Located on the north end of Tenderloin, a new restaurant named Huxley opened at the bottom of 850 Geary Street in late October. The restaurant’s opening was a team affair, with chef Sara Hauman (Bar Agricole) commanding the kitchen, Brett Cooper (Rubicon, Outerlands, Aster) consulting on the menu, and owner Kris Esqueda (Saison, Sons & Daughters) managing operations. Given the location’s compact size, the team decided on an equally compact menu providing an old style American cuisine that is both hearty and approachable. The recent weather’s cooler temperatures, stubborn cloud cover, and rainy conditions peaked our mood for comfort food and last week we decided to check out the establishment’s fare. Below is a summary of our experiences.
Exterior / Interior
[maxgallery name=”huxley-san-francisco-restaurant-review”]The restaurant is located on ground floor of a renovated five story 92 year old apartment building. Two large glass windows flanking a nondescript front door mark the restaurant’s entrance. Inside, elbow room is at a premium and space is dominated by an open kitchen surrounded by 25 seats in the form of table arrangements and bar stools. Like the menu offerings, the decor is simple, earthy, and rustic. Stained wood graces the bar counters, tables are fitted with cold rolled steel tops, and an antique iron spiral staircase resides in the restaurant’s rear. The decor sets an inviting ambiance but we wondered whether a different interior design could have yielded more table seating.
Sunchoke Soup (Fenugreek, Yogurt) – 10
[maxgallery name=”huxley-san-francisco-restaurant-review-soup”]The sunchoke soup’s flavor was dominated by a warm earthy profile further enhanced by a light pureed texture, mild sweetness, and nutty undertone. Our chosen method of eating consisted of lightly skimming the soup’s top surface with a spoon and savoring each mouthful. Seemingly consisting of only a few select ingredients, the soup was a triumph of freshness and simplicity.
Half Dungeness Crab (Broccoli Rabe, Chili, Satsuma) – 25
[maxgallery name=”huxley-san-francisco-restaurant-review-crab”]The half Dungeness crab entree was presented as a mélange of cooked crab pieces, broccoli rabe leaves, citrus segments, and sliced fennel. Given neither mallet or nutcracker, we used our bare hands to break open the crab’s chest, legs, and claws to reach its hidden bounty of meat. The meat’s delicate texture, mild sweetness, and freshness made our soiled hands and trip to the bathroom sink worth the effort. Once the cooked crustacean was brought down to a pile of broken empty shells, we turned our attention to the dish’s remaining ingredients and were slightly underwhelmed by an ordinary mix of broccoli rabe, fennel, and Satsuma slices.
Roasted Pork Chop (Bintje Potatoes, Savoy Cabbage) – 38
[maxgallery name=”huxley-san-francisco-restaurant-review-pork-chop”]”Tell us why we should try this $38 pork chop.”, we politely asked our server. After a slight pause the waiter began to speak confidently about how the meat is sourced from a Northern Californian hog farm where heritage pig breeds are humanely raised and fed a wheat and nut diet. With the knowledge that all these factors play a significant role in meat quality, we consequently ordered the entree. When the dish arrived, a earthenware plate was set on our table and displayed a roasted pork loin chop accompanied by charred savoy cabbage, roasted potatoes, and sprigs of cilantro.
Compared to commercial white pork, this example was denser, richer and nuttier. The meat had an ideal amount of outer carbonization and seasoning but overall was mildly overcooked and lacked an adequate amount of juiciness. Luckily, tender portions of highly flavorful fat and a buttery white sauce mostly compensated for the meats slight dryness. The pork was surrounded by an uninspiring array of quartered roasted potatoes and over-salted chewy savoy cabbage.
Cornmeal Jam Tart (Apple Butter, Creme Fraiche) – 8
[maxgallery name=”huxley-san-francisco-restaurant-review-dessert”]Arriving on a ribbed glass dish, the cornmeal jam tart consisted of a thick apple jam filling supported by a wheat and cornmeal crust. The hearty pumpkin spiced filling and moist crumbly crust created a warm, rustic, and satisfying dessert.
Overall [usr 3.0]
The freshness and high quality of the soup, crab meat, and dessert exemplified a high level of eagerness and effort in dish selection and preparation. There were flaws, however, which included a slightly overcooked premium pork chop and ordinary side accompaniments. The overcooked meat is to be expected from a new kitchen still working out their rhythms but somewhat ordinary accompaniments reflected a larger area that needs improvement. Instead of an afterthought, the accompaniments need to be uniquely selected and creatively prepared in a manner that celebrates the main ingredient. Overall, we had a satisfactory dining experience at Huxley. It just was not that memorable.