Irony Overload

Attempted cleverness overwhelms the cocktails and food at Lime

Warm pink light spills onto the sidewalk from Lime, a self-described restaurant-lounge (I would reverse the order) that opened on Market Street in midsummer. The aggressively retro-moderne décor is all pink and blinding white and chrome -- not a whisper of lime green to be seen -- and there's only one mention of the citrus as an ingredient on the small-plates menu (kaffir lime oil with the beef tartare), so I guess the puckery name is a reference to the many limes squeezed for Lime's signature drinks, including Key lime martinis and Caipirinhas.

Or not. The place is drenched in irony, from its carefully selected, relentlessly eclectic, relentlessly loud DJ sets, wherein techno rubs shoulders with Dean Martin, to its trendy grazing menu, on which deviled eggs ("like mom made") share space with the aforementioned beef tartare (with Thai red curry, the kaffir lime oil, and sesame crackers, like Mom probably didn't make). Both those dishes wound up on our table, set into a cozy alcove just past the long white bar, on my first visit, with Peter and Anita. The five overstuffed eggs, on a slender rectangular plate dusted with chopped chives and smoked paprika (more of which should have found their way into the creamy yolks), came out swiftly from the kitchen, well-timed to consume with our drinks: too-tall, too-soda'd Mojitos (I learned that there is no compelling reason to flavor a Mojito with coconut; the classic version was much better) and a lovely spicy ginger martini, that night's drink special. The next two dishes to come were vegetables, both specials, ordered when we were told the kitchen was out of the zucchini frites we wanted: terrific Brussels sprouts with chunks of bacon and lots of garlic, and melting lumps of squash sweetened with maple syrup. They were both delicious, but I would have preferred to see them arrive on the table with the meat dishes (we'd also ordered beef short ribs in red wine sauce), to relieve the entrees', uh, meatiness. The tartare was tangy, the rich chunks of short ribs sided with crisp, nicely acidic cabbage slaw.

Instead we interspersed the meat with a bit of fish. Peter and Anita were inflamed by my tales of recent oyster bar orgies, so we were saddened to hear that oysters weren't available that night. But our server announced, midmeal, that the shellfish had indeed arrived. The small Kumamotos were noticeably inferior to the bivalves I had been supping on, but hey, they were still oysters, and since they came four to a $7 plate, we ended up ordering a second round. The "BBQ salmon" -- carefully cooked fish under a slick of sweet sauce and perched on a fresh corn-and-tomato relish -- reminded me that there's a real chef at Lime (Sharon Ardiana, the Web site tells me), but I couldn't help feeling that this environment was not the best showcase for her skills. For me, it was difficult not only to talk here (continual club problem: Do you pitch your voice under the din or over it? I detected both methods being tried within earshot of our table), but also to savor the food.

Lime's aggressively retro-moderne décor.
Anthony Pidgeon
Lime's aggressively retro-moderne décor.

Location Info

Map

Lime

2247 Market
San Francisco, CA 94114

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Castro/ Noe Valley

Details

Deviled eggs $5

Zucchini frites $6

Grilled cheese sandwiches $6

Miniburgers $8

Ricotta gnocchi $8

Beef tartare $9

Flourless chocolate cake $7

621-5256

Open for dinner Sunday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to midnight, Friday and Saturday until 1 a.m. Open for brunch Saturday and Sunday from noon to 3 p.m.

Reservations accepted

Wheelchair accessible

Parking: difficult

Muni: 37, F, K, L, M

Noise level: high

2247 Market (at Sanchez)

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Early on in our evening, the booming bass nearly sent Anita out onto the sidewalk for a breath of fresh quiet, until the soundtrack miraculously switched to -- "Is that Cat Stevens?" I asked. "Yeah," Peter said, "being refused entry was a good career move." The kinder and gentler playlist enabled us to consider dessert: not the poundcake with peaches or the trio of pots de crème promised on the menu, alas (I was looking forward to the butterscotch version), but silly little lollipops made of cheesecake enrobed in dark and white chocolate and an adequate crème brûlée. We'd eaten some nice things, but having spent about $50 each (including tax, tip, three cocktails, and a $24 bottle of Firestone Gewürztraminer; the dishes, priced seemingly gently between $5 and $10 each, add up quickly, especially in the two to three plates per person that servers advise you to order), I was rather underwhelmed by the total experience.

As we walked out by the tricky lenticular tables placed opposite the bar at a narrow banquette, I noticed tiny TV monitors set just above the eating shelf of the sushi-style white marble bar. "Oh look," I said, "they're playing one of those aquarium videos." "Mer," Peter said gently, "it's Finding Nemo."

A couple of weeks later I found myself grazing through the trends at the San Francisco Restaurant Show, a somewhat smaller and more subdued trade fair than I was anticipating. I can still remember the scales falling from my eyes, years ago, at the first such shindig I attended, an endless show at the Javits Center in New York, where I realized that the infinite stream of fried mozzarella sticks and popcorn shrimp and mozzarella poppers finding their greasy way onto restaurant plates probably issued forth from a factory thousands of miles from the unsuspecting diners. Actually, new fashions in food were thin on the floor at the Moscone Center: I'd come expecting to find frozen bite-size sformato ("The new quiche from Italy!") and bottled yuzu juice ("The new citrus from Asia!") and low-carb everything. But the only trend that was immediately obvious was the chocolate fountain, a waterfall of chocolate sauce into which you thrust skewered fruit or marshmallows, a catering favorite that first appeared at weddings (where fingers, hands, and whole arms get shoved into the dark, thin brew as alcohol consumption increases, not quite fulfilling a brochure's promise of "bringing a touch of elegance and distinctiveness to any event"). Three different purveyors of this item were carefully separated, one per aisle. I thoughtfully coated a marshmallow with sauce for Joyce, only to find out that she doesn't like marshmallows, so I began my revels with this not particularly interesting bite, which further endeared itself to me by dribbling down the front of my jacket (and my chin, as Joyce eventually pointed out).

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