Dinner started with an amuse of apple-fennel borscht with tangy goat cheese at the bottom.

Dinner started with an amuse of apple-fennel borscht with tangy goat cheese at the bottom.

UPDATE: This restaurant quietly closed in March 2016.

The story: Chef Sachin Chopra opened a successful restaurant in San Mateo called All Spice, and then decided to make his mark in San Francisco by opening a restaurant called Game near the Union Square area. The restaurant specializing in unusual meats didn’t catch on, so Chopra reimagined the space into a second All Spice, bringing his global cuisine to a more casual room.

Why I went: My friend Carolyn of the lovely Food Gal blog was invited by the restaurant to check out its new menu as All Spice, and she asked me to join her so I was lucky enough to tag along for dinner.

When you walk in, you see this imposing deer head portrait at the bar. Probably one of the most funky bar decor I've seen in the city.

When you walk in, you see this imposing deer head portrait at the bar. Probably one of the most funky bar decor I’ve seen in the city.

Bread came with home-made butter. Carolyn asked the waiter was was around the butter in the beautiful presentation but I totally forgot what it was.

Bread came with home-made butter. Carolyn asked the waiter was was around the butter in the beautiful presentation but I totally forgot what it was.

The vibe: Casual with wooden chairs, the decor makes you feel like you’re entering someone’s home. The deer head with uniform body over the bar is the only remnant of the former Game. Because we were dining early, the crowd was small but eventually grew, but mostly the feel of a business crowd on expense accounts.

Artichoke appetizer with three types of artichoke and Peruvian potato causa, spiced vinaigrette and frilly pea shoots ($17)

Artichoke appetizer with three types of artichoke and Peruvian potato causa, spiced vinaigrette and frilly pea shoots ($17)

Octopus a la plancha ($21) with smoked garbanzo beans, arugula, peaches, and strawberry-tomato chutney

Octopus a la plancha ($21) with smoked garbanzo beans, arugula, peaches, and strawberry-tomato chutney

The menu: I had told Carolyn that I’m not a big fan of Indian food, but she assured me that Chopra’s food isn’t traditionally Indian. Sure, there’s Indian influences with the spices and items like the Indian bread fritter (ma mere), but there’s lamb baba ganoush, Hungarian-style beef, and rice congee soup with onsen egg. It’s not necessarily meat heavy, but the dishes come out beautifully plated and complex with multiple flavors, such as the the octopus ala plancha ($21) that I had as a starter, with smoked garbanzo beans and strawberry-tomato chutney hidden under some of the peaches, the sweetness mixing with the savory octopus with what seemed like a squid ink smear for serious drama on the plate. The same could be said for Carolyn’s artichoke, artichoke, artichoke ($17) that served up three types of artichoke (regular, Jerusalem and Chinese) with Peruvian potato causa and spiced vinaigrette. Our entrees of pan-seared seabass ($36) and lacquered squab ($36) was just as complex albeit less in the drama category. Our meal ended with some complimentary chocolates, including a Thai tea truffle that was true to that flavor and a perfect ending note.

A tasting portion of the "gentrified ramen" made with leftover pig ear's broth.

A tasting portion of the “gentrified ramen” made with leftover pig ear’s broth.

The gentrified ramen included a raw Louisiana spot prawn that cooks in the broth, and the ramen is a combination of glass noodles and daikon strips.

The gentrified ramen included a raw Louisiana spot prawn that cooks in the broth, and the ramen is a combination of glass noodles and daikon strips.

The booze: All Spice has several specialty cocktails and a decent wine list. Carolyn had a nice glass of Sauvignon Blanc but I passed on any alcohol this night.

My favorite dish: I must be on an octopus love fest because I’ve had some great octopus dishes lately, including All Spice’s version, again for the beautiful presentation and multiple flavors, some hidden bursts as you work through the plate. Definitely a must order if you visit.

Lacquered squab ($36) with Lodi cherries, early corn custard (the star of the plate IMHO), preserved figs, morels, and chocolate-olive condiment.

Lacquered squab ($36) with Lodi cherries, early corn custard (the star of the plate IMHO), preserved figs, morels, and chocolate-olive condiment.

Pan-seared seabass ($36) with milk-braised elephant garlic, midori kale puree, pickled alliums, and miso broth.

Pan-seared seabass ($36) with milk-braised elephant garlic, midori kale puree, pickled alliums, and miso broth.

Insider tip: There’s a $109 chef’s tasting menu if you want to explore the techniques of Chef Chopra.

The last bite: I didn’t try Game, but this reincarnation of All Spice is not what I expected. There’s a sophistication to Chef Chopra’s dishes, many with complex flavors to give it a meal at All Spice an interesting point for discussion. While some dishes aren’t always fully developed (such as the complimentary “gentrified ramen” Chopra sent to our table made with leftover pig’s ear broth and glass noodles), many are built on several foundations that make it worthy for a try.

Thanks All Spice for the dinner, and thanks Carolyn for letting me tag along!

Dark chocolate "kulfi" with ribbons of chili-lime mango, and tandoori-spiced macadamia nut brittle. (The Tandoori spice threw me off a bit.)

Dark chocolate “kulfi” with ribbons of chili-lime mango, and tandoori-spiced macadamia nut brittle. (The Tandoori spice threw me off a bit.)

Some sweet treats to end our meal.

Some sweet treats to end our meal.

The rating: 3 out of 4 camera snaps

3-snaps

 

 

The deets: All Spice, 648 Bush St., San Francisco. PH: 415.874.9481. Open: Tuesday through Friday, 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.; and Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. www.allspicerestaurant.com

Check out Carolyn’s take on our dinner here.

2 Responses to A Review of All Spice in San Francisco

  1. Carolyn Jung says:

    Thanks so much for being my dinner date that night. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I know you were hesitant because Indian flavors aren’t your favorite. But used judiciously and with care, they are hauntingly delicious. I hope you’re a new fan now. 😉

    • Ben Ben says:

      Thanks again Carolyn! Yes, the dinner was a nice bridge to trying more Indian flavors. 🙂