Have you heard of this restaurant? The name refers to one of the Chef’s signature dishes, the crispy spiced quail (CA’s state bird if you didn’t’ know) from the now-closed Rubicon, along with the providing of good food and libations. Located on the west side of Fillmore, between Geary & OFarrell, the front is extremely low-key with no signage, but you can see activity in the brightly lit kitchen through the front window as soon as you walk up.
The friendly staff in the kitchen greet you as you enter and direct you to walk down to the end of the kitchen for the hostess to seat you.
The food is brought out of the kitchen on trays and carts. It’s similar to dim sum or passed-plate receptions, where you grab what comes by your table, and each item is added to your bill.
The dimly lit dining room in the back has 49 seats with barely enough room for the carts to come through, so most of the dishes are carried around on trays.
The roe was super fresh, clear and golden, filled with the essence of the sea. The orbs slowly rolled off the horseradish cream and fell with soft plops onto my hand while I tried to take the picture. The ethereally thin chips were crispy without a trace of grease and scooped up the dip very well.
Next we enjoyed an exquisite array of tiny crudite with goat cheese that was generously topped with toasted sesame , which imparted a lovely nutty flavor and crunch.
Duck neck dumplings in sauerjus ($7). The dumping bottoms were fetchingly crisped and swimming in a savory sauerkraut broth that was really good. It was so flavorful that we asked for spoons to drink it up!
Bone bread and marrow ($) was a long bone shaped bread stick similar in texture to a pretzel, served with a thin sauce presumably made from marrow, although it seemed more like a vinaigrette containing pink peppercorns and herbs that was poured from the aptly designed sauceboat. This was not at all the marrow we were expecting (you know what I mean, the decadent and fatty stuff scooped from the bone) and a bit disappointing, although I loved the squishy bread.
A Chicken Salad with buddha’s hand & celery root curd included a jiggly gelée and bright vivid citrus flavor from the hand of buddha and a lovely crunch from the vegetables. There was a small dollop of dijon mustard included.
The Wild Mushrooms with root purees and toasted hazelnuts ($6) smelled fantastic and had a nice combination of crunchy textures from bits of toasted bread and nuts.
Carnitas stuffed squid ($7) tiny squid stuffed with spicy tender pork and pungent wedges of watermelon radish.
We all enjoyed a restoratively healthy dish of Braised carrots & braised jammy greens ($5)
I couldn’t get enough of the Pork ribs with broth and lemon oil ($8). The flesh fell off the bones and was so good dipped into the broth. If only there were ramen noodles at the bottom of the bowl…
At last they came around with State Bird with Provisions ($8), the namesake dish that the restaurant is named for. Each order is half of a buttermilk fried quail served over lemon onion confit, sprinkled with shaved parmesan and frilly micro greens.
We stayed for several hours, and a line began to form as the evening wore on. Sweet dishes were offered earlier, but we felt compelled to wait to the end, although P commented that at dim sum we always grab up the egg custards, sesame balls and sweet tofu along with the savories throughout the meal…
The pastries are created by pastry chef Nicole Krasinski, who was a Chronicle rising chef back in 2005. Peanut Muscovado Milk ($2) with clove spiked fig cookies ($2). Peanut milk is an elixir with curative properties, muscovado is type of brown sugar that added a rich butterscotchy flavor to the addictively tasty brew. The tender buttery pinwheel cookies were filled with a swirl of fragrant and sticky fig that was delicious.
We split bites of Chocolate croquettes with rosemary-lemon sabayon ($4), which had a lovely delicately crisp wrap surrounding a dark chocolate filling.
The Golden Egg ($3) topped with gooey toasted meringue, filled with saffron egg custard which was topped with a tart layer of fruit. Interesting presentation, hard to get to the custard without breaking the eggshell.
Of note: there is a U.S. map in the restroom in the back listing the various state birds created by Caitlin Freeman, a pastry chef/artist (known also for her mondrian cake at SFMOMA), who happens to be married to James Freeman owner of Blue Bottle Coffee which is also on the menu…
open nightly from 5pm-12am. CLOSED TUESDAY
And as it sometimes ends with this particular dining crew, we walked across the street to take a look at Holy Dog, another new restaurant that opened recently. Yes, it was Dinner #2 for these intrepid diners. Me, I took pictures and sampled bites from all.
Daisy and P split a Beef Frankfurter ($4.95) topped with spicy beef chili ($2.95).
and JT was inspired to try the Katsu Dog ($5.95), an Italian sausage that has been battered and deep fried in the manner of japanese cutlets, drizzled with wasabi mayonnaise and katsu sauce and topped with sweet peppers. I thought the katsu sauce tasted more like teriyaki sauce that was quite sweet.
The battered crust was pretty tough for a katsu, combined with a thick skin casing the sausage, it required vigorous effort to bite through. We admitted that we were really too full to appreciate the rich and decadent katsu dog, that means we’ll just have to come back!
Sun-Thur, 11a-1130p and Fri-Sat, 11-2a