This marks a first for The Cured Ham. I'm reviewing a restaurant that started following me on Twitter. Thanks for the follow. In the interests of full disclosure, I have not spoken, emailed, or received special treatment or otherwise from Magnolia. Just your friendly, neighborhood Cured Ham sitting down at a table and eating way too much in order to evaluate the food.
I started with a favorite of mine, fried smelt. Personally, the smelt at Kokkari are my favorite. I can't recall having better anywhere else on the planet...so far. The smelt at Magnolia were a bit underwhelming. I like the use of malt vinegar as a condiment, but overall, not the most impressive dish. Moving on.
The pork trio was fantastic. On the left, torchon with faint Asian flavors and scents. I'm guessing a hat tip to Momofuku.The tourchon had a beautifully crusted outside and the most flavorful inside I've had since dining at well, anywhere. It's that good. Moving left to right, the pork belly was well executed and flavorful. It's all about the crispy fat on top and a balanced amount of fat below. A bit of caramelization and sweetness from the sauce. The third and final pork item, the potted head with aspic. I mean really, who does aspic anymore, the French? Hat's off on executing pork three ways, many restaurants will bat 2/3. Magnolia batted 1000.
Considering my protein fest, on the servers recommendation, I ordered the asparagus salad. On the menu they don't mention a poached egg (it's hiding on the left corner), but you get one with the dish. I'd say fairly straightforward with my handy picture. The asparagus was tender, well tossed in the vinegrette, and lightly salted. It was nice to work back and forth between the pork trio and the salad.
Now for a bit of criticism. The potted head requires bread as it's a spread. The lightly poached egg with my asparagus requires bread. Even if I broke the yolk over the asparagus, I'd be wasting most of the yolk on the plate. I don't know what the policy for bread at Magnolia is, I don't care really, I can take or leave the bread, until it's required. It may simply be a matter of habit for servers not to bring bread to the tables except upon request. However, if a dish or dishes require bread, it should either be presented on the serving dish by the chef or staged by the server before service. Since bread was not presented, I simply asked for it.
I did have a couple beers, the Proving Ground IPA and the Cole Porter. I enjoyed both beers. My new favorite IPA is the 395 from Mammoth, so Magnolia's comes in at least second place. The Cole Porter was a good finishing beer that evening. Classic flavors of chocolate and coffee.
The Haight isn't a regular stop for The Cured Ham, although I do have a friend up the block. I'd easily stop in Magnolia again for a bite to eat and a beer when I'm in the neighborhood again. I could easily order the pork trio again and again.