Do you remember the old Bethlehem Steel Building on 20th Street in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood? In the Aughts, I worked at the building across the street, avoiding an empty lot and the sad, once elegant building that hulked over it. Fast forward 20 years and the neighborhood sparkles with new construction. Buildings and roadways are going up at a stunning rate, forever altering the rundown former industrial area. Into the somewhat more genteel fray comes RH, the formerly known Restoration Hardware, revivifying the five-story building to a high polish with a restaurant set amidst the showrooms. The once empty lot next door is now a paid parking lot, $20 for the day.
If you came to RH to eat at RH Palm Court, determining what to eat at a restaurant set amidst a five-story furniture and lifestyle store comes down to how you feel about the brand. Are you here for the experience of dining? Or are you what my Mom calls a lookey-lou, here to see what the fuss is all about? Whoever you are, be sure to dress the part, because everyone is looking, including you. At lunch, at least, this is a see and be seen kind of place.
I write about restaurants a lot but it is not often that I feel like ‘a lady who lunches.’ RH Palm Court is that kind of place. Bougie, my kids would say. I am not very good at spotting Chanel or whatever the hip clothing brands are these days (can someone help me out here?) but I could discern blingy bags and shoes and jewelry all around. Hair is coiffed. Shoes are polished. The upscale, trendy vibe is a big change for the Dogpatch neighborhood from 20 years ago when finding lunch within walking distance was limited to a deli and a bar that reeked of who knows what. The RH Palm Court experience is more like The Rotunda at Nieman’s, minus Union Square. The neighborhood, it could be argued, needs this. After two years of eating at our desks, we all, it could be argued, need this.
What to Eat
The menu reads like a brasserie – familiar American fare like a classic Caesar with rotisserie chicken or a green bean and butter lettuce salad – but glammed up to restaurant status with fancy proteins, plenty of caviar and prices to match. Yes, there are sandwiches – a Wagyu rib eye will set you back a cool $56 while a burger clocks in at $30. My dining companion and I blew our wad on a wood-grilled avocado topped with 10 grams of kaluga caviar ($42), the green bean salad ($22) and maitake mushrooms ($30). There are truffle fries ($20) and Petrossian caviar ($60 for 15 grams of Royal White; $500 for 90 grams of Ossetra). Lunch as epic party.
How Did It Taste?
The caviar’s brininess cut through the creaminess of the avocado, lifting the dish from humble to almost grand. Green beans, piled atop a starburst of lettuce leaves, were simply prepared, properly steamed for a firm but not crisp bite. The wood-grilled maitakes were the star of the meal. Left in their natural state, they arrived looking like mini bonsai trees, ruffly tops shrouded in Parmesan, roots planted in crisped potatoes. Even better was the flavor and texture: at first, a soft crunch before a hint of smoke, followed by a glint of vinegar. The subtle earthiness of the mushroom folded into the mix, making the whole dish even better. (The potatoes were great for visual balance but didn’t add much to the dish.) It was a solid meal.
After lunch, we walked up the spiral staircases to marvel at the building’s bones and ample showrooms, wondering how the structural engineers of more than a century ago managed to create the swirling lines amidst the stark brutalist frame of the building. I recommend you do the same, making your way to the top floor to see the rooftop patio and gawk at the views of downtown San Francisco and Oakland across the bay. Alternatively, order a glass of wine at Palm Court and take it up to the rooftop, a less bougie but less brutal on your bankroll way to enjoy the RH scene and the scenery.
Is It Worth It?
It was a $70 lunch. True, I don’t often buy my own restaurant meals. If you do, maybe $70 per person is not a stretch for a three-course meal. Maybe it is. But cost is not why you came here, is it? You came to Dine (capital “d”) and Dine you should. Savor the surroundings – your dining companions, the comfy couches, the splashing waterfalls, the fresh linens – and remind yourself that the good life sometimes comes with monetary sacrifices. That, my dear, is the beauty of capitalism.