by Nikki Lincoln
When I signed on to write for this blog, one of the things I was really excited to write about was food and frankly, I haven’t really written too much about it at all. However, this week I had such a crazy dining experience that I decided it was time to take a break from your irregularly scheduled programming and tell you a story about a recent dining experience (there is wine too though, of course).
One of my favorite parts about living in San Francisco are all of the new restaurants that are constantly popping up around the city. Food has been around as long as people have so it never ceases to amaze me that chefs and restaurateurs are constantly thinking of new concepts for dining experiences. When my friend, Shannon, sent me this article about a new restaurant called TBD opening near my apartment, I was once again amazed and excited to try it out.
The two of us had originally planned to go to the rock climbing gym before dinner so our reservation was pretty late. However, those plans fell through and we decided to show up early to see if we could get a table early or at least get started on some drinks. Our table wasn’t ready early but after browsing through the wine list, Shannon spotted a wine called “The Chocolate Block” and wanted to get it based on name alone. As it turns out, this was one of my favorite wines from South Africa and we decided to just get a bottle and start enjoying it while we waited. We talked about other restaurants we should visit, including TBD’s neighbor (with the same owner) AQ. The wine is a Syrah, Grenache, Cabernet, Cinsault, Viognier blend from the Western Cape as has an amazingly fruit forward nose with delicate black fruit flavor. It is a really enjoyable blend and I would like to pick up a few bottles of it for the house.
The restaurant seated us exactly on time and we quickly knew what we wanted to get after perusing the menu while we waited. Neither of us eat any gluten and Shannon is lactose intolerate. The restaurant had actually called ahead to check for any dietary restrictions or allergies and after we ordered, they checked to see if the dishes were all ok. It was a really appreciated extra touch that can make a big difference in a dining experience. We’ve both become really good at sifting through menus for things that are ok but a lot of times there are unlisted ingredients and it was helpful to have the restaurant checking as well.
Our first dish was a grilled lettuce and duck prosciutto salad. It was incredible and we both loved how the char on the lettuce tasted. As our second dish, a plate of thinly sliced cured ham, appeared, Shannon began to notice it was a bit smoky in the restaurant. With an open kitchen format, it was easy to see the chefs clamoring around the grill. She noted that maybe the hood was broken and we went back to our ham. As two people who love cured meats (I’m a bit worried at the moment because I only have two packages of bacon at home at the moment), this was an amazing treat. There was a great level of saltiness and the texture ranged from chewy to crispy. It was amazing.
Our third dish, a scallop and persimmon ceviche, was dropped at our table when the manager came by and asked if we could step outside while they tried to restart the hood (“I knew it”). We could take our wine with us and they would let us know when it was clear. We grabbed our classes and headed outside with both of us thinking that we should have at least tried a bite of our ceviche before getting up.
It was pretty clear to see that we would not be going back into the restaurant. The servers brought us out our ceviche and the rest of our wine. They also gave out some pumpkin spice soft serve and some sort of cake. They let us know that whatever we were able to enjoy would be comped and the manager gave out his card and said that we could contact him directly for future reservations and he would handle it directly. Then, he came around and said they may be able to accommodate some people next door at AQ.
We headed over there with our wine and were able to be seated rather quickly. We ordered a dish to share and an entree for each of us. Shannon got a quail and sweetbreads dish and I got a lamb with pomegranate. They were both amazing and afterwards, the servers brought around the only gluten free dessert they had. Everything here ended up being comped as well and so we left a nice tip and headed home.
I don’t think there is anything I appreciate more than great customer service. TBD and AQ delivered this and so much more. Eating out is about good food but it’s also about stepping out of your own kitchen and getting treated well. Sometimes things happen that are out of anyone’s control and in this case, I couldn’t imagine it being handled any better than how TBD and AQ handled it. Everyone was polite and accommodating. That goes both ways. The restaurant couldn’t help what happened, we didn’t need to make it worse by being difficult customers. All in all, it ended up being a great night with great food, and a fun little story.