One of the most talked about restaurants to hit the San Francisco food scene in the past couple of years is State Bird Provisions which was named Bon Appétit’s best new restaurant in 2012 and followed that up with the same honor from James Beard in 2013. Chef/Owners Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski opened up a 2nd restaurant, The Progress, next door which has consistently become the easier reservation to get and so by default, I’ve already gone twice but have yet to get into State Bird Provisions. The first time I didn’t take pictures, but the menu seemed to only be slightly different this time around when Hubster and I joined my cousin and her husband for a kid-free date night. Considering we have 5 kids between us, you can only imagine how much we were looking forward to the evening. Since it wasn’t long after my first visit, the menu shared a similar seasonality. Although the menu changes daily, the format doesn’t. You have the option of choosing any 6 dishes across the appetizers and entrées which are all intended to be shared amongst the table and eaten family style. Generally speaking, I love family style dining because it allows you to taste a variety of dishes which suits my tummy best.
Unfortunately, I can’t remember all the amuse bouches that they gave us to start out the meal. There were Curried mandarins which were sweet and with a subtle curry power taste. The Mongolian beef jerky w/ peanuts was tasty as was the fried mussels and prosciutto-like ham. The others weren’t very memorable.
The slices of smoked duck breast were covered in marinaded pioppini mushrooms. I liked the smoky taste which was balanced nicely with the subtle sweetness of the dried plums.
The raw snapper was covered by the translucent slices of turnips so the dish admittedly did not look that appetizing. Although the fish tasted fresh, it wasn’t significantly interesting. Although the turnips and crème fraîche didn’t add much flavor, the squid ink cracker went well with the fish.
I thought this dish was the most inspired with the thinly shaved cauliflower tossed with some herbs and tangy vinaigrette to make a unique take on a salad. The pig fries represented the best kind of crouton you could have asked for. I think they were technically pig ears maybe but they were so crunchy and really made the whole dish come together.
This dish sounded tasty on the menu. Fermented sausage, trout quenelles and pumpkin-rice dumplings all swam in a creamy pork broth. Individually, the components tasted fine but I really didn’t like the sour slant of the broth. The dish seemed to have potential but ultimately fell a little flat.
The maitake, tofu and bok choy seem like the stars of this dish, and they were a delicious pairing for the smoked black cod. It was good but for considering it was a main entree, the portion seemed a little paltry especially for our big appetites.
I don’t think I’ve ever had razor clams before, but this was a delightful introduction to these shellfish brethren. The clams were topped with a Kimchi piccata and shungiku which are chrysanthemum greens. After pushing the greens aside, I really enjoyed the slight chewiness of the clams. It was reminiscent of a flat squid, and the spicy relish was a nice cherry on top.
Overall, I enjoyed the food but the meal. The dishes were all quite interesting in flavor profiles and unique executions. I enjoyed the seasonality of the ingredients. There were a few flat notes here and there especially when the menu and some early dishes ended up raising expectations of what was to come. It is probably worth noting that the family style approach is slightly different than what some people might expect. Although everything is shared with table, it does seem like each dish is appropriately portioned depending on the size of the party. The larger the party, the more food with each dish, but ultimately, each person is still getting the same amount of food assuming there aren’t any fast-eating foodies grabbing for more than their fair share. Needless to say, I felt full but others were ready to head to the Mission for a burrito. 🙂 Considering the menu seems to change with the seasons, there were some high points in the meal that would warrant a repeat visit.
1525 Fillmore St.
San Francisco, CA 94115
PAFO Ratings for The Progress:
Ambiance 3 stars
Food 3½ stars
Overall rating 3½ stars