Aster

Another great new restaurant in San Francisco, Aster offers a four-course dinner, but each guest gets a choice between three different offerings per course. This was good, because we were each able to to find things that appealed to our individual palates. We could also still share, if we wanted to. Ken and I CAN eat anything, but we definitely have food preferences.

The Michelin-starred Aster is part of the Daniel Patterson Group, which includes Coi, Alfred’s, Alta CA, and Plum Bar in Oakland. Of these establishments, we’ve only been to Alta CA. We like Alta CA a lot and would go there more often, but there are so many options in Hayes Valley these days.

This evening, I started with the Market Greens with avocado, toasted seeds, blackberries, honey-lime. The best part of this dish was the toasted seeds, but I couldn’t get them all because of the shape of the bowl. The bowl looked handmade and very chic, but a bit like a planter. I would have liked a more conventional shape so I could have accessed more those delicious seeds. Next was the Soft-Cooked Egg with nori, puffed rice, bacon and smoked trout roe. Thanks for the heads-up Chris! It was creamy, smokey and delicious. My main dish of trout with miso-kosho, cherry tomatoes, spinach, sprouted wheat was delightful and pretty. The fish had just a bit of light crispiness on the surface, and was soft, flaky and moist inside.

Dry Aged Beef with umeboshi, brown rice crisp, kimchi furikake

Ken started with the Dry Aged Beef with umeboshi, brown rice crisp, kimchi furikake. This was basically a steak tartare served with a “crisp” that we can only describe as close to a papadum in texture and shape. (In the photo, the beef is hiding under the crisp.) It was delicious and more than just a bite. Ken loves steak tartare and loved this. Next he had the Morel & Rye Spaetzle with corn okra, garlic scape, spicy oregano, which had good flavor but could have used a bit more contrast in its texture, especially where the okra was involved. The star of his menu though was the Lamb with summer vegetables, black garlic, nepitella. The lamb was served in several different preparations, including a lamb sausage.

I have mentioned before that we love our savories and often skip dessert, but dessert was our fourth course at Aster. I chose the Strawberry with chamomile, lemon, sesame, coriander. Those who know me will remember that I don’t like cooked fruit, unless it is in the form of one of Shelley’s fruit pies, so you won’t be surprised that I didn’t finish my dessert. Unfortunately the strawberries were roasted. If you like this type of dessert, you will probably love the combination of the whole cooked fruit at the base, topped with a refreshing strawberry granita. I ate the top of my dessert, the granita, but left most of the roasted strawberries. Ken opted for the Chocolate Custard with coconut, black caramel, anise and liked it a lot. Luckily it was light on the coconut, because no one in our family likes coconut. We’re a tough family when it comes to dessert, unless you are serving us chocolate or ice cream.

In general, we thought the food was great at Aster, but that is unsurprising because we loved chef Brett Cooper’s food when he was at Outerlands. Ken ordered the wine pairing, and the selections were pretty good, but the pourings weren’t nearly as generous as the pairings at the Michael Mina Test Kitchen. Still it was plenty of wine for Ken, and I was able to taste if I wanted to.

If you go, be aware that you may end up at the big communal table in the middle. Another thing to think about is whether or not you want to order the bread. When we put in our dinner order, we decided to skip the calories and the starch. However, the service between courses is a bit slow, especially the time between ordering and the first course, and we kept watching the bread go by to other tables. Eventually we got impatient, waiting for the next course, so we ordered the bread. It was unneeded but very delicious, especially with the house cultured butter. (By the way, Art, I didn’t have to steal a menu for reference because a cleverly-folded menu was the vehicle for delivering the dinner check and credit card paperwork.)

Aster:1001 Guerrero Street, San Francisco. Sunday through Thursday 5:30pm – 10pm, Friday and Saturday 5:30pm – 10:30pm.

Next week: Tartine Manufactory