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Fish and Farm

Revisiting a Hidden Gem

This Tenderloin spot has been a bit of a sleeper; surrounded by unsavory alleys, attached to a ho-hum hotel, and in its two-and-a-half years in operation, it has seen a cycle of chefs boomerang hither and yon. If its reputation had not drawn us to its doors, chances are slim that American eatery Fish and Farm would not have even turned our head — and now its great food and outstanding service have us all in a tizzy and anxious to test-drive their recently launched American Box lunch.

But at last, food eaters: Finally, with Chef Chad Newton, the eagle has landed, and a recent visit leaves us vying to become an old hand at the Farm. The menu has taken otherwise boring culinary clay and shaped it into a short list of the best in well-crafted American comfort haute cuisine that feels both familiar and special enough to merit destination dining.

The vibe of unpretentiousness is set immediately upon entering the dark brown wood and cream dining hall, cozy with old-school banquettes, low-slung with punny artwork and flattering light. Service is warm, attentive, and informative — with both chef and owner spending time with diners as their busy schedules allow. If the dining room buzz is too much, the quiet bar adjacent serves the entire menu in more hushed tones. And while all of the above allows for a pleasant enough experience, the real bait and reel is the outstanding food appearing from Newton’s tiny four-person kitchen.

The gazpacho amuse bouche was a thick cream of piquant flavor, ripe with end-of-summer vegetables, heat, and vinegar, that perfectly prepped the tongue for the great bounty in store. It was soon followed by a perfect Pole Bean Salad ($11), the best of the season lightly sheathed in dill crème fraiche donning a toupe of crispy fried shallots. We loved this so much; we recreated it in our own kitchen the next evening.

The House Made Potato Gnocchi ($12) was rich with smoky ham hock, seared to a golden brown, and as light as its surrounding pool of stock and melted Romaine. The side of fries ($6), the perfect teeter totter of fluffy and crispy, also quickly vanished, thanks to its remarkable flakes of fried parsley, chive, tarragon, chervil, and finish of malt salt.

All too often, promising starters yield to mediocre mains, but this was not our fate. We felt obliged to try one from the fish and one from the farm, and both were stellar. The Southern Fried Petaluma Chicken ($21) was a masterpiece of three honking hunks of bird punctuated with great flavor and juice, safely concealed inside an extra crispy crust. The vinegary slaw and full-pork black-eyed peas were perfect foils of taste and texture. The oily Madeline corn bread and Tabasco butter accompanying were pure showing off.

It was all we could do to resist the evening’s Porterhouse special (A.Q.), but in our insistence to balance out the meal with something from the sea, we were not disappointed with the Roasted Halibut ($28), a perfect specimen of the species seared dark yet still molten inside, paired with spicy Romesco and a flavor-forward tomato bread salad.

Dessert, another common obstacle on which many fine eateries stumble, was not just a sweet finish but also a showstopper in its own right. The Warm Peach and Strawberry Crisp ($9) caught the best of the season’s end, coaxed out its maximum flavor, and crafted a toothsome crumble worth waiting for. But kudos for presentation go to Cheesecake in a Jar ($9), a half-pint canning jar bottomed with fresh figs (wish there had been another layer), loaded with house made sweet ricotta, and topped with a graham cracker crumble. The result is the perfect epitome of the meal: a Mason jar with a parfait spoon, comfort and elegance at once.

Reservations Essential? Yes