Karina and a couple of our girlfriends and I recently started a “Dinner Club,” which would give our group the opportunity to try San Francisco restaurants none of us have been to. Sometimes, these restaurants would be new to the city, and other times they would be longstanding SF establishments that for whatever reason, no one in the group had yet dined at.
To kick off Dinner Club a couple of weeks ago, we went with the latter and tried Rich Table. The restaurant is only a couple of blocks from my apartment, though reservations are always tough to come by. We had heard and read so many positive reviews of the restaurant and figured it would be the perfect first Dinner Club dining experience. We reserved a table for six people on a Tuesday at 5:30pm.
I was the first in the group to arrive, as everyone was meeting after work and coming from various different locations in the city. The hostess sat me right away and brought me to the back of the restaurant, where one of their very few larger party tables lives. The majority of tables accommodate parties of 2-4, which means you see quite a few dates in the dining room. I immediately fell in love with the interior of the restaurant. The rustic, simple, woodsy aesthetic is great — and I loved the location of our table. It almost felt semi-private and away from noise, but not to the point of it being too far removed from the liveliness. The ambiance and space itself had to have been my favorite part about the experience.
Rich Table’s atmosphere aside, the service was also a high point of our visit. Our server had been there for four years and was clearly very passionate about the cuisine. He was brutally honest at points — for example when we were finished telling him our orders (you need to provide your complete order at once, not sure if this was only because we were a larger party or what), he let us know that what we ordered would not nearly be enough for the whole table. He even went down to the specifics of how many oz. of food we would be receiving. Our group appreciated the honesty and thought it was more comical than anything, plus we ended up ordering more food. Aside from the delay between our second and third courses, service was prompt and thorough throughout, and by the end we were perfectly satisfied with the amount (too full for dessert though sadly).
We started with a bottle of natural white wine (one of the only mid-priced whites on their extensive wine list), and a few of us also got cocktails, plus another two bottles of wine throughout our meal. I ordered the Negroni Week special, a Smoky Negroni made with mezcal, campari, oloroso, and coffee liqueur. This was a good negroni, though a bit watered down and I couldn’t necessarily taste the coffee part of the drink. Probably a good thing.
Our “BITES” breakdown: Bread & Butter (douglas fir levain, house cultured butter — fantastic large portion of bread with the most fresh, delicious butter), Sardine Chip (horseradish crème fraiche — a fan favorite though I am not a sardine lover), Duck Confit Steam Bun (cucumber, blueberry — I LOVE duck buns but this one was boring. We expected it to have a bit of a sweet quality the way duck buns typically do, but it didn’t), Eggplant Katsu (curry, cabbage slaw — we wished we had ordered multiple of these, so tasty), and Oliver’s Beef Dumpling (yogurt, chives — very bland, far too much dough and not enough filling). Our APPETIZER breakdown: Summer Squash “Al Pastor” (peach, salsa roja — the squash was supposed to be “al pastor” but there really was no al pastor quality to it, plus it came with flour tortillas which felt like an awkward combination), King Salmon Tataki (chicken skin, ginger & scallion — light and fresh, expected it to be a little more exciting though). Our pasta breakdown: Parsley Cavatelli (summer black truffles, mushroom marsala — very wine forward, but the mushrooms were tasty), Chow Mein (lobster, corn, drawn butter — sounded like a really cool dish though when it came out, the noodles were a bit too thin to be chow mein and lacked flavor. We liked the use of corn however, plus it came with huge/delicious lobster chunks), Campanelle (summer squash, goat cheese — delightfully creamy and the most flavorful of the three pastas). Our ENTREE breakdown: Pea Green Malfatti (porcini, snap peas — nice veggie entrée option, better than anticipated), 21 Day Dry Aged Ribeye (crispy potato, garlic, shishito peppers — yummy flavors, just slightly overcooked), BBQ Rock Cod (yogurt, jalapeño, summer vegetables — did not taste the BBQ aspect of this dish at all, expected it to have a lot more going on with the flavor profile but really was boring).
Overall, we were disappointed by the majority of our dishes. Flavors were lacking across the board. The only ones the entire group absolutely loved were the Bread & Butter, the Sardine Chip, and the Eggplant Katsu. The 21 Day Dry Aged Ribeye was a runner up for some, but a few of us found it to be overcooked (we ordered it medium rare but it seemed to be cooked more as a medium). While we had heard and read positive reviews, after our visit we also heard that the kitchen can be hit or miss depending on who’s cooking. This is a bit disappointing given the caliber and recognition Rich Table has earned — and because of it, I don’t think I would go back. I hope they can get to a place again soon where every night is a hit no matter who is in their kitchen.