With a background in fine dining, working at restaurants owned by Charlie Palmer and Thomas Keller in Las Vegas, Chef Lucas Knox knows his way around a kitchen. And it hasn’t taken the Bay Area newbie long to overhaul the menu at the Burritt Room + Tavern.
“When I got here in April, the first thing I noticed is the fact that the restaurant was labeled as a steakhouse. So I went to Charlie and said, we have to change that,” said Knox. “We’ve slowly been making changes to the menu, adding items here and there and we just introduced the whole thing. I want the feel to be a newer American tavern and I think the new menu fairly represents that philosophy.”
Knox’s menu can be described as modern and versatile. The shared plates include a charcuterie trio, cheese plate and selection of oysters. Both starters and salads entice with different flavors and textures – for example, the creamy Lobster Risotto is a stark contrast to the Beef Carpaccio or Sauteed Chicken Livers. “I want the starters to get guests excited about the dinner that’s ahead of them,” Knox said. The same goes for the Baby Spring Mix Salad, a mix of chicken apple sausage, toasted walnuts, roasted chilies with a mango vinaigrette, which explodes with different and unique flavors and textures with each bite. Knox said he wanted to provide guests with a number of different options, food that is “clean, light and properly prepared.”
The creativity of Knox is further highlighted in the list of entrees, where he is looking to focus on more varieties of fish and different cuts of meat. An example – the Sonoma Chicken, which features half a chicken rather than just a chicken breast or wing. The Teres Major is a seldom used muscle in the shoulder, known for its tenderness similar to tenderloin. “I’m bringing the fine dining techniques I used at Aureole and Bouchon Bistro to a bit of a more casual menu, working with the wonderful produce and California proteins that are so readily available. Right now, using pea greens, asparagus, kumquats – it’s fun to have so much to work with and come up with different menu items to accentuate those ingredients.”
Knox is cherishing the opportunity of being an executive chef for the first time, knowing he has the trust of Palmer and freedom in the kitchen to “run the show.” He said he thinks it was actually a blessing that he was able to completely revamp the menu upon arriving in April. “It gave the entire staff, both front of house and in the kitchen, a chance to learn things together. It’s like we all restarted together and I’m teaching the basics over again. I’m implementing my own system in the kitchen, a lot of which I took from my previous jobs.”
Having been busy implementing his new menu in the dining room, Knox’s next project is creating a new bar menu, working with the Burritt Tavern’s well-known cocktail program. He said he may even work on cocktail-food pairings in the future.
Chef Knox has a tremendous passion for his craft and a real sense of creativity and focus that shines in his dishes – a welcome addition to the San Francisco culinary scene.
Burritt Room + Tavern is located inside the Mystic Hotel at 417 Stockton Street in San Francisco.