There are a lot of restaurants out there and most of them are, pretty much, exactly the same. Standard formats, mirroring menus, and a familiar lack of personality. That's why, when smart people come up with cool concepts that are well executed, people generally freak out. And freak out they did over State Bird Provisions, which became not just the talk of the town, but the country. State Bird turns the tables on dim sum. Instead of dumplings and rice noodle rolls, they march carts of carefully curated small plates filled with exotic flavor combinations down the aisle. State Bird is unlike any restaurant we've ever seen; fresh, fun and best of all, f*cking delicious.
Here's how dinner at State Bird goes down. First you must get a reservation 60 days in advance at 4 a.m. We hope you have web programming skills or insane reflexes, because everybody else seems to. No reservation? No problem. Just get in line 2 hours before opening. We suggest you bring something to read, or brown-bag it.
But once you carry out this entirely reasonable series of steps, the fun starts. Carts and carts and carts of fun.
Like strippers looking for a lap dance, a parade of carts and trays carrying an array of irresistible small plates will present themselves, all dolled up and ready to party. We had no self -control. Each cart was more exciting and surprising than the next. We green lit 10 carts in a row and before we knew it, with menu items and desserts, we were 14 courses deep. This is the kind of meal it's OK to live blog even if you don't run a food website.
Considering our standard dim sum experience usually involves wine in a plastic cup and a translator, we'd say this is a little more our speed. If you go in with the right attitude, there's a good chance State Bird will be the most fun you have all year dining out.
Potato Tonnato with Onion Rings
A first course of potatoes served as a base layer of carbs and fiber for the impending SF food marathon on the horizon. Creamy tonnato, crispy fingerlings, and crunchy onion rings. Everything tastes better with onion rings on top.
Pork Belly with Kimchee, Tofu and Carrots
We've eaten a lot of pork belly, but this one was one of the most memorable. It's a different approach, with an Asian flair. State Bird chops the belly into smaller nuggets than usual, giving the meat a chance to get real crispy on the outside, yet keeping the insides soft and gooey. The whole thing worked, cross your fingers its on the menu when you go.
Matsutake Mushrooms with Whipped Potatoes
The thing that makes the dish so good is how perfectly prepared and bold the flavors are. Matsutake Shrooms, whipped potatoes smooth as a baby's bottom, zesty lemon, and a the sleeper ingredient that pulls the whole dish together, nori butter.
Caesar Style Steak Tartare
No joke, this was one of the best and most unique steak tartars we've ever had. So good, we each needed our own.
Pig Ear Shoe Strings
Our favorite dish of the night, hands down. It's like the best skinny onion rings you've ever had, but 10x better. Don't be scared of pig ears - they're a salty, crispy slice of hog heaven.
Smoked Sturgeon Pancake
This is one of their popular and close to permanent signatures. Slices of smoked sturgeon are laid out belly up atop some crazy "everything" pancake creation and topped with horseradish schmear. A solid play on a bagel and cream cheese.
Guinea Hen Dumpling with Aromatic Broth
Now that's a beautiful looking dumpling. She's likely to be on the menu and you definitely need to order one for yourself. Get your dim sum on, proper.
CA State Bird with Provisions
At the chef Stuart Brioza's previous restaurant, he cooked a similar quail dish. He said it was the one dish that was absolutely fail proof. So fail proof, he decided to build his own establishment around it. We see why. The namesake deep fried bird is damn near perfect. The quail is topped by shaved Parmesan, owns moist innards, crispy, crunchy outers and sits in a smooth, lemony, buttery, oniony confit.
Say what cart operator? We'll take three. Served with fig jam and some pickled veggies, this tasted like a bacon meatball. It was awesome.
Glazed Pork Ribs
Glorious pork ribs, glistening for the camera, oozing with fatty flavor. Order 'em up, they're on the menu, not rolling around on carts.
Oyster with Spicy Kohlrabi Kraut & Sesame
Shocking, this raw oyster with some Japanese spices on it was delicious.
Albacore Tuna with Toasted Quinoa
Saving one of the best for the last. The contrast between the raw tuna and the crunchy toasted grains make this dish special, different and unique.
Ice Cream Sandwich with Fig Jam
We like to think of ourselves as ice cream sandwich experts (that's what happens when you eat too many Chipwiches growing up), and this sweet, savory 'wich exceeded all expectations. Stupid in the best way possible!
Cocoa Pudding with Huckleberries
Dessert = equally if not better than dinner. Go hard on that dessert menu, the bites are small put pack insane sweetness. We went out on top with the chocolate mousse. Delicious. It's officially time to go to bed.