Few restaurant bars inspire the kind of envy in me that Rich Table does. In its heart, it is a neighborhood restaurant, albeit one that has rightfully attracted local and national attention. It is the kind of place I wish was in my neighborhood.
The composition and presentation of the dishes suits fine dining, but the bar and range of $7 bites perfectly lends itself as a neighborhood spot. If I lived in the area, you'd find me here often with an order of dried porcini doughnuts ($7) and the fantastic Devil's Lie ($11, tequila blanco, fino sherry, apple reduction, lemon, Scrappy's Firewater Bitters) cocktail.
The drink has the kind of refinement that commands attention. Velvety and lush, yet light and balanced with a prickle of heat from the spicy bitters, it works alone and even better with food.
Bar manager Corey Harrison explained that the drink was inspired by a dish that chef Evan Rich was serving that incorporated mackerel and apples. It was paired with a glass of fino sherry that complimented the apples so well, it haunted him. He went to work with lead bartender Rachel Leiderman to build on the apple and sherry combination. "Tequila made a natural choice for me because the salty briny character of the fino [sherry] would do such a great job of drying out the sweetness of the apple reduction without interrupting the flavors," says Harrison.
The restaurant has a bar perfectly proportionate to the space -- a right angle that allows everyone view of the open kitchen and the practiced, serene movements of the three cooks along with Harrison and Leiderman behind the bar.
The team of Harrison and Leiderman are what make the cocktails at Rich Table so exciting. Each plays a role the development of each cocktail, both contributing ideas, but most importantly, refining and polishing the recipes.
I'm a spirit-driven cocktail fan, so I wasn't surprised that I ended up getting into a Knife Fight ($11, rye whiskey, brandy, sweet vermouth, Meletti amaro) at the bar. Brandishing the stirred cocktail in my hand, I dispatched an order of Sardine Chips with terrifying efficiency.
As a testament to Harrison and Leiderman skills, they have managed to make sweet dessert cocktails exciting as well. The Rich's Irish Cream ($11, housemade Irish cream, coffee liqueur, cacao) is wonderful cross between a Mudslide and Brandy Alexander. That and the other drinks convinced me that perhaps Rich Table is reason enough to move to Hayes Valley.
1 oz. Blanco tequila
½ oz. Fino sherry
½ oz. Apple reduction*
½ oz. Lemon juice
1 dash Scrappy's Firewater Bitters
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake hard for seven seconds and strain into a coupe glass or martini glass. Freshly grate cinnamon over the glass to garnish.
2 quarts Organic apple juice
6 oz. Bonal
3 quarts sugar
Combine juice and Bonal wine in a medium saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Allow the mixture to simmer until liquid reduces by 1/3, and then add the sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves completely.
Rich Table, 199 Gough (at Oak), 355-9085