Our friends Tracy and Marty were visiting from Southern California recently and we decided to go to San Francisco and hang out for the weekend. For our Saturday night dinner, our friends suggested that we try an eatery in the city, Dirty Water, that was new to all of us. It turns out that one of the managers at Dirty Water, Rachel, is a close family friend of our Tracy and Marty; what’s more, Rachel’s boyfriend, Edwin Sandoval, is Dirty Water’s Executive Chef. We figured we would get a bit of special attention and great service due to this “inside” connection, but boy were we wrong. We got much more than a bit of special attention; from the moment we sat down, inventive and creative food started flowing from the kitchen. Rachel and Edwin created for us a meal and a night to remember.
Soon after being seated we took a quick gander at the menu and immediately spotted one of the most unusual appetizers: deer tartare. Okay, that was one item that we knew we had to try. Also catching our eye was the crispy pig ears appetizer, an item that we consume on the too-rare occasions when we see it on a restaurant menu. Moving our way down to the entrées, we noticed some additional offerings of game – antelope and elk – and wondered how we were supposed to choose.
Fortunately, we did not have to choose. We explained that we were “game” for whatever came out of the kitchen and would enjoy sampling anything and everything that was offered. Our openness was accepted as almost a challenge by our hosts and they provided incredible variety of delicious, innovative and completely out-of-the-ordinary food.
We started with home-made hot,puffy, salty and delicious rolls, served with a butter made in-house from a local farm’s organic cream.
When we consumed all of the rolls, our first appetizer arrived at the table: crispy, spicy deep-fried pig’s ears. We do not see this item on many restaurant menus and when we order it with friends they often make strange faces and refuse to try the dish. Both Tracy and Marty are culinary adventurers and they were happy to sample these delicious porcine treats. After the rolls and pig ears, we were off to a great start and excited to see what Chef Edwin would bring next.
We did not have long to wait for the next appetizer and it turned out to be a true work of art.
This photo shows the “pre” state of the tartar, before our server skilfully whisked it all together. Once it was all mixed together we all shared this generous serving of deer tartar. None of us had ever tried this dish before but all were enthralled with its perfect and subtle seasoning and delicious flavors. This could easily be Dirty Water’s signature dish.
Our next appetizer was buratta with roasted butternut squash seasoned with light garlic and tomatillo flavors. This dish was true comfort food, accompanied with roasted zucchini bread.
At this point in the meal we easily could have stopped eating and been full enough, but hey, what fun would that be? We had not even gotten to the main course yet and we were excited to taste a couple of Chef Edwin’s recommendations. For the main dish we all shared grilled elk and sautéed halibut.
The halibut was cooked to perfection, crispy on the outside and tender and succulent on the inside.
For us, the elk was the real revelation of the evening, cooked rare and seasoned with a black garlic jus and served with forbidden rice and figs. “It tastes like chicken,” the old joke goes when someone tastes a new type of meat. We assure you that the elk did not taste like chicken, or even beef. Unlike some venison we have had in the past, the elk was not at all gamey.
At this point we were well past full and in the zone where no additional food can be consumed . . . except for dessert. We did not want to be inconsiderate and decline the creative, beautiful and at delicious desserts Chef Edwin shared with us. Once again, the four of us rallied and, as a team, were able to finish all of them completely.
We plan to make a return trip to Dirty Water the next time we are in San Francisco and try some of the other items that we missed on this visit (no, we did not eat everything on the menu). One item we are already dreaming about is the grilled antelope, which will be another first when we order it.
Dirty Water is in the SOMA district located very close to the Orpheum Theater on Market Street. This is a perfect place to stop for dinner before (or after) a show, for a casual Saturday night dinner, for a romantic dinner or any special occasion. Not only is the food special, the wine list is also very impressive and the physical space is elegant and classy. For reservations go here: Dirty Water Reservations
John & Irene Ingersoll
November 24, 2017