Nestled in what used to be the offices of SOMA Grand at 7th and Mission is the new restaurant AQ. While the neighborhood is sketchy at the best of times, they've done a great job with the space giving it a city living loft style look. I do like the look but with the caveat that a number of new places opening in the last few months have the same urban loft look and feel, hopefully it won't permeate every place in town. There is a dining area downstairs also but didn't have a chance to peek in. As I've said before though, for me it's about the food so here it is.
The menu here changes frequently here by the seasons they say, but the online menu right now does not match the choices we had last week. Above is a pear, endive, salted ricotta salad with beige gelee I couldn't identify nor the black drops though it tasted like a thick balsamic. Individually these items are not very good. The pear was too hard, the ricotta too salty, the gelee flavorless and the almonds plain--I'm guessing they were there to give this some texture because it's all very pale. When you put all the things together the flavors do work better but I'm not gonna say this dish was very good, it was a deconstructed salad that just didn't work for me. I actually didn't even finish it which anyone who knows me will tell you that's odd. Something really has to be off for me to not finish, I don't like food to go to waste. I had wanted to try the dungeness crab and barley risotto but evidently the chef didn't like the way the crab look that morning so all they had was they barely risotto with shaved cheese and well I'd already had my fiber fill for the day. Oh well.
Second course was braised pork belly with littleneck clams and heirloom beans. Sounds weird and it kinda is, I equate to a poor man's surf and turf special. The beans were okay, the clams were cooked perfectly if a little bland--no real seasoning, the foam you see was really just for effect as it had no flavor but the pork belly was the real star here. It was cooked well, seasoned well and all around tasty melt in your mouth goodness. For me they could have just kept the clams and given a slightly larger portion of the pork and all would have been right with the world. One thing the dish did lack was texture, everything was soft, maybe a little spicy slaw would have paired well to give it some crunch, but still--PORK WAS GRAND!! I can't say that enough.
Dessert was ginger cake with (that) pear (again) caramel sauce, fresh cream and toffee'd walnuts. This was decent if not spectacular. I like a little more ginger flavor in my cake and it definitely needed more of the caramel sauce which had that great slightly burnt taste of fresh made caramel and of course butter.
I know they've only been open a short while and are still finding their footing but I guess with all the online raves and write ups I'd seen I expected a little more. Still costs are pretty much in line with this type of restaurant in the city, apps are all $10, entrees are all $25 and desserts are $8. It's one of the new hip eateries to see and be seen at so give it a shot and see what you think. And they do have an extensive wine list with enough of an array that you should be able to find something for everyone in your group. And that goes for the food also.