By Mollie McWilliams
By Molly Gore
By Pete Kane
By Pete Kane
By Anna Roth
By Alex Hochman
By Joseph Geha
By Anna Roth
When I returned for dinner, with Tommy, it was a Tuesday, and I was hungry for that liver and onions. But we had to wait a few minutes for our table, in the lively first-level bar room (most of the spacious, modern restaurant is up a few stairs, in a long, thin, L-shaped room that wraps around a partially open kitchen). I chose a Cosmopolitan, not so much out of desire, but because Sydney's offers nightly drink specials as well as food ones, and it was only $3.95, and turned out to be well made (even a little loud). We watched that night's just-completed vice presidential debate being spun on the large-screen TV over the bar.
Comfort food was required. I thought $5.95 was a bit much for a bowl of chicken noodle soup until I tasted it: a rich broth, sheened with fat, full of noodles, carrots, and lots of big pieces of fresh chicken. It would have been almost enough for a meal, especially if paired with a salad (maybe the big wedge of iceberg lettuce drenched in blue cheese dressing that I saw on two nearby tables). We also shared an oval ramekin of creamy macaroni and cheese, improved by its crunchy bread-crumb topping.
Richmond, CA 94804
Region: Richmond and North
Fish and chips $13.95
Flatiron steak $14.95
Ice cream sandwiches $6.95
Banana cream pie $6.95
Open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Parking: $3 validated after 5:30 p.m. in the Jewish Community Center parking garage; otherwise difficult
Muni: 1, 3, 4, 43
Noise level: moderate to high
I liked the overall warmth of the room, with its red banquettes and witty teacup chandeliers. I liked the many family groupings (Sydney's likes them, too, and has a children's menu); the prosperous, slightly clubby Pacific Heights feeling (I noted three pink sweaters, and two of them were cashmere); the reasonable prices (the most expensive entree is $14.95). I liked Tommy's chewy, flavorful flatiron steak, with an arugula and tomato salad dotted with blue cheese.
What I didn't like was my liver, cooked into tough and leathery oblivion, even though I'd asked for it medium rare ("It usually comes out medium," warned our waitress, and I reiterated, "Medium rare," though I should have listened better to what she was saying). This wasn't even medium well; it was just sadly overcooked. The nice hostess came over to apologize, with some kind of nonsensical excuse (about a hot grill) that was just wrong: Part of the charm of liver is its soft, custardy texture, which is possible to maintain even when quickly seared. But by then Tommy -- who'd at first said, "That's one I won't taste," when I ordered the dish (echoes of my English friends) -- had tried it and liked it, so the rest of it went home with him. (I did admire the generous serving of slivered and whole onions.)
A pillowy, not-too-sweet apple crisp and a lovely banana cream pie (with the cream on the side and the bananas in a rich custard) sent us out in a good frame of mind to see Shaun of the Dead. In all, it was a delightful evening.
So, when I wanted a place for a farewell dinner for the Brits, I thought my choice was in the bag. I was happy, not to mention hungry: I could start with the homemade tomato soup served with grilled cheese sandwiches, and it was a Wednesday, fried chicken night, which I hoped would be as knowingly fried as Monday's fish and chips. Rosemary lamb medallions with tomato relish and almond couscous! Reuben sandwich! Spinach pizza! This was a menu they would love. But when I called and suggested dinner out, I was invited to dinner in -- a not-un-Sydney's-like spread of brisket, pastrami, and corned beef, purchased at my favorite deli, Saul's. I would have to wait for another Wednesday for my fried chicken. But there was one final request: Could I make them a list of half a dozen or so restaurants in their next stop, New York City? Not too fancy. Not too pricey.
I found myself wishing there was a branch of Sydney's Home there.