Review of Town Hall Restaurant
Town Hall is one of my very favorite restaurants in this city. I absolutely love this place, and I believe that anyone with any sense would feel the same way. The food is first-rate, the service is great, the ambiance is unique, and it’s one of the few places in San Francisco where I have always felt genuinely welcome. This place combines warmth, civility and casualness with really top-drawer cooking and an innovative, perfectly-executed cuisine to deliver a dining experience that’s both relaxed and exciting.
In another life, I worked at RocketSpace, a technology incubator around the corner from Town Hall Restaurant. That space is now a very large hole in the ground filled with heavy construction equipment. It’s going to be the future Transbay Terminal for the City of San Francisco, so it’s a very very big project. But prior to that, I ate at Town Hall many times – lunch, drinks, dinner. I know it well, and in a sense, although this review only covers one meal, as usual, it’s a combination of many.
And Town Hall sits in one of the last human-scaled buildings right on the precipice of this project. It’s an oasis of civility in what’s otherwise becoming a very polished, shiny, expensive and demanding place – SOMA, the technology industry’s new Ground Zero. But Town Hall Restaurant really does remind one of another time, of a San Francisco that was around long before anyone invented the Internet – let alone the transistor. I’m a sucker for that kind of reminder of the city’s past, and Town Hall is all about that.
Town Hall Restaurant is located right in the middle of SOMA – downtown San Francisco’s tech center – at the corner of Fremont and Howard. That, plus the immense construction project, mean this is a nightmare for parking. You’re also right next to a couple of major arteries on and off the Bay Bridge so, yes, this means either a parking garage or BART to the Embarcadero station and a walk over.
Address: 342 Howard Street, San Francisco, California 94105
Phone: (415) 908-3900
Monday – Friday – 11:30 AM– 14:30 PM
Monday – Saturday – 17:30 PM – 22:00 PM
This place is a modernized copy of an old-fashioned San Francisco eatery. Wood plank floors. Wood ceilings. Exposed brick. The only elaborate touches are the wrought-iron chandeliers. The tables are plain distressed oak, with white napkins and servers in long white aprons. This place is warm, welcoming, and candlelit. One caveat – I was here at 5:30, right after it opened, and the bar (which is up front and which you must go by to get to the dining area) was packed with loud, aggressive tech types. This isn’t Town Hall’s fault, but be ready to deal with this if/when you go there.
Service at Town Hall Restaurant is Great. The wait staff is fast, kind of aggressive and very knowledgeable. They’re also paying attention – there was a problem with my credit card which the maître d’ caught instantly. Well done, sire.
Expensive. Including tip, dinner was $100 for one beer, appetizer, entrée, coffee and dessert.
The menu at Town Hall Restaurant is heavy on updated American classics – Fried chicken, grilled pork chops, that sort of thing. The secret, of course, is in the execution, which is fantastic here.
The appetizer was fried oysters — cornmeal fried oysters, Herbsaint spinach purée, Hobbs’ bacon, preserved lemon. This is a lot trickier than it sounds, although it sounds very tricky. You do not want to disguise, or redirect the fishy/ocean taste of the oyster – in particular, you don’t want to deliver one of those dishes that hoses the oyster down in hot sauce, or whatever. Yet, properly done, a nice little accent helps a lot, and these were flawless. The bacon and lemon were really subtle, and the puree sat in the shell underneath the oyster. The result was a fried oyster that was not immersed in too much breading, that was perfectly done and seasoned, and not too hot, either – you can really burn your mouth on a fresh-out-of-the-fryer oyster. These were flawless, and even served on a bed of rock salt, which is correct also.
To continue the seafood theme, the entrée was cod — black cod, Dungeness crab, kabocha squash purée, wild mushrooms, pomegranate vinaigrette. This was a revelation. Cod used to be a staple on the East Coast – there is literally a statue of a cod in Boston – and black cod is a very rich, very oil, very sweet fish. The combination of ingredients this was served with was unbelievable. The crab was sweet and rich, the squash puree was also. The mushrooms gave it an earthy content and a nice contrast, which was enhanced by perfectly done Brussels sprouts, with the bright, citrusy contrast of the pomegranate, which also provided a really nice crunch. Again, think of a rich, luxurious fish on top of a bed of ingredients that provided a lot of different textures and tastes, but with a consistent undertone of luxurious sweetness and richness – squash and crab. A fantastic experience, and beautiful to look at as well.
The dessert was a butterscotch and chocolate pot du crème, topped with chunks of toffee. I have never had a two-tone pot du crème before, and this was a tour du force. The only letdown was the presentation – it was simply dished up in a plain white bowl which is, of course, fine, but given the quality of the meal, I might have expected something a little dressier.
The end result here was a meal that was the equivalent of the best I’ve had in the Bay Area, in terms of creativity, quality and ambiance. It wasn’t a Church of Food service, and it wasn’t some kind of failed experiment or statement, either. It was wonderful food, in a classic, comfortable atmosphere, and one of my all-time favorite places.
Location of Town Hall Restaurant
Website : https://townhallsf.com/
Published On: Sunday, March 5th, 2017