There's a lot of exciting cooking happening on the West Coast. Some of the best action comes from a new generation of chefs, who are young, have little regard for the rules, and are currently lighting their worlds on fire.
SF has Matt McNamara and Teague Moriarty, the twenty-something friends behind one of the Bay Area's most buzzed about restaurants, Sons & Daughters. They've earned plenty of attention from local critics, and a Michelin star. We're here to add to that buzz. If you find yourself celebrating a [perfect_for slug ="special-occasions"]Special Occasions[/perfect_for] around the Bay, this should be on your short list.
You gotta love San Francisco - even at the "Fine Dining" establishments, no one takes themselves too seriously. A youthful energy fills 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 pricey 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 with each plate, as if every 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, 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 overshadow it. And McNamara and Moriarty didn't even have to go to the school of Wylie Dufresne to learn this stuff, they just googled a bunch of sh*t and learned via trial and error. That also happens to be exactly how we managed to finish college. Nicely done, gents.
The breads at Songs & Daughters are completely out of this world, and before the meal gets under way, you will be treated to a few different styles, complete with delicious, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth butters that are salty and delicious.
Egg, Bottarga, Baby Bok Choy, Tarragon
A salad of baby bok choy, a mini poached egg, tarragon leaves, and shaved bottarga. It might sounds a little crazy on paper, but it comes 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 (dearly-departed) 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 is built around sweet, sautéed Jerusalem artichokes and supplemented by mushrooms, cooked leeks, greens, and some homemade potato crisps to add crunch. So good.
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 an uni fan, you'll be down with this dish.
Abalone, Burdock, Castelveltrano, Dill
An abalone is a huge, meaty clam-looking thing, and it's incredible. Here it comes served with a bunch of green things we'd never heard of before, except dill. Dill we're familiar with.
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. It has a perfect consistency and a nice savory taste which made for one of our favorite creations of the night.
Squab, Pistachio, Fennel, Pea Tendril
So good. 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 are 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.
We ended our meal at Sons & Daughters 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. This place knows how to seal the deal.