After years of seeing awesome Yelp reviews about the underground once pop-up New American restaurant, I finally got the chance to dine at Lazy Bear at their newly opened permanent location in the Mission District in San Francisco. Hell yeah! 😀
Lazy Bear isn’t your typical restaurant by any means. First of all, they don’t take reservations at all but sell tickets as if you were going to an event such as a sports game or a concert; they sell each month’s tickets all at once, usually two weeks before the month begins. Therefore, getting tickets can be quite tricky but if you follow them on Twitter or join their mailing list then you can see when they will announce what day they will have their ticket sale. Each night, Lazy Bear serves one prix fixe tasting menu ($100-$150/person depending on the day) of several small courses (anywhere from 12-15 dishes) in two seatings, 6:00pm and 8:30pm, where everyone enjoys each course all together.
Lazy Bear is casual and hip with a rustic feel with wooden beams on the ceiling and fake mounted animals heads above the bar. The kitchen is in fact completely open so you can walk up and see the chefs plating the dishes and engage in conversation (they actually encourage it and I went up about three different times, yes I’m a food geek, don’t hate). Another interesting part of Lazy Bear’s overall experience is that the dining room consists of long communal tables giving a lively festive vibe to the whole atmosphere as if you were at a fun gourmet dinner party, aka my kind of party. 😛
The night started off in the upstairs lounge area where cocktails and hor d’oeuvres were served.
Once the hor d’oeuvres were served, we were seated downstairs to start the dinner. Each diner gets an adorable plaid mini notebook as their menu where you can actually take notes about the dishes; is there gonna be a pop quiz later? We also ordered a beverage pairing ($75/person) that included six tastings of wine and one cocktail.
During the dinner, different chefs came out before each course to explain the dish. While some might find this annoying because they interrupt your conversation, I enjoyed it since I love hearing in depth how the dishes were made and how they were conceived.
Ohhhh man. Lazy Bear has been one of my absolute favorite dining experiences in San Francisco this year. Their menu truly reflects Californian/New American cuisine in the most beautiful and tasty way. Let’s start with the hor d’oeuvres; all were executed superbly for amuse bouches aka the perfect one bite packed with tons of flavors. My favorite amuse bouches were the whipped eggs and the foie gras mousse. Anyone that knows me knows I don’t like eggs. However, the whipped scrambled eggs tasted nothing like eggs but an airy luscious froth similar to a sabayon (a French sauce made from whipping eggs over a double boiler) paired with sweet maple syrup, salty bacon fat, and a touch of heat from their house made hot sauce. The perfect breakfast bite. My other favorite amuse bouche was the foie gras mousse. Duhh. Creamy buttery foie gras mousse on top of a brown butter brioche with tart kumquat jelly and green chartreuse (French “vegetal tasting” liqueur) pickled fennel. Mmmm.
Alright, now onto the dinner. Some of the highlights of the meal were the sweet pea custard, rabbit with snails, lamb chop, and the two desserts. We started off with impeccable homemade bread and I love bread; a buckwheat and rye grilled focaccia made from a dough flavored with kombu dashi (a liquid flavored with kelp and katsuobushi shavings which is made from bonito, a schooling fish of the tuna and mackerel family) and then dusted with nori (seaweed) salt and served with house made cultured butter. Amazing. The next course, the sweet pea custard, was the epitome of spring with bright vibrant flavors and colors. The creamy pea custard was topped with fresh sweet peas, steelhead roe marinated with sake (Japanese rice wine), grapefruit, and mirin (Japanese cooking wine), and garnished with garlic chives and pea tendrils. Delish. Another unexpected favorite dish of mine was the rabbit with snails. Moist tender rabbit loin with a delectable rabbit sausage flavored with nutmeg, ginger, and allspice, served with stinging nettles cooked southern style, garden snails from Napa, and pickled shimeji mushrooms. Now, snails might sound terrifying but these tender little guys were cooked ever so delicately and packed a punch of flavor. The last savory course, the lamb chop, definitely didn’t disappoint. The juicy lamb chop was marinated in Dijon mustard and blood orange juice and was cooked to medium rare perfection, even the fat was delicious! Underneath the lamb chop was a sweet Kalamata olive purée, earthy farro, and a wonderful mustard greens sauce. An interesting component that gave the dish another dimension of flavor was the garum, a fermented fish sauce used in the Mediterranean.
The intermezzo or pre-dessert was outstanding, the perfect bridge between the last savory course and the dessert. It was a rhubarb extravaganza; poached pieces of rhubarb in chamomile tea, pickled pieces of rhubarb, rhubarb jellies, rhubarb granita, and rhubarb chips. Rhubarb is a tricky fruit to work with because it’s naturally very tart and sour and turns to mush when cooked. The pastry chef did an amazing job balancing the tart flavors with sweet components such as white chocolate and adding other types of flavors such as pink peppercorn and herby tarragon. The meal most definitely ended with a bang, a phenomenal dessert. Smoked financier (a French moist cake with almond flour or almond flavoring) with a caramelized honey and yogurt sauce and a luscious lavender ice cream topped with granola (who knew granola could be so tasty), dried cherries, and bee pollen. So so so good.
Lazy Bear truly outdid themselves from the food to the service and to the ambience (I especially loved going to the kitchen numerous times). It was seriously one foodgasm to the next. Overall, my rating for Lazy Bear is an 8.5-9/10 for incredible creative and seasonal food executed brilliantly.