Review: Charin.

Being the foodie that I am, when I read about a pop-up restaurant in San Francisco I was more than intrigued. Since the restaurant I currently work at, Lazy Bear, started off as a pop-up restaurant a few years ago I was curious to try Charin since I’ve never experienced a pop-up!

Pop-up restaurants are temporary restaurants where they rent out a space for a night. Charin rented out a cute space in the Mission District. I didn’t know what to expect in terms of the food or experience since the pop-up isn’t that well known. Usually pop-up restaurants offers a multi course set menu and Charin was no different.

Geoduck with Peas and Herbs (5/10).

Geoduck with Peas and Herbs (6/10).

Chanterelle Mushrooms, Cauliflower Mushrooms, Black Truffle, and Pan Brioche (6/10).

Chanterelle Mushrooms, Cauliflower Mushrooms, Black Truffle, and Pan Brioche (6.5/10).

Duo of Mackerel with Ponzu (7/10).

Duo of Mackerel with Ponzu (7/10).

Octopus with Grilled Romaine (6/10).

Octopus with Grilled Romaine (5.5/10).

First Interpretation of Rice: Rice with Vinegar (7/10).

First Interpretation of Rice: Rice with Vinegar (6/10).

Chawanmushi with Lily Buds (5/10).

Chawanmushi with Lily Buds and Mushrooms (5/10).

Golden Eye Sea Bream with Kombu and Sansho Pepper (7.5-8/10).

Kinmedai with Kombu and Sansho Pepper (7.5-8/10).

Lamb with Swiss Chard and Sunchoke (8/10).

Lamb Belly with Swiss Chard and Sunchoke (8/10).

Squab with Summer Squash, Onion, Celery, and Dried Olives (7.5-8/10).

Squab with Summer Squash, Onion, Celery, and Dried Olives (7.5-8/10).

Cheese with Dried Blueberries and Cucumber (7/10).

Cheese with Dried Blueberries and Cucumber (7/10).

Second Interpretation of Rice: Sweet Rice with Strawberries and Red Shiso (7/10).

Second Interpretation of Rice: Sweet Rice with Strawberries, Red Shiso, and Chrysanthemum (7/10).

Cake with White Chocolate and Black Sesame Ice Cream (6/10).

Cake with White Chocolate and Black Sesame Ice Cream (5.5-6/10).

Overall I was quite disappointed with my experience at Charin regarding the food and the experience. Perhaps my expectations were too high but I felt like the chef was trying too hard to create innovative dishes and didn’t prioritize flavor and cooking techniques first in some of the courses.

However, I did enjoy a few dishes such as the kinmedai, lamb, squab, and sweet rice. Kinmedai, also known as golden eye sea bream, is a beautiful white fleshed fatty fish. Typically I’ve only had it raw at sushi bars but they gently cooked it without changing the integrity of the fish. The fish was buttery and paired great with the umaminess of the kombu (seaweed/kelp) froth. Next, the lamb belly was unctuous and cooked to perfection. The lamb was served with vibrant swiss chard and earthy sunchoke, also known as Jerusalem artichoke. The last savory course, the squab, was impeccably cooked. Tender deliciousness. I wasn’t crazy about the accompaniments to the dish but at least the star of the plate tasted scrumptious. The pre-dessert of the second interpretation of rice was a really interesting and tasty surprise; a rice pudding flavored with sweet strawberries and red shiso nestled in chrysanthemum tea.

Even though I enjoyed a few of the dishes at Charin, the biggest problem I had with the pop-up was the timing of the food; we were there for over four hours! I understand that Charin is a pop-up and they’re still trying to work out the kinks of the restaurant but waiting 30 minutes in between each small course is brutal. I don’t think the price of the dinner was worth the food nor the long wait so my rating for Charin is a 5/10.

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