Anchor & Hope is the latest offspring from the successful partnership of Doug Washington, Mitchell and Steven Rosenthal. First came Town Hall, one of my favorite restaurants in the city. Then Salt House, good but not as bright as the older sibling. Some say third is a charm.
Opened only a few weeks ago, the restaurant took over a turn of the century warehouse in a small alley in downtown San Francisco. Finding a spot is not a problem though, the building is right next to a large public parking complex.
The interior is simple. An open space between stained plywood floors and a beautiful A-frame ceiling with exposed weathered beams. The modernized fisherman’s shack makes for an interesting ambience but it is somewhat overdone reminding a bit too much of San Francisco’s own Disneyland: Fisherman’s Wharf. Hanging ropes and maritime paraphernalia feel staged and unnecessary. If you can ignore that, it’s a great space.
Service is attentive and genuinely friendly, no forced smiles. Our table was served by 2 waiters, one in training, silently and diligently following along.
As expected, the menu is almost entirely seafood. There are about 25 things to choose from including oysters, lobster, creative appetizers and a good variety of fish entrées. But in an effort to please the sea-averse crowd, a couple of meat options and one vegetarian dish are also available. I’d say if you are at sea, don’t order the steak.
Dinner started with a crunchy loaf of pain lepi delivered to the table in a branded paper bag, fleur de sel sprinkled butter on the side. As a proof of the attentive service, more butter was brought in the moment we ran out of it.
As an appetizer, we ordered the curiously named “Fries with eyes” Smelts & remoulade sauce. Crispy on the outside and surprisingly creamy inside. It was absolutely delicious. Almost dangerously addictive. A great starter for the table. Don’t leave without trying it.
As a main course, I had to try the Anchor & Hope lobster roll, old bay spiced kettle chips, sea salt. The lightly toasted roll came topped with a very generous portion of lobster meat, perfectly cooked and seasoned. But surprisingly, what stole everyone’s attention were the impossibly thin mondoline-sliced potato chips. So good, it seems like a missed opportunity that you can’t get them as a side order.
Another very tasty choice is the Sautéed black sea bass, cumin potatoes, ramps, country ham, early peaches, brown butter. The fish flavor is highlighted with an inventive combination of smokiness from the ham and buttery sweetness from the peaches.
But the best entrée I tried was the Coriander seared yellowfin tuna, fresh garbanzo humus, tomato vinaigrette, olive tapenade. Sushi-grade tuna is a broadly used term in restaurants and rarely lives up to its promise. This one was spectacular. Fresh and tender. As a whole, the dish was delicate yet complex in flavors. Each ingredient was interesting and sometimes surprising by itself but even better when combined together.
Dessert time. Once again, I had high expectations due to Town Hall’s claim to fame. But much like at Salt House, I was somewhat disappointed. There were only 3 choices which change every night – that’s not a bad thing. They were not listed on the menu but rather recited by the wait staff. A peach cobbler, an espresso food cake and a more interesting option called Crème de la cœur. That’s what I had.
A mixture of yogurt and whipped cream strained on a cheesecloth and served in the form of a heart with strawberries and shortbread cookies. Unfortunately, it was boring lacking complexity and enthusiasm.
Anchor & Hope is a great fish house. Probably one of the best in the city. The food is Inventive and flavorful. Ambience, despite the somewhat staged feel, is casual and welcoming. Service is attentive. The third restaurant from the people that brought you Town Hall, to me, scores as number two.
Anchor & Hope is at 83 Minna Street