Today, I have a very special treat for all of you. My restaurant review series, which has become a staple of sorts on the blog, is being taken up a notch. All thanks to my friend Lyuba. Lyuba not only took part in spoiling me, with an absolutely fabulous dinner for my birthday, but she also graciously agreed to write this incredible review of our experience. So without further ado, I present to you Lyuba’s review of The House. And if you love Lyuba’s commentary as much as I do, please do leave some blog lovin’ in the form of comments, to encourage Lyuba to come back again soon!
Get to know me:
Many of you may remember me from such hits as “hot chicks with skillets” from the “cooking with..” portion of Dimple Arts. For the 99.9% of you that don’t, allow me to introduce myself. One thing you absolutely must know about me is that as much as I love cooking, I love going out and having someone do it for me even more. But it’s not just about the food; restaurants, like people, have personalities. Some are all about looks and some are all about substance. Some are pretentious and others humble and understated. When looking for a restaurant, we look for one that works with not only our food preference, but personality and mood as well. As a frequent diner and traveler, I find that a good restaurant, like a man, is hard to find and reviews don’t always tell the right story since reviewers, as people, also have personalities and different backgrounds. In the era of Yelp, anyone with a computer is suddenly a critic. So I say this now, I am not a food critic…I do dine out a lot, like good food at a reasonable price, and am known for giving good restaurant advice.
Last Friday, I had the immense pleasure of taking out our very own blogger-extraordinaire, Julia, out for her B-day at one of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco, The House. Located in the heart of the bustling and parking-challenged North Beach district, or San Francisco’s claim to having an actual Italian community (please… the sleazy waiters at Steps of Rome DO NOT COUNT), this place truly pleases the senses without overwhelming them. In short, the food is great, the dress code is casual, and the décor is minimal. Don’t get me wrong, I am the first to admit that I tend to get suckered in to over-paying by giant Buddha statues, hipster chandeliers, and other gimmicks of the sort that pretentious restaurants employ, but sometimes it’s just nice to get the fancy food and not have to spend hours putting on your face and bunion-busting heels.
The Ambiance: Good for: Dates, groups of 4 or less, weeknights, pre-night out dinner.
This is not a bar scene, nor is it for decking out or people watching, although, Clive Owen did come here while filming “Ernest Hemingway” a couple of months ago. Expect a small space, tables almost too close for comfort, and the crowd to be on average, 35-40 year old eHarmony daters.
The Price: $42/person on average
The Food: I hate to bring up the cliché-ridden genre of Asian Fusion, but this place does generally fall into this category.
For all you oyster lovers, I am starting a cult and I am calling it “The House”, but seriously, living in SF, we are truly spoiled when it comes to seafood–especially raw seafood –and this place definitely ranks among my Top 5 for freshness, texture, and taste. Drizzle some of their delicious mignonette for the complete experience.
Ahi tuna tartare with roasted nori chips–The worst thing about ordering tuna tartar is the impossibility of actually getting it inside your mouth. Unlike other places, where the tuna and avocado flee at the sight of a cracker, leaving you poking at the plate for tiny morsels of fallen tuna, the house not only creates just the right consistency so that the good stuff stays in one piece, but they also serve it already doled out on top of the crackers, which are large enough for you to actually hold on to, resulting in less mess and more tuna. The flavor is balanced with just enough avocado and wasabi and just the right amount of zest in the fish itself.
Next, and not nearly as earth-shattering, we had the Asparagus with roasted sesame dressing. As my jewish grandfather says: “Eh…” nothing to write home about, so I won’t. Get it only if you like veggies with your meal.
Warm wasabi house noodles with angus flatiron steak- now that’sa what I calla a good pasta! Delicious and satisfying– get the steak on the rare side if you can handle it, the juicier the better. Guaranteed to be a crowd favorite and one of the more filling items on the menu, which makes it a great value.
Grilled sea bass with garlic ginger soy- Oh how I dread ordering fish as life is like a box of bad fish, you never know what you’re gonna get. Fortunately, at The House, you get a Sea Bass that is incredibly soft and flavorful. Whew!
The Wine: Due to the lack of adventure on the part of my Riesling-loving companions, we had the 2003 German Riesling for the second time here, even though they do have quite a few great options on the list, many of which are rarely found elsewhere. Ok ok.. I have to admit, I didn’t mind too much as it does go well with the sweetness of all the sauces.
If the house teaches you anything, it is that food is a wonderful thing…if done right and for the right price. One minus is the absolute impossibility of just walking in or getting a short-notice reservation. On my newly-created scale of “go there” to “skip it”, I give this place a “go-there ”, even after downgrading for the aforementioned parking situation and the proximity of the tables. Also, did they REALLY charge me for the extra serving of pickles that come free with the meal?? Yes…they shamelessly did. The food gets a “go-there” as well, even though the desert menu lacks the Joie de Vie! of its savory counterparts. With a little less “GTL” and lots of great food, The House is a “DGT”, or a “definite go-there!”.
The contact info:
The House: www.thehse.com
1230 Grant Ave
(at Broadway St)
San Francisco, CA 94133
Neighborhood: North Beach/Telegraph Hill