It’s hard to imagine any new beginnings for the restaurant scene in the middle of one of the worst economies in recent American history. But the chefs behind Merchant Roots, a fine dining spot in the Fillmore, are opening up a new production kitchen in the Tenderloin to serve its catering division, The Roost.
The promise of The Roost’s takeaway meals is “healthful meals without compromising flavor,” and it’s one that they live up to. Their speciality is an ancho-rubbed roast chicken ($24.95) that’s five times the cost of the classic $5 Costco rotisserie. But, it comes with a refreshing cucumber salad dotted with capers, an adobo buttermilk slaw and a large helping of fluffy jasmine rice.
Moreover, the chicken is wonderfully tender and juicy without any of the overwhelming oiliness that tends to be the downfall of most cooked whole chickens on the market. The ancho-rub, generously seasoned with cumin, infuses into the rice, making what could have been a boring side deliciously smoky. The whole meal is enough to feed a family of three — or just yourself. This is a dish that works well as leftovers. The buttermilk slaw and cucumber salad stay pristine in the fridge, and the chicken can be easily reheated or repurposed into broth or stew.
Of course, the ancho-rubbed chicken might be the main seller of The Roost’s takeaway menu, but definitely don’t dismiss its sides. Their sweet potato croquettes ($5) are a highlight, with their crunchy exterior encasing pureed sweet potato mixed with slightly tangy cream cheese. Any heaviness is undercut by a spicy sriracha aioli. The roasted cauliflower ($5) is also a textural dream. It’s slightly charred, drizzled with lemon juice and cooked with soft, browned garlic cloves. A nutty sesame yogurt comes with this dish, its thick creaminess complementing the cauliflowers’ bright crunch.
You’d also be remiss to not add one of Merchant Root’s cookies ($3.50) to your order. There’s the classic chocolate chip, with large chunks of chocolate melting in each cookie. And there’s also the red velvet, which boasts a pool of tart cream cheese at its center.
My two personal favorites are the green tea sesame and candied ginger snickerdoodle. Immediately after trying the green tea sesame cookie, I started Googling recipes that might replicate its light matcha grassiness and crispy sesame topping (I have not had much luck so far). And the candied ginger snickerdoodle is one of the few ginger cookies I’ve tasted that actually doesn’t shy away from its star ingredient. There’s no point to a ginger cookie without the root’s spice, and Merchant Roots makes sure there’s enough of it.
All of Merchant Roots’ cookies are made with house-cultured butter, which makes them super rich. Reheat them in a toaster oven and they’ll melt in your mouth. And, they come wrapped with sparkly gold thread and matching metallic tissue paper. It’s a surprisingly luxe unboxing experience for half a dozen cookies, so opulent that I thought these cookies were getting ready to propose to me. But the perfectionist packaging is definitely in line with Merchant Roots and The Roost’s attention to detail — and food.
Order at theroostsf.square.site.
Grace Z. Li covers arts, culture and food. You can reach her at email@example.com.