Dishcrawl, the foodie-tourism event-thrower that guides people to unfamiliar cuisines and unexplored neighborhoods, came to the Mission Tuesday evening. The multi-city company has highlighted spots like the Inner Richmond and the Marina, playing up all manner of themes. This time it was a narrow strip of Valencia that took center stage, as some forty people were led to West of Pecos, Amber Dhara and the Vestry.
Participants gathered and received name tags at West of Pecos, sipping cocktails as Dishcrawl rep Jupiter Henry corralled us into the dining room off the main floor. Eager to cede the proverbial podium, he let one of the principals explain the menu: ribs, cornbread and the standout Brussels sprouts. It was perfectly adequate, but lacked much unity, being simply three popular items on the same plate. And while a pork-free companion was out of luck, at least there was a personal touch. (Disclosure: my evening was gratis.)
Next came Amber Dhara, where the staff visibly scrambled to handle such a large group arriving en masse. Drink orders -- not included -- were taken hurriedly without anyone seeing a cocktail menu, and again, there was little hope for anyone with dietary restrictions, when faced with pork belly. Chef Manish Tyagi briefly explained the ingredients and then it was off to the Vestry. There, live jazz, menu placards, and sous chef Umi Choi awaited. Both food and service were excellent; goose rillettes, cured overnight in a melange of spices and then made into confit, were superb and a brand-new addition to the Vestry's menu. And then the night was over, rumors of a fourth stop having been only that.
At its core, Dishcrawl is the kind of thing that's going to divide people no matter how well it's done. Some people are going to resent any form of hand-holding, while other people (who may not obsessively pore over every last tidbit of food-related news) undoubtedly find the decision-making process completely overwhelming and would appreciate the opportunity to experience three meals in one evening without all the agita. But for $45, it could be a fun night if at least one of the following conditions are met: you're new in town, you're visiting S.F., you genuinely have never experienced a given cuisine, you go with a small group, you can overlook small inconveniences in hopes of trying something before anyone else has, you nip from a flask of bourbon on the quick jaunts between stops, or you arrive half an hour early and willing to make new friends. Because dining simultaneously alone and in a crowd is no fun at all.