Emma Krasov. Photography by Yuri Krasov (unless otherwise noted)
With the end to the pandemic restrictions in sight, San Francisco eateries open up for indoor dining, and some very impressive newcomers arrive on the scene, strengthened by the hurdles of their early development that has fallen on hard times for the entire restaurant industry.
Wilder, a new distinct restaurant, backed by the dynamic team of Proof Positive Partners, is already a noticeable presence in the posh Marina District.
Chef Jesus Dominguez, whose background experiences include some of the most beloved city restaurants—Delfina, Americano, Spork, and Taj Campton Place, has previously collaborated with the Wilder co-founders Kingston Wu and Lily Peng as an executive chef at their Westwood bar opened in 2019.
At Wilder, the chef’s seasonal menu of tried and true international dishes draws on the year-round California bounty, the well-known local fascination with fresh, organic, farm-identifiable produce, and our city dwellers’ unquenchable thirst for culinary adventure.
The new concept of popular comfort food items from various cuisines, executed with utmost skill and creativity, pleasingly plated, and served indoors as well as outdoors, was partially influenced by the recent virus-induced isolation and our year-long restaurant deprivation.
“During the pandemic, we’ve made multiple shifts to keep our business alive and our team together,” says Wu, a long-time restaurant investor. “We took over the fantastic space in the Marina Triangle, and expanded the outdoor seating by building two parklets on the corner… all while fine-tuning our menu and decor for Wilder.”
Wilder cocktails, also presenting a creative twist on well-loved classics, range from Tini and Mini Tini to Highballs and Rocks. Of the latter, a spicy El Chupacabra is an interesting take on the traditional Margarita with habanero-infused Casamigos Blanco, aloe, lime, and agave. A sweet Honey Badger is based on Bulleit Bourbon with lemon, honey, and peach bitters.
For larger parties, there’s a choice of Pitchers of Aperol Spritz and White Sangria.
The Small plates menu features several standouts, like Ahi Tuna Tartare with wild caught fish, avocado, shallots, tomatoes, cucumbers, farro, pickled Fresno chilis, and crispy sesame wontons to scoop the brightly colored mixture, and Soup of the Day (in our case, the warm and comforting potato leak with bacon). Other must-haves include Bone Marrow with roasted Roma and cherry tomatoes, horseradish cream, sourdough toast, microgreens, and balsamic reduction, to which you can add whiskey luge, extra bone, or extra toast for easy sharing, and a slow roasted, faintly crisp Petaluma Farms Cauliflower with romesco sauce, lemon pepper seasoning, mint, chili flakes, garlic butter, and fried shallots.
From the Carnivore section of the menu come highly satisfying Braised Short Ribs & Grits (braised for seven hours, and garnished with grilled rapini, horseradish cream, fried shallots, and balsamic reduction) and grilled Pork Chop & Apple Sauce with mashed potatoes, chef’s apple sauce, pomegranate reduction, and watercress salad.
On the day we dined, a vanilla Affogato was offered for Dessert, but I chose to walk on a wild side, and ordered a Side of Patatas Bravas of outstanding crispiness and creaminess with aioli and ketchup (please don’t judge).
Besides the main dining room, and the swanky bar area, decorated with some wild pieces of art, there is a spacious yet cozy private event room, a.k.a. cocktail lounge, and of course the heated parklet area with tables for four that some say might become a constant feature in San Francisco post-pandemic restaurant scene.
Wilder is located at 3154 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94123. For more information call 415.741.6605 or visit www.wildersf.com
Red Window, presenting itself as Low-Proof Cocktail Bar & Spanish Kitchen, brightens up the North Beach neighborhood with colorful exterior design and madrone wood parklets warmed up by gas heaters.
With its painted walls, Spanish-inspired menu, and efficient friendly service, the restaurant exudes warmth and the hot spicy aromas, reminiscent of a regular lugar de tapas somewhere in Madrid or Barcelona.
Eager to join the festivities, we sat down at one of the parklet tables on a typically chilly for San Francisco summer evening. We scanned the tabletop QR code, and studied the cocktail list that sounded as creative and fancy as it was pleasingly devoid of hard liquor.
Red Window takes the art of craft cocktails to the next level with its notorious bar cart brought directly to your table. You can watch a bartender pouring and mixing vermouths and cordials, twisting lemon peels and dripping bitters into your beautiful drinks that come out very flavorful, nuanced and herbaceous.
An amber-colored fragrant Shot in the Dark, made with Alvear Oloroso, Cappelleti, Carpano Antica, Cocoa Nib, Vanilla, and Bitters, features a giant ice cube with the restaurant’s initials, RW, etched on it.
The house special, a delightful Red Window Cobbler a.k.a the best cobbler in San Francisco, made with a Red Window Sherry Blend, Tangelo Cordial, Peach, Fig, Angostura, and Black Walnut comes in a crystal cut glass, adorned with dried citrus, fresh mint leaves and berries.
“Since the proofs used in our cocktails are lower, the natural botanical and floral flavors aren’t eclipsed by the heat of higher proof distillates,” says Elmer Mejicanos, the Managing Partner. “This leaves flavor more available, subtle, and far more interesting alongside our tapas and pintxos.”
Chef/Partner Adam Rosenblum takes care of the said tapas and pintxos, creating little craveable masterpieces of the latter, like Warm Oxtail Marmalade with walnuts and onions on toast, or Crispy Mushroom with Cheese Custard.
Large shareable tapas, brought to the table in custom ceramic serving plates, consist of the beloved Spanish staples, like Jamon Iberico, Gambas and Patatas Bravas—each dish prepared simply and deliciously, with just enough heat to satisfy the most discerning palate.
Other excellent menu choices include a delicate, yet bursting with flavor Chilled Octopus with Romesco, Spring Onion, Black Olive, and Potato, and a hot paella’s cousin, Brothy Rice with Squid, Shrimp, and Chorizo.
Sated and happy, from all the tempting desserts like Crema Catalana, Sweet Empanadas, and Miguelitos with chocolate, we picked an airy Basque Cheesecake topped with salted caramel sauce.
Besides the Bar Card wonders, Sours, Spritzes, High Balls, and Tikis, the cocktail list also offers craft Roja, Blanco, and Rosa Sangrias that can be served in larger format in pitchers. Champagne, and bottled, draft, and canned beers are also on offer. A selection of non-alcoholic drinks lists a Coconut Banana Mojito cocktail with Coconut Water, Banana, Lime, Mint, and Seltzer as well as ginger beers, diet cokes, and mineral waters.
While the creation of Red Window’s interior and exterior was led by Auspice Design and its Creative Director Nicholas Roberto, with the generous use of bold colors, symbols of lips, flowers, and birds, and madrone wood, native to California, the restaurant team was heavily involved with bringing the finishing touches to the design. While Roberto worked on the interior wood, Mejicanos painted the space, and Rosenblum finished the parklets.
Red Window is located at 500 Columbus Ave., San Francisco. Open Wed.-Thur. 4 to 9 p.m., Fri-Sat. 12-10 p.m., Sun. 12-9 p.m. Closed Mon.-Tue. For more information, call 415-757-0600 or visit https://www.theredwindow.com/