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Eat: Myriad Gastro Pub 

Wednesday, Nov 18 2015
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The phrase "globally inspired menu" makes me cringe. Like a world music bin full of klezmer, raga, and Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells, no matter how good any one dish is, it's hard to ignore the specter of mediocrity and dilettantism looming over everything. And no restaurateur wants to open the next Fuzio Universal Bistro, née Fuzio Universal Pasta, that serves middling pad Thai and iffy fusilli.

Even if you're not sourcing ideas from all four hemispheres, covering every base poses other risks, too. (Does anybody remember the multi-page dessert menu at Citizen Cake? It was completely overwhelming.) It can be hard to discern a labor of love from a mad zeal to be comprehensive for its own sake.

Overall, Chef Tricia Tracey's Myriad Gastro Pub — not to be confused with The Myriad, the market hall and incubator space that's shaping up on Market Street in the Castro — feels like it's spreading itself thin. When no fewer than eight separate cuisines pop up in the span of a single dinner, Myriad comes off as a bet-hedging embrace of disparate trends, even if a number of dishes stood on their own.

I initially went for brunch, and while there's overlap between the brunch and dinner menus, some of the best options are available on weekends only. The shakshuka ($13) was particularly good. A skillet of poached eggs in a Tunisian tomato sauce served alongside a green onion socca (or Provencal pancake), it's a savvy trans-Mediterranean concept. Considering that poached eggs are runny to start with, I would have preferred a heartier sauce, but this is haute hangover-recovery food. Even better was the farm toast, a beautiful combination of goat cheese, honey-sage-roasted fuyu persimmons, pepitas, and balsamic vinegar. It's pretty much obligatory, and it's only $9.

That was a solid meal, but a more expansive dinner visit revealed some cracks. It's a small-plates restaurant, but the more we shared, the less things fell into focus. For instance, the shrimp and grits with albariño-butter sauce ($13) had the exact creamy texture I want out of grits, but the portion was very tiny. A burnt piece of sourdough toast sat under an otherwise excellent bone marrow with tarragon-horseradish gremolata ($11), which was helpfully cut lengthwise so we could spoon it out. Bacalaitos, or salt-cod fritters ($11), sat on a messy-looking tray dressed with herb oil and lemon aioli, but between the seasoning and the capers, they were otherwise well-executed.

Shallot-heavy deviled eggs ($2 each) had a satisfying crunch, but it was the simple "pot o' pickled vegetables" ($6), not so vinegary as to homogenize the cauliflower and the yellow pepper, that won me over. A surprisingly under-priced potted chicken-liver mousse with port-wine onion jam ($9) was the best of the small plates. As with the deftly pickled veggies, the wine-dark onions kept things from being cloying. ("Cat food," my date harrumphed. "Mine," I said, returning the jar to a pristine condition.)

The entrees were a mix of influences from North Africa, Tuscany, and southern Mexico, with layovers in Greece and Hungary. In spite of having feta and arugula, the roasted lamb sandwich ($15) was much too sweet, and although thin-sliced lamb might feel more elegant, it's hard not to eye the grass-fed burger, which costs the same and comes with steak fries, too.

Far better was the pappardelle with pork cheeks ($22) that came eerily close to replicating my grandmother's goulash, only with peas and a silkier sauce. Fond recollections notwithstanding, it's a pitch-perfect dish for long nights, and not to put too fine a point on it, but you know something's good when a lively conversation at the table suddenly shifts to speculating on how it was cooked.

And while none of my forebears ever cooked me cochinita pibil ($19), Myriad's got me almost as excited as the pappardelle when it emerged from the kitchen with the exuberance of a tiki drink, its onions, tortillas, and sliced avocados sticking over the lip of the skillet. I'm sad to say the flavor was disappointingly mild, as if the pork hadn't been cooked nearly long enough.

After all that up and down, dessert was A+. A plate of ricotta zeppoli ($8), like fresh cardamom doughnut holes in a bourbon-caramel sauce, were infinitely better than the sugared carnival blobs I grew up with, while the chocolate cake ($8) was practically a pudding, as fun to eat as raw brownie batter, and set off with sophisticated port-soaked cherries and candied pistachios.

While Myriad combs the world for ingredients, hard alcohol is in short supply. The quarter-million-dollar price tag for a full liquor license shouldn't deter a chef from opening her own restaurant — especially one that originated via a Kickstarter campaign — and so Myriad is low-ABV cocktails only. While I like a stiff drink as much as anyone, it's fun to see the work-arounds restaurants come up with, especially with a bonus handicap of creating new things seasonally. I was drawn to the Mission Statement ($10) for its "fermented whiskey," but found it watery and weak. Much better were the pomegranate-and-Cocchi-Americano Persephone's on Fire ($10) — whose rim is spicy-smoky, like a fruit punch Michelada — and the Amontillado-forward Wayfarer ($12).

So the drinks, like the food, were a mixed bag. Virtually no one is an expert in everything, and if you order something that just isn't in Chef Tracey's wheelhouse, you might be stuck — although the prices are commendable and worthy of a little risk-taking. Brunch is the better bet for now, but if Myriad pares things down, it could be much better.

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About The Author

Peter Lawrence Kane

Bio:
Peter Lawrence Kane is SF Weekly's Arts Editor. He has lived in San Francisco since 2008 and is two-thirds the way toward his goal of visiting all 59 national parks.

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