San Francisco is so rife with fantastic restaurants that it came as an almost criminal disappointment to taste the icy perfections of Sons & Daughters co-chefs Teague Moriarty and Matt McNamara. Or perhaps taste is the wrong word for the ascetic dishes coming out of the kitchen of these two stylists. There may be hope in honest error but there’s nothing remotely honest about the food at Sons & Daughters. These boys learned many, many tricks in culinary school and they have a compulsive need to show you every single one.
Mealy, meatless Beau soleil oysters weren’t helped by scattering them with bitter sorrel or spiky horseradish. This led to a personal first for me: finishing the prosecco while leaving the plate of oysters. Fresh rolls speckled with sea salt on the other hand were warm, pillowy and gobbled down in an instant. (Had I known they’d be the highlight I would have asked for a basketful.) An herb salad had all the allure of medicine thanks to the addition of pungent eucalyptus leaves – though I enjoyed the curds hidden underneath; crispy quinoa, however, made it seem like someone spilled their GrapeNuts on my greens. And then of course there was the whey foam. On a salad plate. Catalonia, what hast thou wrought?!?
Cream of beet soup was a rich aubergine color, robustly seasoned with too much marjoram but benefiting from a healthy dollop of creme fraiche, which makes everything taste better including marjoram. Sweetbreads were well cooked and quite tasty. So, too, the lobster. Though whatever dance those two items were attempting from opposite ends of the same plate remains a mystery to me – the baby greens occupying the DMZ didn’t exactly spark a pas de deux. Seared foie with yogurt and Concord grape granite fared better – not that I tasted it mind you, but my companion wolfed it down with a reckless glee. Tournedos of lamb loin were perfectly pink but lacked flavor (a definite theme here) as well as seasoning. Redwood clovers were an interesting nod to the forest due north but another trick nonetheless – one that had nothing to do with the composed plate before me. Desert has the power to correct most missteps, but again, no redemption here: chocolate truffle cake was a small square of overly sweet ganache and not a cake at all, while watermelon icee with basil and compressed melon would have better served as a palate cleanser instead.
At $48 for four courses, the menu at Sons & Daughters seems like a bargain. Yet it doesn’t take much mental calculation to come to the conclusion that leaving a meal hungrier than when you arrived does not make for a recipe worth revisiting.