After nearly two years since the iconic Purple Onion closed its doors at 140 Columbus Avenue, Christopher Burnett (owner of Darwin Cafe) recently reopened the location with a restaurant and separate performing arts space. The restaurant portion, named Doc Ricketts, is serving a northern Californian cuisine guided by Chef Justin Deering (formerly of 15 Romolo). Doc’s Lab, located in the building’s basement, has been reimagined from comedy club to a supper club style venue offering the above restaurant’s abbreviated menu while also presenting live music, comedy, and other performing arts entertainment.
Challenges undoubtedly arise when energies and focus are split between creating both an entertainment and restaurant venue. We wanted to gauge whether the establishment was able to successfully launch their performance arts venue while simultaneously providing an engaging high quality restaurant. Upon hearing of the early September opening, we recently dined at the restaurant and attended a comedy event in the underground Doc’s Lab. Below is a summary of our experiences.
Exterior / Interior
[maxgallery name=”doc-ricketts-interior-exterior”]Located near the Transamerica Pyramid along Columbus Avenue, the recently renovated 103 year old building now has a freshly painted facade and a modern nondescript ground floor entrance. Inside, the triangle shaped interior is smaller than expected and contains only 8 bar seats and 32 dining seats. The decor is warm and rustic with wood elements dominating the tables, floors, and bar kick area. The kitchen area is not visible as it is located on the second floor.
Vieux Carre (Rye, Cognac, Vermouth, Benedictine, Bitters, Twist – 10)
[maxgallery name=”doc-ricketts-vieux-carre”]The Vieux Carre was a valiant attempt at producing a complex distilled liquor based cocktail. Even though the drink’s mouthfeel was somewhat rough and imbalanced, there were interesting hints of herbs and cherries. The slight flavor imbalance was potentially due to either improperly measured ingredients or lower quality distilled liquors.
Halibut (Halibut Crudo, Tomato, Avocado, Green Coriander – 13)
[maxgallery name=”doc-ricketts-halibut”]The halibut crudo was a meaningful exercise in ingredient simplicity and freshness. The thinly sliced fish was sushi grade fresh and paired well with the creamy coriander sauce. Thick chunks of avocados were equally as fresh. Even though the appetizer contained high quality ingredients, we had wished the raw halved cherry tomatoes were replaced with something more interesting and uncommon.
Black Cod (Black Cod, Fregola Sarda, Clams Fumet – 28)
[maxgallery name=”doc-ricketts-black-cod”]Arriving in a iron oven bowl, the black cod dish included an array of baby clams and two portions of cod over generous amounts of fregola. Highlights included the fregola’s unique nutty flavor and cod’s buttery soft texture.
Flat Iron Steak (Flat Iron Steak, Potato Puree, Maitake, Swiss Chard – 26)
[maxgallery name=”doc-ricketts-flat-iron-steak”]The flat iron steak entree came as a dish of sliced steak, roasted maitake mushrooms, cooked swiss chard, and potato puree. Grilled past our medium rare expectations, the flavorful steak was surprisingly still relatively tender and moist. Chariness gave the accompanied mushrooms a crisp texture and desirable carbon earthy flavor. The potatoes, unlike any standard mashed potatoes we have tried previously, were blended to form a thin puree with a unique texture and creaminess.
Pear Tart (Pear Tart, Caramel, Almond – 8)
[maxgallery name=”doc-ricketts-pear-tart”]The pear tart dessert was presented as a cooked pear tart accompanied by a generous streak of caramel, dollop of buffalo ice cream, and sprinkle of sweetened chopped almonds. The homemade caramel was sweet and smokey, the buffalo ice cream was rich and creamy, and the tender flavorful pear lacked any undesirable tartiness. With the exception of the marginally chewy and dry pastry, the dessert was well balanced and satisfying.
[maxgallery name=”doc-labs”]After our dinner, we headed towards Doc’s Labs to attend the night’s comedy show. With its thick concrete walls and pillars, clean contemporary decor, bottle lined rear bar, and intimate performance stage, the basement level space felt like a cross between a supper-club, speakeasy, and underground comedy club. Lights from the stage bathed the room in a purplish glow that imparted an additional nightclub feel to the room’s ambiance.
As we sipped on a cocktail and snacked on fries, we were entertained by a series of average and above average opening standup comedy performances. The headliner, Beth Stelling, gave a good performance and was generally well received among the crowd. After the performances, we were encouraged to stay and socialize.
Conclusion [usr 3.5]
Our overall dining experience was considered above average, as the ingredients and selections reflected a high level of culinary experience and thoughtfulness. With only three weeks from opening, we undoubtedly saw flaws such as the somewhat overcooked steak, average drink, and dry pastry tart. However, these are work in progress issues and should improve once the restaurant establishes a rhythm. A larger issue is the relatively small dining space and the restaurant’s potential inability to handle larger crowds.
With it’s chic urban ambiance, modern vibe, and high quality underground setting, Doc’s Lab created a vibrant atmosphere for the comedy show and bookended our night’s experience.