A few weeks ago I made an impulse decision to drive into SF for dinner, which is never a poor decision when looking to liven things up in the midst of a slow week. The problem is I can never decide where to eat! When it comes to trying something new, I get overwhelmed with the options and then slink back to the same old fall-backs (which are nothing to scoff at by any means). But this time I was venturing out with someone that expected me to know the trendy spots in the city and pick something exciting and different. While I have visited Absinthe Brasserie and Bar before, its been a few years, so I felt comfortable choosing to revisit and re-experience this unique eatery.
Decorated in dark French decor and pictures of the little green fairy (or devil) covering the wall, the restaurant was bustling with a high energy crowd when we arrived around 8pm. Tables were scattered throughout the bar area, and we weaved in and out of the diners to get to our table that was located in a separated area just slightly elevated from the bar floor. Absinthe, while being known to serve the obvious choice drink, is also known for their extensive cocktail list that features historic drinks accompanied by an explanation of where in history they have roots. I definitely recommend checking this list out online before visiting, because the choices are detailed and in a face paced environment like this, its good to know your drink of choice right away so you can spend you time drooling and deciding amoungst the food selections.
My drink of choice for the evening was the French '75, a gin based cocktail with a splash of champagne and brandied cherries, named after a WWI piece of artillery. My date's choice was the Daedalus, made mostly of Jameson Irish Whiskey and created by an Irish bartender after he was hit by a Guinness truck. Both drinks were well made and strong in force and flavor. They were the perfect palate teasers to enjoy while we awaited our meal, which began with the Winter pumpkin soup, made with vanilla creme, ginger and topped with toasted pepitas. It was rich and warm with a special combination of flavors that strayed away from your average Winter squash soup. The citrus flavors from the drinks also worked nicely with the vanilla creme in the soup and the combination danced around nicely on the inside of my cheeks. We also shared a wedge of Brillat Savarin, a triple cream from Normandy that has always been a close personal favorite. Combined with the cold, crisp red grapes, this cheese was a special treat, especially watching someone else enjoy and fall in love with it for the first time.
The main courses we chose were the Vaudovan-scented carrot risotto with English and sugar snap peas, along with Machego and Chorizo stuffed Mary's chicken with shelling beans and grilled shisito peppers. The instant attack of zip was fantastic and fun, and the dish's characteristics fit the ambiance of the brasserie perfectly. The risotto was cooked perfectly with just a hint of the al dente crunch and the chicken, cooked with the skin on (and stuffed to the brim) was juicy and soaked through with the essence of chorizo.
The evening's combination of lively flavors and an even more lively crowd left us both quite pleased with the experience and both eager to return again! Suppose when you find places this good, its easy to just keep going back. My favorite part about this restaurant was its proximity to Hotel Biron, favorite wine bar in SF, which made it the perfect choice since walking to the bar was necessary after the cocktails Absinthe serves up! Look out for that green devil!