There’s a lot of exciting cooking happening on the West Coast right now. Some of the best and most talked about action comes from kitchens occupied by bad ass duos of a new generation of chefs. Chefs who also happen to be fellas. Fellas who are young, have little regard for the rules, and are currently lighting their worlds on fire.
LA has the Animal guys, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, who literally pop up everywhere and for good reason. They’ve created some life in what used to be a rather lifeless culinary scene, one fried chicken sandwich at a time. SF has their Sons & Daughters. Well, just sons in this case. Matt McNamara and Teague Moriarty are the twentysomething friends behind one of the Bay Area’s most buzzed about restaurants. They’ve earned plenty of attention from local critics, a Michelin star, and were awarded Eater’s “Restaurant Of The Year” for 2011. We’re here to add to that buzz. If you find yourself in the Bay Area celebrating some type of Special Occasion, this should no doubt be your spot.
You gotta love San Francisco. Even at the “Fine Dining” establishments here, no one takes themselves too seriously. A youthful energy presides over the small dining room at Sons & Daughters. No one that works here, either in the kitchen or on the floor, appears to be over thirty. And everyone, clientele included, seems to be enjoying themselves, smiling and quietly having a grand old time while Cut Copy and Chromeo faintly play in the background. Let’s just say this doesn’t exactly have the feel of a restaurant that only offers a $92 tasting menu.
But it isn’t just the internet buzz and laid back vibe of this place that has us so impressed. There’s a confidence that comes along with each plate that you eat, as if each dish is trying to one-up the previous one in search of your affection. It tastes like the chefs are battling it out in kitchen against one another, going dish for dish, ingredient for ingredient. The techniques, flavors, and overall execution are on par with some of the best in the fine dining business, and yet there’s a less refined, more in your face approach to the cooking at Sons & Daughters. You can tell these guys are having fun in the kitchen. And even though it’s a technical meal by all accounts, this is the kind of molecular gastronomy we can get behind. Things don’t get too crazy or over the top – the emulsions, foams, powders and gels you’ll find are there to enhance the food, not over shadow it. And McNamara and Moriarty didn’t even have to go to the school of Wylie Dusphrene to learn this stuff, they just googled a bunch of sh*t and learned via trail and error. That also happens to be exactly how we managed to finish college. Nicely done, gents.
The breads were completely out of this world, and before the meal gets under way, you’re treated to a couple different styles, complete with delicious, creamy, melt in your mouth butters that were salty and delicious.
Egg, Bottarga, Baby Bok Choy, Tarragon
A salad of baby bok choy, a mini poached egg, tarragon leaves and shaved bottarga that sounds a little nutty on paper, but came together in stupendous fashion.
Foie, Blood Orange, Oats, Geranium
The infamous Sons & Daughters garden is located in the backyard of Chef McNamara’s mother’s house, and it’s this garden that sources the majority of the flowers, micro greens, herbs, vegetables, and fruit you’ll find on the menu. Here, a silly foie gras mousse, so sweet it could have been dessert, was brought to life by garden grown blood orange, geranium and oats. This was one of our favorites of the entire meal. If you’re lucky, it’ll be on the menu when you’re there.
Sunchoke, Maitake, Leek, Pepitas
This dish was built around sweet, sauteed Jerusalem artichokes and supplemented by mushrooms, cooked leeks, greens and some homemade potato crisps to add crunch. Everything worked.
Sea Urchin, Cauliflower, Dashi, Sea Beans
Don’t even try and make sense of such a crazy looking plate. There’s sea urchin, purple cauliflower, foam, and some kind of Japanese sauce for good measure. If you’re a sea urchin fan, you’ll be down with this dish. The urchin literally tasted like the bottom of the ocean, so if that doesn’t sound appetizing to you, you might want to go in another direction. It tastes amazing to us.
Abalone, Burdock, Castelveltrano, Dill
An abalone is a huge, meaty mollusk, three times the size of the East coasts’ largest oyster. You’ll need a knife and a fork to cut through such a bivalve and in this case, the meat was cooked and served with a bunch of green things we’d never heard of before. It may not look that appealing, but trust us, it’s delicious.
Wild Boar, Apple, Hay, Pink Peppercorn
Part of the fun of Sons & Daughters is never really knowing how the ingredients on the menu will actually appear on the plate. The boar is compressed into the shape of a hockey puck and served over streaks of apple and hay puree like an abstract art project. The meat has the perfect consistency and a nice savory taste which made for one of our favorite creations of the night.
Squab, Pistachio, Fennel, Pea Tendril
We loved this. The squab was cooked medium rare and the flavors were out of this world. This one was less about the technique and more about letting the meat speak for itself.
Venison, Hedgehog Mushrooms, Brussels Sprouts, Charred Onion
With squab, boar and venison all on the menu during the San Francisco winter, prepare for game. And if you’re ordering the venison, make sure you’re ready for game on the raw side. Like, this deer might have been hanging out with its family just an hour or two ago. Prepared raw, the venison is blood red on the inside, which for meat eaters like oursevles, is perfect. Adding to the meat were all kinds of different flavors, thanks to the mushrooms, sprouts and charred onion.
We ended the meal on an insane high. Served with milk flavored ice cream, the chocolate mousse dessert was as good as any bite of chocolate can get. Also, the “Osmanthus Cake” was great too. It’s a plain looking yet flavorful white cake with beet, rose, and vanilla ice cream. Sons & Daughters knows how to seal the deal.