At last the doors opened and we were shuffled in past the open kitchen and bar seats to the hostess who took our names and sat who she could.
As my un-luck would have it the last single seat went to the guy directly in front of me. The very kind host took my cell number (on her iPad booking system) and let me know it would probably be about 7:15 when a table would be ready. They would text as soon as something opened up. Not deterred as I was fully aware this was a possibility I moved down the street looking for a libation to kill time during the wait.
About a block and a half away I happened to glance around the corner to see cute bistro tables sitting outside what looked like exactly what I wanted. Unfazed by the fact that the fire alarm seemed to be going off I headed in to Fat Angel . (As it turned out the fire alarm had been set off in one of the apartments in the building in which the Beer & Wine bar is located and they had been assured there was no actual danger but the fire department has to come turn it off). Inside was in my mind exactly what I want in a bar. Cozy atmosphere with beautiful pressed tin ceilings, AWESOME list of mostly large format beers (don't get freaked out by the price many are 750 mL the size of a bottle of wine and are meant to be shared) and just enough food on the list to get a great snack or even dinner if you so chose while you drink. Although the menu isn't anything unheard of (artisan flat breads, cheese or charcuterie dsplays etc) it is all yummy looking. Since I'd be having a big meal I stuck with snacking on an order of the sweet & spicy Chinese spiced nuts while making friends with three guys who sat down next to me. It turns out they were also hoping to go to State Bird that night but weren't going to be able to get in till 10 pm! It pays to line up at 5 (and dine solo). It felt like I had been waiting only minutes when I looked down at my texts and saw that I had been paged! An hour earlier than anticipated woo hoo! I bid farewell to my jealous compatriots and quickly headed back down the street. As it turned out the guy who got seated right before me had a flight to catch or something and ate quickly, my luck had turned around!
I took my seat at the bar and began to survey my surroundings. Although modestly decorated when you are seated basically in the kitchen there is no end to the things you can see. The place setting has a wonderful farm house vibe and the menu is strapped to a board indicating the items that can be ordered from your waiter and also leaving spaces at the bottom for them to tally the items you get off the cart or more often in my case from the kitchen.
It's hard to know where to begin to describe these flavors and textures. The oyster was chill and tangy from from kraut with an enjoyable crunch and hints of the fresh seawater. The lobster was perfectly tender and buttery with herbal notes and the lentils added their own soft textural notes. Both were the perfect light refreshing start to my meal. As I enjoyed both my waitress brought my glass of wine and asked if there was anything I'd like to order from the listed items. It wouldn't be right not not try the namesake dish and so I ordered a half of the fried quail (the State bird of CA... get it?) which is served on a bed of onion jam and topped with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano.
While I had been waiting for my bird to be ordered the chef in front of me had passed over an offering of a veal and sweetbreads meatball served atop shaved quince and pickled vegetables, since I knew I would have a little time I thought why not!
I knew soon I would have to slow down. The influx of the last 3 dishes had kept me busy but as the cup for my dumpling was cleared away I couldn't stop my wandering eye from peering around at what might be coming out of the kitchen next.
While finishing up my "snack" course I was comfortably satiated and without an overwhelming amount of thought decided it was time for dessert.
This I think may be my best dining experience to date. This unique approach to serving food was transcendent for me (being the lover of small bites that I am) a choose it yourself tasting menu of complex
flavors and experiences. The fact that the open kitchen takes up the front 1/4 of the space is a fascinating design concept and quite the show for a home cook like me. Something particularly intriguing that I couldn't help noticing (with my restaurant background) was that the kitchen staff looked very different from many I had worked in. These were all culinary program grads.... and they all spoke English as a first language. Is that here or there? Probably not. But in a Bay Area restaurant is definitely unique.
It should go without saying at this point that I am dying to go back again soon. With so many other things to try and new creations all the time this is one that will keep me coming back again and again!