A few weeks ago J and I went to Reform Club – a pop up restaurant. For anyone not familiar with the concept of a pop up restaurant, it’s essentially group of food professional who take over another restaurant’s space (when the restaurant is normally closed). The result is food and service that is both professional and personal at the same time. Here’s a rare joint review from the both of us. (My comments in italics)
The short of it: tasty food by talented folks in a fun atmosphere. If this was a first night at a new bricks and mortar restaurant I would have been blown away. Given that this was a group popping in, I was even more taken aback.
So we had never been to a pop-up before. Basically, this is a fun way to “produce” a dinner amongst a connected group of folks. Think about getting the best folks you know who cook x or y, that friend that knows wine, the guy from you favorite cocktail spot. Etc. The result was fun, creative in several spots and pleasing.
One warning I will give folks is that the beverage pairing includes COCKTAILS. It’s a great deal if you can handle it but I was kinda trashed by the end up my meal having TWO glasses of wine and TWO cocktails. The beverages were incredible, particularly the Loire Valley white that was crisp and fruity (my favorite kind).
I won’t run down all the dishes, but a few highlights for me: a pate that was smooth with just the right amount of salt – not too dense and not too runny like some I have had. Served with some pickled veggies (want these so bad) and a strawberry rhubarb mustard (amongst a few more accompaniments). Tasty. Served family style.
There were generous amounts of pate but a small amount of the pea puree. The staff were very good about refilling the bread to serve the pate on. They also have a delicious jam that you could have with the pate and cheeses.
And then it took a bit of time to get to the next course. As this was their preview, that was to be expected and they were using a part of a wall to show short food videos.
The melon salad was fresh and would have been ok, if not a little quiet on its own, but there was also a crispy prosciutto. All you pork crazed people would have loved it. Crispy flakes of piggy goodness brought a depth and pang of salt to the melon. Sprinkled with fresh herbs.
I find high end dining in the Bay Area to fall into two categories. 1) Creative and interesting blends of flavors that relies on saucing and braising. 2) Minimalists who rely on the quality of the ingredients. Both are awesome and both have their place. Reform Club’s menu is the latter.
One of my favorite things to have at a restaurant is a perfectly cooked piece of fish. I will admit to not knowing how to cook many fishes, not even sure always what fish should be presented what way. But I know halibut. I was bored by the idea of it until I took a bite. I believe I gasped “Holy Sh@#!” to my dining companions and my face froze in the worry face. You know the one — you squint a little not believing something can be that good. When I cook, it’s what I aspire to and the halibut delivered. 8 people at the table. 8 halibuts. Lots of “worry face” and one “Holy Sh!#I” It was served with something I remember liking, but I still can’t stop thinking about the fish. The crust on top was perfection, a crispy crust a touch thicker than I ever remember having but not crossing the line into over cooking or compromising the fork and mouthfeel of the inside. A friend just Facebook commented that she wants that fish again.
Well hell, this is looking more like a recap. Fine. Wanna talk dessert? The worst part of this being a popup is that I can’t have dessert again. The menu said it was an almond “financier.” What? Like someone who finances almonds? Yeah — I may not know what the hell it is, but I can tell you that it kicked my but – and was super sexy. It came with a little compote and cocoanut sorbet with something called vadouvan, something I need to look up. Also some apricot. It was harmonious and sweet. The financier is a little cake. It needed a knife which was missing, but it’s carmelly, almondy, dense cake absorbed both the slow melt of the sorbet and the seeping juice of the apricot. I think there were little granola pieces as well. Texture dancing in lust.
Really one of the best parts of the meal. It was all there, sour, sweet, salty, a little bitter.
I truly hope someone with some wine and cocktail depth writes up the drinks. We had the pairing and it was a decent amount alcohol for some of the lightweights to handle. At the edge, but I might be skewed after having a pre-meal red (also yum). The pate course was paired with a cocktail that had apple jack, grenandine, and port in it. Sweet, strong, cool, and then so warm on the throat. The melon course saw my favorite pairing. I love a sweeter wine and this one, called Guy Saget, Les Clissages d’Or was light with a honey tone that was awesome with the melon and salt from the prosciutto. A chenin blanc with dessert was also in harmony.
There were a few slow moments, but we had experienced, thoughtful service. More toast came without asking when the pate course was on the table and water glasses (my big glitch) were never empty.
Finally, the space. Don’t go in expecting a quiet time. It’s a big semi industrial space with fun design flourishes. I had a prime seat to watch a running video of clips from Italian cooking shows (Lydia!) odd stop-motion food clips, and other hilarity. No sound, so it was take it when you want it. Like many things here, a fun touch without whopping you over the head with the “Aren’t we clever” stick.