Son’s Addition: 24th Street Is Once Again a Hotspot

The always-packed restaurant plays it a little safe, but quickly endured its growing pains to develop a personality.

Tuna and uni tostada (Photo by Peter Lawrence Kane)

Twenty-fourth Street in the Mission is shaping up to the be quiet riot for the end of 2017 — which is a little strange. After the Calle 24 cultural district sought to protect the area’s Latino heritage, there were plans to cap the number of eateries, but in the last few months, we’ve gotten Alma Cocina, Foxsister, and Son’s Addition in rapid succession.

Husband-and-wife team Nick Cobarruvias (formerly Marlowe’s chef de cuisine) and Anna Sager Cobarruvias opened the latter a few weeks ago, replacing a mediocre pupuseria that was mostly known for its practice of charging $2 for customers to use the bathroom. (I went there only once, in 2010 when I was making ice cream across the street at Humphry Slocombe.)

Anyway, inglorious history or not, Son’s Addition draws Asian and Latino ingredients into the expected California rubric without any of the showiness that would earn the dreaded fusion label. It also gave me pause on my first visit. Many dishes were under-seasoned, and the whole thing felt like a major case of me-tooism, playing it safe by duplicating stuff you can easily get anywhere else. I still feel like this restaurant errs on the conservative side. If Son’s Addition were Christmas decorations, it would be white lights wrapped tightly around a the bare limbs of an ornamental pear tree. But it took a giant step upward from visit one to visit two, and another leap from visit two to visit three.

Another important point: Son’s Addition was at capacity every time I went on (on varied nights and hours). In light of that, finding their legs as quickly as they did suggests that the team was simply caught off-guard by the crowds that flocked there almost from Day 1 — and had to scramble to adjust. So I’m going with my gut on this one and basically nixing the details of the entire first visit from the equation, because I don’t think they apply any longer.

What do we got, then? A lot of good, and a couple really excellent things. Possibly the most excellent is the poached chicken and crispy skin ($13), a Thai-inflected coconut rice bowl with a jagged chunk of skin in the shape of a landlocked country, some dark meat, and a smartly toned-down fermented soybean salsa with a good amount of heat. Dig at this one from whatever approach vector you want, and you’re going to get a really fun combination of flavors and textures, stabilized by the coconut. (There’s cucumber in there, too.)

A tuna and uni tostada (two for $11) comes with a whole panoply of different things — maybe one too many. It definitely does not require lime, since it’s already plenty acidic from the pickled red onion and the black garlic. I loved the hazelnut dukkah, though. Resist the temptation to squeeze, and these layered morsels will be very satisfying. Similarly, I would take the celery off the $15 bone marrow. It’s probably there to keep the dish — bone, meat, crostini, garlic — from being all-beige, but this is an unusually delicate bone marrow preparation and it gets in the way.

Roasted hen-of-the-woods mushrooms ($9), those giant lovers of dead and dying oak trees, have one of the best textures in all of Kingdom Fungi and here, they’re enhanced with just enough balsamic gastrique. A pork chicharron with a spicy, smoky salsa ($9) was bright and muscular, while the beef tartare with yet more black garlic plus potato chips for scooping ($11) was hard to differentiate from all the other beef tartares out there. I would have loved a bit more dill on the Brussels sprouts panzanela ($11), since the dominant pairing was the done-to-death marriage of beets and goat cheese, but when done right, crispy sourdough mixed with vegetables is just plain delicious.

The pan-roasted black cod ($20) erased all my lingering nightmares of the disaster I had at Nobu (which I promise never to mention ever again as long as that catastrophe factory promises to set itself on fire). Like the reconfigured contents of a good stuffing, it comes with celery and leeks over delicata squash, plus what I thought was a celery root puree but which turned out to be kimchi romesco, and the whole thing is harmonious.

Other large plates dispensed with any pretense to lightness. The heritage pork chop with butternut squash, a monster bacon-brussels sprout ragu, and pecan mole ($24) is genuinely inventive, while the five-spice braised lamb shank (with goat cheese polenta, root greens, and shiso gremolata, $25) has that appealing Neanderthal quality owing to its heft, if paleo-cavepersons put parsley on stuff. Both are big, assertive entrees at a really good value, and in each, you can grasp the kitchen’s plan to have one foot each on two continents as much as possible.

But just to straight-up harp on this point, I kept coming back to the feeling that Son’s Addition was handicapping itself a little. Overall, I would like to see the food world gradually start to leave beef tartare and little gem lettuce and chicken liver mousse toasts behind for good. (I guess I should probably throw octopus in that category, but I’m a sucker sucker.) To this establishment’s credit, it’s not serving 2016’s food at 2020’s prices, but with all the rumblings about there being too many restaurants, branching out a little farther is becoming paramount — although this is truer of the small plates than the large plates here. Cobarruvias’ menu is seasonal and should assume a new form soon, so we’ll see. In the meantime, there’s no doubt about it: There is a big, upward-pointing green arrow next to this one.

Son’s Addition, 2990 24th St., 415-500-2817 or sonsaddition.com

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