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B Restaurant and Bar

SF Outpost Gets a B-Minus, Oakland Spot Scores Higher

While YBCA, MOMA, and the Metreon offer much in terms of arts and entertainment, dining options in the area are limited to just-palatable mall food (e.g. Buckhorn Grill, Chevy's, Jillian's) and super high-end fine dining (Ame, XYZ). B Restaurant and Bar strives to provide an upscale middle ground. Located just outside of the main building and on the second level of San Francisco's Yerba Buena Gardens, B occupies an ideal spot overlooking much of the downtown skyline with extensive patio seating. It may be a little confusing to find, but the views, especially on an unusual warm day in the city, make the search worthwhile.

A long 15-seat concrete bar dominates the room, with a few dining tables set off to the side seating 22. The interior feels airy, with wall-to-wall glass windows; the space is given texture by natural accents like wood moldings and flagstone. On a Tuesday night, B is quiet, though we imagine it’s the perfect setting for drinks after a long convention at Moscone Center. And sure enough, B offers a happy hour from Wednesdays through Fridays from 3 - 7pm.

Owned by Boxed Foods Co., a takeout lunch spot that prides itself on local and mostly organic ingredients, B shares this philosophy and décor with its sister restaurant (also named B Restaurant and Bar) in downtown Oakland. However, the California cuisine is given unique Euro-Asian twists by two different chefs.

(SF Station colleagues report that the Oakland location finds success with Fork alum Saman Javid's menu of refined, flavorful soups ($8), robust (if not quite adequately crisp-crusted) artisan pizzas ($13-15), and entrees like last spring's wild halibut with melted spring onion & green garlic, salsify, hazelnuts, and mache ($21). Mounds of perfect truffled French fries ($4), a formidable bar with seating, rumors of a good burger ($10) and the recent addition of Sunday brunch service ensure return visits in the future.)

Aaron Webb, of the San Francisco kitchen, aims for innovation, but his dishes seem to fall short. A recent artichoke salad ($9) was skimpy on the goods. In total, we were lucky if all the scrappy pieces amounted to one artichoke heart.

While a trio of crab cakes ($12) was flavorful and lightly fried with just the right amount of batter, the color of the beet remoulade was an utter distraction. The Mediterranean Mussels ($11) in a fennel-dill cream sauce proved a much better dish than the previous two. The mussels were plump and cooked perfectly, nicely accented by a flavorful combination of herbs.

After waiting close to 20 minutes for our entrees, we were shocked to find that all three pieces of our young chicken threeway ($17) were at most lukewarm. The restaurant was certainly not very busy, with only two or three other parties around us. It made us wonder what was happening in the kitchen.

A little more impressive was the grilled flank steak, which at least was cooked to a perfect medium rare. Accompanied by grilled baby bok choy and hen of the woods mushrooms with lobster sauce, the dish's flavors were not well-married, however, with each component quite separate from the others.

Dessert was not too far off from the rest of the meal -- disappointing. Strawberry shortcake ($8) was presented as a parfait, with cream layered between biscuits. The creative presentation created a challenge as we tried to cut through the very hard biscuits. The peanut butter pot de crème ($8) was not much better; it tasted like chilled peanut butter. (Reports from Oakland are better on the dessert front.)

One highlight to the San Francisco location is the wine list, which offers plenty of diverse mid-$30 range selections. Cocktails at both restaurants are distinctive; we tried the Asian pear ($9) made with vodka, pear puree and apple juice. Slightly sweet, the drink is full of pear flavor. The Don Riley, a blend of Hangar One Citron and Thai basil-infused syrup ($10) leaned even more on the sweet side. Our server was also nice enough to give us a taste of the house-made sangria, definitely the best choice of the three.

As for service, we could not complain. Our server was extremely friendly and accommodating. Overall, if B Restaurant and Wine Bar in San Francisco were named after its grade in school, then it would be giving itself a little too much credit. I’d give it a B for barely passing the dining grade. But if graded on a curve, with its more accomplished Oakland sister factored in as a good influence, it could rank an A- as a great place to go for a glass of wine and a view.


Reservations Essential? No