EPIC Roasthouse



Let's get this straight right off the bat: ~EPIC ROASTHOUSE~ is not a steakhouse. That's selling it way too short. It's a modern roasthouse, which means you'll be able to get a lot more than steak. In fact, I (almost) wouldn't come here if all I wanted was steak, because I wouldn't be able look at the menu and save the necessary room for steak. I don't want to have to say no to delicious dishes like the crispy soft shell crab BLT & A. Resistance is futile.

The vittles here have personality--you can tell by reading the menu, and many of the dishes live up to their sassy and southern-inflected written introductions. Example: there's a section entitled "Potatoes Beaucoup," and another that says "Things You Just Want In a Steakhouse," with a slew of $9 sides listed beneath, like fried onion rings, sautéed spinach (sooooo good), and asparagus with béarnaise sauce. Oh, and a half Maine lobster is tucked in there too (but it's $18, sorry Charlie).

Many remember executive chef Jan Birnbaum from his now-closed restaurant Catahoula in Calistoga. A New Orleans native, he helped point me to some great spots in NOLA when I was there last year for Tales of the Cocktail, and his food definitely has some of the verve I like in Nawlins cookin', made with quality Californ-ai-aye ingredients.

You'll be presented with a trio of carbs, including some scrumptious cornmeal Madeleines (loooooved), and some gougères that I wish were served warm--otherwise, I'd just be happy with a basket of Madeleines.

The salumi platter of house-cured meats had no less than 12 to choose from ($25 small/$40 large), and comes with a trio of mustards and a variety of pickles. The duck prosciutto had such flavorful fat, and the chorizo had a feisty kick, but the one that slayed me was the bresaola, some of the most tender and pink bresaola I've ever tasted.

Also in the beef category, I've enjoyed the tartare ($15 per person) in the upstairs Quiver Bar (one of the city's nicest views over a cocktail, seriously), but it can't knock out Bix's as my favorite beef tartare in the City, sorry. (Blame it on Bix's cognac mister!)

The menu is loaded with appetizers (hot and cold) and soups and salads and salumi. Good luck deciding. And bring a healthy bank account. While tomatoes are in season, don't pass up the crispy soft shell crab "BLT & A" ($18), a medley of texture and flavor, with a nice cornmeal crust on the crab legs that come piled on a brioche round, with crispy bacon bits, plus an avocado puree--a total tower of power. I also dug the "Tomatoes in All Their Glory" ($16), a jumble of different kinds, with fresh and fork-tender mozzarella.

However, the biggest plate-cleaning starter was the wood-oven roasted chili squid salad ($13), a warm and lemony salad with tender and smoky squid, plus kalamata olives, frisee, emergo beans (similar to cannellinis), and tomato confit. Seriously, whoa--this dish hit all the marks. Just give it to me in a food bag, I'll eat it for lunch and dinner, all day.

Also whoa on the roasted marrow bones ($14)--oh wait, that would be my cholesterol level saying whoa. Anyway, these two bony beauties are sliced lengthwise, crusted with herbs, and loaded with fatty marrow that you load on crisp garlic crostini. I mean, hey, if you're gonna do it… They do come topped with a dollop of tomato jam and some frisee to cut the fattiness. Thoughtful. Now, when is my angioplasty appointment?

Okay, it is time to leave the appetizers. Yikes, you can get lost in there. Sure, most range from $13-$15 a pop, so you can't get too lost, unless, of course, someone else is paying, or you're just crazy loaded (on cocktails, or with cash in your pocket, it works both ways).

The parade of main dish meats is significant, from veal to pork to sausages and charcuterie, plus seafood (four kinds), and birds, and beef. There is no way I was passing up a taste of the spicy boudin blanc ($24)--lovers of the smooth style at Terzo and Spruce (my two favorite incarnations) won't recognize this granular and crumbly version. Basically, the pork shoulder is cooked and then ground with basmati rice, plus a bunch of spices and herbs, and stuffed into a casing. And did I mention it's spicy? LOVED it. The side of slaw with granny smith apples, parsley, and apple cider vinegar plays well against the rich boudin. (Say boo-din! Twang optional.) It all rests on a bed of Robuchon pureed potatoes, made with equal parts cream and butter. As my dining partner said, "You had me at equal parts cream." I was calling this dish the defibrillator duo. Birnbaum calls it "filthy food." Indeed. (Note: it's a good thing).

Mmmmmmeat! My dinner reservation at 8pm meant I missed one of my favorites, prime rib, offered nightly until 8pm ($33 for 10 oz./$42 for 14 oz.). I'll just have to get on the early bird train next time.

So, are you ready to gasp at $84 for a 32 oz. rib eye for two? Gasp you will when you taste the 28-day dry age on it too. Gorgeous crust, such well-marbled and tender yet chewy meat, plus some savory fingerlings on the side, bordelaise sauce, and horseradish and black pepper crème fraîche, too. Dare I say worth it? I dare.

I'm a bit surprised there aren't a few more cuts available in addition to the 8oz. or 12 oz. beef tenderloin, a 20 oz. New York strip, and 26 oz. porterhouse. I guess I wanted to see just one more cut at a less-than-beastly portion, and a savory cut besides tenderloin. You know, a lady cut. Oh, there is also a ¾ pound burger ($25) I'm waiting to enjoy some day soon on the patio, and there's also beef short rib ($27) with truffle whipped potatoes.

I don't know how many people will have room for dessert after eating here, but I did manage to stuff one beignet ($10) in my mouth, dunked into Birnbaum's awesome (and boozy) take on the bicerin, a hot chocolate and coffee drink that is famous in Turin (he tried it and fell in love while at Terra Madre, the Slow Food event in Italy). It also has some meringue whipped in for good measure. My kind of dessert.

Wine director Nicole Burke is doing a bang-up job, constructing a list of over 400 bottles that has a definite POV and fun tone, just like the menu. Good arrangement and descriptions, and don't miss her page of "Epic Prospects" of up-and-coming winemakers. There is a nice array of wines "by the splash" or by the glass that make for primo pairings with the wide range of dishes on the menu, with many hailing from California. Plenty of half bottles, too.

I wasn't too thrilled to see the 4% health care surcharge mentioned at the bottom of every menu page. When you're paying prices like this, I think it's better for the restaurant to tuck them away into the already beefy charges. I know they are trying to make a point by stating it on the menus, and perhaps educate guests, but for a special occasion restaurant like this one, I just don't want to see it. My two cents on something that amounts to big dollars.

I also didn't think service appeared to be as buttoned up as I expected it to be--I witnessed time lags in courses, dirty dishes not getting cleared, no matter whose section it was. The floor didn't have "that flow." Almost there…

The room was definitely comfortable, with easy-to-sink-into chairs and booths, and most tables have that gorg view of the Bay Bridge. There's also the jaw-dropping kitchen with the custom wood-fired grill and oven, a rather remarkable setup.

Kuleto has gone big with this one, just like its neighbor, Waterbar, and there are some theatrical elements that make it feel like a movie set from a Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet flick, like Delicatessen, including a big red wheel and pipes at the center of the room. (The design concept is to mimic a salt water pumping station.) I was more taken with the scene-stealing view, but you only really start noticing everything about the interior once the sun is set.

The volume of the room borders on a bit lively, with people having a good time, but the carpet helps soak up the conversation. The crowd is a quirky hodgepodge, from biz diners to double dates, ranging from young urbanites to couples married for 25 years. I'd bring clients here, boyfriends (yes, plural, heh) here for their birthdays, and it would be a perfect setting for a biz lunch. It's also a prime spot for cocktails after work, either on the patio or indoors, with Camber Lay doing her magic upstairs. J'adored the Sazerac, and with a NOLA native in the house, you know it had to be on point.

EPIC Roasthouse
369 Embarcadero
Cross: Folsom St.
San Francisco, CA 94105

415-369-9955
website

Lunch
Mon-Fri 11:30am-2pm

Dinner
Daily 5:30pm-10:30pm

Bar Menu
Sun-Thu 2pm-10:30pm
Fri-Sat 2pm-12am

Brunch
Sat-Sun 11am-2:30pm

Apps $10-$18
Entrées $26-$54
Desserts $10

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369 Embarcadero San Francisco
(at Folsom St.)
415-369-9955
epicroasthousesf.com
$$$$
Jan Birnbaum, chef

Cuisine

  • Steakhouse

Features

  • Bar Dining
  • Brunch (Weekend)
  • Fine Dining
  • Private Dining Room
  • Valet
  • Scenic View
  • Bar