Summer Series: Alfresco Darling!
Finding an outstanding outdoor restaurant with top-notch food in San Francisco is no easy task. But thanks to my friend Frank, my quest was realized when he introduced me to Stem Kitchen and Garden. Stem has it all: exceptional food, a slick interior, bocce, fire pits and awesome views of the bay.Not to stop there, it also has farm to table food, which is grown on raised beds and planters of edible plants and vegetables in artful arranged patterns, drawing your eye down to the water. The garden provides seasonal produce for the kitchen year round, plus it’s pretty to look at.Chef Brent Johnson (formerly at Spruce) and his team turn out Mediterranean-themed cuisine, with seasonal local produce, which will surely not disappoint.We ordered for starters the garden lettuce salad, with pomelo, cara cara orange, chervil, ricotta, avocado mouse and poppy seed dressing.The salad was fresh with multi-layered tastes and textures, as were the roasted mussels and manila clams. The accompanying broth for that was deliciously complex and addictive.Our main dishes were the pork shoulder, marinated for hours so you could cut it with a spoon and Stem’s memorable pizza. The pizza boasted sweet Italian sausage, spinach, maitake mushrooms and red onion. It also had a crispy thin crust, which I love.
Located in a sleek office complex in the burgeoning Mission Bay neighborhood (where the Warriors event center is being built), Stem is truly a hidden gem. The name Stem has a double meaning here. One is a take on the impressive roster of stem cell companies, located in the building. The other is a reference to the organic stems grown in its garden.Stem is also known for their fabulous desserts. We so heartily enjoyed our first two courses that by dessert time, we had “had sufficient” as my mother always made me say growing up instead of “stuffed”. “Completely satisfied” felt more like it. Anyway, it’s always good to leave something untried for my next visit.Stem hits Stem hits on every cylinder: food, beauty, service and atmosphere. Plus the noise factor is at a minimum, so you can really hear what people have to say at our table.
Next time the sun shines in San Francisco this summer, be sure to take my advice and pay a visit for lunch or dinner. Please don’t forget to let me know what you think. After all, a pleasure when shared is a pleasure doubled.
499 Illinois Street: 415-915-1000 or stemkitchensf.com