There's no other restaurant that I feel more excited about right now than Lazy Bear, a unique fine dining dinner party with a focus on modern American cuisine that's full of wonderful daring surprises. I heard about Lazy Bear when they first began five years ago, but it wasn't until this year that I've been trying to attend San Francisco's hottest pop-up without any success due to their rising popularity.
I was fortunate to receive an invite to attend a media preview dinner to check out their new permanent brick and mortar spot located at 3416 19th Street, Mission (formerly the location of Hi-Lo BBQ), before it opens on Thursday, 9/25. Patrick and I had our minds blown away with the level of passion and involvement across the board with the food and cooks.
They released dinner tickets late last week on their website and sixteen servers crashed unable to handle the high demand and traffic, resulting in only two tickets sold because the payment system broke down as told to us by Chef David Barzelay. Tickets were up for sale again on 9/22 to be sold out in a matter of minutes. Luckily, we were able to score a pair of tickets to dine there during the first two weeks upon opening - we cannot wait to do it all over again.
The commanding team is comprised of Owner-Chef David Barzelay and Sous Chef Jaret Ferguson. Maya Erickson (formerly of AQ) is the pastry chef, Marie-Louise Friedland (formerly of Uchi and Quince) is the sommelier and the bar manager is Brandon Presbury (formerly of Locanda and Bartlett Hall).
How it Works
Lazy Bear serves one menu each night, a tasting menu of 11+ courses, in two seatings: 6pm and 8:15pm. The communal seating takes place at two beautiful 22-foot long American elm slab tables. The entire dining room is served each course at the same time, and cooks come out and describe the dishes. Unlike an a la carte restaurant that takes walk-in customers and has lots of menu items from which to choose, Lazy Bear is a social experience that depends on a packed house to create an energetic vibe. By requiring pre-purchase of tickets, they are able to minimize the frequency of no-shows, and ensure to create the best possible dining experience.
Each event begins upstairs with cocktail hour, where punch is served and tasty amuse-bouches are passed around. You can expect to interact and mingle with Chef Barzelay during the cocktail hour and when dinner is complete. If you are an introvert like me, you may cringe at the thought of mingling with people you don't know. While you do have the option to keep to yourself, you may find it is actually quite easy to pick up a conversation with the people sitting next to you once the food is served. The whole idea is building a conversation around what's on your plate, while enjoying some of the most incredible food you'll ever consume.
You get a true farm-to-table experience presented in a beautiful way that highlights the star of the dish. You'll know exactly where everything on your plate is sourced from to the details on how it was prepared. They even give you a cute little menu book with a miniature pencil to jot notes down in. Here's a recap of everything we had during the preview dinner:
The first snack of the night - whipped scrambled eggs infused with bacon and maple syrup. The egg texture is creamy and rich. I loved the flavor combination of smokey and sweet. I'm inspired to recreate something similar for breakfast.
The most unusual dish served was the tomato water gelee with oysters. I was surprised to find that the tomato's acidity and the oysters work really well together. The gelee's texture and taste almost resembled the oyster we ate. It was a lovely dish.
The plum topped with liver mousse made for a nice little rich bite. I enjoyed the balance between the sweet, tart, and creamy components.
Our favorite snack of the night was the corn custard with white American sturgeon caviar and chive blossoms. We both instantly fell in love with the rich corn custard and mild flavored caviar. Because of this dish, we may begin to form an expensive addiction to caviar.
I loved the tomatillo milpero with caramelized onions, creme fraiche, beef jerky and shaved radish. There's so much happening in one bite in a very pleasant way; it's like a flavor bomb exploded in my mouth.
This is what they call butter, curds and whey. You break a piece of the bay laurel and molasses bread and dip it into the buttermilk and cultured butter - it was tangy, creamy, and salty.
The only cocktail I had during dinner was the concord grape sour with lemon verbana, tequila, lemon and egg whites. It tasted exactly like how it sounds, almost resembles a tart pisco sour.
This chilled lettuce soup with little gems, summer squash, fried anchovy, and parsley was unique - and tastes exactly like how it sounds. I wouldn't mind eating this kind of salad every day.
Everyone in our area loved the Antioch Delta crawfish with cucumber, rice grits, and celery topped with purslane. The cucumbers were pickled and braised. They took the crawfish shells and made a bisque out of it. It was like comfort in bowl.
The guinea hen with butter beans, roasted lobster mushrooms, and fine herbs in a hen jus was delicious. The butter beans were blanched and had almost a peanut-like texture.
Each of the sungolds you see were peeled one by one, hydrated and seared in beef fat, resulting in an intense deep sweet tomato flavor. The smoked beef strip loin, basil, amaranth, tomato raisins were a beautiful combination. The strip loin is from Marin Sun Farms, cured, smoked and sou vide the rest of the way.
This dish reminded me of a Vietnamese silken tofu ginger-syrup dessert. The ginger milk curd with pluot consomme gelée, shiso and mint was bright, sweet, savory, and had a good amount of heat from the ginger. The melon ball plums were compressed in lemon verbana juice.
Our dinner concludes with a board of five different types of desserts made by Pastry Chef Maya Erickson: frozen s'mores, pear and scotch, concord grape and peanut butter mousse meringues, salted caramels and green Chartreuse macarons. The desserts blew us away. It was a perfect way to end our incredible meal.
The tasting menu is $120/person plus tax for 11+ courses. Beverage pairings are available at an additional $50. They automatically add a 20% service charge when purchasing a ticket (and on any purchases you make at the restaurant).
Lazy Bear changes the notion of what a tasting menu can be with the intimate level of involvement by the cooks. The attention to detail is impressive and all of the dishes served tasted incredible.
While our dinner was complimentary, it goes without saying that we jumped at the opportunity to buy tickets immediately when they were released online because there's no other dining experience like it.
Thanks for dinner, Lazy Bear!
Visiting Lazy Bear
3416 19th St San Francisco, CA 94110
Thursday- Monday: 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. with ticketed reservations only.