April 20, 2022

There is so much to say about Lazy Bear. And it's all stellar. From the most incredible service staff (every single one was fantastic, and we interacted with probably 10 of them) to the food. Each dish was brilliantly conceived and executed, and delicious beyond belief. There were some standouts, but there were no misses. Anywhere.

Lazy Bear is designed as a dinner party. Originally, the entire room ate together, served the same thing at the same time. COVID changed that to be traditionally segmented seatings. I can't imagine the amount of effort it took to change this, for both front of house and the kitchen. It's an entirely different way to do business.

I'm not sure I've been to a restaurant with a stronger brand, and such a thorough execution of that brand throughout the entire experience. The outdoors/bear theme permeates, from the painting of Yellowstone on the wall, to the locally foraged tea, the menu presented as a "field guide" (complete with instructions on how to navigate by the stars) to the restroom decor. 

The food is just out of this world. There wasn't a bad dish. Standouts were the beef tartare sandwiched between dehydrated beef tendon crisps (??) (best tartare I've ever had), the brilliant asparagus dish and our second lamb dish. (Yes, I said second lamb dish. Keep reading.)

Service was insane. Every single person was bright, present, upbeat, friendly, engaged and on point. There when you wanted them, gone when you didn't. Friendly in a way that you want to be actual friends with these folks. Starting with the greeter out front straight through, every team member was simply perfect. At one point, I left the table to take a photo of the room. My napkin was neatly folded when I returned just a few seconds later. They didn't miss a thing.

To bolster the community, family feel, the entire experience is narrated by this service team in detailed and interesting ways. They don't simply describe each dish, they tell its story. How it was conceived. What its meaning is. Every single ingredient on the plate and how that was made. Even the tongue in cheek was hilarious ("Ferraro rocher was the chef's favorite dessert as a kid. He received one when he was a good boy. He therefore did not receive many...").

It was not forced or rote. Each server (we probably saw 6 different servers) was eager to explain what was in front of you. When prodded for more detail or clarification on an item (as I regularly do), they were more than happy to stay and make sure every question was answered. Wines were excellent and the sommelier matched form. Friendly, excited, immensely informative. 

The Chef de Cuisine presented us the lamb dish. Perhaps he noticed us gnawing the bones for far too long. As I jokingly asked the waiter if I could box my bone so I could gnaw on it some more later, the chef snuck up behind me and said "You two have more lamb coming...". This was clearly an additional plate and off menu. He was excited. We didn't see anyone else receive this course.

He presented the same lamb but fully basted and charred. "This is the way we all prefer it. We can't serve it this way to the public because everyone expects to see the the bright pink cook on a piece of meat like this. But we believe this method is far tastier. Enjoy." WOW was he right. I'm not sure why we were so fortunate, but damn am I glad we were.

As a side story to this, I got up to go to the restroom while we were waiting for this additional lamb course. We did not have silverware yet, so I figured I had a few minutes. I clearly didn't. A server ran me down on the way. "Sir, you have a terrific dish that's on the way. I really would love for you to enjoy it straight from the kitchen." Needless to say, I immediately returned and it was promptly served.

Her wording stuck with me - focused not on their schedule, but on my experience. Sure, it's the same message either way, but it shows how deep their commitment to guest experience goes. This situation is not "in the playbook", yet it was handled with perfection. 

I didn't arrive expecting Lazy Bear to outshine San Francisco stalwarts like Manresa or Benu, but it does. At $265, this dinner is vastly underpriced. And I was delighted to find a restaurant that did not backslide with COVID (as Alinea, Atera, Koya and even CTBF all have). There were a few tiny missteps, but other than that, it was impeccable.

That's the word that kept coming to mind. Impeccable. It's rare to see a restaurant deliver such a cohesive and stellar experience start to finish. Lazy Bear does exactly that.

Get a "ticket" (as they call them) and come enjoy a feast in a bright, friendly atmosphere. I can only imagine that is has been quite a long time since anyone has left this place disappointed.

I was blown away.

The restaurant employs their own forager (named Brian). This tea included cherry blossoms, manzanita bulb, pineapple, spruce pine tips, juniper
The resulting cup of tea
Breakfast. Egg (whipped), Benton's bacon, fresno chile hot sauce, maple syrup served in an actual egg shell. Incredible flavor profiles with the salt (bacon) heat (hot sauce), sweet (syrup) and smooth, luscious whipped egg.
Oyster "drink". Grapefruit, St George, terroir gin (botanical), juniper oil, mecrute limes (lacto fermented, dehydrated then shaved on top). If there was a miss, this was it. The lime was too heavy and the bite just didn't sing like the other courses.
Snake river wagyu beef tartare, spring garlic scapes, charred spring onion, egg yolk jam served on a cracker made of beef tendon (dehydrated, then fried), charred onion powder, horseradish. This was mind-blowing. I wanted 10 more.
Boston scallop (flown out fresh and live, daily) yuzu, pickled peppers, cara cara orange. The knife work on that relish was extraordinary, and the cook on the scallop was perfection. I did get a bit of sand in a few bites but easily ignored by the beautiful flavors of the dish.
Alaskan Trout "grain bowl". Trout cured in brown rice, Brokaw Ranch avacado (it takes a day to brown, it's so dense), sea lettuce from Monterey, burnt pistachios. Truly superb. The dish needed more pistachios for texture but wow, the flavors were stellar. Rich fish and avacado cut by the briny sea lettuce and burnt pistachio. Served with...
Tartlet, same puree and avacados, Malden sea salt, cured trout roe, chive blossom. This was a glorious bite. Again, that knife work is so beautiful.
"Chicken and the egg." Sturgeon caviar ( farm raised in Sacramento, the first woman-owned caviar farm). Sturgeon rillette (pate) with celeriac, soy sauce and hot sauce. Celeriac ribbons, shinko pears, locally foraged greens. This ate like a chicken salad. The rillette was meaty and unctuous, balanced by the earthy celeriac, crunchy greens, sweet pears and salty caviar. Brilliantly conceived and executed dish.
Sourdough pretzel bread, served with butter. The culture in the butter goes back to June 2012, reused to make a new batch similar to sourdough starter or balsamic vingar. Said the waiter: "That butter is really FUCKING DELICIOUS!" He was very, very correct.
Green asparagus and white asparagus (grown in darkness) from Zuckerman farm, poached in its own juice. Rather than ice-bath it (which would remove flavor), they undercook it and let it continue cooking to rise to temp when it's served. The white asparagus is poached in milk and charred hard, hollandaise, veil of egg pasta with cherville and tarragon. Served with duck ham, crisped, and grated cured egg yolk. An homage to carbonara. This was a highlight of the evening. The technique alone is mind-blowing and the resulting flavor? I've never had asparagus that even comes close to this delicious.
Roasted breast of guinea hen, sausage made with leg and thigh meat stuffed into morel mushrooms, which are double fried. Glazed English peas, pea shoots, ramps, guinea hen jus with truffle, guinea hen chip. Perfectly done. Gloriously delicious dish.
Lamb, dry aged in house 7-8 days, marinated in fish sauce, poached, finished on the grill while being glazed with date bbq sauce with black garlic. Artichoke chips in mint puree, artichoke heart, artichoke puree fortified with preserved amberjack. Major yum. Couldn't help but compare it to the meager offering from CTBF. I would have preferered more seasoning, but this piece of meat made you drool as it sat in front of you.
The lamb was served with a towel to encourage you to gnaw on the bone until your heart's content. Which, of course, I did. Another small homage to its outdoorsy brand.
Lamb round #2. An extra, off-menu course offered by the chef de cuisine. "This is how WE like to do it. We always need to show the guest the pink cook, so we can't serve it this way. But it's better like this." Same lamb, more bbq sauce, charred far harder. Somehow, 10 steps above the previous lamb.
First week of strawberry season. Strawberry sorbet, consume (lemon elderflower sake), compressed strawberries that are grilled, frozen/liquid nitrogen strawberries, strawberry late de fuille, Chinese pepper powder
Ferraro Rocher. Oat milk and chocolate sorbet. Chiffon cake. Hard chocolate shell. Smoked and salted hazelnuts. Edible gold. Hot chocolate, apricot, nochino (walnut liquor).
Mimosa gummy bear (there's that brand again...), almond macaron with almond, fig and lime
We sat at the end of this table, right up against the open kitchen.
The menu is referred to as a "field guide", complete with pencil for notes. The field guide includes notes on how to navigate by the stars, create a shelter and other outdoor-related information. Completely on brand.
...as was the hand washing sign in the restroom...
...and the walls of the restroom

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