UPDATE: Chef Nick Balla announced he will be leaving the restaurant to start his own venture, and Bar Tartine will end on Dec. 31, 2016. Tartine Bakery owners will replace it with a yet-to-be-determined concept.
It’s a natural progression that a restaurant with roots to one of San Francisco’s more popular bakeries would open a sandwich shop, taking full advantage of its access to great bread.
Bar Tartine has long enjoyed success in the Mission District, opened by the husband-and-wife team of Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson, who’ve made a name for Tartine Bakery a few blocks away. At the restaurant, California cuisine is featured with the fresh bread from the bakery.
Since 2011, the kitchen of Bar Tartine has been run by Chef Nicolaus Balla, who has changed the menu to focus on some of his European roots, with German and Scandinavian influences. The restaurant was renovated this year, giving it a sleek Scandinavian feel and expanding it to the space next door, which was set up as a sandwich counter during the day.
The sandwich shop, which opened this month, has a menu featuring baked goods, a few sandwiches and salads, and several choices of smorrebrod, or Danish open-faced sandwiches. The format takes advantage of the full restaurant space, but a lettering system keeps things casual.
I dropped in to check out the format for lunch Sunday. Bar Tartine’s sandwich shop provides an upscale alternative to brunch without being weighed down by heavy egg dishes.
Six options are available in the smorrebrod section, and I chose three for $15. The open-faced sandwiches came out on a wood tray, each beautifully presented and served on rye bread slices.
The first was a smoked sturgeon, intricate with a potato and dill sauce as a base and a dollop of beet relish with sprinkling of horseradish. I expected this to be packed with flavor given all the components, but the entire thing was bland like the potato sauce (which was more like a puree).
The white bean spread with roasted tomato and zucchini was a fantastic reflection of summer, and the perfectly roasted (and peeled) cherry tomatoes had an intense flavor from being roasted.
But my favorite has to be the chocolate and hazelnut butter smorrebrod, which could be simply Nutella with chocolate, but there was something done in the kitchen to make the hazelnut and chocolate all gooey and warm, and the topping of walnuts added that special crunch.
While not everything was a homerun, this daytime menu provided a nice peek into the styling of Chef Balla and offered enough interesting and new items on the limited menu that will keep me dropping in for exquisite weekend lunches in the near future.
Bar Tartine Sandwich Shop, 561 Valencia St., San Francisco. PH: 415.487.1601. Open Wednesday through Sunday, from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. No reservations, major credit cards accepted. www.bartartine.com
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