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Fish and Farm

Locally Sourced and Local-Loving Bites in the Tenderloin

Tucked away in the Mark Twain Hotel near the theater district, and a block from Powell BART, the small but elegant, Fish and Farm Restaurant is easy to miss. Once we located this buzz restaurant, we found its cheeky nautical-themed wall hangings, coffee shop booths, tasteful light blue colors and candle-lit tables inviting. Its menu, laden with fresh local seafood and seasonal produce sourced from within one hundred miles of San Francisco, culls a number of Americana classics meant to whet a diner’s appetite.

These classics include everything from a seafood chowder to a milk-braised pork shoulder, while the drink menu incorporates plenty of well-chosen wines from our own backyard, as well as cocktails that show an equal love of local lore. Fish and Farm intends to make an impact on Bay Area diners, with seasoned restaurateurs Frank Klein, John Duggan and Elena Duggan at the helm (the Duggans are the brother-sister owners of Original Joe’s up the street), making an investment in the principles of the sustainable and eat-local movement. The talented, up-and-coming chef Jake Des Voignes (formerly of Fifth Floor) seems to be the right fellow to back them up, manning the stoves solo since his partner Charlie Kleinman departed in May 2008 to focus on an upcoming solo venture.

Starting our evening with a quick beverage in the adjoining bar -- with house specialties with names like “Huckleberry Friend", “San Francisco Martini", and “Organic Tarragon and Mint Julep Martini” ($8) -- all served in antique martini glasses, we already had hints that Fish and Farm possessed a hidden insight into all of our favorite indulgences (where we’re not only being Earth friendly but also satisfying that craving for a really stiff drink after work).

Back in the dining room, our server complimented our party warmly on not only our jewelry and shoes, but our choices from the wine menu as well, offering a few helpful suggestions from the menu. We contemplated the Fish and Farm plate ($16) -- a selection of local fish and meats similar to a charcuterie plate -- then decided to start with the pan-cooked local seafood chowder ($10) and the grilled Monterey sardines ($10) followed by an order of the slow-roasted Loch Duarte salmon mi-cuit ($25) and the line-caught Alaskan halibut ($28) for our entrees.

First off: the chowder. We’d tried an earlier version when the restaurant first opened in late 2007, one with delicate clams in their shell and a silky, cream-based chowder. This more recent version still contained the silky chowder part, but not so on the shells, which we found to be a bit of a miss since the shells provided the dish with some nice color and added to the presentation. Aside from this small detail, we also found the flavors to be a bit on the bland side and felt this chowder could’ve used a bit more seasoning and an herb garnish.

There were no such misses with the sardines. Served whole with greens and a relish of heirloom cherry tomatoes, these sardines were more of the marinated-Spanish variety, with a tart vinegary flavor that complimented the acidity of the tomatoes nicely.

Our entrees were perfectly prepared selections of fish. In particular, the roasted salmon (paired with fingerling potatoes and sweet white corn) was cooked using the method mi cuit, which asks that the fish be cooked in the oven slowly at a low temperature, ensuring that the salmon is incredibly tender -- almost creamy. By contrast, the line-caught Alaskan halibut had a crisp golden exterior and lovely white interior. This was served over a bed of fava beans and the tiniest and tenderest of calamari. For a side, we tried the broccoli de cicco with garlic and Birds Eye chili ($7), and though spicy and flavorful, we found the broccoli itself slightly over-cooked and limp.

Somehow we saved room for dessert (all $8). On previous visits we'd tried the chef’s cookie plate and enjoyed a brief romance with a very delicious short-bread cookie, as well as a wonderful fruit compote that was layered with fromage blanc. This visit, we decided to try the Homada Farms Stone Fruit Tart with port reduction and, again a bit of Fromage Blanc. We had a moment of “oohing” and “ahing” over the fromage and fruit combination, as we proceeded to nibble delicately -- then lasciviously! -- through every bite.

Though there were a few misses in this visit -- particular bummers since for the price, these particular details should be quick-fixes -- the inviting atmosphere, wonderful service, and nicely-honed selection of sea-faring favorites makes Fish and Farm a keen choice for any Ahab.

New American, Seafood
Union Square/Tenderloin