Since it has been closed for more than a year (since November 2012), we were wondering if The Slanted Door restaurateur Charles Phan’s other Chinese restaurant, Heaven’s Dog, would ever re-open. It was one of our favorite watering holes since Phan’s Master Wine/Spirit overseer, Erik Adkins, really knows how to put together a great cocktail program. News finally came that it would re-open in March, but it switched food nationalities and became British, aptly named The Coachman. Located not too far away from The Cavalier, this SOMA niche has become the destination for upscale English fare.
The Coachman is named after a long-closed British eatery on the outskirts of Chinatown on Powell Street, where Phan’s father worked as a janitor after they migrated from Vietnam in the late 1970s. It was also where Phan might have started his culinary career as a teenage busser. He hired Chef Ross Wunderlich, who has experience at other great SF places like Bar Tartine, SPQR and A16, to head the kitchen. Adkins installed bar manager John Codd, who had overseen the cocktail program at the sadly defunct Wo Hing General Store. Many of the employees came already trained from within the Phan empire, having worked at his other restaurants such as South or as part of their catering arm, so it didn’t take them long to get up and running.
The cocktail and spirits program has a decidedly British slant in keeping with the theme. We started with a Robert Burns’ Hunting Flask (Redbreast 12 year Whiskey, Currant, Ginger, Lemon Peel), noted on the menu as a “traditional recipe from the Highlands.” We also ordered a Lass O’Gowrie (Hakushu 12 year whisky, Punt e Mes, honey, Peychaud’s bitters) that is definitely not a girly-drink. It was a great introduction to the rest of our repast:
The menu offers a dozen or more items, split evenly amongst starters and larger plates. They also offer a couple of side dishes such as mashed potatoes and creamed spinach.
We have said before we like our “fries with eyes”, and their version of Fried Smelt was very good. There was a bit of herring roe mixed into the creamy tartar sauce which served as a great dip for eating the fries from nose-to-tail:
Although the shelves are stocked mostly with Irish and British whiskies, they do have some domestics hidden below, so we asked for a couple of shots of Rittenhouse:
We wanted to try their Prime Rib with Yorkshire Pudding, but they were already out the evening we came in. So, as offal lovers, we went with the Blood Sausage plate instead. The very crimson dish, accompanied by braised red cabbage and a grilled Pink Lady apple half, was very good and paired quite nicely with the whiskey:
The Creamed Spinach would have been a great side dish for the Prime Rib, but this dish was so good that we didn’t miss the beef at all. This is definitely one of the best creamed greens dishes we have had in the City:
Just like at Hard Water, whiskies can be ordered by the ounce. They have a great spirits list that features slightly more than 50 bottles comprised of mostly British, Irish and Japanese whiskeys. For dessert, we opted for shots of Balvenie Cask Conditioned and a Benromach Organic Scotches, which made for a great ending:
A view down the bar shows why it’s a great place to drink:
The front of the restaurant holds the well lit kitchen where the former noodle bar is now a long chef’s counter with a view of the kitchen action. Note Charles Phan sitting at the left side of the communal table the evening that we were in:
Phan’s departure from Asian fare with the Southern-tinged Hard Water is very successful, and we can attest that his foray into the British Isles also works for us. Maybe it has to do with the fact that both concepts are from great whiskey regions, so we can drink our favorite brown spirit while noshing on some good eats.
Update Jan, 2015
Alas, after only ten months in business, The Coachman closed on Jan. 30, 2015.