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Organic Cuisine in a Sleek, SOMA Setting (Leave Your Birkenstocks Behind)
by Sarah Sung on Mar 18, 2005
Jack Falstaff, the hip, new SOMA restaurant, is the latest PlumpJack Group endeavor that features organic, ingredient-driven food just blocks from the SBC Ballpark. It's easy to miss the unassuming entrance, but once you step inside you'll notice how designer Stanlee Gatti contrasts the bar's sleek, modern lines with the dining room's cozy, rich upholstery. Dark wood ceilings and plush cushions create a fetching ambience that's irresistibly inviting to a varied clientele of eager foodies, loyal PlumpJack followers from the Marina, neighborhood couples, and coworkers meeting for dinner and drinks.
A visit to the bar alone is well worth the trip thanks to the extensive wine list (this is a PlumpJack restaurant after all) and innovative cocktails ($10 each).
Whether you come here to eat or drink, the ingredients have the limelight. On any given day, if you don't see executive chef James Ormsby roaming the restaurant, you could find him at Rainbow Grocery or Whole Foods foraging for the perfect organic elements on which to craft his recipes. He developed his ingredient-focused approach and received several awards at Brunos before perfecting it for the PlumpJack Group and now at Jack Falstaff. The menu is extensive and features a slow-cooking approach. Some starters include: a twice-cooked pork belly ($10), a cherry wood-smoked quail ($12) with a green papaya salad, and a duck liver flan ($9).
Our dinner began with three "intros", each one distinct from the next. The organic winter lettuces salad ($8) with heirloom apples, toasted pecans, organic apple cider vinaigrette, and a Point Reyes blue cheese crostini was a meal in itself. The Ahi martini ($12) has to be one of the most extravagant appetizer presentations I've ever seen. Chef Ormsby concocted a glass structure like no other -- a vase full of crushed ice and a martini glass perched on top. Inside the martini glass with the ahi are three apple balls on a toothpick, green apple granita, and two nori crisps jutting out the back. While this may become their signature dish, my favorite was the Dungeness crab salad ($14). Each and every ingredient (crab, pomelo, avocado, hijiki seaweed, and bean sprouts in a spicy soy dressing) would be delicious on its own, but when combined, they're unbeatable. We also tried the germinated brown rice, which was flavorful with a chewy bite, and could make even a brown rice hater reconsider.
With a menu of this depth and breadth, you could craft a meal of starters, or focus solely on the a la carte sides ($5 each). The sides are the dishes that showcase the chef's creative talent mainly because they are always changing to reflect the season's bounty. Since most entrees are served with vegetables and generally don't come with starches, you don't want to forgo the sides, but be prepared to take some food home.
The entrees cover the spectrum from pork, beef, and duck to chicken, fish, and vegetarian. If you're looking to get your omega-3s, don't miss the sustainably farm-raised Scottish salmon ($24). Or order the roasted natural San Joaquin Valley (whole) chicken ($21) if you want lunch for the next day (or two). And as the manager assured us, only a few men actually finish this.
It's too bad that organic doesn't mean low cal because Jack Falstaff may be the only restaurant in town to have an all-organic dessert menu. The desserts ($9) are made with organic fruit, organic whole flour, organic chocolate, and…well, you get the point. The ice cream or sorbet, again with all organic dairy and sugar, changes daily. That night, we sampled every chilly flavor -- cream cheese, hazelnut, and white chocolate ice cream, and carrot/ginger, green apple, lemon, and banana sorbets.
From the monogrammed paper towels in the bathroom to the unique, ingredient-driven food, no detail is left unturned at Jack Falstaff.
by Sarah Sung on Mar 18, 2005