I'll admit it. I’m a total beer nincompoop. Yes, there are beers I do like, though, and are high on my list of favourite beverages. Might I be called an aficionado? That seems to imply a level of knowledge and savvy that I definitely don’t possess. Beer enthusiast? I don’t drink enough beer for that. To own that I practically know nothing about beer (except that it some of it tastes good) seems a bit retarded if one is going to a place like Monk’s Kettle, where there could be as many as 28 options of draught beer alone and pages and pages and pages of different kinds and styles of the liquid, from Lambics to small beer to porters and dubbel, tripel, and quadrupel Belgians! My visit to Monk's Kettle felt rather tantamount to casting pearls before swine, or cream-of-mushroom bean casserole before Thomas Keller, or er… something along those lines… you get the drift… Anyhow, despite all this, I will still have the temerity to say that Monk’s Kettle is currently high on my list of Happy Places (and by this I mean awesome establishments in my hometown that serve amazing food and drink).
Monk’s Kettle has been around since 2008, I believe, and I’d heard really fantastic things about it. My girls AnnaMarie and Jeanine, in particular, had sung its praises many, many times. But it wasn’t until this year that DD and I finally got around to making our way from the foggy Inner Sunset to the sunny Inner Mission to check it out. And by check out, I mean, actually visit, sit down and have dinner. I had been once before: AM had brought me there once to grab a pint before a dance performance at ODC; we had stuffed ourselves at Mission Chinese Food a couple of blocks away, so I don't think it counts; MK is a gastropub after all, known for food just as much as drink.
It’s a daunting proposition to visit on a weekend – Saturday night to be exact – dinner prime-time at 830pm. But we got super lucky as a couple of seats at the corner of the bar opened up when we had barely been there five minutes. As other folks have commented – the place is super-small. At night, the lights are dim, the noise god-awful, and the narrow space between bar and dinner tables nearly impossible to navigate. But – we finally had our spots and eagerly scanned the menu and placed our orders.
DD and I had first visited in late March, as we were just about to leave for Japan. The uber-knowledgeable ad friendly bartender serving us echoed our sentiments about the quality of the food. Apparently, new Chef Adam Dulye (CIA Hyde Park alum) had started sometime around the beginning of the year, and had elevated an already outstanding menu to another level altogether.
Duck confit? Sweetbreads? On a Pub Menu? I had wanted to order nearly everything. This dish was on the "Large Plates" section of the menu - it arrived with a generous portioned of confited leg (crisp on the outside), tender sweetbreads, and a melange of mushrooms (shitake, royal and cinnamon cap), delicious sauce and greens.
These scallops have been on the menu during the two times we visited, changing its accompaniments, but not its deliciousness. On our second visit, the scallops topped potato halves and were flanked by a raft of fat, grilled asparagus spears. I think I preferred the first version with the potato treatment in more of a gratin style.
We returned with AM and Jeanine in early May, and took advantage of that opportunity to order almost everything on their small plates menu. Here are some highlights.
Meltingly soft, the pork belly has a nice crust on top; it crowns a glorious mishmash of crusty potatoes, some sort of creamy sauce, mushrooms and bacon. (This dish also seems to be a fixture on the menu.)
This photo doesn't do the dish justice at all -- it turned out to be the best of the evening. There was something so perfect about the utterly tender beef and the crisp-soft polenta that was just so satisfying. I could have eaten a second plate all by myself.
Tender rabbit loin and other pulled rabbit meat - we barely got a sense of the truffle, but the bunny meat with mustard dressing was spot-on, with just a hint of faint not-unpleasant gameyness that surprised me.
What self-respecting gastropub serving Belgian Beers would not serve mussels on the menu? These were perfectly cooked and tender, but of course, the real strong flavours are found in the briny, garlicky, beery-needs-to-be-sopped-up-with-toasted-levain-soup.
As you can see, I didn’t place nearly as much focus on the beers nor did I attempt to remember much of our drinks. I have a record on Gowalla of ordering a Rodenbach Gran Cru Flanders Sour Ale the first night we visited, and photographic evidence of a Sanctification and Pretty Things Saison.
More photos on Flickr here.
For the record: I tend to like – in no particular order – Sour Beers, Hefeweizens, Witbiers, and generally beers that are floral-herbal like the Russian River Damnation and Saisons (DD turned me on to these recently). Russian River currently holds a special place in my heart for making 2 fantastically accessible sour beers – the Sanctification Sour Blonde and the Supplication Cherry. I say "accessible" because they can be procured for one's home collection in San Francisco - City Beer Store and K&L Wines to be specific.
Monk's Kettle is a place I dearly wish were in my neighborhood. I suppose it's just as well that it's not since DD and I could easily turn into profligate drunkards as a result.
3141 16th Street
San Francisco, CA 94103-3334
No reservations except for monthly beer dinners.