The Michael Bauer, His Eminence Restaurant Critic from the San Francisco Chronicle, returned to Hillside Supper Club on Precita Park recently to take the menu for a test drive. And lo, The Bauer was pleased:
Using the moniker Supper Club isn’t an exaggeration because Hillside feels like a neighborhood gathering place. That feeling was evident even when I returned for a regular meal several nights after the anniversary dinner. What I found was that in the year since I first reviewed the restaurant, the service has become more professional and the kitchen has found more consistency.
The small menu includes eight appetizers, four main courses and three or four specials printed on a blackboard above the open kitchen. The specials may include more unusual items than the ones on the regular menu, such as escargot and foie gras. These live in stark contrast to the homey Nonna’s meatballs ($9) in a sweet tomato sauce, accompanied by a chunk of focaccia.
Other starters include squid ink ravioli stuffed with Dungeness crab ($14), where the two ravioli in a brown butter glaze are set on puddles of avocado puree with celery root, poppy seeds and herbs; it’s a pleasant blend that works together well.
The kitchen’s more refined side is evident on the white anchovies ($12) crisscrossed like a checkerboard, with dollops of lemon puree and a scattering of orange segments, herbs and puffed amaranth. Duck liver mousse ($9), a menu mainstay, is served in a glass canning jar with a glaze of huckleberry gelee, a sweet contrast to the whole-grain mustard, cornichons and grilled bread served alongside.
Main courses include exceptional pot pies, with a buttery crust that clings to the side of a cast-iron skillet. One time it was filled with rabbit, another time venison ($24), its gaminess partly quelled by juniper in the veloute, along with Brussels sprouts and caramelized chunks of salsify.
The Bauer’s final rating: 2.5 stars. Yesssssss!
In other news, Hillside chef Tony Ferrari tells Bernalwood that the Change of Ownership sign in the window is no big thing; Tony and Chef Jonathan Sutton merely reorganized themselves into an LLC partnership. Bon appetit!
PHOTO: John Storey for San Francisco Chronicle