San Francisco’s Charles Phan of Slanted Door fame is becoming a true restaurateur, opening up several restaurants in the city of varying formats. While most of them stay trued to his Chinese-Vietnamese heritage (Out the Door, the defunct Wo Hing General Store), his latest Hard Water is a bit of a departure.
Hard Water is promoted as an American whiskey bar, built along the splashy Embarcadero with an award-winning design (featuring a large horseshoe bar) and showcasing New Orleans/Southern comfort food from Executive Chef Melissa Perfit.
With a full wall of whiskey and bourbon, the list of specialty cocktails are made primarily of whiskey, rye and bourbon – all with the price tag of $11. When I visited for dinner, it was a special night with my foodie friends Sandy of Foodhoe Foraging and Christina of East Bay Dish because it was our first eating adventure with Christina outside of the East Bay. Woo-hoo!
I toasted with the Roffignac, light with the grapefruit but powerful with redemption rye. It was both beautiful and smooth. I forgot the drink Christina had, but it was definitely old school charming.
As for the food, we had the baked oyster starters that were slightly salty and a couple of entrees: the seafood gumbo ($24) and braised rabbit ($22). I enjoyed the flavors of the gumbo and rabbit, but the portion size seemed really small for an entrée (and for the price), and the gumbo with rice was a bit more jambalaya-like in texture than gumbo.
Christina and Sandy ended the night with deep-fried blackberry pies ($8), which I passed on because there were only two and I don’t generally eat deep-fried foods.
Side note: Service on the night we were there was a bit off. I think it was just the server, who while friendly was very nonchalant about describing the dishes. When we asked what was the “rosemary pulled bread” on the menu, she said it was bread that was pulled. Oh-kay.
The Last Bite
Hard Water is a bustling bar along the glittery waterfront of San Francisco, but with the small portion size of the food and the mixed flavors, it seems like Phan’s pet project is more style over substance.
Hard Water, Pier 3, The Embarcadero, San Francisco. PH: 415.392.3021. Open lunch daily, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; dinner nightly from 5 p.m. till midnight (till 10 p.m. on Sundays). Reservations, major credit cards accepted. hardwaterbar.com
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