Last night I attended Rich Table's inaugural Sally Hurricane Southern Fried Chicken Dinner, in which the so-hot-right-now restaurant transformed itself into a casual chicken joint on a night it's usually dark. Sally Hurricane was co-owner Sarah Rich's nickname when she was a kid, and the meal was her chance to show off her Texas roots. It was three courses, served family-style, and mostly a steal at $35 per person.
We started with a trio of appetizers that showed the playful approach the Riches take to California cuisine. The highlight was one amuse bouche I've had before, the Dirty Hippie -- little shotglasses of buttermilk panna cotta garnished with a float of wheatgrass and topped with hempseed, popcorn, and other birdseed-y things. It tastes cool and verdant, like 70s health food in the best possible way. The appetizer round also brought smoked trout deviled eggs -- tasty, if a little forgettable -- and salami salsa verde-topped cheese crackers, which were intensely cheddary and something I would happily binge on at home in front of the TV.
Vegetables were represented in the form of mustard-horseradish sugar snap peas and a take on a Caesar salad, but who am I kidding? We only had eyes for the fried chicken.
The chicken had a softer crust than I usually prefer -- it wasn't shatteringly crisp, instead it was yielding, even a little mushy -- but the meat was juicy and perfectly cooked, and there weren't any extra spices in the coating getting in the way of its essential chicken flavors. All in all, it satisfied the deep craving for fried chicken that always lives within me (it would definitely be my death row meal), though it wasn't as mindblowingly good as the version from Wing Wings I'd had two days before at Off the Grid's Picnic at the Presidio. The chicken was paired with the silky smooth and buttery mashed potatoes and surprisingly light buttermilk gravy. There was also corn on the cob with a zesty chili-lime sauce, rich blue cornbread with honey butter, and for dessert, strawberry-rhubarb cobbler, buttermilk ice cream, and warm chocolate chip cookies.
All of it was washed down with a special cocktail from bartender Buffalo Lograsso, the Foghorn Leghorn, made with whiskey, sun tea, peach bitters, and lemon ice cubes -- basically an easy-drinking, boozy Arnold Palmer.
It was a fun, lively night with friends, though it was also a bit of a pricey one for a fried chicken dinner -- the meal ended up being more like $60 per person with drinks and tip. This was the first dinner of its kind, though, and as with any new experiments, there are always kinks to work out. On the plus side, there was so much food I practically rolled home, and I liked the times that the Rich Table culinary magic shone through, like with the cornbread and the Dirty Hippie. If I were to go again, I'd want to see just a tad more more envelope-pushing with the fried chicken genre, in that way that only the Riches can.
And it certainly sounds like the night went well enough for the staff to consider a second outing. "It was really fun to do something different, all family style, one menu. And the guests responded really well to it," says Sarah Rich. "We didn't know what to expect so we tried to not push it too crazy with the reservations, but we could definitely do more the next time. Yes, I said next time."