Co-owners Teague Moriarty and Matt McNamara have recently opened The Square restaurant near North Beach’s Washington Square Park. Their vision is to create an accessible New American style restaurant with a simple but affordable menu catering to both local residents and the wandering tourists. We recently visited this establishment to rate the execution of this vision. Below is a summary of our findings.
Service and Ambiance
[maxgallery id=”4716″] Decked with an array of large paneless windows, the front entrance is both open and inviting. Once inside, the openness continues as the bar and dining area are loosely divided in one main room. A light color brick wall adorns the bar area while most of the room is painted in a drab gray color. Dangling star-like lights hang down from the ceiling and fill the space with white light. Compared to our recent visits to the similarly themed restaurants Alta CA and Verbena, The Square’s interior was missing an equal amount of attention to detail.
Toasted Fennel Infused Bread
[maxgallery id=”4769″] Our complimentary starters for the evening dinner were a pair of unassuming dinner rolls and a smeared dollop of butter. The bread tasted fresh and the embedded toasted fennel seeds brought an interesting herbal fragrant steam and flavor. Combined with the creamy yogurt and butter blend, the bread gave a good first impression.
Muddled Old Fashioned (Bourbon, Fruit, Bitters, And Sugar) – $10
[maxgallery id=”4756″]Distilled liquor based drinks infused with bitters are all the rage among the newest of the city’s restaurants. The best of these drinks offer both fruity undertones and unique flavor complexities. With the Muddled Old Fashion, The Square had its variation that infused bourbon with fruit and bitters. Unfortunately, the bourbon tasted rough and the bitters added little to the drink’s complexity. Considering the price, we expected a higher level of effort and quality.
Veal Sweetbreads, Delta Asparagus, Quail Egg – $12
[maxgallery id=”4767″] The small dish consisted of petite veal portions mixed with sliced grilled asparagus, miner’s lettuce, and a quail egg. The veal bits were tender, properly seasoned, and paired well with the vegetables and egg. The white bean paste partially obscured the savory meat flavors but this flaw did not significantly detract from the experience. Overall the dish was light and flavorful.
Pork Chop, Arrow Cabbage, And Green Peppercorns – $26
[maxgallery id=”4760″] The plate comprised of two grilled pork chop halves arranged over a blackened slice of arrow cabbage. Fried chickpea flour cubes, sauteed shredded cabbage, and a creamy white horseradish sauce were the accompaniments. The pork’s charred exterior and pink interior suggested succulence and full barbecue flavor. Unfortunately, the flavorless meat was dry, the cabbage accompaniments were uninspiring, and the horseradish sauce seemed improperly paired with this style of meat. Salt brining and infusions of herbs and spices would have tenderized and flavored the otherwise dull meat. The chickpea flour cubes sparked some interest but overall the dish lacked the proper meat preparations and quality accompaniments to justify the $26 price.
Whole Pan-Seared Trout, Haricot Verts, And Fine Herbs – $26
[maxgallery id=”4762″] Resembling an over-sized tadpole, the blackened and deboned trout sat next to a bed of frisée, julienne cut white potatoes, and a variation of beans. The trout was over salted, lacked flavor, and was improperly cooked as the majority of the fish’s interior was raw. We tried to seek refuge in the side vegetables but the frisée salad mix was dull and uninteresting. Overall, the dish suffered from a lack of passion and thoughtfulness. The server asked if we wanted to replace the fish with another entree but we passed.
Rhubarb And Pistachio Galette And Whole Milk Ice Cream – $9
[maxgallery id=”4764″] The Rhubarb and Pistachio Galette dessert marked the best dish of the evening. The galette consisted of a freshly baked puff pastry filled with tangy sliced rhubarb and crumbled pistachios. An egg shaped dollop of creamy vanilla ice cream mellowed the tang of the rhubarb and complimented the flaky pastry.
When compared to similarly priced restaurants, our dishes suffered from an inadequate amount of effort, passion, and care spent on meal preparation. A glitter of enthusiasm was shown in the flavorful veal and fresh Rhubarb dessert but overall the experience was disappointing. The San Francisco restaurant scene is a highly competitive market with similarly priced restaurants offering far more compelling food choices. Due to its North Beach location, the restaurant might survive on the tourist crowd spilling over from Fisherman’s Wharf. However, the city’s picky residents will probably shy away from this establishment as they can spend their money on far better options.