With the Sous Beurre Kitchen popup under his belt, chef Michael Mauschbaugh has recently entered the culinary big leagues with a space to call his own in the Mission. Opened in early February, the restaurant is offering southern French cuisine in either prix fixe or à la carte menu format. Michael is also early adopting a potential trend in the city’s restaurant industry of forgoing tips and incorporating labor expenses and taxes into the prices of each dish. Driven by a partiality towards exploring new French cuisines and curiosity about the gratuity free environment, we recently dropped by one evening to check out the scene. Here’s what we found …
Inside And Out
[maxgallery name=”sous-beurre-kitchen-exterior-interior”]The entrance’s rustic trim, antique signage, and warm light radiating from two glassy storefronts create an inviting and cozy setting from the sidewalk. Inside, the restaurant is split into two main rooms with two dining areas, large open kitchen, and bar. Our keen eyes noticed Victorian style wall lamps, period mantel clocks, marble topped tables adorned with blue thistle flowers, and a vintage wood host desk. Mottled distressed blue walls designed to resemble aged porcelain complete a look that could loosely be defined as French country.
Cocktails (Negroni And Cilantro Mojito)
Negroni (cappelletti, dolin dry vermouth, cocchi torino, bitters)
Our table candle and its delicate dancing flame, when placed behind the Negroni cocktail, brightened the glass’s contents into vibrant caramel and crimson red colors reminiscent of a summer sunset. The drinks’s taste was equally impressive as initial orange tang and bitterness succumbed to flavors of maraschino cherries and vanilla. A clean crisp texture and balanced alcohol content compelled us to try another cocktail from the menu.
Cilantro Mojito (Kina L’Aero d’Or, guava juice, lemon, cilantro)
Compared to the Negroni, the Cilantro Mojito may not have been as complex and impressive but showed a balanced profile with fragrant tropical aromas. Any herbal flavors and complexities expected from the added Kina aperitif were hard to discern, potentially due to being masked by the guava juice or inadequately portioned in the drink. We somewhat compensated by taking sips through the spicy cilantro leaves which infused the liquid with spiciness.
Boudin Blanc (brioche crouton, herb salad, court bouillon)
[maxgallery name=”sous-beurre-kitchen-boudin-blanc”]Buttery soft meat and rich savoriness were the most memorable qualities of the plumped boudin blanc sausage links. The meat’s flavors were enhanced by the mustardy broth’s spiciness and acidity from the vinegary herb salad. Rounding out the dish, the brioche crouton helped absorb the bouillon and imparted an agreeable and barely discernible sweetness to the broth.
Black Cod Bouillabaisse (P.E.I Mussels, butter clams, leaks, fumet, rouille)
[maxgallery name=”sous-beurre-kitchen-cod”]Maybe it was the delicate tender cod flesh that distantly reminded us of Chilean Sea Bass. Or maybe it was the slice of charred baguette smeared with a mild creamy rouille sauce. Regardless of the reasons, we wanted to like this dish. But, alas, a fishy broth, chewy clam bits, and undercooked endive leaves resulted in mixed feelings for an entree that exhibited so much potential.
Chicken Liver And Heart Pate Mousse (radish sprouts, orange confiture, crostini)
[maxgallery name=”sous-beurre-kitchen-chicken-liver-heart-pate”]With its hazelnut color and creamy texture, the chicken pâté could have been mistaken for a dollop of sweet chocolate mousse. Instead of rich sweetness, this pâté delivered rich but smooth savoriness that spread like soft butter on somewhat stiff bread slices. Adding a final layer of fresh sweet orange marmalade provided an ideal foil for the organ meat pâté and helped balance the flavors.
Sage Brined Pork Loin (apple and fennel confit cake, turnip, braised crisp baby kale)
[maxgallery name=”sous-beurre-kitchen-pork-loin”]Enjoying a flawlessly grilled pork loin is an elusive experience, as the meat’s lack of rich fat presents challenges to the cook hoping to serve meat neither dull nor dry. In the pork loin dish, a valiant attempt was made beforehand to brine the pork in herbs and salt which was meant to add flavor and retain moisture in the meat during cooking. Due to several dry pieces, the end result was not quite the triumph we wanted but we have seen dryer examples and the remaining center portions were moist, tender, and flavorful. Added bitterness from the kale and sweetness from the confit cake invited a full sensory experience and reflected the chef’s desire to balance the dish through many of the basic tastes.
Chocolate Ice Cream With Cookie
The featured ice cream dessert had all the right ingredients. Drippings of toasted marshmallow globs, bits of roasted almonds, a butter cookie, and all natural small batch ice cream. What seemed like the makings of a confectionary success was plagued by a frigid nearly impenetrable brick of ice cream, cold stiff marshmallow, an uninspiring crumbly cookie, and a general lack of cohesion between the ingredients. We clearly felt the chef, who showed passion in his other dishes, could do better and wondered whether his confectionery prowess could be proven in another dessert. Which led us to ordering the apple tart …
Apple Custard Tart With Crème Fraîche
Topped with a healthy dollop of crème fraîche only a glutton would love, the apple tart came as a wedge slice stacked with layers of thin apple slivers interlaced with custard striations. With its tender crust, eggy custard, fresh cooked apple slices, and a wad of creamy crème fraîche that made us begging for more, the tart more than made up for the first dessert’s failure to impress.
Lowdown [usr 3.5]
[maxgallery name=”sous-beurre-kitchen-lowdown”]Like a first year quarterback who leads his team to the playoffs but fails to capture the championship, we see potential in chef Mauschbaugh with where he could take his restaurant. Rubbery clams, fishy broth, semi-dry pork, and a lifeless ice cream dessert show there is work to be done. But complex cocktails, exceedingly tender savory sausage, creamy smooth chicken organ pate, and thoughtful dish accompaniments showcase culinary talent.
The prospect of not receiving a tip did not seem to demotivate our waitress and supporting staff, as they were friendly, responsive, and wanting to please. One waitress told us the tipless environment creates a sense of community between the staff with each one helping the other. Before we are sold on the concept, we would like to see the philosophy implemented in more restaurants for longer periods of time. Nonetheless, it was refreshing not to worry about tax or tip and pay the exact amount we were expecting.