Sunday, November 25, 2012

RICH TABLE (SF) - Follow the Yellow Brick Bridge

Chicken Lasagna & Popcorn?
Hell Yes.

I have lived across the Bay from San Francisco my entire life.  As a child, a visit to “the City” was a magical trip to the faraway land of Oz at the end of a winding road of yellow brick.   It was a place outside of reality that lay well beyond the boundaries of my childish imagination.  I remember my Great Aunt Susan taking me there for extra-special excursions.  The day to end all days, we would put on a fancy dress, don our best hats and gloves, and board the bus that would take us across the bridge.  Once there, in this place where magic was possible, we would ride the trolley car to the City of Paris with its sparkling crystal dome, to spend the day shopping; or perhaps during the holidays there would be a visit to Santa for photos.  For years, San Francisco was as far as I ever traveled away from home and it felt a journey to the Moon itself.  Looking forward to a trip to the city was the most exciting thing in the world.

Fried Squash Balls with pumpkin seeds
To my Italian grandparents, North Beach was a second home.  My grandfather was the reigning bocce ball champion for several years running.  They knew everyone in the City.  I remember the dinner shows at Bimbos 365, a place where they mingled with luminaries like Rocky Marciano and Earl Warren, while I tried to figure out how they got that tiny naked lady into the magical fishbowl.

Much of that youthful fascination still lingers when I find myself in this City by the Bay, and she remains a place outside the boundaries of the familiar, having never lost her alluring sense of adventure.  As I traverse her often foggy confines, wandering beneath the landscape of towering buildings that scrape the sky, I feel as though I have been transported to Wonderland.  There is even a hint of danger — perhaps I will soon be snatched away by the Red Queen and forced to play games for my life.  The otherworldliness that bewitched me as a child is a lingering thread of connection that compels me back as often as I can manage.  Though vastly changed in architecture and culture, she is now, as she was in my childhood, a large part of the East Bay experience.


Wagyu Tartare
When the reviews began to come in on RICH TABLE, the delightfully inviting new effort from Evan & Sarah Rich, located at the corner of Gough and Oak, I made our reservations immediately.  RICH TABLE is one of those places that is difficult to describe, its decor all at once comforting, inventive, and classy, but without a hint of pretension.  It’s community seating is European in atmosphere and yet somehow completely embodying the feel of the current San Francisco, with lovely planters provided to “divide” the seated parties into a slightly more private community feel.  Brilliant.

RICH TABLE is laid out in such a way as to be incredibly inviting for such a small space.  Diners arrive to feel immediately embraced within its walls. Elbowing through crowds is not something I relish when I want to enjoy a meal, so kudos to management for understanding this and setting it up so smoothly.  Quite an accomplishment.


We lucked out in our seating assignment, being placed directly adjacent to the kitchen.  I’m always a fan of watching them do their magic and this group was particularly lively and obviously enjoying what they do.  After a few moments chatting with the expediter, I was informed he was Evan Rich, chef, (co)owner and proprietor of this lovely new addition to the SF dining scene.  He is a delightful young man who absolutely gets it.  His food was spot on and his attitude for feeding people is undoubtedly the reason.  Well, that, along with his significant talent for inventive cuisine.

Sardine (stuffed) Chips
The menu here is seasonal, so you may find that the dishes I have listed here will be off the menu by the time you read this.  The good news is that whatever Evan & Sarah have invented in the meantime is likely to be just as tasty, if not more so.  When a restaurant starts out this well, the possibilities are endless.

We began with cocktails, all of which were delicious.  Mine was a concoction of mezcal, my favorite new alcoholic beverage.  The modern cocktail, with it’s tinctures of fresh produce, essences of fruit and the occasional spice, is a journey all its own—  and their cocktails rival the the standards of the best in the business.  Scott Beattie could order a drink here and come away pleased.  They were just that good.

The appetizers and “bites” were intriguing, so we ordered several.  The Fried Squash Balls had a nice topping of crunchy (I believe) daikon and a smattering of pumpkin seeds, and the Wagyu Tartare was magnificent.  Beautiful fatty meat seasoned to perfection.  The “Sardine Chips” are house made potato chips literally stuffed with a sardine.  They were the crispiest house chips I have ever had.  Still warm and not at all soft.  I love house chips, but often miss the crunch that a mass prepped chip generally has and have found house made chips a little soft for my tastes.  Not true here, as these chips had the freshness without sacrificing the appropriate toothsome bite, add the salty goodness in the middle and one has a really inviting “bite.”   Kudos.

Flatbread with perfect poached eggs....
Another favorite at the table was the chicken lasagna.  How Chefs Rich thought to add popcorn to the dish remains a mystery, but the crunchy puffed corn topping gave it a texture and interest that was both unique and magnificently satisfying.  The waiter recommended we try the spicy pasta dish, (I believe it was a tagliatelle) and it was perfectly al dente and completely engaging.   I devoured mine.   My daughter loved her ribeye steak as well, and the bottle of Barbera from the solid wine list was a perfect compliment to everything.


RICH TABLE is one of those hot places you have to visit.  But it is more than that.  It was instantly one of those places I must return to, and often.  Dining is about more than just good food, and while Chefs Evan & Sarah Rich serve blissful fare, they also know how to invite you to their table in such a way that you want to return.  Like dinner at a favorite relative’s house, a meal there is something to be anticipate, enjoyed, and then, once digested, experienced again and again.


Chocolate Magic (dessert is a must here)
Check it out for yourself, and make a memory.  I can guarantee it will be a pleasant one.

Chef Evan Rich
Chef Sara Rich
199 Gough St (at Oak St)
San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: (415) 355-9085