The Van Ness corridor is mostly home to construction, car dealerships, and restaurants you don’t want to spend much time in. House of Prime Rib is an obvious exception. And now, so is the upscale Indian spot August 1 Five.
August 1 Five is another addition to the string of new and exciting Indian places to open in San Francisco in recent months (see also: Babu Ji, Rooh), and we’re happy to have another good restaurant option in a part of town that badly needs them. Whether you’ve ended up here because you promised to take Grandma to the opera, have to take a lunch meeting, or just got sick of the traffic and decided to pull over and eat instead, August 1 Five is a good choice.
Having said that, August 1 Five is a low-energy spot. Maybe it’s because of all those opera season ticket holders, but the volume is consistently hushed. Everyone here seems very sophisticated and also maybe like they subscribe to Departures, and the space feels corporate - like it could easily be converted into a steakhouse.
Which is a shame, because the food is better than the Kristen Stewart-levels of enthusiasm in the dining room would lead you to believe. The lamb shank is fantastic and the biryanis, both chicken and vegetable, are classically great. The palak chaat is one of our favorite new dishes, because it’s basically a fried salad, and the lobster curry is stellar too. Besides the food, the bar area is an ideal spot for post-work drinks, or even a quick dinner alone with one of the very good cocktails. It’s never particularly crowded, to the point that on at least one occasion we’ve witnessed someone hanging out with a laptop and a drink.
We’ve had some very good meals at August 1 Five, but we’ll probably end up here again only because it’s close to other cool places, like Bill Graham, or when we’re running away from not-cool places, like Civic Center. It’s a solid option for dinner or lunch in a particularly barren part of town, but not where we’ll be heading for a big night out. Unless the big night out is La Boheme with Nana.
If you are generally anti-vegetables, palak chaat is a way to get some nutrition in without having to choke down badly cooked broccoli. Mainly because it’s just fried spinach with a yogurt drizzle and some herbs.
The presentation on this is less than ideal. It looks like chicken curry pita nachos (which will now, after witnessing the visual, no longer be served at our eventual chain ‘Nacho Problem’). The chicken is a little bland and the pita bread claiming to be crepes tastes store-bought. Skip this.
These are some excellent ribs that fall right off the bone and have a sweet and sour ginger sauce. The fennel and brussels sprouts that come with them, however, are sadly undercooked and not worth eating. You got the vegetables out of the way with the palak chaat anyway.
This is one of the best things on the menu. The lamb is tender, spicy, and saucy and feeds at least three people. Please order this, for your own good.
Lobster is mostly enjoyable when you don’t have to take it apart yourself, and August 1 Five does this for you - with a solid portion too. The curry and seaweed salad is not a combination we’d predict enjoying, but it works.
If you want to keep things in the non-adventurous zone, biryani, aka chicken and rice, is the move at August 1 Five. The chicken is tasty and the rice is light and perfectly cooked. It’s simple and delicious.
It would be the wrong decision to just order the plain naan here, because it’s mediocre. The bread basket, on the other hand, involves fancier naans that have cheese and potato and are A+. Be the hero, order this for the table.