It’s a personal challenge to eat less when you know the food is good. Bix, in San Francisco’s Jackson Square is one of those restaurants where I’m challenged. But can eating less here just mean ordering more of the appetizers and sides? Sure, sounds rational.
A couple quick notes on the libations. After spending several months in Italy, I appreciated the Americano and Negroni cocktail as the perfect pre-dinner cocktail. The bartenders at Bix understand how to make a Negroni properly. The Campari used in the drink is an acquired taste or maybe an appreciated one, depending upon your perspective. If a Negroni isn’t to your liking, there are plenty of other classic cocktails the bartenders know how to make, so please, order a drink. The wine we selected for the evening was a 2006 Bella Petite Syrah, Lily Hill, Dry Creek Valley. Rich wine, full palate with a solid berry nose. It paired well with the lamb burgers, Brussels sprout, creamed spinach and had enough weight to cut through my marrow bones. I’ve been buying Bella wine since they were founded.
Since I’ve made a note on bar service, I’ll make a brief note on the restaurant service. Our server was professional, well spoken and knowledgeable of the menu. Our table asked several questions about appetizers, mains, and even dessert; each of the questions were handled with ease and well answered. No odd looks or ‘just come on and order” attitude either. It’s refreshing to have good service.
It’s not the first time I’ve ordered Mini Lamb Burgers with cucumber, dill and harissa at Bix and it won’t be the last. So many restaurants around the country have tried to make mini-burgers or sliders without any success. The most typical failure is an overcooked meat patty. The second is a mismatched bun. The third is attempting to put lettuce and tomato on every burger. Bix makes none of the mistakes, in fact, makes no mistakes at all with this Mini-Burger. The lamb flavor is delicious and cooked medium with enough red-pink center that the lamb is moist and juicy. The condiments are all appropriately paired with the lamb and the bun size is a perfect match. What’s not to like?
My main course, usually freaks people out. Four huge white steaming cow bones and a stainless steel surgical implement adorn a Spartan plate and side of bread. Restated and marketed properly on the menu as Marrow Bones “St. John” with a parsley, caper and shallot salad served with grilled durum bread sounds and tastes much more appetizing and always is. Again, I’ve had this dish many a time over the years, at Bix and other restaurants. It’s relatively simple, but simple isn’t easy. The team at Bix create this epicurean staple with the proper care and execution it deserves. Marrow bones take us back to our beginnings as homo sapiens. If you want fat, calories, executed with 21st century culinary skill, look no further. With just a pitch of sea salt on the extracted marrow, I’m in heaven. The salad offers the perfect foil of acid and bitterness to cut through the marrow. Wash it all down with a splash of Petite. Next bite please.
The two sides the table agreed upon were Brussels Sprouts with Lemon and Olive Oil and Creamed Organic Bloomsdale Spinach. Frequent readers of The Cured Ham understand that “organic” and “brand name” farm-fresh produce are taken into consideration when ordering off a menu. But for The Ham, Creamed Spinach is all I need to know.
Creamed spinach must be ordered! It must be compared to Bourbon Steak Creamed Spinach! Bix’s creamed spinach is a real winner. It would give any steakhouse offering a run for its money. The spinach is rough chopped, the creaminess is mouth filling and well seasoned. There weren’t any unique spicing characteristics or inappropriate herbs that I could sense. Great work. I’d order it again and suggest lovers of creamed spinach to try it. And if you’re wondering, Bourbon Steak Creamed Spinach is still the reigning world champion in my book.
I don’t want to slight the Brussels sprouts. They were very well seasoned with salt, the caramelization was even without any burnt flavors or marks, and they were consistently tender without falling apart into mushy vegetable matter. While maybe a bit heavy handed on salt for me, there weren’t any remaining in the bowl, so I’ll take that as personal preference. I know a lot of folks who don’t like Brussels sprout, but if I were to try them anywhere, I’d try them here.
Thanks to my ‘light’ eating of lamb burger and bone marrow, I saved room for the El Rey Chocolate and Butterscotch Brownies with Whipped Cream. I had these about 2 months ago at a luncheon and they were off-the-charts-good. In fact, this dessert is so good, I would come to Bix before the kitchen closes just to have these brownies. Both varieties are chewy, moist, and better than the brownies you’ve made at home. Combine them with the cream that is served on the side and you’d be hard pressed to do better anywhere in San Francisco.
I’m hard pressed to find negatives during my meal at Bix, other than personal preference on Brussels sprout salting. The evening ran smoothly, service was professional, the food was well prepared, and my colleagues were happy. What more could I ask for on a ‘light’ eating night in San Francisco?