RANGE IN SAN FRANCISCO....8 YEARS ON...IS IT STILL GOOD?
The Valencia corridor has become a hot bed of new restaurants in this town. It seems every time you go to the neighborhood there is a new place opening. But there are several that have survived the ups and downs of a foodie town. One such place is Range.
It's one of the original "let's see what's selling at the market and put that on our menu" places. And though the menu is moderately stable these days they still specialize in local farm fresh ingredients. After perusing the small focused menu I went with a sort of green, white and brown them with my first few choices.
Up first is a bowl of egg noodle pasta with fava beans, goat's milk feta and a pistachio-basil pistou followed with roasted asparagus with cumin yogurt, meyer lemon freeka, harissa and toasted almonds. The pasta was nicely done, housemade ribbons that were cooked through and tender. There was no al dente here, which I like better, sometimes I think pasta is underdone too much and takes away texture wise from the other ingredients, here it blends well with the goat cheese with just a bit of tang. The pistou was light in flavor and while it had great hints of basil I didn't really taste much in the pistcahio way, a nut I'm not always a fan of so no big miss here. Next up was the asparagus, roasted tender from tip to bottom, no stringy unchewable pieces. The freekah was a pleasant new thing, king of like a barley mildly flavored with lemon. Toasted almonds are thrown in to add some earthy flavor and texture though I can't say I tasted much in the way of any harissa spiciness. Same with the cumin in the smear of yogurt. I knew they were supposed to be there but my tongue couldn't suss them out. While they might have added some flavor layers, I did still like the dish. Sometimes I'm in the mood for a little spice, but on these appetizers I was able to still enjoy their subtle flavors even without extra bells and whistles. For me, letting the natural tastes shine was a big plus. I kept my color them going for my entree also.
Olive oil poached Alaskan halibut with toasted brown rice, asparagus, braised endive all covered in a warm lemon infused broth. Again the theme here is fresh ingredients which all of these items were. The fish was perfectly cooked, flaky, buttery and tender. The toasted rice was a nice addition, kind of like a rice crispy, it's that whole adding texture thing here. The asparagus was sliced into small pieces and mixed in with rice. While I'm not a big fan of endive, here it was done soft and didn't have that hint of bitterness it can sometimes present. The broth, which was poured at the table, was pleasant but for me it had just a bit too much lemon flavor. I know, fish with lemon and what not, but I'll admit I added some ground black pepper to the broth to offset the lemon. Beyond that this is still another in the line of fresh flavorful dishes that Range specializes in. One thing to mention is that the portion sizes are, um, moderate, and depending on your appetite level you should keep that in mind. Since I hadn't had much to eat this day I decided to keep going and get dessert.
No green theme here though. I'm a sucker for cherries in season so got the cherry tart with candied almonds and creme fraiche ice cream. The cherries were sweet and deliciously tart. The tart was moist and crumbly and chock full of nuts. I wished the piece was bigger. The creme fraiche ice cream was a tad too much on the lemony tart side for me though it did help even out flavors when you mixed it with some of the cherries. Overall it was a tasty finish to a well rounded meal.
I guess there's a reason Range has hung around, they do things well on a consistent basis. Throw in some local fresh ingredients and people know they will always be able to get something worthwhile whenever they visit. A little bit of stability can be a good thing in an ever changing foodie scene.