The Commissary, a new restaurant from Traci Des Jardins and the Presidio Trust, opened its doors this week. Housed in a former military mess hall, the repurposed space offers California fare with Spanish influences.
"We wanted to pay homage to the Spanish history in the area. You can't really look at the Bay without thinking of its Spanish influence," says Des Jardins of the restaurant's concept.
Des Jardins and her protege Robbie Lewis, who is the culinary director, had talked about opening a restaurant with a Spanish take on California cuisine and saw the opportunity in the space. Des Jardins also brought on Reylon Agustin, who worked for her at Jardiniere and helped her open Manzanita in Lake Tahoe as executive chef.
"Robbie knows everything I want without having to say anything ... and Reylon is also a prodigal son," Des Jardins says.
The menu draws on the offerings of the bay with a variety of seafood dishes, like grilled squid, garbanzo beans, fennel, and aioli; striped bass, clams and toasted garlic-almond picada; and sardines escabeche. Much of the seating is communal and a bar set up around the kitchen offers a front-row seat to the culinary action.
General Manager Malcolm Brownson crafted a wine list with Spanish wines and Spanish varietals made locally, like a 2013 Albarino from Bonny Doon. The liquor also celebrates the local, with spirits like St. George, Hangar One, and Anchor Distilling Company creating the backbone of the cocktail list. In keeping with Spanish style, red and white sangria are also offered.
"It's important to do a really good sangria," says Brownson, who tried most of the sangria around town but found them to be too sweet. "There's not an ounce of sugar and we macerate the fruit early. We actually add a little salt and sherry."
By opening the Commissary, the Presidio Trust aims to honor the Presidio's history while taking the park in a new direction. A Gateway to the Presidio project is in the works, which plans to connect the area with Chrissy Field. The Commissary is considered to be the premiere venue in what the Presidio Trust hopes will be an invigorated area with a number of new ventures.
"The best way to welcome people is to give them food and drink," says Craig Middleton, executive director of the Presidio Trust. "We wanted to partner with one of the best chefs we could find, and who else than Traci would you want to start a restaurant with in San Francisco?"
The Commissary will have limited hours until June 2, when they will be open seven days a week and serve dinner Monday through Saturday from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.. Brunch will be served on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the weekdays will see light breakfast and coffee offerings from 8 to 10:30 a.m. and lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The bar will also be open between lunch and dinner with a limited menu.