Last night, I attended a media preview for AQ Restaurant (1085 Mission St., 415-341-9000), a new restaurant opening soon (date unconfirmed) in the mid-Market/Western SoMA area of the city. We tasted some appetizers to get a feel for the cuisine and tried a pair of inventive cocktails (the restaurant awaits its liquor license), and I must say, it was an all-around wonderful night! I'm eagerly anticipating a sit-down dinner at the spot. AQ is located in a notably "dicey" neighborhood, which has its drawbacks, but it's also an exciting part of the rejuvenation that's happening in the area. I followed the preview with a visit to Golden Gate Theatre for opening night of Hair (more on that later) and imagine the restaurant will be a destination for other theater-goers, as well. The design has a casual, industrial aesthetic, and though the ceilings are soaring, with exposed brick walls and a smartly arranged floor plan, it feels warm and cozy — neighborhood-y, almost.
Executive chef Mark Liberman's focus is on local produce, creative combinations of new and traditional Mediterranean flavors, meats and fish cooked via classic French techniques, and elegant plating, all of which were evident last night. I found the pumpkin seed tart ($9) with pumpkin custard, clove, and coffee, which was passed around last night and will be on the Fall menu, to be surprisingly savory, salty, and sophisticated. We also had a taste of the devil's chocolate cake ($8) with butterscotch, red velvet, and crème fraiche, which was to die for. Some other faves, which don't appear to be on the Fall menu, were pork sausage and green apple skewers, cucumber oyster shooters, beet salad with goat cheese (always a favorite), and seared duck.