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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Irving Street Kitchen - Review

Irving Street Kitchen (ISK) is the Portland outpost for three men who operate three restaurants in San Francisco. ISK fits the San Francisco and Pearl District mold of urbane and urban, with eye-catching, interior decorator touches that make the cavernous, brick-exposed old loading dock interesting. How about milk bottle chandeliers? Or a few booths with privacy curtains? We had a table for nine sectioned off by low bookcases, giving us a sense of coziness, yet allowing us to see if any fashionable people walk in.

Fried chicken and mashed potatoes highlights the down-to-earth menu options. The charcuterie, which included duck prosciutto and rabbit pâté sits on the other end of the continuum. And that about summarizes it: Southern food, such as ham, collard greens, and jambalaya is the counterpoint to something like butternut squash risotto or salmon. I found the happy middle with a whole trout, cooked just right, wrapped in pancetta (which stuck, inextricably, onto the skin). It was very good, but, perhaps, the chef might have put more seasoning inside of the fish. Don’t forget to ask for ISK’s terrific bread.

My brother asked for an alteration to a dish or something off-menu. “No way,” said the kind waiter, which made me believe that there were no chefs on duty, only cooks. Contrast that with the Stephanie Inn, which asks in advance if anyone has food restrictions and then is willing to do cartwheels to make sure you are happy.

ISK has an interesting wine gimmick, which, no doubt, also increases profit margins: wine right out of the barrel and into a big jar, to be poured into your glass.

ISK is a good restaurant, not a brilliant restaurant. The lowbrow food on the menu is overpriced. ISK can be quite a scene, especially on First Thursday. Now, after my second visit, I’d say that perhaps your best option is to hang out at the bar for the atmosphere, drink a glass of barrel wine, and order a side of cornbread and butter if you’re in bubba-mode or sautéed kale with garlic if your feeling Pearl.

Irving Street Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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