Earlier this year, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution officially encouraging local restaurants to adopt the mantra of “Meatless Mondays,” the one-day-a-week-without-meat initiative pushed by such visionaries as Yoko Ono, Kim O’Donnel and gansie. But contrary to what you might think, not all SF chefs are hippie-dippie enviro crusaders who immediately rallied to the cause.
Ben Paula, the executive chef at Hayes Valley neighborhood spot Sauce and a proponent of putting bacon on everything was one who did respond quickly — by adding a Monday night prime rib special to his menu. After dining at Sauce, I can see why. We here at ES support eating local, lowering your meat intake and all the rest of it, but this is one restaurant where I might cry if I returned and they had dropped the pork.
We started with the app you see above, which Chef Ben humbly calls tater tots, but that’s a bit of an undersell. Creamy mashed potatoes are mixed with white truffle oil and cremini mushrooms, then breaded and fried crispy. A tasty snack even for a vegetarian, actually, but I dare anyone not to dip them in the smoked gouda and bacon fondue provided. Personally, I wanted to take a bath in it.
Next up was the mac and cheese, made with a super rich four-cheese sauce and a crispy Gruyere crust. Again, this would be a pretty solid dish for vegetarians, but it’s the juicy bits of ham hock hidden throughout that really take it to the next level.
Fine — here’s one for the veggies — crispy, battered portobello mushroom fries. But just in case you thought we were getting healthy, they’re served with a thick-thick “fat boy” ranch dipping sauce. This was actually the second time in an SF week that I ate portobello fries, previously tasting them at Urban Tavern. Trend alert?
While the theme at Sauce is shared plates, there are also a few entrees, like the juicy fried chicken, which is actually steamed and then just flash-fried for a minute or two so that it gets all the crisp without any of the grease, then topped in gravy and truffled mushrooms.
But here’s what I really love about this city — even the most meat-loving chefs can’t craft a September menu without including some of those beautiful local heirloom tomatoes, served here with roasted corn cut fresh off the cob. It doesn’t even need bacon.
Actually, despite their strong dismissal of the Meatless Mondays mandate, this is one restaurant that approaches meat the way I think it should be treated — as exciting bites to be discovered throughout the dish — a morsel in the mac and cheese, the intense bacon-y flavor of the fondue — rather than just a hunking slab of meat that takes up the whole plate. Of course, you can also go on Monday and try the prime rib — it’s served on a sandwich and topped with that bacon-cheese fondue. Amazing.
131 Gough Street