We’re starting to have a problem in San Francisco. People have discovered a formula for a "successful" restaurant menu and are sticking to it.
That's fine: like most everyone else, we appreciate a good piece of meat swimming in some rich sauce and surrounded by seasonal vegetables, placed on an earth tone-colored plate from Heath Ceramics. Think of it as the edible version of starting "the Uber for XYZ" or putting Chris Pratt in a movie. Everyone's convinced it'll work. And hey, it might!
But we're starting to reach a saturation point. Rich Table, Frances, Central Kitchen, Zuni, Aster, Huxley, Park Tavern, Marlowe, Delfina. And now, Octavia. Octavia is fine, but it doesn’t quite do enough to stand out from the rest of the upscale American-Italian-Californian bunch. At least not enough to push it into must-visit territory.
The spot, in the old Baker & Baker space, follows the standard menu guidelines (deviled eggs, chicken, butter lettuce salad, small plates, fancy soup) and jumps through all the hoops mostly correctly. And it’s a perfectly pleasant place to go out to dinner, provided you can get on OpenTable quickly enough, but there’s not much that's unique or noteworthy about the place. We really wanted Octavia to be a restaurant we could confidently recommend to friends, but there are simply a handful of slightly better, generally similar places to send you. That said, if you're looking to entertain the plus 50 crowd, the fancy farmhouse setup definitely caters to the older Pacific Heights crew, and it absolutely nails the Dinner With The Parents scene. The older people there seemed to be enjoying it the most. Got a 60-year-old woman wearing a flowy, rag-like gray sweater that actually costs $600? Yeah, she'll probably love it here.
Almost all of food is pretty good - especially the turnips and soup, but the desserts are hit or miss and most things involving pasta are a mess. We know trying new things is scary, but we are itching for some interesting food in the Pac Heights area, and even though Octavia checks all the boxes, we just can't get super pumped about it. The menu changes super frequently, so we're hoping things go in the direction of more miso grilled turnips, and less trying to make pasta your thing. And we'll take more of the free bread and butter. That sh*t is awesome.
The menu changes often, so many of these dishes may not be on the menu, but should give you an idea of what they do well.
Salty, chilled noodles that are very simple but very good. They are not kidding when they say small plates - this is so small it’s tough to share with more than one person.
Changes almost daily - we’ve had the garlic and white bean and it is outstanding. Rich, velvety delight. Comes with hearty mushroom chunks that are really good. Definitely low-calorie.
The grilled turnips were one of the dishes that felt most new and exciting. Fried onions and a little bit of miso topped off the crispy but soft on the inside little turnips. It's a tiny, tiny plate of food but that felt totally worth it.
This pasta comes with salt cod, and the flavors are OK, but the pasta was undercooked. Or it went stale. Which might be impossible. Either way, not very good.
Nicely done. Crispy skin, tender inside and super-fresh corn and tomatoes on the side.
Flaky, tasty, well-cooked fish. The charred romano beans that come with were fantastic.
While very creamy, the main flavor is basically "cream." Bland and boring, skip it.
Excellent fruity sorbet and fresh berries. The merengue pieces are just ok.
Not a pudding, more of a bran muffin with some fancying up. Very good and would be even better if they soaked it in rum.