Date Visited: July 27, 2013
Price: $3 for Muddled Herb Soda; $10 for Sweet Corn & Mt. Tam ‘Shortstack’; $8 for CA State Bird With Provisions (half a quail); $3 for Guinea Hen Dumpling; $8 for Garlic Bread with Burrata; $10 for Pork Belly Plum Salad; $3 for Raw Oyster; $9 for Albacore Tuna-avocado & Seaweed Cracker; $8 for Mint “Ice Cream” Sandwich; and $2 for ‘World Peace’ Peanut Muscovado Milk.
With so much press, popularity, and curiosity for the restaurant, it’s no wonder reservations are nearly impossible to book (reservations are booked up to 60 days in advance). The media, local foodies, and SF chefs all rave about State Bird Provisions. Even techies have written bots solely for making reservations on UrbanSpoon, so Jason and I decided to wait in line promptly 4 PM to secure our seats. If you are one of the first 10 in line, you are pretty much guaranteed a spot, at a table, counter, or one of the 3 standing spots. At 4 PM, we were #7 and #8 in line. By 4:15 PM, there were about 10 people, and by 5 PM, at least 30 people. When I first learned of State Bird Provisions, I thought the name was more suited for a museum or a park. It’s definitely very unique and creative, just like the food itself. The owners, Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski, named this new restaurant after the California state bird – a quail, which also serves as their signature dish on the menu.
2013 James Beard Foundation – Best New Restaurant
“A restaurant opened in 2012 that already displays excellence in food, beverage, and service and is likely to have a significant impact on the industry in years to come.”
State Bird Provisions, San Francisco
The exterior is quite unassuming, with large glass windows and a single door, and then you spot an endless line of hungry foodies, chatting about SF’s most trendy spots before the restaurant opens.
About 20 minutes before the restaurant opened, the hostess came out with little shots of hot cocoa to distribute to all the freezing people in line. The cup of hot cocoa was thick and rich with small hints of orange zest.
Upon entrance, there is an open kitchen, also visible from the outside, that takes up half of the front entrance space with standing spots and counter seats scattered around in a rectangular formation. There’s only an aisle space left for patrons and waiters to walk through towards the 45-seat dining room.
One step into this restaurant and the vibe already feels so trendy and exciting. We managed to grab 2 counter seats near the entrance where the “food carts/trays” travel in and out of the open kitchen. The staff is super friendly, and the waiter kindly informed us of how the restaurant works in terms of ordering food. The entire concept of this Americanized “dim sum” service is so different and creative, and it definitely had us anxiously waiting for new dishes to be served.
The menu is small, with only 3 primary categories: pancakes, commandables, and desserts. There is also a space for tallying provisions, which are small plates served dim sum-style. The provisions are prepared in limited quantities, and plated into individual servings, which the patrons can then say ‘yay or nay’ as the servers come around with their specific provision on a tray or cart. The check is always in front of you, and if you decide to try one of the provisions, the server marks the check, and the bill is tallied at the end. Each plate is small and so delicious that you might end up ordering more. We only ended up ordering 2 savory plates from the actual menu and 2 desserts at the end.
We started off with a muddled herb soda, which reminded me of a mint mojito. It was delicious and lightly sweetened, with hints of herbs that cooled the palate.
The first provision we picked up was the guinea hen dumpling. An aromatic chicken broth was poured over the dumpling (one dumpling per bowl). The thick outer ravioli skin was crispy, enveloping the savory meat inside. The chicken broth added a refreshing rich citrus flavor, and I finished everything to the last drop.
Next up, we found ourselves the garlic bread. Topped with melted burrata cheese, it tasted very similar to a Chinese doughnut, but much more crispy. It was crispy on the outside, and fluffy on the inside. The cheese was not overpowering at all, and it complemented the bread with its wonderfully light garlic flavor.
The signature dish came shortly afterwards, and I was excited by the smell. The quail was deep-fried in a bed of lemon and rosemary-infused onions. The meat itself was juicy and tender, and the sweet and sour lemon flavors from the onions added to the richness of the entire plate.
The pork belly plum salad was probably my favorite dish of the night. The pork belly was lightly fried and paired with slices of plum and a salad composed of mint leaves and peppers. The tangy vinaigrette was sour, sweet and savory. The jalapeños added that spicy kick to the sauce. The pork belly was juicy and not too fatty, with enough tender meat for each bite.
Jason had a shot of the raw oyster, which was topped with spicy kohlrabi kraut and sesame. He thought the kraut that covered the oyster completely overpowered the flavor of the oyster.
Next, we grabbed a plate of the albacore tuna-avocado and seaweed cracker. This dish was solid, and reminded me of the Squid Chip at Benu. The ‘cracker’ was thick and crispy, with a distinct seaweed flavor. Topped with big slices of hamachi, avocado purée, black garlic aioli, pickled radish, mint, and toasted sesame seeds, each bite was rich, meaty, creamy, and tangy. The flavors came together wonderfully, and I absolutely loved this creation.
We ordered the sweet corn pancakes near the end, and it was a great decision. These cheesy and fluffy pancakes came in threes. Each bite was filled with a mouthful of sweet juicy corn, and they were presented beautifully on a metal plate.
For dessert, we decided on the mint ice cream sandwiches. The cookie part of the sandwich was similar to a thin brownie, and the mint ice cream was light and refreshing to complement the rich chocolate. The chocolate-plum coulis had the perfect tangy flavor to balance out the sweetness of the sandwich as a whole.
Lastly, we ended with a shot of the peanut muscovado milk. It tasted like peanut butter ice cream, but lighter and less sweet. We were first offered glass shots with just dark roasted muscovado sugar syrup, and then the server poured the milk into the cups. It has the consistency of regular milk, with vanilla and peanut flavors, but it was not too creamy or sweet.
This ended our meal on satisfying sweet note. If you’re looking for one of the hippest and upcoming star restaurants in San Francisco, State Bird Provisions should be at the top of your list of places to check out.
1) Online reservations are very hard to come by as they refresh daily at 4 AM PST. Definitely come 1.5 hours before they open and grab a chef’s counter seat.
2) Save your stomach for the Provisions. Those are the “dim sum” plates.
3) Nearly every item can be shared, with an exception of a few. Try as many things as possible.
Yelp Review: http://www.yelp.com/biz/state-bird-provisions-san-francisco
4.5 out of 5 stars. 500+ reviews.
1529 Fillmore St
San Francisco, CA 94115 (map)
Tel: (415) 795-1272
Mon-Thu 5:30 pm – 10 pm
Fri-Sat 5:30 pm – 11 pm