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Spruce

Model T-Luxe Dining

Though actually found on Sacramento near Spruce (“Sacramento” wouldn’t have sounded nearly as herby and inviting), Spruce is the long-awaited newest addition to the Bacchus Management Group of restaurants. And with this association, Spruce culls from Bacchus’ legion of fans -- particularly those who enjoy the burgers at The Village Pub in Woodside. With Niman Ranch meat and a private farm where all their fruits and veggies are grown especially for their restaurants, Bacchus’ Spruce is an immediate hot ticket in its Presidio Heights neighborhood.

And one need only enter Spruce to see why. Located in an old 30s auto barn that once housed Model T cars, the setting is soothing and lush, immediately encouraging all diners to indulge and live extravagantly. But a mere two weeks after opening in August 2007, reservations were tough, so we sat in the small bar area and made friends with all our neighbors munching on Village Pub-style burgers ($12) and charcuterie plates ($7 - $16).

Which tipped us off -- along with a few glasses of Corbieres rose ($8), we immediately ordered the house-cured “Grand Selection” charcuterie tasting plate ($16). Including a country pâté, a fromage de tête (also known as “head cheese” in San Francisco’s earthier neighborhoods), cured beef tongue, smoked chorizo and foie gras, we found all pretty tasty, though we devoured the foie gras. We also tried a few cheeses -- a smooth Fenacho Gouda ($6) and the tart Pau ($6), a European goat cheese.

Next we tried the Burrata salad ($15) -- a special of the day. Basically an insalata caprese like no caprese we’ve ever had before, it was made with vivid heirloom tomatoes and burrata, the mozzarella and cream cheese traditionally made in little bundles and wrapped in leek leaves; here it is flown in daily from Italy for Spruce’s kitchen concoctions. All this perfection was combined with aged balsamic, looking as fresh and tangy as it tasted -- the tomatoes were sweet and the Burrata lived up to its buttery name. We also tried the Sweet Corn and Cod Chowder ($9); divided up in deliciously delicate cups, the corn was a lovely compliment to the chunks of fresh cod.

For our mains, we ordered Seared Albacore with Sweet Corn Fondue and Braised Chanterelles ($28). The mushrooms were springy and pungent with a rich brown sauce, a nice contrast to the seared tuna. And with our first tantalizing taste of foie gras, we couldn’t pass up the Honey Lacquered Duck Breast with Cinnamon Dusted Foie Gras and Plum Gastrique ($32) -- a duck breast, cooked rare and thinly sliced, served with bright orange plums and jus, this dish reveled in the colors of autumnal leaves, and the flavors of Southwestern France.

Alas, there were a few complaints -- one in our party found the duck a bit too rare, and not as tender as they would’ve liked. Also, though Spruce offers an extensive wine list, a sweetish Gewürztraminer and then a room temperature Muscat were pushed, despite a stated preference for dry whites. Overall, we would have preferred better guidance from the sommelier.

For dessert -- a time when the Muscat actually came in handy -- we couldn’t pass up the Melon Soup ($9). This dish seemed to include seasonal figs in every form: a scoop of fig ice cream, fresh sliced fig and a thin sheet of pressed fig. Beautiful and hovering somewhere between sweet and savory, this dessert was a favorite -- both visually pleasing, and intriguing to the palate.

Spruce was a decadent adventure -- luxurious and lush, with a few rough edges that will no doubt soon be smoothed out. Make your reservation now.

Haute American cuisine
Presidio Heights
$$$

Reservations Essential? Yes.