By Mollie McWilliams
By Molly Gore
By Pete Kane
By Pete Kane
By Anna Roth
By Alex Hochman
By Joseph Geha
By Anna Roth
The great thing about reviewing restaurants in San Francisco is that I get to take friends along, each with his or her own likes, dislikes, and all-consuming passions when it comes to the citywide pastime of eating out. It's quite beautiful, really, to watch my companions trek from place to place in search of the tastiest, juiciest prawns or the most poignant beet salad, the same way I seek the most perfect, pillowy gnocchi, the meltingest, richest oxtails, the freshest, most exquisite sashimi combination, and the silkiest pots de crème.
520 Fourth St.
San Francisco, CA 94107
Category: Music Venues
Region: South of Market
Reservations accepted. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: moderate to difficult. Muni: 30, 45. Noise level: moderate.
Large nigori unfiltered sake $5.50
Seafood cigar $7.25
Stuffed chicken wings $6.95
Caesar salad $5.95
Sashimi combination $14.75
"Bondage" quails $13.95
"Disco" duck $15.95
Of course, after they've been on a few reviews, these friends start getting picky. As in: "A free dinner at [a lame-sounding new restaurant]? Hmmm. Well, what else are you reviewing?" That's why Glas Kat, which we're about to visit, languished on my to-do list for quite a while.
I'm not sure what turned people off about Glas Kat. Perhaps the oft-advertised "glass-enclosed dining" didn't appeal to them (me, I pictured a sort of hermetically sealed cone of silence dropping out of the ceiling, then -- whoosh -- rising every time your server delivers something, then -- whoomp -- dropping again). Or maybe they stopped by Glas Kat and saw this on the bar menu: "Meat lettuce cups." (Yum!) I had one friend lined up, but she kept canceling; I begged another, whose voice trailed off into a sort of "I think I'm busy let me get back to you I gotta go." And so, Glas Kat just sat there, like old bread, until one day my good friend Chloe told me she was feeling a tad blue. Ever selfless, I offered her a shoulder to cry on and an ear to fill with sorrows -- provided she do the crying and the filling at Glas Kat.
If you haven't been to Glas Kat, the place is kind of a trip -- a sort of pseudo-upscale nightclub with glowing, bubbling columns set near the front bar, a huge disco ball, lots of glass, and plenty of lights, built in the shell of the old Trocadero. If you look closely, you can see where they used to whip people at "Bondage A Go-Go," up in what is now the glass-enclosed supper club, a smallish, semi-industrial space that overlooks the dance floor below. As with most late-night establishments, you can shake your ass down there, you can drink, you can stand around, you can even mingle if you'd like.
And as for the food: I'll assume we stopped by on a very, very, very off night, but from what I've seen these guys are in so far over their heads they just need to be spanked and sent home.
It started badly: Having lost our reservation, a hostess tried to seat us at the sushi bar despite the fact that half of the tables in the dining room were empty. Then, when we pointed this out, she tried to seat us at a teeny little table, then finally showed us to a booth where the table was wobbly. On a brighter note, our waiter was very helpful and friendly. On an even brighter note, the sake is affordable -- we got a large nigori unfiltered for $5.50. I'd never seen a one-page wine list with four white zinfandels until I visited Glas Kat.
We didn't try everything at Glas Kat, but what we did try was so terrible Chloe and I might start a support group to help us get over the experience. The Caesar salad, all cut to bits, was bathed in a sweet, cloying dressing that conjured images of the industrial-sized vat from which it probably came, while decent chicken wings stuffed with minced pork and silver noodles were marred by a "spicy plum sauce" that tasted like mothballs, or something musty. The seafood "cigar" was actually a collection of cigarillos -- greasy little deep-fried egg roll skins filled with a smidgen of seafood paste. And then the sushi -- well, those of you with weak stomachs should probably stop here, while those who enjoy staring at bloody auto wrecks should read on.
The thing about eating sushi in a dark restaurant like Glas Kat is that, unlike at a traditional, brightly lit sushi house, you can't see how fresh the fish is. Chloe had a decent unagi nigiri, while I sampled a Spicy Volcano Roll. Despite an overwhelming, one-dimensional heat, one taste made it obvious the tuna was nearly spoiled.
I also tried the sashimi combination, the true test of a sushi restaurant in that a selection of raw, fresh fish gives you a fairly good idea of the quality of the place's other ingredients. I almost liked a cute little Squid Roll -- squid wrapped around slivers of cucumber, then sliced thin -- except the squid was pasty, a possible sign it hadn't been washed thoroughly enough. The yellowtail looked way too dark. Perhaps it wasn't yellowtail at all, we surmised. We asked our waiter, who wasn't sure either, but stepped over to the sushi bar to check (it was yellowtail). Two shrimp were so thin and tiny I almost cried for these crustaceans harvested before their prime, and the smoked salmon -- the highlight -- tasted like it came from Safeway. Then came the ahi, which was cut into lumps, and had a strange color to it even in that poor light. I ate a piece, which wasn't so tasty, then took the other two home to examine them under proper wattage: The ahi was brownish gray, probably the same color I turned when I remembered I'd eaten some.
OK, it's almost over: For my entree, I chose the "disco" duck -- two huge breasts, supposedly seared, served with a syrupy pineapple-plum sauce you'd expect from a $3.95 buffet in Reno. Still, the meat was decent, as opposed to Chloe's tough, dry, flavorless "bondage" quails set in a "bird's nest" that reverted to the ingredients it was created from (grease, grainy potato) the second it hit the tongue.
That was enough. When given the choice of green tea ice cream or vanilla ice cream for dessert, we chose to leave, making it as far as Bizou down the street. Everything smelled good there, and, after indulging in a marvelously piquant berry pudding and a smooth, creamy lemon verbena (a South American herb known for its intense lemonlike flavor) pot de crème, we returned to the dimension where things have balance and subtlety and kitchens are capable of all sorts of magical feats. I've only eaten dinner at Bizou once, but from what I remember the place is good, and I hope to return someday.
As for our first contestant: A club is a club, but if these guys are still serving food in two years, I swear I will eat a cat.
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