Dinner – Thursday, November 12, 2020
We should have seen it coming, shouldn’t we? Halloween, the election crowds, the approaching cold season and pandemic fatigue all combined to push COVID-19 cases to new heights (I won’t use the word “wave” because let’s be frank, it’s all been one long wave – this country never successfully suppressed the virus). Amidst the chaos, San Francisco allowed indoor dining to reopen. The Birdsong team took its time getting protocols just right, and so they unfortunately only managed five days of service before the city shut down indoor dining again. This meal is from the penultimate night.
Sweet onion, caviar
Soured cream, walnut milk, grilled shell fat
The kitchen came out swinging with a savory mille-feuille of sorts – I’ve had other versions of layered onions, but this was a strong representation. I think the key here was the earthy walnut broth – unctuous and satisfying.
Cucumber, horseradish, green strawberries
Apple kombucha sabayon, grilled corn, okra
Birdsong has long had a sequence of trout courses on the menu. Tonight, it was whittled down to a single dish, but it was 3* quality. In fact, the trout roe played second fiddle to the airy sabayon that was bursting with flavour. Little discs of chewy, smoky okra were a perfect counterpoint to the smoothness of the other components. Wow.
Pacific clam chowder
Smoked geoduck, potato, celery, pork fat whey
A more refined version of a course that was featured on the restaurant’s opening menu in 2018 (has it been 2 years already!). If I recall, the original version did not have a potato component, which brought it to the next level in this iteration.
Pickled bay sardine, grilled romaine, crouton, smoked egg yolk
I was glad to see the kitchen take advantage of the downtime to rethink their dishes – here was another example. The fishiness of the original was moderated here (which I miss), but texturally this was far superior to version 1 and ate a lot easier.
Sea urchin cream puff
Fermented shitake, savory butterscotch
New potatoes, toasted skin broth, yeast
Duck liver mousse
Endive, duck ham, bone vinegar
Lacquered and smoked, wild rice, chanterelle mushrooms
Impossible to go wrong with game birds here. This quail spent the evening alternating between the hearth and being painstakingly lacquered with a honey sauce. The resulting meat was perfect, as were the charred chanterelles. But y’know… wild rice – I just don’t get the appeal.
Pine needle sorbet, coastal mints
Mint oil, grapefruit juice, grapefruit peel honey
Persimmon ice cream, spices
It’s been a depressing year for the hardworking people who put their hearts and souls into cooking and service – I won’t even pretend to understand how it must feel. I’ll count my lucky stars that I was able to experience this one, rare meal and hope that Birdsong and the plethora of our other favorites will survive what is going to be a brutal winter.