Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Anchor & Hope (Ahoy!)

Love at first taste in a new restaurant isn't easy to come by, but it's magical when it happens. It all started when a friend emailed me a brief article about Anchor & Hope, a new restaurant in SOMA from the owners of the renowned Town Hall and the more recently acclaimed Salt House. After reading some more promising press coverage, I decided on a whim to check it out tonight - their first night open to the general public.

Located in the Minna Street alley, the restaurant is housed in a renovated warehouse from the turn of the century (which is interesting, since Salt House is in an old printing press warehouse from the 1930s). The name proudly stands out in bold, blue letters.

According to our very friendly and charming waiter, the Rosenthal brothers (owners) traveled to the seafood hot spots along the East Coast to figure out how to capture the look, feel, and tastes of a traditional fish house by the sea, while still retaining a modern touch. Their research clearly paid off, as reflected in the high ceilings, wood floors, brick walls, lengths of nautical rope dangling from wooden beams, and sea-themed decorations.

The resulting space was comfortably roomy and rustic, like an old fish shack, but still urban enough to fit into the city. The raw bar caught my eye on one side of the restaurant.

Great use of the ropes

And for some reason, I loved this line of fish painted at the top of one wall.

Sarah Schafer (formerly from Frisson) is the head chef at Anchor & Hope, and the menu consists mostly of seafood items, including several kinds of oysters of the day. My friend and I decided to order several appetizers to share, so we could sample more dishes.

Our waiter informed us that the wine and beer list was unavailable that night, due to some shipping issues. But before we could start feeling too bad, the owner came around and offered us complimentary tastes of white wine. We each ended up getting two generous glasses of free wine for our dinner. Now that's great customer service!

The food was phenomenal - fresh seafood, creative approaches, and casually fun presentation. We started off with a half dozen of raw Drake's Bay oysters - one of my favorites for the salty flavor. These bad boys were nice and fresh, served with a slightly spicy cocktail sauce.

I had really wanted to try the Angels on Horseback - smoked bacon wrapped oysters - and I'm glad I did. These were amazing. The combination of crisp, slightly fatty bacon, buttery oysters, salt, and mild spice sent my taste buds to heaven and back, resulting in my signature "zoned out" look as I was happily chewing.

Another excellent dish was the basil-stuffed clams, topped with parmesan bread crumbs. The crinkle of the crumbs contrasted well with the softness of the clams, and the basil was a nice highlight.

Wonders from the sea...

The last appetizer we ordered was a cold maple smoked trout, stacked atop a warm potato salad layered with some greens and a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette. Although not as standout as the above items, the sweetness of the maple was a nice approach, along with the lone quail egg on top.

And yet another perk of dining on opening night - complimentary fried smelts! Don't they look like a stack of shrimp tempura?

Finally, for dessert we settled on a warm rhubarb apple crisp with fresh strawberries and vanilla bean ice cream (although I'm still wondering about that brandy cherry creme brulee, but that will have to wait for next time). A wonderfully sweet way to end the meal.

And we all know cappuccino goes well with dessert!

Overall, I was very impressed with the Rosenthals' latest offering, and I will definitely venture back to Anchor & Hope to try their main fish entrees, along with that warm sea urchin in a shell appetizer. I hope you'll find the time to make a visit as well!

Anchor & Hope
83 Minna Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 501-9100


Anonymous said...

Can't wait to eat there! The basil stuffed Clams looked amazing!

Wish I could have made it!

Passionate Eater said...

I just died and went to heaven w/your descriptions Taste Tests! I would love to try that place out w/you. Will you be staying in the SF area?
After my nuptials, I will be moving back and would love to see you!

Anonymous said...

ooh, this sounds like a great spot! I love seafood and haven't seen the Drake's oysters offered in many restaurants, so I'm you mentioned it.