One of the things I love most about San Francisco is the ability, no matter where you are in the city, to stumble upon amazing unique dining experiences. As you know I go to the ball park a lot but it's rare that I wander around the area much. We go up to 21st Amendment occasionally for a beer and a nosh before the game (highly suggest it by the way if you have never been, awesome burgers and their own unique watermelon beer) but beyond that we don't spend much time in the area.
A few weeks ago we were leaving a night game awaiting the next Caltrain to take us home when someone suggested we grab just one more beer before we depart. For those of you familiar with the area adjacent to the Caltrain station there aren't an abundance of options beyond Safeway and some counter service restaurants across the street that weren't open at the time. A few people from the group began walking down the opposite side just to do a little recon into the area. Lo and behold they found a small restaurant just across the street from the station that was still serving drinks! Although the kitchen was closed I couldn't help eagerly looking at the menu. There are a few key words that make me instantly want to try a restaurant- Brussel Sprouts, Buratta Cheese, Truffle anything, & Sweet Corn Soup. One of the remnants of my years at Pizza Antica is an undying devotion to Brussel Sprouts and the constant promotion of them as "not the gross veg you remember from childhood". Imagine my joy when I saw brussel sprouts 2 ways on their menu along a Buratta special, a Truffled Pecorino in polenta, along with Sweet Corn Soup with mmmm.... chili oil!
As soon as I got home I got on Marlowe's website to scout everything out. Young yet seasoned restaurateur Anna Weinberg created Marlowe along with her Chef Partner Jennifer Puccio. The cozy and classic Bistro ambiance has just the right balance of refinement with rusticity that sets the stage for the cuisine of high end comfort food. I was excited to see that I soon had a day game on the calendar with 3 of my best foodie girlfriends. I couldn't wait to share this experience with them as there is no greater joy than sharing great food and drink with great friends!
We made reservations for 5:30 and hoped our game would end in time. We were in luck and ended with about 45 min to spare, just enough time to move the car and get to the restaurant. As an FYI, we were able to find ample parking on the streets surrounding the restaurant however be sure to read carefully, most of them are only metered till 6pm then you are in the clear. 5:30 is Marlowe's earliest reservation and believe me YOU WANT IT. We were the third group seated of about 5 groups waiting when they opened the door at 5:30, by 6 it was full, by 6:30 one of the specials had already sold out. When I made the reservation the manager asked if I would be ok sitting at the communal table down the center. I said we were and it worked out just as well as any other table. We were between two other groups of six but had plenty of elbow room and did not feel like we were too close for comfort. The only draw back was the exposed metal support beam that crossed through the table right about where we were seated. We chose to share a number of plates and this did make coordinating their placement a little tricky. Since I had already become some what familiar with the menu as soon as we were seated I took a look at the wine list. Wow. I am not a wine snob but I know what I like and I know the price points I like to pay. Most places I go and it's usually pretty easy to narrow down what I am going to get due to lack of options, never have I been to a place where there were so many by the glass that I couldn't choose! I had read on their web site that the General Manager and wine buyer, Sarah Varley, had created a list of affordable options with lots of different non-traditional varietals that she has a particular affinity for. There were so many great options, all hovering around $9-$10 it was really hard for me to choose but after we talked about what we were ordering I went for a nice dry Rose from Provence (just can't go wrong with that on a summer day!). Tori had their "Butcher's Mistress" the drink special which they change daily, today it was Proseco (dry Italian sparkling wine) with fresh lime and pomegranate juice. Kerry had the Chenin Blanc, and Abbie went with a non alcoholic Bundaberg Ginger beer which came in an adorable bottle with Kangaroos on it! Everything looked so good that we decided our best option was to pick a number of things to share so we could all enjoy them and I could get constructive feed back for the article. Gotta love friends who are down for the cause! We chose (3) appetizers, (2) mains, and (1) side dish to share. The first item to arrive were our brussel sprout chips. Right out the gate we were impressed. With just a light essence of lemon juice keeping them fresh and a sprinkle of sea salt to accentuate the natural nuttiness these chips were to die for. Nice and hot out of the oven or fryer we couldn't help extolling the virtues of these amazing chips. Crisp and full of flavor the verdict around the table was we need a huge bowl of these to snack on for our next movie night! Delicious and no guilt! We were about two thirds through the basket when our waitress set each of our place settings with a spoon and brought out the sweet corn soup. Before I get too deep into the description I want to take a moment to say how friendly and professional the staff was. You could tell they were well trained and truly enjoyed working there which is always such a joy to experience, especially from the perspective of a former server!
We each took a spoonful of the soup being sure to incorporate the chili oil as well as the crisp potato shavings on the top. Piping hot the soup was sweet, creamy and delicious. You could tell that the corn cobs had probably been utilized in the stock because it was full of flavor. The texture was silky so it also must have been well strained. Although I do enjoy some whole kernels in my corn chowders I did not miss them in this soup. I also really enjoyed the cute plate it was served on. The small floral pattern gave me the feeling like I was being served from someones home kitchen and I thought it was a really appropriate touch, giving the whole presentation character. Another great character point was the large roll of butcher paper hanging on the far wall promoting the evenings specials. This was such a hand shaped creative touch that I thought really brought the image the restaurateur was going for to life. The bold print grabs your eye as soon as you walk in and I was giddy to see the Roasted Beets and (local) Berkeley Buratta with herbs. It took very little convincing of the girls that we simply had to order this dish and we were lucky to get it. Just an hour later it had already sold out! Artfully displayed on a long rectangular plate the brilliant red and golden beets shown like gems amongst the fresh green herbs and luscious fresh buratta cheese. All of this was drizzled with a not too overwhelming balsamic reduction which enhanced the sweetness while still providing a nice acidity to balance everything. I could easily have eaten this entire dish myself. The herbs each played their flavors into the other elements and although the beets were roasted they were still firm enough to be toothsome. The girls were kind enough to let me have the last extra portion and I greedily nibbled it down. None too soon were our starters finished as our mains had arrived! It isn't often that I order chicken at restaurants. For whatever reason I have programmed myself to think of it as the "safe" choice, an add on by the chef who needs something for picky eaters. Thankfully I did not let this preconception get in the way of our ordering the "Poulet Vert" (hey 2 years of french in High School finally paying off! I knew that meant Green Chicken!). Served with Broccoli Di Ciccio pumped up with some chili and the cutest Marble Potatoes (they literally looked like little assorted color marbles, I have to figure out where I can buy them) the chicken is a full wing on breast piece with two little leg pieces. All served bone in with the skin on to really hold the moisture and the flavor from the sauce. I am undecided if this should be described as a sauce or a gravy but whatever it was IT WAS AMAZING. So full of flavor we couldn't help trying to soak up as much as we could with each bite. Although I'm usually not much of a skin eater (if there is any fatty texture I just can't enjoy it) I barely noticed the skin on this dish. It had just enough crispness that it added flavor and texture to the meat but none of the slimy characteristics I dislike. The potatoes were sweet and had great texture and the kick from the chili in the broccoli di ciccio brought it's own unique component to the dish as a whole. We were all overwhelmed by how much we enjoyed the chicken, agreeing that the sauce/gravy was what made it really special.
As soon as the polenta was set on the table the aroma of truffle wafted up to our noses. Warm, earthy, and inviting I couldn't wait to dive in. The large white bowl was layered first with warm creamy polenta, then the sauteed wild mushrooms (it looked like as many as 5 varieties), a bed of young greens, and lastly a poached egg and shaved pecorino cheese. We first broke the egg letting the viscous yolk spread amongst the greens and drip down into the mushrooms and polenta below. Passing around the bowl I tried to hold myself back starting with just a small serving making sure incorporate all the elements in my first bite. As if I haven't said this enough this article: WOW. This dish was so enjoyable to eat. The variety of textures were delicious and the earthiness of the whole thing was incredibly fulfilling. I was definitely glad I was sharing it however because all of the elements combined made it very rich. The greens added a nice lightness to help balance it out but with everything we had already eaten we were getting pretty close to overload! ... and then we tried the Gratin.
The small florets were smothered in provolone and smoky cheddar cheese with a nice crisp broiled top. By this point in the evening I could only manage a couple bites but the side dish was really yummy! It was served in an adorable cast iron dish straight from the oven on a kitchen towel and plate. The rustic appeal was wonderful and even though I couldn't eat much of it I enjoyed the dish!
Although we were about to burst there was an unsaid agreement that no restaurant can be fully reviewed without tasting dessert. I am sad to say I almost wish we hadn't. Pre-made and served in cute jars we chose the Chocolate Cream Pie and the Lemon Souffle Cake . Of the two the Lemon was the hands down winner. I am a lover of chocolate but the cream had an unpleasant sour characteristic and the "crust" at the bottom of the jar was overwhelmed with sea salt. I can see where they were going with this and maybe we just got an off jar, but I think we all found it really unenjoyable. Although we liked the lemon better, it was relatively uninteresting and it was difficult to enjoy all the layers with the jar presentation. I am sad to say that I have to suggest skipping dessert and maybe enjoying a dessert wine or coffee instead.
Over all though I cannot wait to go back. All things included (beverage, meal, dessert, tax and tip) we spent $43 a piece which when you break it down is pretty good! We all had a fabulous time deconstructing each dish as we ate it and as always a memorable time being together!