When David (Pickydiners.com) and I ventured to San Francisco this past spring, we aimed to dine at some of the most interesting Michelin-starred restaurants in the Bay area. We decided on Al’s Place, a modern New American restaurant in the Mission District that has been a one Michelin star restaurant since 2016. Chef-owner Aaron London offers a seasonal, ingredient-driven menu with a vegetable focus highlighting the produce of Northern California. Here’s a look at our experience.
Note: This is not a sponsored post. None of the food nor drinks was complimentary. This review is done anonymously.
We made a reservation for an early dinner and the restaurant quickly filled up with diners. The restaurant exudes a very casual atmosphere as exemplified by the plaid-wearing servers. Al’s Place also seems like a family-friendly restaurant as I noticed many families with kids dining together.
There is also seating outside the restaurant with pretty string lights overhanging.
Al’s Place Menu
Al’s Place menu is divided into Snackles, Cold/Cool, Warm/Hot, Sides, and Limited Availability. Both à la carte and prix-fixe are offered. Many of the dishes are available as shared or as an entree.
What We Tried
We ordered one item from each of the different sections of the menu to get a “tasting” of what they offered. We also opted to not have a full meal as we would be proceeding to Asia SF for a show and three-course dinner after dining at Al’s Place.
In general, I thought the items we tried had unique flavour combinations and showcased fresh, seasonal ingredients. The dishes were beautifully presented as well.
Snack: Mushroom Broth Chawanmushi, Fuji Apple, Pistachio ($8)
The chawanmushi (Japanese egg custard) was very silky and smooth in texture while savoury in flavour. The fuji apple offered some crispy, sweet flavours while the pistachios offered a nice textural contrast.
Cold/Cool: Lightly cured trout, crispy potato, bashed turnips, bagna cauda ($18)
I loved the texture of the crispy potato while the cured trout was very flavourful.
Warm/Hot: Sunchoke Curry, black lime-cod, citrus jewels, winter jam ($20)
The seasonal curry, served with a meaty fish like black cod, has been noted to be Chef-owner London’s signature dish so it comes highly recommended. The curry was poured into the dish at tableside.
Side: Steak tartare, pickled kohlrabi, black mandarin, horseradish ($18)
Meat dishes are designated as “sides” on the menu and we went with the steak tartare. The meat was tender, flavourful though not as inventive overall as the other vegetable-focused dishes.
While the food was pretty good in general, the service left much to be desired. I had dined at another one star Michelin restaurant the previous night, Aster, and received stellar service there (friendly, attentive). At Al’s Place, the service seemed aloof, brusque and overall not the kind of Michelin-quality type of service I would expect.
Overall Impression of Al’s Place
I thought the vegetable-focused items we tried at Al’s Place were creative, nicely presented and interesting. If I were to return again, I wouldn’t mind trying the prix-fixe family-style menu. The food seems Michelin quality but the service should be improved to make it a more worthy experience for diners. Rating: 3.5/5
Address: 499 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA