Conscientious Indulgence at Commonwealth, San Francisco

by foodhoe on November 17, 2010

2224 Mission St., SF, CA  |  415.355.1500 | online reservationswebsite |
Hours:  Sun, Weds, and Thurs 5:30 p.m. -10 p.m., Fri and Sat 5:30 to 11 p.m

I visited this progressive American restaurant late in the summer with my pal Ben from Cooking with the Single Guy (who describes the visit here). I first heard about Mission Street Food from Ben, so it was fitting that we come here together to experience the next level of the benevolent business model of altruistic dining as put forth by Executive Chef Jason Fox and business partner Anthony Myint, who both previously worked at Bar Tartine.

There’s quite a difference when compared to Lung Shan which is just two doors down and now operates as Mission Chinese Food.  The new location is very civilized and urbane, the seasonal menu features inventive and modern cuisine that is very affordable and yet the restaurant still donates to local charities… Commonwealth’s dining room is fairly small with only 35 seats but feels airy and uncluttered with lovely light that filters through opaque glass windows and an overhead lightwell where a discoball glitters coyly.  The interior is sleekly modern with blonde hickory tables, a banquette along the wall and front window, and a 10-seat bar with seats that face into the kitchen.

Of course we had to order the 6-course tasting menu ($60), partly because it looked so good, but mostly because $10 is donated to a local nonprofit, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network for the night of our visit.  We elected to include the wine pairing, which bumped the price to $90 each.  We began with a pile of housemade potato chips with malt vinegar foam dip.  Can I tell you how good this was?  Tart acidity and rich oily foods go so well together.

Up close, the chip was like a stained glass window with colorful flecks of nori and spices.  You can see how some of the cells are filled with oil…

The lovely vinegar foam quickly began to break down, returning back into liquid form, but was still good to dip the chips in…

Next, we enjoyed a delectable amuse bouche course, a pristine slice of raw fluke served over tiny cubes of jicama and melon, paper thin slices of peach, bits of fragrant rosé gelée and douglas fir tips.  My tastebuds were beguiled with the unexpected flavor combinations and refreshing aromatics.

The next dish showcased summer squash and included a fried squash blossom encased in a delicately crisped shell with a smear of salsa verde.

The main component was a chilled squash soup that was rich and creamy, but which brought to mind the green herbal concoction that Mia Farrow chugged in Rosemary’s Baby.  It tasted like cold pea soup with fresh herbs, I couldn’t really taste the vadouvan spice mixture, which is a French interpretation of Indian masala, combining onions, shallots and garlic with Indian spices such as cardamom and curry.

Next we enjoyed a delicate corn custard with a silky ephemeral texture which filled my mouth with the buttery sweet flavors of corn and the creamy marine essence of the sea from the urchin.  The custard revealed savory bits of spicy chorizo and thin slices of jalapeno and was topped with lobster emulsion/foam which added an intoxicating fragrance. I liked this dish very much, which was similar to the Japanese egg custard dish chawanmushi that my mother used to make for us on special occasions.

I was intrigued by the Salt Cured Foie Gras, which was served with a smear of umeboshi paste, along with seaweed brioche. I love umeboshi, the Japanese pickled apricot which gets its dusky purple color and distinctive and pungent flavor from shiso leaves.  It’s the Japanese equivalent to kalamata olives… The rich foie gras went surprisingly well with the tartness of the umeboshi, although once Single Guy said that he thought that the foie tasted like clams, the power of suggestion is very strong and neither of us finished this dish.

Our main course was Goat cooked in Hay, a spirited medley of tenderloin medallions (a bit chewy), along with a piece of tender belly that was so very succulent, served over roasted peppers and fresh chickpeas with a garnish of yogurt prepared two ways (powdered and small orbs filled with liquid).

Next was a palate cleanser of Plum Sorbet with Almond Granita.  The sorbet was very fruity, although not distinctly plummy… but that almond granita was something else, icy and sweet powdery and a bit grainy and very refreshing.  Frankly, I’d have prefered the proportion of granita to sorbet to be swapped.

Dessert was a deconstructed s’more of a housemade cinnamon Millefeuille, cardamom marshmallow and burnt honey ice cream.  It was a delightfully intense combination of textures although I was feeling quite done at that point and couldn’t muster much enthusiasm.

Regarding the wine pairings, we enjoyed generous pours with each course, so it’s no wonder I don’t remember much about them….  This is a Los Bermejos Malvasia, from the Canary Islands that had a bright golden color and nutty aroma.  It was served in a flute and quite beautiful when backlit by the candlelight.  Honestly, I think I would have been happier with one big glass of something I liked, rather than the many glasses that I enjoyed but barely remember.

Oh and I forgot to mention that we sat next to a princess…. seriously.

I felt good about ordering the tasting menu, especially because of the charitable aspect that it goes towards a good cause, but there were so many items on the a la carte menu that I wil have to return to try.

Commonwealth on Urbanspoon

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Rosa November 17, 2010 at 10:15 am

The food looks so good and refined! I love those chips, mmmhhh.

Cheers,

Rosa

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Single Guy Ben November 17, 2010 at 3:11 pm

Oh, how funny, I didn’t even realize you didn’t blog about this dinner yet! It was a nice walk down memory lane to read your post and see your photos. Commonwealth is a really nice restaurant and the tasting menu seems like a good price compared to other places, but I agree that ala carte sounds like the way to go here. See you at our next eating adventure!

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Chubbypanda November 17, 2010 at 6:54 pm

Uni, lobster, and corn custard! Winner!

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hungry dog November 18, 2010 at 10:15 am

I’ve never heard of this place…must put it on my list. I’m totally entranced by that potato chip–how lovely!

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Cookie November 18, 2010 at 6:40 pm

I love Tasting Menus cuz you get to try so many lil dishes! It’s a total bonus when you get to donate to a good cause at the same time!

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Gastronomer November 18, 2010 at 11:26 pm

Your photo of the chip was so cool! And how fabulous that you enjoyed your meal with a real live princess!

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liz November 19, 2010 at 3:29 pm

Love the colors in that corn custard!

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grace November 20, 2010 at 12:07 am

vinegar foam for dipping fresh chips? that’s awesome. i think that if a restaurant is gonna serve chips, they should be housemade. good stuff.

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Carolyn Jung November 24, 2010 at 10:42 pm

Six courses for $60? That’s quite the deal. And I love the charitable aspect of it. What a wonderful concept. I hope it continues for a long time and inspires other establishments to do something similar. Happy Thanksgiving!

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