Thursday, August 29, 2013

Off the Map: There's Nothing Like a Bowl of Sea Urchin in the Evening

Warm Sea Urchin with Dungeness Crab -- Anchor and Hope, San Francisco, CA
Anchor and Hope

In a continuing theme of claiming that we have "wildly misjudged" our days, we arrive at Anchor and Hope a full hour before our actual reservation, bitter thoughts about collapsing souffles rumbling around in our heads.
Sorry, Anchor and Hope, but You Have Your Work Cut Out for You to Improve Our Moods
Once again, to the great credit of San Francisco restaurant staff, they seat us right away without the slightest hint of disdain, and we prepare to consume what may very well be the most radical dish of our trip: sea urchin.
Piranha Decor, Anyone?
To give you an idea, when Vodka's mother took a look at our San Francisco itinerary (and by "took a look," we mean "perused thoroughly with a fine tooth comb"), her commentary consisted of, "Why are you eating so many weird things?"

"What's so weird?"

"Sea urchin."

"Oh.  Well, it's supposed to be good."
Let It Never Be Said That We Didn't Try "Weird Things"
At Anchor and Hope, this sea urchin comes as an appetizer with dungeness crab.  Being that we've practically "starved" today, we also ask for two entrees off of the dinner menu: an order of fish and chips and a lobster roll (in truth, we spent all of 15 seconds looking at the menu before decreeing, "They have fish and chips and a lobster roll.  Done").
Also, In Case You Feared We Have Stopped Drinking for the Day, We Have Not
Indeed, this under-the-sea theme pervades the restaurant, as the entire interior looks like something out of a fishing village on the Maine coast.  In the words of Ginger, "It's a trendy little warehouse."
Don't Be Fooled -- This Is an Alley to Deliciousness
Under the Sea... Nobody Beat Us, Try Us and Eat Us!
Unlike Cafe Jacqueline, Anchor and Hope actually IS hopping on this Friday night, yet no one but us seems to be debating the continual disappointment of a strawberry souffle ("I just kept thinking that it would get better if I kept eating it."  "Things that are bad do not get better.  They get worse.  And we get fatter").
Even This Mayonnaise Is More Souffle-Like Than That Souffle
Luckily for Anchor and Hope, few, if any, things on their menu seem to fall under the "bad spectrum," as the complimentary homemade potato chips which arrive with our wine are downright delectable.  Crisp and uber-salty, they put Blue Smoke's chips to shame (especially considering they have not evolved into one solid greasy mass by the bottom of the container).
Vodka and Ginger Stamp of Approval
Our sea urchin arrives very quickly, and despite our willingness to eat this thing, no matter how it was presented, we are secretly pleased that it has not come in its spiky shell.
We Don't Like to Have to Work for Our Food
Instead, the bright yellow streams of urchin are presented in a chowder-like substance, along with potato, crab, and lobster meat.
Not Your Mother's Chowder
The sea urchin texture tastes like the "foie gras of the sea" -- gooey, warm, and salty, it is hard to separate its flavors from the surrounding chowder, which is buttery with a hint of lemon.
Beauty in Bowl Form
Overall, the entire dish completely warrants Aida Mollenkamp's Best Thing I Ever Ate FILLED WITH ENVY coronation, and it is only the warmth of the bowl itself that keeps us from licking the remainder of the substance into our mouths.
First Sea Urchin Experience Is Deemed a Raging Success
The fish and chips and lobster roll entrees are equally pleasing, though we both mildly prefer the former dish (presumably because it comes with tartar sauce).
Give Us a Plate with Condiments and We're Instantly More Interested
The flounder in the fish and chips is fully fried but in a light, non-greasy shell, and it is very similar to the beer-battered variety from Philadelphia's Dandelion.
We Should Have Been Born British
Flounder from The Little Mermaid Would NOT Approve
While the lobster roll is scrumptious overall, we give the fish and chips a one-up over it mostly because the brioche bun seems to overwhelm the lobster meat (and even more importantly, the mayonnaise) itself (additionally, the sandwich comes with the same chips which we received at the beginning of the meal, and while they are wonderful, we've already grown a bit tired of them).
Time to Change Up the Side Dishes, Anchor and Hope
Bready McBreaderson, Mayoress of BreadyTown
Anchor and Hope's food helps to explain why the place is bustling despite its location down a rather shady alley, and we are almost pleased that we missed out on all of our Napa Best Thing I Ever Ate dining opportunities so that we could fully appreciate a meal here.
Throw Us a Lifesaver, Cause These Pounds Are Creeping on Fast
After all, being the girls who go to a restaurant and order JUST the sea urchin is a bit too far on the side of "weirdo" for even us to be comfortable with.

Anchor and Hope's Warm Sea Urchin with Dungeness Crab: 5 stars*

*Certifiable Best Thing We Ever Ate

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