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Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Town Hall:Restaurant Review

I recently went to Town Hall, a restaurant that was chosen by San Franciscans as their favorite new restaurant* last year. Here's the thing, going to Town Hall is not just a dining experience. Town Hall serves fine food, but it really excels at vibe. From bartender to hostess to waiter to chef, you get the feeling everyone who works there is having a good time and glad to be there. The result is a little bit of a party every night.

One feature that encourages the convivial atmosphere at Town Hall is a communal table. Here you can eat amongst instant friends, not strangers. Because ordering and eating is staggered at this large table set just to the side of the bar, you are almost guaranteed to get a chance to talk to someone about what they're eating. And isn't that something we all want to do now and again? You see a plate of something interesting go by and midway through you want to ask--"how is that dish, any good?"

As far as the menu goes, I have to say I'm happy whenever I see actual main courses as opposed to just small plates these days. Recently I ate at a small plate place where dinner for two cost over $70 without any wine or fancy cocktails. Suddenly a main dish that costs $20 doesn't seem so expensive.

My friend and I shared two appetizers, one main dish and of course, a dessert. The portions were very generous. I liked Faith's warm Smithfield ham, cheese toast, poached egg and jalapeno cream ($12.50) the best. Perhaps it was because of the damp wintery night, but it was tremendously satisfying. It's a creamy and delicious comfort food where all the elements meld together perfectly. Something like a grilled ham and cheese sandwich and a poached egg and spiked creamy sauce. The butterscotch and chocolate pot de creme was also outstanding. I've grown bored of creme brulee; this was more like your cafeteria pudding all grown up--a fun dessert, yet cool, rich and decadent. Worst of all the serving was so large two of us couldn't finish it. Next time I'm in the mood for celebrating, I'll head back to Town Hall. And having seen what so many other folks were eating, I know just what I want to try next...

*according to San Francisco Magazine's Reader's Poll

Town Hall
342 Howard St
M-F 11:30-2:30
Sun-Th 5:30-10
Fri & Sat 5:30-11