Friday, April 17, 2015

Late night bites at the LongBranch Saloon

Longbranch on Urbanspoon
The LongBranch Saloon offers prettily plated food, which will be a pleasant surprise if you are used to just the mom-and-pop restaurants nearby. It feels out of place, like it should really be somewhere on Market Street in downtown San Francisco. In its immediate neighbourhood, for late night drinks it is basically the only game in town and you will find the pub area pretty busy.
For the late night small-bites menu, the kitchen closes 11pm or 11.30pm on weekends.

I don't drink, so I was obviously in the wrong place -- remember that as you read this review. But I had spotted "fried cheese curds" on the menu and was curious enough to try that and the other items during my 2015-April trip to San Francisco / Berkeley.

Grapefruit Juice ($4)
  • A rocks glass (?) of grapefruit juice not fresh-squeezed and obviously with ice in the tumbler. Felt stupidly expensive.
Fried Cheese Curds ($5) fresno chile jam, tomato chile sauce
  • A mere four pieces of what looked and tasted like mozzarella in some kind of crust, pan fried or deep fried to a golden brown on the outside, and melty on the inside.
  • Each piece of cheese was not very big, about the size of a matchbook. Eat this immediately before it cools too much and the cheese starts to harden and lose its stringy fun.
  • Price felt okay for this sort of prettied up establishment and food, and considering it is an appetizer (which are typically more expensive than a filling-portion main, supposedly in exchange for appetite-whetting tastiness).
Potted Pork Trotter ($8) pork, cinnamon, cumin, roasted shallot served with pickled radish, grilled levain
  • This was $6.50 on the online dinner menu but $8 on my 9:39 PM bill -- more expensive after dinner service?
  • The pulled pork came in a small glass pot (about a half cup worth?). Reminded me of pork rillettes, but served hot so there's no congealed lard
  • Simple and crunchy-crispy flatbread to go with it. Be generous with the pork and you'll have just enough flatbread.
  • Optional mustard on the side. Use this only if the pork feels too fatty to you, and in any case use sparingly to not overwhelm all other flavours.
  • Token amount of salad (like 2 tablespoons?) with mandarin orange slices.
The late night menu is basically appetizers and the two I had amounted to less than a light dinner. Combined with the pricey drink it was a depressing $20 after tax and tip. For that money you can have more food for breakfast in Berkeley, so what you are also paying for here is the fanciness of the food. Don't go to LongBranch Saloon just for food or late-night eats: Go to drink alcohol.

Something very annoying and inexplicable was that they refused to seat people late at night in their dining room area but instead packed everyone in the pub area. The pub area features long communal tables and less-than-one-foot-wide counters against the walls whereas the dining room has sit-down eating tables which might be nicer for small groups -- but they wouldn't seat me there late at night even if it's basically empty (anyone who's there was probably left over from a later dinner seating?). Was this a ploy to make the bar area look very busy?
Also, don't expect the communal table to facilitate socializing at all unless you make the first move.

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