The space is huge, but that’s what a New Yorker who goes to any other city usually thinks about restaurants, bars, apartments, and so on. We were happy not to be squeezed into a tiny table, where often the curse of being left-handed shines through as elbows bump, red wine gets spilled, and business lunch turns intimate. At The Abbot’s Cellar in San Francisco’s Mission District, the thick wooden interior, soft lighting, and laidback vibe has all the makings for a comfortable dining establishment, and the list of 120-plus beers just seals the deal. Opened by the team who run the nearby Monk’s Kettle, their newest addition aims to showcase beer and food match-ups.
“Pairing beer with food is no different than pairing any beverage to food,” said chef and co-owner Adam Dulye. “The first thing you start off with is what you like or what the person you are cooking for likes. It’s about tasting the beer and identifying what you want to highlight in the beer, then look at what’s in season and in-house that can match those flavor profiles.”
To help you decide what to combine, Dulye has put together either a three- or five-course tasting menu that comes with beer pairing, or you can get provisions à la carte. To start with, the yellow finn potato gnocchi has a nice consistency, and the seasonal snap peas with oyster mushrooms it comes with add a nice umami burst. We also like the house-made pastrami that sided a deviant, though small, piece of bone marrow. The roasted quail had a nice, crisp skin and the richness of the meat was enhanced by the toasty qualities of Moonlight Brewery’s Death and Taxes, which is made in California. Also from California, Drake’s Brewing Company’s Aroma Coma IPA was nice and hoppy, but didn’t go well with the bland swordfish I ordered. At least the beer was tasty and perhaps would have meshed better with the uber moist pork chop, which had caraway spaetzle and was topped with grilled peaches.
“We do keep beer in mind when writing the menu but, you don’t have to want beer or even like beer to enjoy the food,” said Dulye. “However, having a beer selected to match the flavor definitely complements and rounds out the experience.”
Dulye suggested making your own coupling by trying a Dubbel with the roasted duck, an amber beer with any grilled, red meat, and a whit or wheat brew with shellfish. Really, no matter how you pair it, The Abbot’s Cellar has managed to make something for everyone in a space that you want to eat and drink it in. If I lived in the Bay Area, I would definitely go back to see what else they are brewing up.