By Emma Krasov. Photography by Yuri Krasov
Venturing out to have dinner in the city has never been so exciting. Overdressing and accessorizing for the occasion on a weeknight seemed amply appropriate.
That was my first time in more than three months driving to the Financial District and enjoying the al fresco seating at the newly open, the one and only strictly outdoors San Francisco’s The Vault Garden, a timely extension of The Vault steakhouse at 555 California Street, popular since its arrival on the dining scene way-way back in 2019.
“We have meticulously researched and developed a socially safe environment for you to enjoy creative cocktails and delicious food in a heated, outdoor full service garden,” states the restaurant’s website inviting eager Bay Area diners to the 100-seat plaza (Radeff Design Studios) surrounded by the glass-and-granite walls of downtown skyscrapers and laid out like a Baroque garden with geometrical lawn beds, neatly trimmed hedges, clusters of tall bamboos and standup heaters between the widely distanced custom-made concrete tables (by Acme Scenery).
The award-winning Hi Neighbor Hospitality Group that owns The Vault, The Vault Garden, and a number of other high-profile restaurants in San Francisco, completed its outdoor full-service concept in time for the gradual reopening of California’s eating establishments to meet the ever-growing demand for safe socializing while the threat of the novel coronavirus is still lurking around.
The signs of our time, like masked servers, multiple hand sanitizer stations, disposable menus that also have a QR code in case you wouldn’t touch the paper, and diners pouring water and wine in their glasses themselves, are actually reassuring. It seems no detail went unnoticed in the meticulous preparation for the guests’ night out in the “new reality.”
To make it undeniably special, a talented team of Executive Chef Robin Song, wine program director Lucas Bierbower, and AttaGirl Hospitality’s mixologist Kaitlin Ryan, led by Ryan Cole of Hi Neighbor, goes all out in creating whimsical libations, exquisitely plated starters and brimming with freshness satisfying mains on the rather sophisticated all-day menu.
“Our garden dining incorporates the energy and excitement of the city with the escape of a garden party,” says Cole, and yes, indeed, the space feels open yet cozy, and the food and drink couldn’t be better in the fresh air of the City by the Bay.
Apparently, the Garden Cocktails’ names come from famous gardens of the world, like Okayama (Suntory Toki, Yun Wu Green Tea, Shiso, Cocchi Americano, Smoked Saline) from the centuries-old Japanese garden, or Tolantongo (Xicaru Mezcal, Sage, Dolin Blanc, Gentian Bitters) named for the gorgeous canyon in Mezquital Valley, Mexico.
Ines Ceviche appetizer (Halibut, Avocado, Red Onion, Habanero, Citrus), extremely pleasing for the eyes, has just the right balance of spiciness and mildness, and sets the right tone for your garden feast.
Caviar Co. Smoked Trout Roe (Schmaltz Latke Tots, Creme Fraiche, Chives) is pure indulgence that needs no introduction, served in the most appealing way in artful ceramic, just like every other dish on the menu.
Pan-Seared Salmon (Heirloom Tomato, Sourdough Panzanella, Cucumber, Roasted Young Onion) tastes as bright and fresh as it looks, and Fried Chicken Sandwich (Sourdough English Muffin, Farm Egg, Pickled Onions, Arugula) brings ultimate comfort to the diner’s soul.
The wonderful desserts, like sizable jam-stuffed Blueberry Beignets (Lavender Glaze, Lemon, Cornbread Crumble) and the silky Tiramisu Trifle (Kahlua Ladyfingers, Mascarpone Mousse, Raspberries) should never be missed—great sweet finale to the most delightful meal outdoors!
The Vault Garden is located at 555 California Street at Kearny and is open Monday through Sunday from 12 to 7 p.m.
For more information, call 415-508-4675 or visit https://www.thevault555.com/