on the weekends (I know, it shouldn’t apply to San Francisco where everything’s fresh) kept ringing in my head so I ordered the leg of lamb with fava beans. The lamb is cooked at medium per the kitchen’s directions, and that was fine by me. They were cut like medallions and sat on a bed of green mush, which consisted of bits of fava beans and lemon parsley sauce. I’m a big fan of lamb but the lamb here was a bit overpowered by the bacon-flavored sauce underneath. Overall, the dish was satisfying but not tantalizing like the salad.
Side note: I ordered a glass of the 2003 Chianti Classico with my lamb and it was a nice, smooth wine that didn’t overpower my meal.

Range apparently gets a lot of attention for its dessert, and I was impressed by its diversity. I usually tell my friends when I’m eating out with them that I don’t order dessert unless it’s something not typically found on the menu. That means I don’t typically order chocolate cakes, apple pies, ice cream trios or crème brulee (although I really do love crème brulee) because these are common dessert selections often featured at restaurants. At Range, there were a lot of different creations to choose from, including a tart that featured apriums (it really must be in season), cornmeal crepes, a strawberry shortcake with Meyer lemon ice cream, and a soufflé. I ordered the “crimson baby nectarine ice cream puffs.”
The puffs were not as flakey as I imagined, but the ice cream filling was fresh and subtle in flavor—not too sweet and not too tart—with just a few bits of nectarines. The puffs were served with a few fresh raspberries.

Range ends your meal with hand-made truffles. Classy touch and again really accentuates the service-aspect of this establishment.

I may have been influenced by the fact that I was totally hungry by the time I found Range, but it did get more crowded after I arrive. So others have also apparently made this restaurant a regular spot among the many choices in this neighborhood that has launched many well-known eateries. The food is amusingly interesting at reasonable prices and the staff is comfortably friendly. You definitely feel like your home on the Range.

Single guy rating: 3 stars (perfect for foodies looking for a friendly environment)

Explanation of the single guy's rating system:
1 star = perfect for college students
2 stars = perfect for new diners
3 stars = perfect for foodies
4 stars = perfect for expense accounts
5 stars = perfect for any guy's dream dinner

Range in San Francisco

No comments: