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The Tablehopper’s Guide to Dining and Drinking in San Francisco: Find the Right Spot for Every Occasion.

This week's tablehopper: good citizen.

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Spring is here! Asparagus and pancetta pizza at Gialina.

Criminy, the animals are lining up, and my Alfa has become the Ark. This deluge is such a joke. It’s like God doesn’t want me to exercise outside. It’s so not cool. At least it’s good writing weather, movie weather (doing that tonight), read a book weather, do your %$#! taxes weather, drink whiskey weather, make soup weather, heck, make babies weather. Take your pick. Hopefully today’s sugar mama giveaway should be a little silver lining to all these grey clouds.

Thanks to everyone who posted on Deep Dishing about your favorite dishes last week. Good stuff, Maynard. And here’s a new topic in the Deep Dishing Tip Please! forum so you can share what and where you’ve been eating and loving this week. Mine? I had an unexpected solo night on Tuesday, and enjoyed tucking into a burger at the new Bistro SF Grill on California. A half-pound patty of grass-fed American Kobe beef, with cheese, and a big side of curly fries for less than $10? Okay, sure!

This week’s fresh meat is the new location of Citizen Cake on Fillmore Street. Have you eaten there yet? Yeah? Please share your favorite dishes on Citizen Cake’s Deep Dishing page—I already got it started for ya. Lemme tell you, this weather is built for the beef stroganoff they’re serving over there.

Grab your fork!

Marcia Gagliardi

fresh meat

New Restaurant Reviews (I'm looking for somewhere new to eat)
Mar 25, 2011

Citizen Cake

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Clam chowder.

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Seared hiramasa, pomegranate, Asian pear, jalapeño emulsion.

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Pan-roasted duck breast.

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Butterscotch-miso pudding verrine.

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Selection of macarons.

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The dining area.

I have many fond dining memories at Carlo Middione’s now-closed Vivande location on Fillmore, namely stopping by to pick up one of his little eggplant-mortadella-provolone sandwiches to go when I’d get peckish and wanted a snack (I miss them so—looks like I’ll have to make them my own damn self from now on). And now, as the latest (and third) location for Elizabeth Falkner’s ~CITIZEN CAKE~, I can still easily swing by when the hankering for a bite of a little something-something strikes.

The sleek European pâtisserie case is full of the inventive treats she has become known for, like brightly colored macarons ($1.50 each; I was partial to the unexpected curry and mango combo, while others might be happier with a traditional pistachio), or her classic petits gâteaux ($5.50), like the shag, a tropical kiss of passionfruit, mango, and coconut, and the fantastic mocha-mi-su, a great chocolate dessert, deep with the flavor of my big love: coffee (hello, mocha mousse).

And then there are the verrines ($5 each), clear containers of creams and puddings that are all too easy to get to go for eating in the privacy of your bedroom (I found the butterscotch pudding spiked with miso to be totally inspired). The alfajores ($1.50 each) are pretty amazing, but bring a messy explosion of powdered sugar—with it all over your face and clothes, you’re pegged immediately as guilty of eating dessert (or Tony Montana on a binge).

The clunker for me about the dessert experience here is the plain white plates they’re served on. It’s an opportunity for some fun and style, and the industrial buffalo china plates I’d eat off of at home don’t do the desserts justice. It’s not the only thing that feels plain here—the exposed and unadorned brick wall, the slate floors, and the bare tables contribute to an overall coldness that makes the space feel unfinished, and definitely spare.

But just when you think it all feels a bit spartan, the savory dishes on the menu are also quite visually captivating. Falkner and her chef de cuisine, Amy Glaze (formerly a sous at Le Bernardin), have a fine eye for presentation—along with harmonious flavor pairings, and textures. An appetizer of seared hiramasa ($15) has the fish layered prettily across the plate, alternating with slices of Asian pear, and perked up with micro shiso and cilantro, pomegranate seeds, and a subtle jalapeño emulsion.

Another starter—grilled beef heart ($14)—is thinly sliced and tucked in between lightly pickled halves of red beet and a dressed mache salad—the mineral tanginess of the heart played well with the prickly horseradish-crème fraîche. Oh, and get the clam chowder ($8/$15)—it’s a delicious rendition, with clams still in their shell (and nary a bite of grit), bacon, a creamy broth, chunky croutons and potato, and (just slightly too big) pieces of fennel. Good to the last drop.

The starters are all plated in a manner that makes them easy to share—and even when we ordered the shaved fennel salad ($13), the kitchen kindly split it for us (I just wish they had remembered to salt it). Some of the mains are presented as if you’re sharing those, too: the slices of pan-roasted duck breast ($22) fanned out on a rectangular plate would have almost felt odd to just eat by myself—hopefully your dining companion likes to share. (And they would be richly rewarded, because the ginger-soy braised daikon and tangerine sauce made it an elegantly flavored dish.)

Some nights I just want something healthy to eat, and if I was in the neighborhood, the quinoa ($16), a mix of light and dark quinoa, with Swiss chard, cipolline onions, a purée of butternut squash, and a scattering of pine nuts would satisfy my hippie/healthy urge. On the other side of the spectrum is the braised beef short rib stroganoff ($20), with thick, housemade pappardelle egg noodles, Thumbelina carrots, chanterelles, and turnips—seriously hearty, cold-weather food. (And a lick-your-plate kind of dish.) Perhaps in the middle of this naughty-nice spectrum would be the dorade royale ($24), the fish resting on a caviar beurre blanc and caramelized cauliflower, one night flourished with candied Meyer lemon peel.

The dinner crowd seems to be mostly a mix of couples and small groups populated with a few more ladies than men. I liked the eclectic music, ranging from Gerry Rafferty (took me right back to my 1970s childhood) to David Sylvian (took me back to my teens). The wine list started a bit small—but the list has been expanding over the past few months, with most of them from Kermit Lynch. (The dessert wine selection has an ample six to choose from.)

And for those looking for an alternative to alcoholic beverages entirely (I have no idea why, ha ha, kidding), Falkner has been experimenting with some handmade gum syrups that are almost like tonics: the looking glass (peppermint, Kaffir lime, black pepper, mastic) was almost restorative, and is something I’ll want the next time I’m hungover. (Oops.) There’s also a selection of teas from local purveyor Red Blossom—their refined teas always make me wonder why I don’t drink them more often.

Falkner is a locomotive of creativity, always tinkering, inventing, and investigating. It’s a quality I admire: seeing a chef constantly inspired by flavors, ingredients, and techniques. The restaurant will continue to reflect these qualities of its creator, changing, growing, and fine tuning in coming months. (But that croque-monsieur on the weekend brunch menu and fried chicken Cobb sandwich for lunch better not go anywhere until I get to try them.)

Note: Chef de cuisine Amy Glaze left soon after this review; stand by for an update.

Citizen Cake - 2125 Fillmore St. - 415-861-2228

the sugar mama

Giveaways (get some)
Mar 25, 2011

(Sponsored): Get a $20 Voucher for Your First Ride with Uber

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San Franciscans! If you’re out at the club, on a date, or at your favorite dinner spot, you’re going to need a classy, comfortable way to get around. Taxis have become the unicorns of San Francisco, so Uber is stepping up, providing on demand, reliable black car service from the touch of your phone. You simply hit a button (via the Uber iPhone or Android app or SMS/text message) and a Town Car or SUV is dispatched to your destination. All payment is charged to your credit card, so there’s no tipping and no cash to deal with. And if you have the app, you can watch your driver’s location on the map as he comes to fetch you! For about twice the price of a taxi, this experience is a no-brainer. San Franciscans/Peninsula peeps: rejoice!

Rainy weather got you down? Hopefully this will help: Uber is giving tablehopper readers a $20 voucher to apply to your first ride! All you need to do is go to uber.com and sign up, use the promo code “tablehopper” and $20 will be credited to your account. Be sure to sign up by April 25th in order to get the credit to your account, but you can ride any time. And just in case you have any questions, please contact support@uber.com for assistance.

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