There’s a reason that Town Hall has had buttermilk fried chicken as a menu staple since their inception. It is just awesome. It’s the best fried chicken you may have in the last year, or perhaps your lifetime. It is simply that good. Perfect batter crunch, and sweetly tender inside, the fried chicken comes with smashed potatoes slurred with a fantastic country bacon gravy. (A colleague who had it reckoned it was the best country gravy she’d ever tasted.) The veggies are seasonal: either collard greens or, here, a chop of summer squash and tomatoes. At mid-year, Town Hall’s buttermilk fried chicken is the best fried chicken of 2009, and gets our highest grade (awesome).
Anything with Hobbs’ Applewood Smoked Bacon would be a treat, and Hobbs’ is just fine all by its lonesome as well. But topping cornmeal-fried oysters with a fat little dice of Hobbs bacon and preserved lemon twist, all nestled in a verdant spinach-Herbsaint puree hidden in the oyster shell….wow. It’s a full bite with vibrancy of color and a pulsating set of flavors that really sets a meal off. Go Town Hall. Another stellar dish.
Peanut Tasso Crusted Pork Chop – Town Hall, San Francisco CA
The Dish: Peanut Tasso Crusted Pork Chop
I’m not a huge peanut fan, to be frank. Peanuts are like the chickens of nuts; you might enjoy eating them, but you probably don’t want to know where they’ve been before entering your mouth. But the peanuts reinforcing the crust of this Town Hall version of the pork chop are well suited. They provide sufficient Southern crunch and a mild, earthy undertone to the smokiness of the tasso (a Cajun dish enhancement staple that has a smoky, cayenne-bolstered pork flavor).
So the pork chop itself comes somewhere betwixt medium and medium-rare, the thick cut pork showing just a blush of pink. The soft, juicy interior’s textural contrast to the nutty, crunchy crust is a balanced counterpoint. It’s one of the best pork chops in San Francisco, to be lauded both for its flavor and its originality.
But another reason for this dish’s power is certainly the crafty selection and rendering of the accompaniments: wonderful, subtle, and smart. Town Hall acknowledges familiar and classic pork partners like fruit and winter vegetables, then reinterprets their presence entirely. Rich, dark apple butter swirls around the plate instead of the expected dollop of baked apple compote. A sprinkling of pomegranate , the crunchy, juicy seeds relating directly to both the sweet apple and the crunchy peanut exterior on the chop. The flavor relationships between the ingredients become as a whole deeper, more vibrant and, somehow, altogether correct, like a symphony. Described on the menu: peanut tasso crusted pork chop, butternut squash, apple butter.
The Grade: Excellent
The Damage: $24
The Skinny: Town Hall, 342 Howard Street, San Francisco, CA
As much as we might belabor the point, a truly superior steak is actually far harder to find than it should be. There are a slew of pretty decent steaks out there, but if you consider the steaks you’ve eaten in the past 5 years that sear your memory like grill marks, I’ll bet the farm you won’
t have many to report. I am happy to share, however, that the Niman Ranch rib eye at Town Hall is in that exceptional beast who deserves a place in the pantheon of the best steaks in the San Francisco Bay Area.
With great meat, as the Argentineans will show you, you don’t need to get too fancy. Just honor the beef. Salt, grill, a little gravy, voila.And that’s what Town Hall’s chefs do here, taking a fine (and generously sized) piece of meat from Niman Ranch and, without much gussying up, delivering a stellar dining experience. Perfectly seared hash marks on the outside, enough fat for flavor but not so much that you start getting self-conscious about how much you’re spitting out, and a mild but flavorful gravy/jus that honors the true flavor of the beef. Everyone making steaks in this town should come down and use this as their benchmark.
Seasonal pairings with the rib eye vary. My rib eye came with absolutely fabulous mac-n-cheese croquettes that had a crisp exterior crunch and a hot carbo-cheese interior that ignites the shivering soul.Mac-n-cheese croquettes? Really, that’s warped enough to be considered visionary. (Maybe it came from somewhere else, but who cares…these are awesome little poppers. And if they don’t come with the rib eye, they’re usually available as a side for $6.)
The last item on the plate offered a shock of fallen green. The verdant broccolini bouquet sat diagonally across the steak like mislaid compass points, or like beautiful flowers resting on a grave after a very focused toss: with the sort of sacred decorum that’s understood in places like Paris, New Orleans, and Buenos Aires but not always everywhere else. But it seems certainly understood, and honored, at Town Hall.