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Bar Crudo

Fantasy-worthy Seafood Treasures

Despite economic times, the Western Addition appears to be booming. Not only do we have a Sunday farmer’s market, a rustic (and rarely-open) antique shop, a plant store (that sells greenery beyond the medicinal variety) and a new upscale barbecue joint, but word on the street is a “nacho” shop is set to open on Divisadero. Yes, things are hoppin’ in the ‘hood. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves -- since the most sincerely welcome amidst those new establishments on Divis comes in the form of a transplant: The much-loved seafood specialists of Bar Crudo.

If you used to be a fan of the old Bar Crudo, previously located above the Stockton Tunnel and within crawling distance of the Tunnel Top, and you’re already predisposed to become a fan of the new-and-improved Bar Crudo, you won’t be disappointed. Under the inspired ownership of twin brothers Tim and Mike Selvera, not only are the Selveras continuing to offer the original Bar Crudo’s seafood fantasia, but the new location is also lightly bigger and sleeker -- an intimate urban treasure chest and one of the few spots in San Francisco where one might dine below the watchful eyes of a floating futuristic mermaid mural (courtesy of local artist, Kelly Tunstall).

And though Bar Crudo’s well-chosen interior details are king, the food truly rules the court. Their menu includes choices from the raw bar, such as oysters ($3 each) from both the left and right coasts, and a variety of shellfish -- Littleneck Clams, Marinated Mussels, Peel and Eat Gulf Prawns, Maine Lobster and Dungeness Crab -- served up individually ($2-32) or on ice-filled platters (small $40, large $80). They also offer a variety of complex, raw fish combinations served in plates of four ($12) or eight ($23), salads incorporating sea showstoppers such as lobster, octopus, Spanish anchovies, and monkfish liver, and an array of hot entrees, including Head-on Louisiana “Devil” Prawns ($13) and Idaho Rainbow Trout ($17).

On one visit, we began our meal with the eight-item “Raw” sampler. Comprised of two delectable bites of four different, beautifully constructed seafood morsels, this dish is a fantastic way to awaken one’s senses and launch your culinary adventure at Bar Crudo. For instance, take their now-signature Artic Char -- made with horseradish cream, wasabi tobiko, and dill -- where each flavor plays exquisitely on your taste buds.

Though tempted by their chowder (which we remembered fondly from the old Bar Crudo), we followed this opener with a few salads -- the San Sebastian ($13) and the Lobster Heirloom ($17). Again, though the portions weren’t large, the flavors were generous and the presentation provided fresh and modern takes on the classics.

For instance, the lobster salad was made with creamy buratta cheese, decadent chunks of lobster meat, colorful heirloom tomatoes, and fresh arugula and mâche -- a fantastical Caprese. The San Sebastian, depending on when you visit and the ingredients in season, recalled a classic salade nicoise -- made with roasted asparagus and red peppers, caper berries, crisp tomato bread, and delicate quail eggs.

Though the Anchor Steamed Clams ($12) -- made with linguica and roasted tomato (and, um, beer) -- called to us, we found ourselves veering towards the Hamachi Collar for our main course. A bone-in white fish with a crisp finish served on a bed of classic slow-cooked white beans, this dish contained rich flavors that reminded us of a seafood cassoulet.

The food is prepared to perfection, but if there were any complaint to offer, it would be one: Bar Crudo doesn’t really offer dessert. Rumor has it this is due to the lack of space in their kitchen, but reading a recent food article in our local rag, it appears this might be a sad restaurant trend reflecting the economy and diners’ tastes. Nevertheless, Bar Crudo does offer a cheese plate on their main menu (which seems a bit of a sacrilege after a belly full of raw fish), and a small selection of delicate chocolate truffles; understandably, we opted for a few champagne truffles.

As we left for the evening and walked down Divis towards SoPa (a.k.a. South of the Panhandle or the Haight), we enjoyed the warm air of one of those rare summer nights in San Francisco. It was late (Bar Crudo stays open until 11pm!) and we were glowing. No doubt this had more than a little to do with a few glasses of crisp Fontainte rosé from the well-chosen wine and beer menu, and much more to do with Bar Crudo’s staff’s impeccable service.

It’s true; we were charmed and still dreaming of magical sea creatures (or at least of Artic Char). We also found ourselves inventing hypothetical desserts befitting Bar Crudo’s aesthetics; wild combinations of bite-sized sweets made with citrus and floral flavors that were as inventive as Bar Crudo’s savory samplers. But with or without that classic meal-topper, we really were quite content, and only too glad to welcome another culinary destination to the ‘hood.

Western Addition

Reservations Needed? Yes.