Restaurant review: Avery, a modern California restaurant with Asian influences in San Francisco, USA
New(ish) playful Asian-inspired fine dining restaurant in Fillmore
Heading to Asian-inspired fine dining restaurant Avery? Better know what you’re looking for! The restaurant is a ‘blink and you might walk past it’ situation as there’s no sign. (“Avery” is however printed on the bottom left corner of the window.) But there’s little mystery once you walk into the restaurant. The ground floor, where our party of four sat, is intimate with just four tables. So it’s easy to get a pretty good feel of the restaurant from your seat. And what’s that like?
The design is an interesting mix of light and dark, comfy and refined. Dark booths and dim lighting contrast with the jewel toned paint splattered white wall panels. An overall art gallery-like vibe is warmed up with things like books and woolly blankets scattered around. I think this contrast is what the team were going for to give off a casual approach to fine dining. The food is luxurious but guests don’t have to feel pressured to dress that way. Sneakers, jeans, puffer vests, whatever - all is acceptable.
Avery, named after American painter Milton Avery, is led by Chef/Owner Rodney Wages, a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef who cut his teeth at The French Laundry and Benu before striking out on his own. The restaurant opened just over a year ago and currently only offers a US$189 10-course ‘The Chef’s Menu’ with the option to upgrade on some luxuries.
We started with a bowl of toasted rice broth elevated with burnt onion butter. This smelled fantastic and had the silkiest, though not oily, texture. An excellent way to begin the meal.
Then we moved onto the shima aji with brown rice vinegar and a chicken-anchovy jelly, oyster bellies inside grilled morels and covered with Iberico ham, something creamy inside of an egg shell (sorry, I forgot what this was) and aebleskivers or Dutch pancakes. All were pretty good.
The things sped up.
Words cannot express how much I adored the sunchoke stew with uni, caviar, and a chicken glaze (upgrade). There was something so sweet and comforting about the stew with its potato salad-like texture and the creamy, fatty, savouriness of the other elements just made the whole thing pop. I’ll definitely be thinking about this dish for years to come.
The grilled trout with asparagus was served with a squid ink and crab sauce, and came with a burnt avocado smoked trout roe parfait and a small bowl of Japanese rice with crispy fava leaves. Dang, this was awesome. The trout had a perfect buttery texture, and all the elements just plain tasted good individually or together.
Also great were these xiaolongbao-like tortellini with a shiitake mushroom and cultured butter filling.
For our main, we chose to have A5 Wagyu beef from Hokkaido in shabu shabu style that was made at our table (upgrade). The sauce was quite a classic, sweetish, sukiyaki-style sauce and did well to complement and not distract from the beef. I mean just look at that fat content. I definitely felt lucky to be eating that cow!
Before dessert, we were given a ‘cheese course’ aka a pecan tart topped with Harbison cheese which had a fairly strong, sharp flavour. A simple bite perfectly done.
By the end of our meal, I think I was too full to appreciate the desserts (chocolate cake, beeswax ice cream with berries, cinnamon sugar Arlettes and passionfruit gel-filled meringues) though I could have had a few more of those cheese tarts.
I liked the laid-back luxe style of cooking at Avery. There were quite a few wow moments (hello sunchoke stew and the grilled trout course!) where I was very impressed with the chefs’ skill and creativity. As Avery is still young, I'd definitely like to keep an eye on how the restaurant develops and what ideas the chefs come up with next. They seem to have quite an active Instagram page and now one new follower (fan).
1552 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115, USA, +1 415-817-1187
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