Evan and Sarah Rich knew it wasn’t going to be easy opening their own restaurant. But through the good days and bad of the first month-plus, they have already carved out their own little niche in the San Francisco culinary scene with Rich Table in Hayes Valley.
“Our main goal was to have a restaurant where people could come in and have a comfortable meal in a relaxed environment, all while enjoying some great food,” Evan said. “We wanted this to be a place where you can bring your family, your young kids and not feel awkward or out of place.” “It’s like we’re inviting you into our home – hence the name Rich Table,” said Sarah.
The husband and wife team have an outstanding pedigree, working in some of the finest restaurants in both New York and the Bay Area (Sarah at Michael Mina, Evan at Coi and Quince). And while that training is evident in their menu and dishes, they didn’t necessarily want the restaurant to have that fine dining feel. “This is a chef-driven restaurant. There’s no doubt about that. But we involve our entire team, many of whom have been with us for awhile,” Evan said. “A lot of the dishes have that technical aspect to them but we also don’t want to overwhelm our guests,” said Sarah.
The menu is constantly changing but not just for the sake of changing things up. “We are working more with whole animals. It forces us to be more creative and we don’t really want to waste, so we’re using every part we can,” said Evan. It’s exciting for us because we might run out of one part during service and have to shift gears and create a brand new dish. Other times, we just get an inspiration from out of the blue and change things up. Our staff is great and never really gets flustered. They just roll with the punches.”
Evan and Sarah said part of that attitude comes from the pop-up series they ran prior to starting Rich Table, “Chef’s Night Off.” It gave them a chance to experiment with dishes and eased them into the process of running a restaurant, at least for that night.
The restaurant design is fairly simple and very homey. From the wooden walls to the light fixtures and tables, as Sarah said, it represents them to a t. “Our designer (Said-Jonathan Eghbal) met with us and came to some of our pop-up dinners to get a sense of what we were about. We wanted the restaurant to not only represent who we were, but also be representative of our food and our vision,” she said. “So it has that feel like we’re inviting you into our home, just open, inviting and comfortable. And then, let us cook for you.”
New restaurants are always hard to judge. For the most part, even after a month, chefs and owners are still working on figuring everything out, from food to service. While the same can be said at Rich Table, Evan, Sarah and the entire staff seem to have a pretty good sense of what is working and what isn’t. Service is friendly; not overly stuffy but also with a sense of a fine dining establishment. They have a terrific bar program along with a nice selection of beers and wines. And lest we forget the food! The menu is smaller in size but with a nice mix of both larger and smaller plates. Dishes do have a nice simplicity to them, but with an underlying technical aspect mixed in. The best example was a spaghetti dish I had. It was spaghetti with clams, basil and lime zest; seemingly innocuous right? But there were so many different flavors, different textures and vibrant and beautiful colors that jumped off the plate; it was a simple masterpiece. It is food that truly appeals to all the senses in a perfect, harmonious way.
Some of the good for Evan and Sarah: they have been welcomed with open arms to Hayes Valley by their neighbors and residents in the area. “We always had our eye on this neighborhood. It had a little bit of that New York feel and energy to it,” Sarah said. They have also received a ton of positive feedback, especially from those in the industry. Some of the bad: they are still trying to adjust to diners.guests who don’t like the restaurant, food or service. “It’s hard because we are not only the chefs and this is our food. But this is also our restaurant and our ideas,” Evan said. “It’s especially difficult because now I work in the front of the open kitchen. At places like Coi and Quince, I was hidden in the back. Now, I’m front and center and can hear what people are saying , good and bad. But we understand, it’s not going to be for everyone. We just have to take the good with the bad.”
It’s still a learning process for the Evan and Sarah, from working out their schedules (with young son in mind) to trying out new dishes or finishing the sound panels and wine cellar for Rich Table. But one thing they do promise; they will never be satisfied and are always looking to improve and get better. High standards for an already wonderful restaurant. Rich Table is located at 199 Gough Street and is open for dinner Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 5:30-10:00 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5:30-10:30 p.m.