Aliment: Finding Comfort on Nob Hill

On Bush Street near Union Square, Aliment serves comfort food that bends towards upscale gastropub fare, like divers scallops and hangar steak. Brunch is a serious affair, with short-rib hash and a burger with bacon jam. Nob Hill is steep and so are the prices; most entrees are north of $20. With kale salad, fried chicken, and a pretzel flatbread with pub cheese, Aliment epitomizes the New New American cuisine; it feels like an aggregation of everything everybody's already doing.

Sadly, many of the dishes I was looking forward to simply weren't listed, the downside of those oft-touted rotating menus. But a meaty plate of pasta Bolognese was peppery and delicious, and the portion size was more than respectable. The service was excellent, the wine list extremely cosmopolitan. Perhaps it's just a personal preference, but open kitchens need to be pristine in order to enhance the dining experience. Big tubs of vegetables and compost buckets in plain view do not whet the appetite.

Ultimately, Aliment is cold where it should be warm. In spite of all the votives and the wood offsetting the marble bar, it's not particularly romantic. There's a Valencia-lite vibe that's too watered down to tug at the trend-hunters, and too subtle for out-of-towners to coo, "This is so San Francisco!"

This is not to imply that the most indiscriminate San Franciscan is more sophisticated than the most enlightened tourist, but Aliment's location and its emphasis on safety make it clear that this place is geared towards discerning tourists and not so much the locals. Still, it's a more than serviceable place for dinner.

 
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