The story: For years, the Fifth Floor at the Hotel Palomar in SOMA near Union Square served as the playground for many well-known chefs who created elegant dishes in the fine-dining atmosphere. But as a sign of the times, the restaurant shifted to a more casual focus and emphasized its bar program, and this year was revamped under Chef David Bazirgan as a bar-centric restaurant known as Dirty Habit.
Why I went: After going to a San Francisco Giants game during the day, I decided to get drinks after the game since I was already in the SOMA area. I called up my friend Kim who lives nearby and we decided to enjoy the good weather at the bar’s outdoor patio.
The vibe: Since it’s in a hotel, there are a lot of people who don’t look like they’re from the Bay Area. In fact, Kim says she felt we were sitting somewhere in Beverly Hills. The outdoor patio was definitely bustling, while the indoor bar had a lounge vibe with dimmed lights and (IMHO) an eery purple portrait artwork that greets you at the entrance.
The menu: Despite emphasizing the bar, Bazirgan still offers up an interesting menu with a few creative touches. The menu is definitely more limited and geared toward the smaller plates, but the flavors are there and the sophistication shines on the plates that arrive at the table.
The booze: While an extensive specialty cocktail menu, I was disappointed at the final concoctions that doesn’t seem to live up to what’s printed on paper. For example, I first tried the Honey Bee ($13) made with Hendrick’s Gin, honey-lavender shrub and pomme de Normandie. The drink just came in a regular glass looking more like a lemonade rather than an exotic drink with lavender. In fact, there weren’t even any lavender flowers for garnish. I then tried the Lawrenceburg Fizz ($13) with Wild Turkey bourbon, white peach, urfa chili and tempis fugit creme de noyaux. It sounded like a creamy, fizzy drink but came out looking like any mixed drink I could make at home. Kim just drank a glass of sauvignon blanc and, in fact, many people in the patio seemed to stick with wine than the cocktails.
My favorite dish: It’s actually been awhile since I’ve been to Dirty Habit and I’ve been eating out a lot lately, so basically this is my long answer to say my favorite dish was a fish crudo but I can’t recall the fish (whether it was halibut or hamachi). Either way, the fish was fresh with a firm meat, and the plate was beautifully garnished with just a slight touch of citrus. The lamb belly steamed bun ($5) had a lot of flavor and nicely cooked with a crispy edge, although the thick bun was too small to create a fold to pick up the entire dish.
Insider tip: The patio is the place to be, including a large communal table that would be great for a large group of people wanting to celebrate outdoors. But keep in mind that there is no view, just a Zen-like atmosphere.
The last bite: The bar program doesn’t live up to the promise and the service seems a bit amateurish (a server brought the cheese plate to the table without explaining the types of cheese and people looking for extra chairs didn’t really get much help). But Bazirgan continues his creative touch in the kitchen even with a limited menu.
The rating: 2.5 out of 4 camera snaps
The deets: The Dirty Habit, 12 Fourth St. (on the fifth floor of the Hotel Palomar), San Francisco. PH: 415.348.1555. Bar open Monday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to closing; restaurant open Monday through Saturday from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Closed Sunday. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. www.dirtyhabitsf.com
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