Eating SF: Lazy Bear

Lazy Bear… what an absolutely amazing, all around experience.  EVERYTHING from the innovative dining experience, the food, the service, the atmosphere, the flow of the evening was beyond my expectations.  If you are looking for an evening, and I don’t just mean a “let’s grab dinner” sort of night, I am talking about a full on, full blown dinner party.. at a restaurant… Lazy Bear absolutely must be on your list.
It is hard to just talk about the food at Lazy Bear because it’s not just the food that is unique.  To start off with, it is a whole production, and for a production you need tickets.  To get into a Lazy Bear “dinner party” as they call it, you buy tickets in advance.  You can’t return tickets or exchange times, but you can give them to someone and change the name on the reservation.  I would recommend getting on their mailing list so that you get their calendar with all their reservation slots right to your inbox.
Now let’s talk about the restaurant itself:  Lazy Bear is nestled in the Mission in a pretty un-presuming building that I think used to be a BBQ place or something.  The ceilings are high and it feels like you have stepped into a log cabin.  There is a loft space upstairs, that over looks the main dining area.  The loft is decorated like a cabin in the woods, with camping gear, red and black plaid and wood details.  The dining space has two long tables (yes, only two) that run the length of the room.  The actual table is basically a very large tree that has been slice in half.  At the side opposite of the loft, there is an open prep kitchen as well (we will get to that.
View of the dining room from the loft

Now let’s talk the experience and the food:  When you first arrive, you are greeted by a group of people at the door.  A host will bring you up to the loft for about an hour of drinks and snack.  When you get up to the loft, you are given a glass of house punch in a cute crystal mug and they seat you with your party.  Seating in the loft is more couches and casual seating, but you have a designated spot.

House Cocktails
After you have been seated in the loft, the snacks start being passed out.  One snack at a time and to everyone in the room.  The first snack we got was whipped scrambled eggs in a tall shot glass with bacon, maple syrup and hot sauce in the bottom of the shot glass.  This basically tasted like breakfast in a shot glass.  You had the egg, the bacon and the hot sauce AND the maple which gave a pancakey illusion.  I will say, whipped scrambled eggs are a pretty interesting consistency; fluffy and basically just had the mouth feel of cappuccino foam.
Next up was raw Channel Island Halibut with Jimmy Nardello pepper, Sudachi (Japanese citrus fruit) on a brown rice puff cracker.  This tasted like a spicy crudo on crunchy puffed rice cracker.  The Sudachi citrus had a wonderful fresh and bright flavor that brought this dish to life
Then a broiled Shigoku Oyster with redwood, Nasturtium (a type of flower) and a piece of lardo that just melted on your tongue as you ate the oyster.  It is hard to compare this oyster with anything I have had before because it was pretty unreal.  The oyster was warm, the lardo was decadent and had an almost heavy-like pork flavor (like the same idea and flavor profile of a bbqed oysters with chorizo).  The redwood and Nasturtium flower brought an earthy, Christmas-y type of flavor.
Up next was probably my favorite snack bite.  Crispy pole beans (basically tempura style green beans) with a Creme Fraiche and Allium dip (basically the best sour cream and onion dip you have ever had.  Ever).  You could have given me spoon and let me die a happy death with that dip.  Oh.  My. God.
Lastly in the snack department and also doubling as a palette cleanser there was a Cape Gooseberry soda with bubbles that came from fermentation.  This was sort of like a bitter berry soda.  Well, that was exactly what it was. 
After the snacks, each party was individually escorted down to their assigned seats at the family style tables.  While we were snacking, the wait staff was working hard to seat everyone perfectly.  Next to the perfect people and in the perfect seats at the table.  I know that sounds a bit wacky, but they basically read the room and the people in it and set it up so you would not only talk to your neighbors but like them too.
Now before we get into the food of dinner, I want to tell you how it works.  When you first sit, the head chef welcomes you and tells you how this meal will work. Each course is brought out at the exact same time to everyone and as the servers go in unison, placing plates down the table, the conversation of the room is stopped by a screaming chef.  The chef of the dish (there are multiple chefs) will get your attention and tell you about the dish; what it is, the ingredients, where the ingredients are from and what the inspiration was for the dish.  The chef will also tell you to come up and talk to the chefs throughout the meal at the prep station.  They want this to be as interactive as possible.  Also, at every place setting there was a little booklet and a golf pencil so that you could follow along the menu and also make notes or write anything down.

Back to the food.  the first thing they bring out is a spelt and rye dinner roll and cultured butter.  Now you may be thinking, what is so special about starting with bread?  Not only was this the best dinner roll I have ever had, the butter was so delicious I could eat it alone.  The chef even said, as he was introducing this “dish” that the house made butter is the best thing you would eat all night.

Next up we had Sturgeon and Sturgeon caviar with a cucumber Vichyssoise poured around the Sturgeon tower and also with leek and potato.  A Vichyssoise is a thick, cold soup made of pureed leeks, potatoes, cream and in this case also some cucumber to give it a crispness and refreshing flavor.

Then came the Monterrey abalone with legumes, Arrowhead cabbage and three (yes, three) different types of mints. As someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy the chewy texture of abalone, this was incredible.  It tasted like a fresh and wonderful salad with the most amazing textures… also it was just stunning.

Monterey Abalone- legumes, Arrowhead Cabbage, Mints

After the abalone, we were served a Matsutake broth with apple, nettle, and egg yolk fudge.  This tasted like a Japanese style mushroom broth but it tasted heavier than what you would normally get at a Japanese restaurant.  The apple was definitely the curve ball ingredient.  They used a melon baller to create perfect spherical apple pieces that just floated in the broth, giving it a super fall-like flavor. Lastly the egg yolk fudge was a perfectly cooked egg yolk.  Not cooked to where it exploded in your soup, muddying the consistency but perfect so they it was soft and broke into chunks, quite literally like fudge.

Matsuke Broth- Apple, Nettle, Egg Yolk Fudge
Then came the Red Kuri Squash with quince (a pear-like fruit), kale and Goat’s milk. While this was a veggie based dish, it had the richness and boldness of a meat dish.  Each plate had a sliver of quash that was braised and roasted and topped with quince and pumpkin seeds with a goat’s milk puree on the side.  Truly a fall flavored dish

Up next was the first of two actual meat dishes; aged squab (pigeon) with huckleberries, chanterelle mushrooms and sumac ( a really gorgeous red colored spice that comes from a flower).  At first glance, this dish was gorgeous, especially the deep purple color that seemed to be everywhere.  For how gamey squab usually is, it was was tender and delicious and had a really deep and earthy flavor and went beautifully with the woodiness of the chanterelles and the sweet tartness of the huckleberries.

Aged Squab- Huckleberry, Chanterelle, Sumac

The conclusion of dinner (before dessert) was a Wagyu ribeye from Miyazaki Prefecture with sunflower, sunchoke and brassicas.    Wow.  Is the word I would use to describe this dish.  Let’s start with the sunchoke and sunflower puree on the side, because it was earthy and had a wonderful consistency.  THE BEEF.  Oh my god the beef was perfectly seared and sliced so thinly.  You literally did not even have to chew the meat because it melted/disintegrated in your mouth.  It was so damn delicious. I am pretty sure my eyes were closed for the entire time I was eating this dish.

Now onto desert.  There were two main desserts and then a plate of dessert snacks.  The first dessert was a pomegranate meringue with kaffir lime and hibiscus.  This wasn’t your typical meringue where it was crunchy and chewy as it melted in your mouth because it was actually a frozen meringue so it was more like a harder ice cream.  The flavors were fruity and bright but not too sweet.  It was really perfect after such a rich piece of meat/

Pomegranate Meringue- Kaffir Lime, hibiscus

The next main dessert was a sleeping beauty apple with whipped yogurt, walnut sable and cider caramel.  This tasted like the best apple pie filling you have ever had.  It was familiar in flavor profile but completely different from anything I had ever had.  The apple still had the skin on it which was crisp and delicate.  The whipped yogurt was tangy- presumably in place of whipped cream- and the cider caramel had the warming alcohol flavor.

Sleeping Beauty Apple- Whipped Yogurt, Walnut Sable, Cider Caramel

Just when you thought that you couldn’t possibly eat any more, there was a whole dessert treats tray.  There were three mini (bites) of dessert per person.  These treats were an opportunity for the chefs to play around with some ideas and find new takes on familiar flavors and dishes.  

Starting on the left, we got a concord grape jelly with peanut and cayenne which was totally a play on a PB&J dessert.  The jelly was more like a firm jello texture and wasn’t too sweet or processed tasting and the peanut was crunchy and spicy.

In the middle was a beehive pavlova with honey and cardamom.  This tasted like a spiced honey meringue with a melty inside.  it was so light and delicious.

Lastly, there was a pumpkin spice latte with coffee cool whip.  This tasted like a cold pumpkin spice latte with whipped cream, or the best small bite of pumpkin pie, ever.

That concluded our meal at Lazy Bear.  If you couldn’t tell by my lengthy post, I truly had one of the best meals of my entire life (and that is almost 24 years of existence) there.  But for real, everything was perfect and I can’t sing enough praises.

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