[San Francisco, Mission] Al's Place

Had a very nice solo dinner at the bar at Al’s place. It’s a very vegetable focused restaurant with some seafood as well. Vegetarians would eat well here. Meats are interestingly all listed in the “Side Dishes” category of the menu, which also has some limited availability items. In addition to a la carte they also have a fixed price family style dinner for $65, which is what I had. This was described as about 8 courses, with 4 from the “Snackles” section, 2 from the “Cold/Cool” section and 2 from the “Warm/Hot” section, and a dessert in addition. It ended up being 11 courses from what I counted - 6 snackles, 3 from the cold section and 2 from the hot section, along with the dessert.

Started with some snackles:

vadouvan almonds
Sweet vadouvan spice encrusted almonds. Sweet curry flavored exterior.

mushroom broth chawanmushi, fuji apple, pistachio
Mix of textures with the jelly custard-like chawanmushi, crunchy pistachios, and the somewhat softened apples. Also a mix of salty and sweet, with a little pepperiness from the greens on top.

a take on radishes with butter and salt (not on the a la carte menu)
Radishes and a trout butter and sea salt. I’m not sure how they made the trout butter but it tasted like the description, a trout flavored butter. Very good. Fresh tasting radishes. Ate the stems too.

brine pickled french fries, smoked apple sauce
Interesting fries, could definitely taste the pickled flavor. I’m not sure what the two non-fry things were on the top but they were very good and greasy. Potato skins maybe? Smoked apple sauce dip tasted like a thick apple butter.

some sort of cheese whiz with bread crumbs (?) (not on the a la carte menu)
The server said some people dip their fries in this, which is what I did. Heavy whipped cream consistency, cheesy, salty, sweet, and a little tart. A little bit of crunch from the crumbs.

garden fritter with a fennel mayo (not on the a la carte menu)
Tasted like a falafel but less dense more airy. Very good. Tart fennel sauce on the bottom.

Next were some cold items:

baby lettuces, herbed avocado, pistachio crumble
This was great. Very pretty presentation, looked like a flower centerpiece, but with lettuce. The herbed avocado sauce was on the bottom of the bowl, and you use it as a dip for the lettuces, which were pristine.

lightly cured trout, crispy potato, bashed turnips, bagna cauda
Great as well. Nice contrast in textures from the trout and the potato, turnips, and the rich salty bagna cauda sauce.

blistered squash, burrata, hummus, pickled kohlrabi, apricot
This was good but maybe my least favorite of the dishes. Could have been because everything was kind of sweet.

And then some hot items:

sunchoke curry, black lime-squids, citrus jewels, winter jam
The curry was poured over the other ingredients in a bowl. Nice presentation. Another interesting mix of flavors and textures. Sunchoke curry tasted like a Thai curry. Could taste some lemongrass in there and some makrut lime. Squids were tender and chewy, and the citrus jewels (I think tangerine slices) and winter jam were sweet.

grits, goat’s milk curds, brussels sprouts, quince, hedgehogs, yuzu blaster
Very good, again lots of contrast from the creamy grits, rich curds, slightly bitter brussels sprouts, sweet quince, tart yuzu sauce.

And finally dessert:

spiced quince, ginger/lemon thyme, za’aatar
Light and refreshing dessert, with cold poached(?) quince slices in a cool sauce, topped with an airy za’aatar spiced whipped thing. Glad it wasn’t that heavy as I was kind of stuffed at this point.

Great meal, lots of interesting mixes of textures and flavors. The family style menu was also a large amount of food - I think it’s very good deal for $65. Was thoroughly stuffed at the end. Highly recommended.


Do they still offer the fish belly special? How are the lines?

I didn’t see a fish belly special on the menu that night, unless it was the “fish mullet” that was on the menu? That was there. I managed to get a same-day reservation so didn’t have to wait, but there was no walk in line that (rainy) Saturday night at around 8pm FWIW. The restaurant was full though.

Yes it’s the fish mullet (it’s actually belly), thanks.

Those fries are great. Texture is too close to In and Out fries to my liking, but the flavor is like a sauerkraut and potato pierogie in each bite.

The salad, which they recommend you eat with your hands was one of those dishes you should be able to make at home, but can’t… Evenly applied yet light dressing allowed the greens to keep their crispness.

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Making noodles. Phongdien Town, Cantho City, Southern Vietnam.
Credit: CiaoHo