We just got back from a week-long visit to San Francisco where we tended our grandson while my daughter and her husband worked overtime to get their new restaurant – Rich Table – open by July 19.
To my wife and me it seemed impossible to believe that they had signed the lease and accepted the keys on May 1 and were planning to be open by July 19. Part of our disbelief was grounded in having been there the day they walked into the space. The previous owner occupied the space for 12 years, and so much of the clutter of over a decade was still around. The restaurant had only shut its doors for the last time the night before, so there were also the leftovers of last-minute meals and unwashed dishes.
The space is in a very good part of the city, close to the performing arts centers as well as the city hall. Still, the space was in desperate need of a major redo. And that’s exactly what Sarah and Evan did. Walls were torn out, the restroom was relocated so that it was ADA compliant and no longer opened into the middle of dining room, banquettes were tron out, and major cooking equipment, including the range led together with duct tape, was either replaced or sent out for a total refurbishment. Carpet was pulled up, and lurking beneath was a beautiful hardwood floor just begging to be refinished and polished. Other discoveries included beautiful wooden pillars hidden behind drywall covers and a great red support beam for the ceiling. An image of the red beam has become a part of the web site home page for Rich Table. Old furniture was out and natural wood tables with classic chairs were brought in.
After the demolition was completed. the new construction began. Evan went to an old saw mill which was being torn down in Petaluma. He bought several hundred square feet of old barn wood to be used on the walls of the dining room. With the help of their designer, Sarah and Evan put together a new space with soft-colored wooden walls, a gleaming cherry-stained hardwood floor, complementary curtains, and interesting lighting. The roughness of the wood was softened by welcoming throw pillows at the back of the banquette.
In the meantime, the two remained busy cooking for private parties, trying out some of the dishes they plan to offer on their menu. Their goal is to provide creative, well-prepared high-end food in a relaxed atmosphere without all of the fuss and with affordable prices. A couple of the dishes which will make their menu are shown here.
They still have lots of finishing touches to put in place, but the restaurant is close enough to being ready that we wound up having a sort of family picnic. Sarah cooked some of the food at home, then brought it to the restaurant to be finished. Our son joined us from his home in Silicon Valley. After a sparkling wine toast (New Mexico Gruet, what else?) we wound up having a feast – nothing fancy: roasted chicken, giblet sauce, fresh-baked biscuits, ears of corn seared on the restaurant plancha, sautéed shaved Brussels sprouts, and a delicious dessert leftover from a private party: sort of a deconstructed Black Forest cake with rich chocolate cream served between wafers of a crisp chocolate panade and topped with macerated fresh sweet cherries and whipped cream.
The big push now begins. The reservation program is not yet set up, but the plan is for Rich Table, 199 Gough, San Francisco, to be open by the end of the month.
Jacques Pepin says that one of the marks of a good chef is to be able to cook a perfect omelet. The other mark is the ability to roast a perfect chicken. Here is Sarah’s recipe.
- 1 fresh four-pound baking chicken
- salt and pepper
- 6 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
- 1 lemon, halved
- good handful of your choice of fresh herbs – thyme, rosemary, sage, or tarragon are all good choices
- ½ cup melted butter (about)
- Thoroughly clean the chicken, inside and out, with running water
- Salt and pepper generously inside and out
- Stuff the cavity with the chopped garlic, cut lemon, and herbs
- Brush the chicken all over with the melted butter and place in the middle of a heavy, oven-proof pan (cast iron works the best) over a hot flame.
- Turning frequently and basting as needed, brown the chicken on all sides
- Move the chicken in the skillet to the middle of an oven preheated to 425º F
- As it bakes, turn the chicken frequently and baste it with pan juices and remaining melted butter.
- Bake for about 1 hour or less or until the temperature of the thigh muscle reaches 165° F using an instant read thermometer
- Remove from the oven, let rest for about 5 minutes, and then slice into serving pieces while the skin remains crisp.