Range – San Francisco
A co-worker recommended Range, for being affordable and Michelin starred. I’d forgotten about it until the topic of dinner came up and we were thinking dinner in the Mission area would be most suitable for us to rendezvous with James.
Apparently seats here have traditionally been highly sought after, James said he went once before and gave up on subsequent visits because the reservation list was always too long. But today we gave it a short with just a few hours notice and got an 8:45 pm seating for four.
Bonus: great parking karma! We got space just across the street. Becca insists her parking karma comes because she’s drives a banged up old car – as soon as she upgrades her karma will go away. Meanwhile, we still reap the benefits of her amazing luck of parking in the city.
Seating was efficient and prompt, and we were in a small wing with two other tables. And those two other tables were filled with hip arty types talking about hip arty things. It’s intimidating to take a photo of my food when the person whose elbow I was accidentally touching was a professional food photogarpher, and ditto for the others at his table. But I learned: spraying scotch guard on a glass, then misting with water, will give the appearance of a big refreshing perspiring glass. So take note, oh food photographers.
The other table spoke of dating Christians. I didn’t get the details. But I did get details of the cocktails! All their speciality cocktails are $9.50.
Becca: Napoleon Complex – fair vodka, torres 10 year brandy, satsuma, mandarin napoleon, vanilla, lemon.
My drink was very nice, and if it was a little weak in spirit as reviews I’d seen often complain about, it was just right for me. I picked it because of the Encanto Pisco, an artisan spirit distilled in San Francisco but in the style of authentic Peruvian pisco. Plus, bitters!
For food, we all tried different things. Becca had the parmesan custard with endive, cara cara oranges and caper vinaigrette. She loved it, describing the balance of custard with savory as pleasantly unexpected. It was a beautifully plated item and would have been one of the favorites at the table…except that everyone else loved their appetizers, too.
Damon had the wild nettle stuffed pasta with goat cheese, lemon and almonds. He noted that the nettles didn’t sting at all! I also got no photo of this, as he was the farthest away at the table and I was intimidated by the professional food photographers right next to me (not working, just judging, I feared).
James ordered the item most reviews rave about: steamed savory clams with fennel sausage, fresno chiles and garlic toast. He said it was delicious, and I believe it. The clams were lovely and delicately small, the bread was perfectly toasted. He looked like he was enjoying this playground of seafood and sausage in his bowl.
I went with the raw Massachusetts day boat scallops with shaved fennel, marinated beets, blood orange and crème fraîche. I wanted seafood, and I wanted beets. Damn, I love beets! And maybe I was still disappointed by the small portion of beets were in my lunch salad. This was a wonderful dish, very fresh tasting yet tangy, sweet, bitter, creamy, crunchy, just all round awesome.
By now I was thoroughly intimidated by the professional food photographer talk next to me, so the only photo of the main dishes I got was my own. And it’s not even a very good one! I had the coffee rubbed pork shoulder with creamy hominy and collard greens. James had the same. This dish is described as the signature item of Range, the main dish that should be a part of anyone’s bucket list. It was insanely tender, holding shape on the plate until touched with a fork when soft strands would pull away like a dark rich butter. The coffee flavor was strong, and the meat in general had that intense slow-cooked taste. I might almost say it tasted a little tired, from being so strong tasting. James agreed.
Damon had the green lentil and portobello stuffed pan di zucchero with butternut squash puree, onion rings and yogurt. He seemed pretty happy there were onion rings on his dish! From my point of view, his dish looked like a piece of raw flank steak, rolled around some filling. It turned out to be the pan di zucchero, which is a kind of chicory, looking a bit like radicchio. That was the red lettuce with white veins that looked like meat with heavy lines of connective tissue to me.
Becca picked the winner, being the person at the table who figured out the appetizers were the way to go. She had whiskey and brown sugar glazed pork spare ribs with a carrot slaw. It was the perfect portion for someone not starving, and the pork shredded off the bones in fine thick pieces, and Becca found even the pork marrow bones were soft, edible and delicious. This spawned a whole new conversation about how everyone at the table – minus the vegetarian – loved roasted marrow bones. Yes yes, it’s good stuff.
For dessert, Damon had an espresso coffee, Becca had the blue cheese plate with honeycomb, and James and I shared a bergamot and bittersweet chocolate soufflé with earl grey ice cream. The texture of the souffle was perfect, warm, fuffy, chewy on the edges, creamy at the bottom. The bergamot and bittersweet chocolate was perhaps a little too bitter for me, and I feel that’s entirely a personal preference rather than a criticism of the souffle. Pairing it with the ice cream was a good balance, but I would have liked a little more ice cream to cut the bitterness of the cake.
Foodwise, everyone loved their appetizers. Mains were a mixed bag. None were bad, of course, but didn’t seem as interesting or innovative as the appetizers. And being a main course, they were decent sized portions, which was overly filling. If given the opportunity again, everyone agreed it would be better to order everything on the appetizer menu and skip the mains. I’m down with that, I love variety.
Range – Mission neighborhood