Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bar Crudo

A Night of Eating Light
655 Divisadero St. (between Grove and Hayes), San Francisco
Western Addition/Panhandle
PH: 415.409.0679
Open daily 5 to 11 p.m. (till 10 p.m. Sundays); weekday happy hour, 5 to 6:30 p.m.
Reservations, major credit cards accepted

Sometimes when I wait too long to try a place, I end up having to chase it down. Luckily in the case of Bar Crudo, it was worth the extra miles.

Bar Crudo garnered a lot of attention when it opened up in a tiny spot north of Union Square, serving up crudo — the Italian preparation of raw foods. It was on my list of places to try, but then last year it closed up and moved to somewhat larger digs in the Divisadero corridor that’s between the Western Addition and the Panhandle neighborhoods (which the restaurant NOPA just a block away is trying to redefine as “north of the Panhandle”).

Damn the inconvenience. I jumped on the bus one weeknight and headed to the center of San Francisco, partly because I was already heading in that direction for a doctor’s appointment and also because I was craving some raw fish after weeks of heavy eating from the holidays.

When I arrived at Bar Crudo, I easily found a seat at the counter facing the bar and the open kitchen. The space has several small tables on two sides in the front and a few more tables in an alcove in the back. I felt the best seats were at the counter — not only because you get a front-row seat of the prep work but the bartender was especially nice and helpful.

The dinner menu is filled with a variety of raw fish preparations along with a raw bar with oysters. But there’s also a few cooked items served hot or cold, and you can order seasonal shellfish like a whole or half Dungeness crab (served simply with butter).

To get a nice taste of everything, I ordered the Crudo Sampler ($12), which includes four different bites from the raw menu. I tried the Tombo Tuna (bottom right), which was my favorite of the four. Who doesn’t love tuna, right? (Damn the guilt!) The fresh, oily tuna was dressed with pear chunks, hazelnut bits and a grape reduction that provided a nice savory flavor to the tuna. I would get a whole order of this next time.

Then I tried the Butterfish with Orange Vinaigrette (bottom left) that was served with a tiny bit of black garlic and shiso. This was the extreme of the tuna. Where the tuna was fresh and bright, the butterfish fell flat and the flavors were muted. The Artic Char (top left), which resembles salmon, was a beefy chunk of fish served with a complementary horseradish cream with wasabi, tobiko and dill. I liked the texture of the tobiko and the horseradish wasn’t very strong but balanced. It was lovely.

Finally, I finished off with the Hokkaido Scallop (top right), which sat on a celery root and roasted apple puree with a pinch of truffle salt. The puree seemed a bit on the bland side, and I didn’t get any sweetness from the scallop. This was just OK.

From the cold menu I ordered the Lobster Beet Salad ($17), which came out looking like a giant dragon roll. The pieces of lobster rested on roasted gold and chiogga beets and then covered with a lot of mache greens. Underneath the greens was burrata cheese stretched over the beets. Everything was brought together by the banyuls vinaigrette. While this dish looked impressive and I loved the beets, I felt none of the ingredients worked together. The burrata seemed chewy against the lobster meat, and the greens didn’t seem to accentuate the beets. Everything seemed a bit disjointed.

My last course for the evening was something warm — a cup of the Seafood Chowder ($7 but I only paid $5 because it was still happy hour/$14 for a bowl). The slightly orange-tinted chowder looked pretty big for a cup, and it was packed full of fresh seafood such as fish, mussels, shrimp and squid mixed in with potatoes. The menu also mentioned applewood smoked bacon but I didn’t notice any.

Along with being meaty and filling, the chowder had a balanced flavor with just a slight tinge of tartness from what I’m guessing was red vinegar. I love it when they had a twist of vinegar to cut the creaminess of the chowder (reminds me of a great gazpacho I had at Picco Pizzeria). I thoroughly enjoyed my cup.

In its reincarnation, Bar Crudo has a definite neighborly feel. The bartender is smart about the wine selection, and everyone else is welcoming and professional. Despite a bit of inconsistency in some of the dishes, overall I found Bar Crudo to be a refreshing spot for times when you don’t want a heavy meal but instead want something light and promising.

Single guy rating: 3.5 stars (Fancy raw fish)

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

Bar Crudo on Urbanspoon

Related raw reviews:
Otoro Sushi: “Latest Hip Addition to Hayes Valley”
Go Fish: “Casting a Wide Net at this Seafood Spot”
Kiss Seafood: “Sushi Presented with a Delicate Touch”


Mark Scarbrough said...

Ben, I can't wait until we're out in the Bay Area in April. I want you to plan an entire eating tour for us. I want you to take us. I want to sit there while you eat this incredible food!

Single Guy Ben said...

Hey Mark, are you on another book tour? Just let me know when and where and I'm so there! :)

foodhoe said...

I've wanted to try Bar Crudo for a long time, but it seems like it has moved further away from public transport and further down my list... were you able to choose the four bites for the sampler?

Carolyn Jung said...

I haven't been to the new locale yet, but loved the food at the original teeny, tiny site above the tunnel. Great crudo and shellfish platters. I still remember how fresh and succulent they were.

Single Guy Ben said...

Foodhoe, the four items in the sampler are set in the menu. I don't think you can substitute.