Opened in the Fall of 2007, Fish and Farm is the creative lovechild of John Duggan, Elena Duggan, and Frank Klein. All three are sustainable-restaurant advocates who shared a vision of building an elegant neighborhood restaurant with a commitment not only to its local clientele but also to the area’s local food providers. True to their principles (and much to the benefit of the clientele), Fish and Farm garners the majority of its ingredients from within a 100-mile radius of San Francisco, if not from the restaurant’s own living-roof garden of herbs and spices. With a focus on “new American seafood” and artisan meats, Executive Chef Chad Newton and staff strive to create pieces of culinary art. This impressive feat is done using seasonal and organic components that offer classy twists on familiar dishes. As if these efforts toward sustainability were not commendable enough, the restaurant makes recycling and composting part of its daily waste reduction.
In keeping with its sustainable and organic theme, Fish and Farm offers an ever-changing selection of seasonal, organic cocktails and declares proudly that all are made “in house from fresh, all-natural, organic ingredients.” Co-Owner Frank Klein also serves as the restaurant’s Wine and Beverage Director and nobly offers a short wine list comprised of independent producers whose principles are in line with those of Fish and Farm. Wine is offered in both white and red and can be ordered by the glass or by the bottle, with prices ranging from $9-$10/glass and approximately $50/bottle.
Fish and Farm’s owners possess distinguished backgrounds in the hospitality industry. The three endeavor to go above and beyond the usual restaurant standard. Elena Duggan claims that they want Fish and Farm to be a place where people, “come for warmth and a kind, familiar face” and a place from which they can leave, “satisfied beyond just their hunger.”
I arrived at Fish and Farm with my partner at about 6:00pm on a Tuesday evening. Upon first entering the restaurant, I had the sense that I was been transported into a film noir-inspired rendezvous restaurant, reminiscent of Rick’s Bar in Casablanca. The deep browns and blacks of the furniture and the darkly hued ornamentation are complimented by the restaurant’s yellow walls and low-light. The bell-shaped light fixtures contribute to the overwhelmingly vintage ambiance.
Initially I worried that I might be underdressed, but once I became more familiar with the restaurant’s character I began to relax. Decorations including semi-ironic farmhand and fishing tools, or other emblems of daily life in the great outdoors adorn the dining room. It is an unusual combination of modern and outdoor themes. After perusing the other diners that evening, it became clear that Fish and Farm casts a wide net of customers, creating an environment that is just as inviting to the guy or gal who intends to chow down on a larger-than-life burger, as it is to the gentleman or lady ordering one of the restaurant’s more sophisticated selections.
As we were getting situated at our table, we could not help but hear our neighboring table “mmm” and “ahhh” in adulation over their entrées. My partner and I could hardly contain our excitement to sample Fish and Farm’s menu. As if reading our minds, our waitress arrived with a complimentary amuse-bouche of housemade potato chips and a side of whole grain mustard and horseradish crème fraiche that had quite a bite to it! The chips were delicately thin, but remained toasted and crisp when dipped. Though good on their own, the chips' flavors were underscored by the boldness of the crème fraiche, making for a tantalizing tongue-teaser before our meal.
Onward we moved to the Chef’s Daily Soup Selection which on this particular Tuesday was Cream of Cauliflower. The soup’s presentation was simple and stylish, a pleasant chive and pickled grape garnish with thinly sliced almonds and a drizzle of olive oil adorning its center. The flavor was smooth and savory, feeling more like a purée rather than a soup. Perhaps it was this heartiness that built such a strong foundation for the pickled grape, but this tasty garnish stood out distinctively without suppressing the savory cauliflower. We found ourselves soaking up the remains of our bowls with the restaurant’s complimentary French bread, which in and of itself appears artisan!
After much indecision over Fish and Farm’s tempting selection of dishes, my partner and I ordered our entrees. I ordered the Grilled Natural Ribeye which came from Niman Ranch that evening and my partner ordered the Roasted Halibut. While awaiting our entrees and as we talked amongst ourselves, the service was pleasantly astute but unobtrusive. I could be pleasantly gabbing away in conversation only to find that my drink was refilled, my dishes changed, and the table cleared of debris before I knew it and without any faux-pas. When we were curious about an item on the menu, the staff was knowledgeable about the particularities of each dish’s ingredients, which proved very helpful in our case since my partner has several allergies.
Resting atop creamed chard and underneath a mountain of fried onion strings was my sizzling twelve-ounce Grilled Natural Ribeye served with Fish and Farm’s house steak-sauce. On its own, the steak was remarkably tender and delicious, but the steak-sauce also managed to accentuate the rich flavors of the Niman Ranch steak. I found my guttural noises of satisfaction to be in sync with those of fellow diners who had ordered the same dish that evening. While the fried onion strings offered a decorative flair and added a familiar pub feel to the dish, I found myself continuously delving into the luxurious creamed chard for its delightful ability to melt in my mouth.
The Roasted Halibut was presented as a medium sized cut that reposed upon a Bread-and-Heirloom-Tomato Salad, carefully nested at the center of the dish. The Roasted Halibut was delicate and flaky on the outside with a succulent interior making it easy to cut and difficult not to savor. Its accompanying Bread-and-Heirloom Tomato Salad included choice, in-season heirloom tomatoes from Blue House Farms and an undisclosed “house sauce” mixed with artisan breads, grated parmesan, and house greens.
For dessert we shared the Strawberry and Peach Crisp with Butter-Pecan Ice Cream which was a celebration of organic ingredients. In terms of presentation, the ingredients of this dessert mingle to generate a gorgeous array of color. The portions were astoundingly huge, more than enough to encourage sharing. The cobbler-esque crisp of this piece was just that; I was ecstatic that the crisp did not become soggy and saturated in between the fruit and ice cream. The juices from the fresh fruit fuse together to create a kind of syrup at the bottom of the dish that was utterly delectable and complimented the butter pecan ice cream so well!
Fish and Farm is a chic little joint, tucked away from the bustling city-streets, located adjacent to the Mark Twain Hotel in a busy neighborhood where the work-week warriors of San Francisco merge with the city’s more bohemian dwellers. Whether you’re out supporting your local neighborhood restaurant, grabbing some drinks after work, or venturing out to enjoy a romantic evening, Fish and Farm provides a delectable meal with a comfortable ambience making it an excellent choice for a wide range of restaurant-goers.
The impassioned principles and flavorful cuisine that has propelled Fish and Farm to the top has me smitten with its decidedly distinctive qualities. The excitement of the restaurant’s vision seems to pump through the veins of all the restaurant’s employees. It can be seen on the face of your server, in the careful presentation of your order, or the joy of satisfied clientele. It’s nice when a restaurant proves that socially responsible cuisine doesn’t have to be taxing on the tastebuds or on the wallet. Located just two blocks away from Union Square at 339 Taylor Street (between O’Farrell and Ellis), Fish and Farm is a must for any ethical eater.