3rd Cousin – a hidden Bernal Heights gem for foodies and foodienots

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We were celebrating foodienot’s father’s birthday, and I had the honor of picking the location! I was looking for a modern, gourmet, chief inspired meal in San Francisco. Easy, right? San Francisco boasts some of the best restaurants and chefs, and is well-known for it’s culinary scene. Well, here is the trick:  I needed a place that would delight not just an ever-curious and adventurous eater like myself, but also satisfy and comfort someone who would rather be found at Fleming’s or Morton’s steakhouse enjoying filet mignon with a baked potato.  I know, nothing wrong with a good old filet mignon or a t-bone, but we wanted something unique, crafted, creative, on short notice, and preferably closer to the Penninsula do avoid spending an extra hour in rush hour traffic.

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Bernal Heights would be lovely, I thought… the neighborhood alway attracted me with it’s laid-back ambience, local character, narrow streets, steep hills, and tiny local restaurants and eateries nested randomly among them.  My choice was 3rd Cousin, and it’s owner Chef Greg Lutes.

The ambience was crisp, fresh, welcoming – with no loud music, no hustle and bustle of most SF restaurants, but with an open kitchen. Yes, the restaurant is small, but there is nothing small about its menu, service and attentiveness.  Our waitress greeted us warmly and gave a run-down of the menu, recommending we order family style so the dishes can be easily shared.  I love ordering meals to share, but how do you order family style to reveal the best chef has to offer, while ensuring that non-adventourous eaters are comfortable? After debates and discussions, we settled on Brokaw everything avocado, burrata, asparagus & Meyer lemon ravioli, rack of lamb, halibut, grilled Wagyu, and Brussel sprouts.  Yes, we skipped another highly acclaimed dish – uni creme brûlée… fortunately I’m not a huge fan of uni, so not a big loss.

salad.jpgWe started with Brokaw everything avocado, a simple salad and good pick for a foodienot. From my point of view, it lacked a spark… I started to get disappointed, but not for long! The foodie in me rejoiced at the first bite of our next dish, burrata! We order burrata quite often, as it’s one of foodienot’s favorite appetizers, and I grew to appreciate the craftsmanship of getting burrata texture and taste ‘just right’… but when it comes to serving, most places resort to serving burrata by itself, or with tomatoes, basil, balsamic, or arugula.  Chef Greg had his own twist and served burrata with warm blistered padron peppers, brook cherry, pickled cipollini, olives, and balsamic, brining that unique ‘pop’ of flavor to a very traditional dish. Foodienot was still able to enjoy the burrata by itself, and for me the combination of flavors created a very unique bite.

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Now, I need to give foodienot credit for trying (and liking) asparagus and Meyer lemon ravioli.  I ordered the dish hoping to share it with other foodies, but the familiar shape and look got foodienot convinced to take a bite. It was a bite full of amazing lemony flavor, balanced nicely with asparagus and pesto.  My only regret was ordering a smaller portion, should have gone for full! And so our dinner continued and my worries melted away. Chef Greg managed to enhance traditional-sounding dishes with unexpected and spectacular flavors.  For example, the grilled wagyu had surprising crisp polenta and a very traditionally prepared rack of lamb had Middle Eastern inspired faro.

Since we were celebrating, dessert was in order.  Oh, let me leave it at this: you want to leave a lot of room for dessert! 😉

Overall, the experience lived up to and even surpassed our expectations! It was everything we needed a birthday dinner to be, and more, leaving foodies and foodienots impressed.

 

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