Thursday, January 1, 2009

Town Hall: Memory Lane

Finding ourselves rather unexpectedly on our own on New Year's night, we decided to make the rounds of both new and old familiar San Francisco places. First order of business of course was cocktails and we dropped in at the Clock Bar of the St Francis, just a block from our hotel, for a drink. Michael had a pomegranate martini sort of drink and I had my first Sidecar, which I'd been intrigued with for a while. The glamorous retro setting seemed like the right time to try one. Both drinks were tasty without being knockouts. The bar was very pretty but was unfortunately populated by less than elegant hotel was the kind of place that was worth getting dressed up for but I suppose they can't enforce that in a hotel. So we left and went on to Bourbon and Branch, which was much different -- see Michael's separate write-up on that.

In between visits to Bourbon and Branch, we went to Town Hall which was one of Michael's favorite restaurants when he was a local. The room has a kind of rustic country sophistication which reminded me of Zuni Cafe although the location of the bathrooms -- near the entrance and up 3 short flights of stairs -- left something to be desired (having just come from 2 bars, this was of more than usual importance.)

The food at Town Hall was, for the most part, delicious. I started with 3 oysters of different types, one of which was delicious and the other two of which were a bit earthy for me. Not spoiled, just not tasting of the ocean the way I prefer them. Michael then had a butter lettuce salad with a very light blue cheese dressing, while I ordered biscuits with ham. I was rewarded with 3 small biscuits accompanied by some delicious country ham and jam. Naturally I didn't get to eat all 3 as Michael stared at them longingly until I forked one over. His salad was also very good, with nice lettuce and a very well balanced and proportioned dressing.

For entrees, Michael had the tasso-encrusted pork chop while I had the shrimp etouffee. As is obvious there is a pretty heavy Southern component to the cooking there. Both of the entrees were really good. I detected a slight taste of undercooked flour in the shrimp, maybe rushing the roux a little, but not enough to detract from the dish. No complaints about the pork.

We shared a piece of German chocolate cheesecake which we both thought was OK, but it was a little more sour than I was expecting and not quite as good..the topping also was a bit sparse which may have been the problem as some additional sweetness in the topping would have played well against the tanginess of the cake.

Since we were in the middle of an extended cocktail sampling session we uncharacteristically didn't order a bottle of wine; Michael had a glass of a pleasant but unmemorable Chardonnay and I had a glass of a similar Syrah. The list of wines by the glass was not very exciting for a San Francisco restaurant but the bottle prices seemed reasonably fair.

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