Many Clever, Unexpected Dishes at Reverb Kitchen & Bar in Russian Hill (San Francisco)

I was very excited when I heard that the team behind Gather was opening up a restaurant in San Francisco. Gather is one of my favorite restaurants in Berkeley and I knew whatever concept they come up with was going to be promising. 

The first concept they opened was Verbena, which closed after 15 months of business and transitioned into Reverb Kitchen & Bar. The new focus shifts towards a more casual, neighborhood vibe. I was bummed that I waited too long and didn't get a chance to try Verbena, but happy that I can still enjoy what this team built on the second take. 

Patrick and I were invited to check out the new restaurant as guests and loved our experience. We ate a lot of food and had a couple of amazing cocktails, along with a spectacular wine pairing. 

What you can expect at Reverb is a yin-yang of omnivore and vegetable dishes that are pleasantly surprising and highlighted in the most brilliant way. Each dish we ordered was beautifully plated. The ingredients are used in a thoughtful and playful way. So much that we spent dinner talking through each component that made up each dish. When you have food like this, it builds up an excitement for what's to come next throughout the dining experience. 

Reverb’s kitchen team is led by Chef Ryan Shelton, 33 years old, who has previously worked at various restaurants around the San Francisco Bay Area. He was Pastry Chef at Chez TJ in Mountain View, Chef de Cuisine at Baumé in Palo Alto, Executive Chef at Randall Grahm's Le Cigare Volant in Santa Cruz and, most recently, the Executive Chef at Palo Alto Grill. With Chef Shelton at the helm, Baumé earned a coveted 2-star Michelin rating before celebrating its first anniversary.

The moment I walked through Reverb's beautiful wooden doors, I instantly fell in love with the simple design and space created by Abueg Morris Architects (Nopalito, Comal, Hi Lo BBQ). I am a sucker for high ceilings and wooden architecture. 

Unlike many restaurants that face the issue of being loud and noisy, they've got it under control. It was really nice to converse with each other over dinner without having to scream and compete with other diners.

Whoever manages the background music clearly has great taste: MGMT, Beck, Ratatat

The cocktail selections are worth the visit alone. This is the type of place where I could spend hours going through each cocktail listed on the menu.  There's also a thoughtful and diverse selection of wine available that would please any palette. 

Polk St. Pimm's ($12)

The Pimm's Cup at Reverb is excellent. The ingredients inside this glass radiates summer: Pimm's No 1, vodka, limoncello, lemon, housemade strawberry syrup, and ginger beer. It goes down so smoothly and stays flavorful even when the ice melts. It's the drink that keeps on giving! 

Monk of Guadalajara ($12)

One sip of this delightfully, tart and fruity cocktail will have you hooked. The tequila works well with the St. Germain and the Yellow Chartreuse marries it together. The lime and strawberry adds that zesty refreshing berry component that makes this drink so wonderful. 

The Food 

Tongue-in-Cheek Rilette ($5)

Wine Pairing: Ca Di Rajo, Prosecco, Italy ($9/$45)

The smooth rilette is made with braised pork - salty, smokey and rich. The dry prosecco is low in acidity and has a bitterness that goes nicely with the rilettes. While it was tasty, this was the least exciting thing on the menu. It makes for a nice quick snack, but I'd suggest holding off and going with something more unique from the bites section. 

Pole Bean Fritters ($7)

You can instantly pick up and taste the Indian influences in this dish. It's like a play on vegetable pakora with the accompanying chutneys. Fresh crisp pole beans are the star, served with a cilantro chutney, yogurt sauce, and a golden raisin puree that acts as a substitute for the standard tamarind chutney that's usually offered with fried Indian snacks. The crunch of the pole beans are sweet and flavorful, making it a perfect summer treat. 

Asparagus Soup with Lemon Coconut Ice Cream ($12)

My taste buds went wild for this soup. A warm pureed asparagus soup with lemon coconut ice cream may sound odd, but it's truly a wonderful harmony of flavors that's comforting for the soul. 

We absolutely loved the nuttiness of the almonds and the raw shaved and grilled asparagus over the rich soup. 

This dish is a playful vegan take on asparagus and hollandaise, but it actually tastes like an asparagus curry to us. Regardless, I want more and can only hope that Reverb continues to create dishes like this. 

Grilled Octopus ($16)

Wine Pairing: Donnhoff, Riseling, Nahe 2013 ($14/$70)

A nicely grilled octopus should be tender with a crunch and chewiness that is not rubbery. The grill and char on this plump octopus is nicely done, and you can still taste the freshness of the catch. 

The romesco sauce is excellent, especially with the gigante beans, and the bacon adds some nice salty and smokey characteristics to the dish. 

The peachy notes and residual sugar in this well-balanced riesling goes well with the saltiness and spices.

Cavatelli in English Pea Juice ($20)

Wine Pairing: Poderi San Lazzaro, Pecorino, Italy 2007 ($12/$60)

It's impressive how simple, yet complex this pasta dish is. I ordered the cavatelli because it looked interesting and peculiar. I mean, an English pea sauce? I love peas, but I fell in love with peas all over again after having the cavatelli. 

The chewy pasta combined with prosciutto, lemon mascarpone and pea sauce makes for a sweet, savory, buttery and wonderfully salty dish that pairs extremely well with the pecorino. The wine is unlike anything we've had before - it's playful and has notes of dill pickles. 

I would highly recommend having a glass of pecorino with this; it actually opens up the dish and amplifies the flavors. The wine uses wild yeast as the starter and it's aged in a concrete tank, which results in earthy characteristics. 

Fried Chicken & Amaranth Waffles ($23)

A lot of things are going on in this dish. The fried chicken is straight-forward: juicy and crispy with just enough batter to coat. The amaranth waffles arrive dressed in a butterscotch apple maple syrup and all together it, surprisingly, tastes like popcorn. If that's not odd enough- the greens taste like an addicting chow mein. Say what? We had to take another bite to just make sure that our minds weren't playing tricks on us. 

The sweet and sour pickles go nicely with the fried chicken and greens, but be warned that the pickled chili is packed with heat.

When you have all of that exciting stuff in one dish, it's easy to forget the rich chicken jus that's meant to be poured over the chicken and waffles. Now that's what I call one hell of a memorable plate of fried chicken.  

Brioche Doughnuts ($6)

Wine Pairing: Scacciadiavoli Passito, Sagrantino, Umbria, Italy 2007 ($13)

Donuts and a dessert wine pairing? I can't say that I've had a pairing like this before. In my own experience, wine and sweets have never paired well. Surprisingly, it works in this case. The donuts are delightfully delicious, rolled in cinnamon sugar and served with a passion-nectarine syrup and ricotta. 

The sagrantino is a lovely dessert wine, almost like a drinkable sweet syrup that extends the taste of the donut.

Kumquat Chocolate Tart ($10)  

Reverb's rich and smooth chocolate tart is fun to eat and has many elements that bring it together holistically. There's a zesty brightness from the kumquat and a refreshing element from the green tea sherbert. The light touch of salt opens up the chocolate flavors, while the almond cream cools and neutralizes the mouth. The buttery crust to chocolate ratio is on point.

Final Thoughts

The attention to detail was superb across the board from the food to the extremely knowledgeable and personable wait staff.  I'd go back to Reverb in a heartbeat and can't wait to see how the menu evolves. 

Thank you for having us as your guests and for the all the delicious food, Reverb! 

VISITING Reverb Kitchen & Bar


2323 Polk St. San Francisco, CA 94109



(415) 441-2323


  • Dinner: Mon-Sat 5:30-10:00pm

  • Happy Hour: Mon-Fri 5:30-6:00pm

  • Weekend Brunch:  Sat 10:00am - 2:30pm / Sun 10:00am - 9:00pm


The main dining room seats 62, and the bar sets the stage of the venue.  There is also an intimate upstairs mezzanine with room for 18 guests, plus seating for 16 at sidewalk tables, weather permitting.

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