Friday, February 17, 2006

Return Visit: Maverick

Though it's definitely inconsistent, I've become a fan of Maverick for the same reasons that I'm now a fan of Bendean--it's a restaurant that takes risks, has a constantly evolving menu, and has a consistent theme and focus.

So I decided to go there for Valentine's Day (changed to V-Day Eve because I had to work on Valentine's Day). Going on a Monday we were able to take advantage of Maverick's Monday night promotion: half-off any bottle of wine. That promo alone seemed to pack the place on a Monday night.

Our meal, I would say, was a step up from when I dined last. We got the crab fluffs which are balls of flavorful lump blue crab meat (my favorite crab) deep fried with a crispy exterior and impossibly light, moist, and fluffy interior. The three fluffs are served on a bed of frisee with three small dollops of strong, thick housemade tartare sauce. The only distraction were a few halved cherry tomatoes that were decent given the season but what tomatoes should be.

Second starter was the "Maverick Citrus Salad." This iteration featured blood oranges, tangerines, and watercress with a meyer lemon vinaigrette. The watercress was deliciously peppery, the citrus not overly sweet (almost too tart in spots), offset by the sparse, sweet vinaigrette. Would've liked a touch more even watercress-to-citrus ratio.

Remembering my enjoyment of the steelhead last time, I tried Maverick's fish dish again: pan-roasted monkfish served over a "stew" of steamed potatoes, haricots verts, and chorizo. The piece of fish was absolutely incredible--firm fleshed but delicate with wonderful subtle flavors. The potatoes were smooth and creamy and the chorizo was lent a nice heat to the stew and contrasted nicely with the mild (but a touch lobster-y) fish. The green beans were nicely done too, though they were superfluous (to the point of incongruity) to the dish.

Charlie ordered the Spring Risotto--this one featuring jumbo asparagus, creme fraiche, and meyer lemon confit. The risotto was thick and creamy, the asparagus tender and bright. While the tartness of the lemon was welcome, the nature of the confit left each bite with a sickly sweet aftertaste that was unusual and that we both found unenjoyable--or at least distracting.

I also ordered a side dish of creamed spinach. This was also a mild disappointment--it being more appropriately sauteed leaves of spinach in a rich creamy soup. It was all quite tasty, but it wasn't the balanced mix of chopped spinach, butter, cream, salt, and pepper that I've come to love about creamed spinach. Nevertheless, a generous portion for $4.

We steered clear of the "hot fudge brownie sundae" and opted for the roasted pear bread pudding with caramel sauce. This was a home run. Pieces of roasted bosc pears in a moist and gooey bread pudding with a rich burnt caramel sauce. Served warm, it was one of the best bread puddings I've had that I didn't make.

We also enjoyed a very nice 2004 Albarino (one of the few non-American wines on the list) the worked with our eclectic mix of flavors.

A few final notes: I finally understood what reviewers had meant by the volume in Maverick reaching ridiculous levels. This evening seemed to be a "girls' night out" for a few parties in the tiny dining room and, no doubt fueled by the half-price wine, what should have been the dull roar of conversation turned into a torrent of shrieks and shouts from drunken investment bankers and non-profit administrators. I eat (and work) at loud restaurants all the time and this was the first time I really had to uncomfortably raise my voice to be heard when dining with just one other person. Something else I noticed was that in the short time since I last dined there, the staff was no longer wearing the TGIFriday's-esque polo shirts and were back to being casually dressed in all black.

So I've had three great dinners at Maverick, despite the occasional miss. I strongly urge you to give Maverick a try for an adventurous dinner out.

And yes, I'll start reviewing new restaurants soon.

Maverick Eatery & Wine Bar
Cuisine: Neo-American comfort food
Entree price range: $15-$28
HFF's cost for two (two starters, two entrees, one side, bottle of wine [half-price], dessert, coffee, tax, and 20% tip): $123
Reservations: or 415-863-3061
3316 17th Street (at Mission)
San Francisco, Ca 94110

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