Starting 2012 right with this post on a restaurant that specializes on seasonal local produce that we stumbled upon with good friend AM who picked us up for lunch and drove around the area brainstorming on where we could go for our "catch-up" lunch session. He remembered that a new restaurant had just opened nearby (only three weeks open when we went there in early December) and that's how we ended up at AQ. AQ means "as quoted" which is usually the term added onto menus when seasonal dishes or specials are listed. Here, the menus change every season so specials and seasonal items are what are featured every day.
AQ is a restaurant dedicated to seasonal dining. It's a long room with a bar near the entrance and exposed red brick walls, long banquettes and simple wooden tables. Cheeky accents include large industrial whisks used to house light bulbs in the kitchen, flowers and plants based on the season (bare branches and some reddish and yellowish leaves when we were there). They were still serving the autumn menu when we had lunch that day - about three or four starters, a few main courses and four desserts. (It's the winter menu that is being served now.)
After a quick look at the menu, we all chose different dishes. A had a simple arugula salad which we were supposed to share but when I saw AM's warm chicory salad, I had to have one - a slice of sourdough toast with a soft poached egg in the middle, pearl onions, chicory and bacon chunks in a mustardy vinaigrette - simple but delicious, a perfect example of how quality ingredients in season can make all the difference in a dish.
Main courses were the canneloni with spinach and mushrooms for AM, the Ricotta gnocchi with celery and mushrooms for A and a crab roll for me. Both pasta dishes were rich and earthy with autumn vegetables and my shredded crab meat in a soft roll was complemented with a Meyer lemon dressing and served with tiny organic arugula and hand-cut potato chips. Again, simplicity in the presentation and preparation and just the produce and freshness making the dish stand out.
Finally, we shared two desserts: a ginger cake with and a rich classic chocolate devil's food cake which were good and when we asked for coffee, we were surprised to find out that they didn't have an espresso machine although they did serve organic French press coffee which we declined. All in all, a great chatty session with AM catching up on all the gossip and when we asked for the bill, we got a pleasant surprise. They had given us a 20% discount as AM was a local and worked nearby. Nice touch and a nice ending to a delicious lunch.
1085 Mission Street
San Francisco CA 94103
Telephone: +1 415 341 9000
*Open daily for dinner from 5:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. and for Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.