One of Hubster’s all time favorite San Francisco restaurant is Frances, and in spite of how small the restaurant is and more so, how difficult it is to get a reservation, we have gone quite a few times which is one of the few SF restaurants I can say that about.
Once I heard that the chef/owner, Melissa Perello, was opening a new restaurant, I was excited to check it out and see how her follow up restaurant would be. For Hubster’s birthday, I decided to make a reservation which turned out to be tremendously easier than trying to nab one at the original restaurant.
The overall space in Octavia is not huge but larger than Frances. It doesn’t have the same intimate vibe but I prefer the open kitchen concept at Octavia. Interestingly enough the layout of the dining tables still has them set so close that you can’t help but overhear the conversation of your neighboring tables. It is a little uncomfortable hearing the awkward conversation of the couple next to us who obviously were having their first date. Needless to say, it wasn’t awful or anything but just something I noticed. Now on to the food……
The halibut was locally sourced, mixed with pickled orchid melon and grilled cucumber, and sprinkled with toasted almond. This was quite refreshing particularly with the tangy melon adding a bit of citrus zest to the fish. A clean and pleasant way to start the meal.
I don’t think I can ever turn down squid ink noodles if I see it on the menu, but this might be the first time I was disappointed by that choice. These noodles were tossed with some fennel and lemon oil and sprinkled with Cortez Bottarga on top. The noodles were a little bit too al dente and and the overall flavor was a little too citrusy, but the biggest fail for me was the temperature of the dish. The cold noodle concept did not work well here, at least not for me.
The simplicity of the tomato soup was surprisingly what made it so delicious. I’m sure the amazing ingredients, particularly the Early Girl tomatoes, probably had a lot to do with it as well. Like the noodles, the soup was served chilled, and although it would have tasted even better served hot, it didn’t take anything away from the dish. The intense tomato flavor was complemented by the dollop of Burrata cheese which lent a subtle richness without being too heavy. It really was refreshing.
The beef tongue was cooked just right where it had a tender yet firm chew. The broccolini, toasted garlic and marrow broth came together quite nicely to balance out this dish’s flavor profile.
None of the main entrees really interested us, so we settled on the Brandt Farms Beef Ribe Eye steak. It was served with charred cucumbers, Nardello peppers, and Pt Reyes Baby blue. The meat was nicely cooked on the inside but it might have been a little to charred on the outside for my liking. It was a solid execution but not particularly interesting.
There were a lot of reviews mentioning this deceptively named appetizer, “Deviled Egg.” I knew I wasn’t going to be getting the typical hard boiled egg with the mayo mixed egg yolk filling, but I have to admit my expectations were kind of high. I assume the egg was cooked sous vide to ensure the egg yolk remained runny, and it was placed on a bed of Fresno Chili Relish and covered in a mix of Marash pepper & spice. It was devilishly spicy but it didn’t really have any interesting essence beyond that. I’m sure it’s my lack of appreciation with egg yolk in general that contributes to my personal disappointment, so I don’t want to taint other’s interest in trying this especially if they like their eggs sunny side up.
There wasn’t too much on the dessert menu that caught our eye, so we settled on the Toasted Angel Food Cake which was served with raspberry, golden peach slices, and buttermilk sherbet. It was not as crispy as I would have liked but turned out to be more like a caramelized texture. I enjoyed the fruitiness of this dessert and really appreciated that wasn’t too sweet.
Overall, the food was fresh and delicious and felt very akin to Frances in many subtle ways, but somehow it didn’t quite hit the bar for Hubster or I. We couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed leaving the restaurant which I feel bad saying, because it makes it sound like the food was not good. In fact, it really was quite tasty. I really believe it was only because we came in with the food from Frances already biasing our taste buds, so quite honestly, we both enjoyed the food at Frances more. It doesn’t feel fair though to compare the menus from the two restaurants as Octavia does feel a little fancier like more is being done to take the food to the next level. I think the appeal of Melissa Perello’s original restaurant is the pure simplicity and perfection of how fresh farm to table cuisine really hits the mark.
1701 Octavia St.
San Francisco, CA 94109
PAFO Ratings for Octavia:
Ambiance 3½ stars
Food 4 stars
Overall rating 3½ stars