Bar Agricole was opened about two and a half years ago by a collective of the City’s best bartenders and sommeliers, led by master drink maker Thad Vogler. Bar Agricole is every bit a restaurant as it is a bar, making it one of the best places to go for excellent cocktails, wine and food. Chef Brandon Jew’s menu is printed daily with updates reflecting the seasonal farm-to-table format. It is a veritable oasis in the clubby-section of SOMA, right next door to Slims.
With an award-winning design that features plenty of redwood, concrete and glass, the restaurant features a split-level interior and a spacious patio which is covered and heated during the winter. Our timing was perfect as we were able to get a couple of seats at the bar where we could drink, eat and drink some more.
Although the wine list is interesting, we decided to stick with cocktails for the evening and initially ordered a Hanky Panky (Gin, Vermouth, Fernet, Orange Zest) and a Rye Old Fashioned with Two Bitters:
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The first dish we ordered was the Miso Pickled Sardine with Herring Roe and Hot Mustard. The delicious fish was equally tart from the pickling and sweet from the miso. The roe came in small square packages that added a salty ocean taste to the overall dish. The mustard wasn’t hot at all, and the various thinly sliced radishes added a little bit of bitterness and crunch:
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For the next round of cocktails, we stayed within the Gin and Rye bases by ordering a refreshing Monkey’s Gland (Gin, citrus, Absinthe, Grenadine) and challenging Rosa, our lovely bartender, to come up with another Rye concoction. She rose to challenge and came back with a Brooklyn derivative made using Amaro Sibilla in place of the sweet vermouth:
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The Raw Kampachi with Agrumato, Kohlrabi and Scallions may have become our new favorite way to have this fish. The amberjack, topped with scallion strings, was lightly doused with citrus flavored oil (agrumato) with heat added by the sprinkling of the togarashi shichimi chile-blend spice. There was also some roasted rice mixed in That added a pleasant “popcorn” flavor. This was a totally successful fusion of Italian and Japanese flavors:
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We were lucky that evening since Thad Vogler was actually manning the bar. We took advantage of the opportunity and politely challenged him for our next round of cocktails. For the gin-based drink, he selected the Turf (Gin, Dry Vermouth, Maraschino, Stonefruit Bitters). He explained the choice of Austrian Blue Gin made by Hans Reisetbauer, a renown maker of fine Eau-de-Vie, and gave us a small taste of the gin itself. We found it to be elegant and very smooth:
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For the Rye “challenge,” Thad made us a Fourth Regiment (Rye, Maraschino, Sweet Vermouth, Orange and Stonefruit Bitters). He chose to make it with Leopold’s Maryland Rye which is different from the typical Pennsylvania Rye. He gave us a taste of that along with Leopold Brother’s American Small Batch Whiskey, which is technically a Bourbon. Both whiskeys were very tasty, with the bourbon being slightly sweeter and the Maryland Rye tasting much less dry than a typical rye. Oh, and the drink was really great and hit the spot:
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Back to food: whole animals are butchered on site, so offal items do appear on the menu. The duck liver and pork pâté are staples that we have often had in the past. But the Crispy Headcheese with Radishes, Pea Shoots and Baharat was truly a revelation. We chuckled when it first arrived, as the headcheese “loaf” was covered with chives and reminded us of our childhood chia pet. All laughing aside, this was one seriously great offal dish where the crispy pork head bits were served on top of a chickpea purée. The radish salad helped tame the fat and the sprinkles of the Turkish spice (baharat) added more flavor:
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We shared the Black Trumpets with Fried Egg, Fava Greens, Burdock and Wheat Berries entrée. The dish itself was really tasty, especially with the blue cheese espuma that came with it. It inexplicably cost at least twice as much as any of the previous dishes we had, which has us thinking that next time, we may just stick with the interesting appetizer plates:
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After that full meal, we were ready for some digestivos. With this last challenge, Thad made a Martinez (Gin, Sweet Vermouth, Maraschino, Bitters). He could have used the sweeter Old Tom Gin, but he opted for the locally made St.George Dry Rye Gin (made with 100% rye). Rosa also made us a variation of the Boulevardier using Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon, Cocchi Americano, Cardamaro and Peach Bitters (this drink will definitely be the subject of a future post):
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The bar program is so serious at Bar Agricole that they literally have several different ice forms for their drinks. For the whiskey drinks, they use a giant cube that they hand saw from large blocks of ice. The ice is so clear that you can literally read the menu through it (click on different parts of the picture to check out the Lytro living picture refocusing capability)
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It’s great to have a restaurant that is so focused on providing consistently great drinks and food. The beautiful decor is an added bonus. Chef Jew’s food is better than ever, and we hope that he continues to come up with interesting combinations.
Late last year, InsideScoopSF reported that Thad Vogler will be opening up Whiteside Company toward the end of this year. We look forward to that opening and having another great place drink, eat and drink some more.