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Not Just Another Brick in the Wall

The Tenderloin district has been in flux for years now. While it still remains uncharted territory for many Bay Area residents, those in the know have affectionately renamed the area the Trendyloin, citing the seemingly overnight transformation of the neighborhood into something of a destination on the urban hipster circuit. And with the recent opening of Brick, a new restaurant and bar on the corner of Sutter and Larkin, there’s yet another good reason to make your way over.

The owners of Brick -- who are also the folks behind Solstice and Fly Bar -- have replicated the casual busyness of their previous ventures and created something of a venue for all occasions. Upon entering, a copper topped bar immediately beckons, making it a convenient meeting place whether you plan to dine in or just gather with friends for some casual drinks, all while showcasing the namesake 100-year old brick walls (the space formerly housed local favorite Tappe’s Bar and Grill until the owner recently passed away).

The bar, at which you can also eat, separates the main dining room from an open kitchen, where diners can literally watch as their meals are prepared. It’s even a great opportunity to come in by yourself -- making it one of the few restaurants in recent memory to embrace the dining alone experience.

While the restaurant and bar are fully open and functional, the entire build-out is actually unfinished. Near the bathrooms (spacious, by the way), construction has already begun on the Brick Room, which will feature a secluded communal table for private dining for roughly fifteen people. One imagines an intimate birthday party or perhaps a weekly poker game in the near future.

The soon-to-be-open Gallery will be a separate space connected by the cocktail lounge, which serves the dual purpose of being a bar unto itself as well as an easy spill-over solution to Brick's current no reservation policy. Plans are for the Gallery to exhibit rotating artwork from local artists; and if the pieces in the main dining room are any indication, visitors will certainly be visually stimulated.

Executive chef Noah Tucker, who brings his experience from restaurants such as Michael Mina SF, Town NY, and Aqua Grill NY, has created his own take on New American cooking. All of the items are meant to be shared, and the staff seems elated to help you find that perfect mix and match. The Early Spring Salad ($8) of pea tenders, peppered cress, and spinach is a healthy way to start, as is the surprisingly delicious Seared Watermelon Salad ($10).

It seems that to be considered a New American eatery these days, it’s imperative that you have ribs on the menu. But preparing something like ribs correctly -- we’re talking fall off the bone good -- is an art, and many establishments in the Bay Area don’t live up to expectations. Not so under Tucker’s supervision, whose Braised short ribs ($15) in a port reduction, served with baby creamed spinach, gets it just right. If ribs aren’t your thing, the Brick burger ($13) is a reliable option; it’s actually two mini burgers so you can select a different condiments for each one.

For the seafood lover in you, Brick has a delicious and fresh Tuna Crudo ($12), served with pickled papaya, avocado, kaffir and horseradish, turning a relatively simple dish into a complex mix of flavors that all work together. The Bloomed Pacific Scallops ($14) are small in portion but nearly melt in your mouth, the only regret is wishing you had one more. A house favorite -- if you try the dish you'll understand why -- is the Sourdough-dusted Skate ($17), served with Dungeness crab and green tomato.

This review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the Confit Buffalo Wings ($11). The magic that goes on in the kitchen involves removing the meat and slow-cooking it in its own fat. It's then packed into a pot and covered with the cooking fat, which works as seal and preservative. Next, the meat is taken out and fashioned into a wing-like shape on a little stick, then deep-fried, enabling the lucky eater to suck off the spicy
chicken like a lollipop. Sound orgasmic? It is. Try dipping your wings in the gorgonzola foam that accompanies the dish – and you’ll probably find yourself craving these wings at all hours (and luckily, Brick serves food until midnight).

Wine Director Matt Winterman, whose enthusiasm for his profession has a tendency of rubbing off on his customers, has created a wine list ($22 -$120) that, while spanning the globe, focuses on New World wines, with standouts from California figuring prominently. The ever-changing list of wines offered by the glass ($6 - $16) is also well-suited for pairing experimentation, especially given the small plate style of dining.

To close out your meal, go with either the Constant Bliss or Red Hawk ($8) cheese plates; they couldn’t be more different from each other but are both great ways to end, especially when paired with the Dr. Loosen Eiswein ($12).

Brick is one of those places that can be enjoyed as a casual restaurant, a late night eatery, a bar, even an art gallery. The common thread is the social fabric that turns strangers into friends you just haven’t yet met, and those Confit Buffalo Wings don’t hurt either.

New American