This is the BarFly’s 200th post. Since we have been blogging for a little over nine months now, we wanted to start this post with a reflection on why we do this. We tend to drink and eat out frequently and hence get many requests for recommendations by friends, co-workers and family members. BarFlySF started as a place to see for themselves what a typical restaurant experience would be like, and if other people in the Bay Area found the blog useful, then we were glad to have helped in some way. It was also very useful for ourselves to remind us about dishes, cocktails and great service that we have had along the way.
We know that the scope of the blog is pretty limited in range and interest due to the fact that it is regionally focused on San Francisco. But thanks to search engines and Urbanspoon, we get more views than we initially anticipated. To keep it interesting, we occasionally throw in a travel, food or cocktail recipe post (the latter has been very popular); but it is always centered around eating and drinking. Many thanks to all of you who have have visited, followed us, commented and “liked” the posts; we do appreciate your stopping by. We look forward to writing the next 100 posts, but for now let’s concentrate on Hard Water, the latest creation by Owner-Chef-Restaurateur Charles Phan (Slanted Door) that is truly a BarFly’s dream come true.
The New Orleans and Southern slant is a surprising departure for Phan, who has hitherto concentrated on upscale Vietnamese and Chinese restaurants. Measuring a mere 1300 square feet, there are no tables; however, it is designed with 17 seats around a U-shaped marble bar, another 20-25 seats around the perimeter counters and the rest of the area for standing room only. Upon entering, you are greeted with a wall of “whiskey” storing some of the best bottles that the American South has to offer:
With an excellent bar program put in place by Phan’s Master Bar Manager Erik Adkins, we started with an excellent derivative of the New Orleans classic Vieux Carré, the Cocktail a la Louisiane (Rittenhouse 100 Rye, Carpano Antica, Benedictine, Absinthe and Peychauds bitters) and a Dixie Cocktail (Bourbon, Curacao, gum syrup, dashes of Angostura bitters and creme de menthe):
There is a full raw bar featured on the left side of the menu with items such as oysters, shrimps and chilled crab. But for our taste, the right side of the menu containing fried items from the “Snacks, Starter and Suppers” pairs much better with whiskey. The pork belly cracklin’s with spicy sea salt were the perfect snack to absorb the alcohol:
We also ordered the tasty cornmeal crusted alligator that was drizzled with chili aioli:
Condiments available at the bar included a spicy chili vinegar which was outstanding with the cracklin’ and a mild hot sauce that we used to spice up the alligator bites:
The Dixie Cocktail was served with hand-cut ice and we spied a bar back in the process of cutting the ice cubes with a knife and mallet:
There is no doubt in our mind that Phan knows his Southern food. The three pieces of perfectly fried chicken came out crispy and seemingly grease-free. The accompanying pepper jelly was more sweet than hot; we found that the hot sauce condiment was more to our liking to flavor the chicken:
One of the best reasons to go to Hard Water is to experience their extensive Whiskey and Bourbon list. With more than 150 bottles available, they offer flights and one or two ounce pours of very bottle, including an exclusive vertical tasting of the Pappy van Winkle bourbons. We are currently liking our Ryes, so we took this opportunity to order 6 different one ounce pours of some of their Rye whiskeys using the Sazerac as our reference.
The bartender climbed the ladder and pulled down all six of the bottles before pouring them out, leaving the bottle behind the glass so we were able to read labels and “educate” ourselves. The amount of rye to corn mash varied in each of the bottles, where more Rye created more “spiciness” to the whiskey flavor. Maybe it was tasting all at once, but our preference changed from taste to taste. It is hard to say that one whiskey was much better than the other since they were all extremely quaffable, but we did learn that there is nothing wrong with a little corn mash mixed in with a Rye:
Our bartender was nice enough to give us some “Scotch Kisses” that were real house-made butterscotch with a marshmallow center. It was the perfect ending for a whiskey-fueled outing:
We decided to include some scenes of our favorite City as part of this milestone post. On our walk back to the car we caught some of the Bay Lights in action:
The spring weather we are experiencing is better than most summers in the City. On this temperate evening, we also captured the late night silhouette of the Ferry Building:
Keep in mind that all of these night-time pics are taken with no flash and a tripod-free Lytro camera. The drive home gave us an opportunity to capture the neon lights along the short red-light district of historic Broadway:
We suspect that Hard Water will be a frequent watering hole for us as we work our way through the American whiskeys. With the recent closure of Wo Hing General Store, we can only hope that Charles Phan would consider opening a version of Hard Water in the Mission. South in Hayes Valley is his other recent Southern-influenced establishment, but we’re still crossing our fingers for a Mission location.
Looking Through the Slanted Door (Dec. 28, 2012)
Finding Happiness at Wo Hing General Store (Sep. 25, 2012)
Iron Chefs and More at the Hawaii F&W Festival (Sep. 13, 2012)
All Southern Food posts on BarFlySF
All Whiskey related posts on BarFlySF