I can barely remember which city I’m in and I’m pretty sure I’m coming down with a cold. It’s a miracle I can even find my way to the ballpark these days.
But I digress.
About a month ago, I had the pleasure of getting together with a couple of my fellow female co-workers, Kate and Mindi. If our busy lives allowed for it, we would love to do this every month or two. But between me with Giants, Kate with A’s/Raiders and Mindi with 49ers, coordinating those schedules is next to impossible.
We were delighted to find a night that worked for all of us, so I picked out AQ Restaurant & Bar, as I’ve been meaning to check it out for awhile now.
AQ stands for “as quoted,” which you often see on menus indicating items that change seasonally or daily like lobster or fish. The restaurant embraces its namesake fully, from the food to the décor. When we visited, we caught the tail end of the “summer” menu, and the airy SOMA space reflected this in its everything from the bar top to the lighting. (Exposed bricks provide a nice, neutral canvas to make the seasonal transformations). They have now moved onto Autumn, and I’m eager to return and check out the new ambiance and menu items. While the prices aren’t cheap, they certainly aren’t expensive, and they are grouped into plates of $10, $14, $25 and $32. Desserts run $8. We were seated at a tall table right next to the open kitchen, so we also got to see the chefs hard at work, artfully creating their lovely masterpieces.
I feel like any new restaurant in SF these days needs to have a phenomenal cocktail list to help compliment the food. AQ is no exception. The cocktail list is fantastic and also changes seasonally. I was a little early, so I ordered one that included honey and a touch of cayenne if I remember correctly. It was sweet and tart with the perfect amount of spice. Once the girls arrived, I switched to a champagne cocktail (because I'm a sucker for anything champagne), and wasn't disappointed. Mindi opted for their take on a margarita with refreshing cucumber. Everything was outstanding.
Onto the food. We pretty much ordered something from each section. We started off with the heirloom tomatoes, perfectly lined up on a rectangular platter and finished with basil and preserved sesame seed. (They were so juicy I accidentally squirted tomato juice all over Mindi's shirt...oops!) We also tried the soft potato gnocchi with cherry tomatoes, young rabe and curds and whey. The pillowy soft gnocchi melts in your mouth, and the slightly crunchy and bitter rabe was a perfect compliment. We also ordered the cucumber with day boat scallops and wild fennel, pursalane and almonds. The scallops were perfectly cooked and the cucumber made it a perfectly light and summery dish. As you can see, each plate is not only balanced in taste, color and texture, but everything is arranged just so...almost like a piece of art.
From the main course section, we got the wild salmon with sweet yellow corn, lime, romano beans and roasted lobster juices. We also selected the BBQ pork with shelling beans, corn bread, mustard ash and tuscan kale. Once again, it was all artfully arranged and prepared with a modernist flare, with foams and gels and garnishes placed in exactly the most perfect spot. Portions were on the smaller side for the mains, but we all left satisfied and still left room for dessert, which was a good call. We got the milk chocolate cremeux, served with coconut, caramel, coco nib and pretzels. It was creamy and chocolatey and the perfect end to a great meal. It sort of reminded me of a fancy and refined version of a s'more...which, of course, is the quintessential summer dessert.
The calendar has now changed to autumn, and so has AQ's decor and menu. I look forward to going back and also checking out their Sunday brunch. But in the meantime, it's back to baseball!