Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Off the Map: We're Just Here for the Tartar Sauce

Sand Dab Filets -- Tadich Grill, San Francisco, CA
Tadich Grill

If we have learned anything while consuming 180 Best Thing I Ever Ate dishes (and even more cocktails), it is this: when you hit a wall from exhaustion/fullness/tipsiness, there is only one solution -- get yourself another alcoholic beverage, and stat.
It's Not Even Naptime Somewhere
It is in this mindset that we weave through the San Francisco Financial District on our way to Tadich Grill, home of Tyler Florence's favorite OLD SCHOOL sand dab filets.  
By the Looks of the Sign, This Place Is Even "Older" Than "School"
Tadich Grill consists primarily of one gigantic bar, which is obviously right up our alley.  One portion of the bar is designated just for drinkers, while the combination drinkers/eaters can be found on the other side of a brass pole.  For obvious reasons, this is where we station ourselves.
Oh, How We Love to Drink Alone
By this point in our afternoon, to say we're not thinking clearly would be an understatement.  Therefore, when we order our fourth cocktails of the day (wine), and Ginger asks Vodka if she wants her to move her glass closer for picture purposes, Vodka responds, "No, just put it next."


"Next to mine."

"So closer."


"I just asked if you wanted me to move it closer and you said 'no.'"

"I thought you said 'coaster.'"

This would probably be the ideal time to drag ourselves back to the hotel and go straight to bed, but alas, there is still eating to be accomplished.
Delirious, Party of 2
We turn our attention to the menu, where two glaring problems leap out at us:

1. There is an $11.75 minimum charge per seat (this is not exactly a huge issue for us, as our wine/sand dab charges will add up to more than $23.50, but the principle annoys us).

2. There will be a $9.50 fee in order to split an entree.  Um, what now?!
Listen, Tadich -- We Spend Our LIVELIHOOD Splitting Dishes
Before we go any further or, you know, consult a member of the staff about this, we are hostile.  Considering that the restaurant is all but empty at 4pm on a Thursday, we figure we should be spared this additional charge, but if we are not, "They'll be sorry on the star front!"  (Note: no restaurant has ever actually been "sorry on the star front," as nobody pays attention to the star ratings of two perpetually-tipsy nitwits).
But Vodka's Mother Will Never Come Here! So THERE, Tadich Grill!
Before we can actually order the sand dabs, Ginger comes up with a "brilliant" plan: "If they say they're going to charge us to split the food, you move to that side of the brass arch," she points to the drink-only side of the bar, "and say you're just here for the drinks.  I'll slip you bites under the pole."

Needless to say, we are endlessly amused by our own schemes.
If Anyone Found Us As Funny As We Find Ourselves, We Could Really Go Places
When one of the many white-coat-clad waiters wanders back in our direction (after we had turned him away no less than four times, what with all of our cheapskate plotting and all), we order one plate of sand dabs, boned ("Boned means without the bones, right?!" --questions straight out of the School for the Gifted).  The menus (which we notice they print every day -- perhaps without all of this wasted paper, they wouldn't need to charge extraneous plate-share fees to their patrons) remain in front of us, and Ginger makes a great show of doing a dramatic reading of the history of the restaurant, which is riddled with about four-times as many adjectives as needed.
This Menu Should Be Submitted Into a Yet-To-Be-Created Restaurant Novella Contest
Despite our rather stingy ordering practices, the Tadich Grill staff deigns to place an enormous bread slices in front of us.  When Vodka reaches for it, Ginger starts mumbling incoherent phrases, mostly consisting of "Oh no!  Oh no!"
Not the Carbs! Not the Carbs!
"I'm not eating it. I'm taking a picture," Vodka correctly interprets Ginger's plea that we not stuff ourselves any more than needed.  When our sand dabs arrive, complete with a side of steamed vegetables (bleh), thick-cut French fries (even more bleh), and an overflowing bowl of tartar sauce (stellar), Vodka begins cutting into the fish meat with abandon, assuming that the dish has been "boned" as requested.  
The Head Bone's Still Connected to the [BEAT] Tail Bone
About halfway through her patty, she notices a Fred Flintstone-worthy pile of fish bones stacked up on the side of Ginger's plate.  
Well, THIS Isn't Going to End Well
So either Vodka got the side of the sand dab that Tadich Grill managed to pull all of the bones from, or she is now assembling a fish skeleton in her stomach.
Only Time Will Tell How Well This Scenario Will Play Out
The sand dabs themselves taste like... well, not much.  The coating is fried very lightly (some would say "too lightly"), and while the meat is flaky and pleasant in texture (except for the prevalence of bones), it just doesn't have much flavor whatsoever.  
Was ANYTHING On This Plate Seasoned?!
In order to combat this problem, we scoop a solid teaspoon of tartar sauce onto each forkful, and proceed to essentially consume an entire bowl of the condiment, instead of the delicate fish itself.  And while this practice isn't so bad in our opinion, it does reflect how unremarkable this fish really is.  (Incidentally, while Ginger laps up the tartar sauce, Vodka finds it a tad too chunky for her taste.  Maybe THAT'S where all of her sand dab's bones went).
Everything's Better with Condiments
Maybe if Tadich Grill had managed to actually BONE (we would still say "de-bone") the fish as requested, the dish would have hovered in 3 star territory, but as is, it is simply too much of a hassle for us to label it "mediocre."  
And Start Straining Your Tartar Sauce a Bit, Will You?
To Tadich Grill's credit, they let us laze around on our bar stools for well over an hour and a half without rushing with the check, and they do not end up charging us the extra $9.50 for splitting the dish.
So They Essentially Saved Themselves a Little Talking-To With the Manager of the Place
But those two positives do not negate the fact that they are seemingly incapable of identifying and removing the inner skeleton of a fish.  And for that Tadich Grill, we are granting you only 2 stars, no bones about it.

Tadich Grill's Sand Dab Filets: 2 stars

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