By Omar Mamoon
By Kate Williams
By Pete Kane
By Molly Gore
By Lou Bustamante
By Anna Roth
Two excellent brunches became three when I took my parents and Lee to Absinthe on a Sunday morning when culture beckoned: the last day of a modernism photography show plus Vivienne Westwood at the de Young for Lee, and a chamber-music concert devoted to Bay Area composer Elly Armer at the Old First Church for us. To our amazement, there was ample parking on Hayes: We suddenly realized that the street had just reopened after Bay to Breakers.
Our luck held. Well, almost: My mother's Dungeness crab, sautéed with parsley and garlic, was sweet and silky and rather luscious. Lee's omelet, stuffed with big woodsy morels, English peas, a whiff of sage, and the genius touch of fresh white corn, was cooked just the way she liked it. My father enjoyed his smoked salmon, squiggled with pernod-dill cream, though he thought that its capers, rather than being fried, "should come straight from the pickling jar as nature intended." I was the only loser: My eggs, scrambled with an inexplicably dull combination of boiled navy beans, mushy artichoke ragout, and too-wispy, too-infrequent strands of Toscano salame, paled, especially since I'd chosen them over an Absinthe burger, corned beef hash with poached eggs, or grilled flat iron steak.
But Absinthe rallied with a superb trio of tarts (chocolate-banana, cheesecake, and almond-raspberry), and a seductive assortment of cookies and confections, notably a bonbon filled with basil ganache and tiny pistachio-cherry muffins. We all wished we'd seen the cheese menu earlier: One of us would have certainly had the lavish cheese plate, five carefully garnished cheeses for $25, as our main dish. Next time, we agreed. Because brunch is, even at otherwise pricy places, an affordable luxury.
3316 17th St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
Region: Mission/ Bernal Heights
Foreign Cinema, open for dinner Monday through Thursday from 6 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday until 11 p.m., Sunday from 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday brunch from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (limited menu from 3 to 6 p.m.) and Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (limited menu from 3 to 5 p.m.). Reservations accepted. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: valet parking at dinner, $10; otherwise, street, difficult. Muni: 14, 49. Noise level: low to moderate.
Absinthe, open Tuesday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to midnight, Saturday 11 a.m. to midnight; brunch Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., cafe menu from 3 to 5 p.m., dinner Saturday from 5 p.m. to midnight, Sunday until 10 p.m. Reservations accepted. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: valet $10 Tuesday through Sunday dinner, otherwise street, difficult. Muni: 16, 21, 47, 49. Noise level: low to moderate.
Biscuits and gravy $9
Duck confit hash $14
Mini mer seafood platter $28
Smoked salmon plate $13
Absinthe: Crab sautéed with parsley and garlic $17 half, $30 whole
Morel, pea, and corn omelet $14
Foreign Cinema, 2534 Mission (at 21st Street), 648-7600, www.foreigncinema.com
Absinthe, 398 Hayes (at Gough), 551-1590, www.absinthe.com