I finally went to Bar Tartine last night. It was good, but honestly, not as good as I expected. I kinda hate it when that happens.
Bar Tartine is owned by the same chefs who own Tartine, the famous bakery. I actually still have never been to the bakery (pretend like the Mission district is a far-away foreign land to a North Beach resident), though I have enjoyed their chocolate croissants courtesy of my co-worker. The chocolate croissants are amazing, btw. Anyway, Bar Tartine is a dinner restaurant that also doubles as a sandwich shop in the afternoons. It’s modern and chic and widely hailed as awesome.
They describe their menu as “hard to classify”, though I will check the box for “American” food, since they offer a variety of different foods with no particular ethnic theme. The menu looked amazing. No, really, here it is:
We were starving and torn on what to order. We started with the bread because it’s sort of mandatory, but without being free. This bread has won awards; people praise this bread from lands far and near — it’s even listed on the menu as an item you can just buy to take home because they know you’re going to ask. That said, I was underwhelmed.
Not that it wasn’t good — it was. It was very tasty. I think it was (sadly) a case of my expectations just being too high. Like, my vision of this bread had it being delivered on the back of a unicorn and containing special healing powers. And, to be fair, it doesn’t help that I’m sort of like a child when it comes to bread. I love my wheat loaf at home, but if you asked me to describe the best bread ever, it would be full of butter and have pretty much no nutritional value at all. Actually, the best bread I’ve ever had was from a tiny Italian place in San Luis Obispo that used to be half price for students every Tuesday. I milked that deal long after graduating. Curse the day I lost my student ID. I digress.
So, bread good but not providing eternal life — check. The next appetizer we ordered was a sampling of their three pickled items. Pickles! I love pickles. I talk about pickles all the time. People are like, “Shut up about pickles, Angie.” And I’m like, “No! Pickles!” So, obv, I thought these would be the best pickles ever. They weren’t. They were this: garlic mushrooms, creamed beets with green horseradish, and brine dill pickles. The mushrooms were in a sauce that tasted like barbecue sauce. It was extremely strong (especially compared to the other two), and also, unfortunately, I don’t like barbecue sauce.
The beets were good — those were my favorite of the three. The dill pickles were, like, not super pickled? I don’t know how to pickle things, but these were very hard and not nearly salty enough. Have you had the pickles at Hog Island Oyster Company? That’s what I wanted. Those are so good. These were just ok. They did have pickled tomatoes in the mix though, which was interesting.
The chopped vegetable salad with pressed cheese was definitely my favorite dish of the night. The veggies were slightly cooked, the cherry tomatoes had no skin and were soft and delicious, and the cheese added just the right amount of salt and flavor. It was really good.
Next came the smoked potatoes with ramp mayonnaise. This sauce also tasted like barbecue sauce. I’m not sure what their deal is with this flavor, but it’s just not my favorite. And it’s extremely strong and a bit overwhelming. This sauce was saltier than sweet, however, and the dish was good despite being really intense.
Lastly, we shared a main: cheese dumpling with quinoa greens and chanterelle mushrooms. I did not know what to expect, but it was not this. The dumpling was the consistency of a souffle. It’s hard to describe. It was light and fluffy, but completely uniform in soft, smooth texture. I have no idea how they made it. Or what was in it. But it was extremely rich and flavorful. The accompanying sauce and mushrooms paled in comparison.
And, as some restaurants choose to do nowadays, the dessert menu was completely devoid of anything remotely traditional and was not appealing to my East Bay sensibilities — I think dessert is certainly my last vestige of culinary primitiveness. I just want some damn chocolate cake, people. Anyway, no need for dessert; we were stuffed. And satisfied, despite my apparent issues with salt distribution over the course of the meal.
I liked BT, but was a bit disappointed. However, there were many other interesting things on the menu that I would not be opposed to trying another time. Also… they offer brunch, and we all know how I feel about brunch. (Hint, I like it almost as much as pickles.)