Photo Plates

A Meal at AQ, Illustrated
House-cured sturgeon with compressed apple and potato was a standout.

The recently opened AQ (1085 Mission Street between 6th and 7th), situated on a fairly desolate block of SoMa, is turning out some pretty ambitious and mostly un-fussy food. Chef Mark Liberman is playing with unique flavor combinations like crab, toasted barley, and Douglas fir; and cured sturgeon, juniper, yogurt, and compressed apple. And from what we’ve tasted of the just-launched cocktail program, from bar manager Tim Zohn, the place stands to give Heaven’s Dog and Bar Agricole a run for their money in terms of cocktail geekery in the ‘hood — and the drinks all taste great too, so that’s a plus.

View the full menu here, and take note that this autumn menu will be changing within two weeks, in honor of the solstice, to a completely new winter menu that will be in place through the vernal equinox (or the Saturday before), in March. Along with the seasonal menu change at the restaurant, AQ owner Matt Semmelhack is taking a cue from New York restaurant Park Avenue Winter (/Spring/Summer/Autumn) — which does something similar along with changing its name — and changing up the restaurant décor with each season as well. Gone will be the gold-leafed, autumn-themed glassware at the bar, as well as the rusty-chic lighting in the center of the dining room, the copper bar top, the autumn leaves on the tree branches at each column, and the plaid shirts on servers; in will come a white marble bar top, bare branches, and new wintry glassware, lighting, and uniforms as well.

Below, a slideshow from a recent meal.

AQ - 1085 Mission Street between Sixth and Seventh - 415.341.9000 - Open 5:30 to 11 p.m. daily, and for brunch on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Earlier: Exclusive: First Look Inside AQ Restaurant, Opening Next Week

This cocktail off Tim Zohn’s new list of “originals” is a mix of raisin-infused Bols genever, maple syrup, old-fashioned bitters, and apple cider. It’s autumn in a cup.
An even more ambitious but balanced tipple: this one is Espolon blanco tequila, lime juice, huckleberry syrup, tarragon, and a torched bay leaf.
… with Monterey squid, grapefruit, black sesame, and a parsnip purée. It’s a flavorful dish, though the item that gets star billing, the avocado, was the least necessary or impactful.
… with boudin noir, Brussels sprouts, sorrel, and quince. Liberman seems to be following the trend (seen at places like Saison and Manresa) of highlighting the non-animal ingredient in a dish to make it the star of the show. This is a dish where the whole ensemble sings, but the boudin noir still packs the biggest punch, and is complemented well by the fall flavors of the chestnuts and Brussels sprouts.
… with juniper berry, potato, compressed apple, radish, and yogurt. The fish in the dish, barely visible underneath the other items, was seasoned with a little cayenne, and if we had to pick a stand-out dish of the evening, this would be it. A lot going on on this plate, no doubt, but it worked.
…with fresh lentils, smoked date purée, hibiscus onions, and a pastry stick. The pastry and lentils here may have felt unnecessary, but the tender, subtle ballantine of lamb tongue was a thing to behold.
… with heirloom beans, chorizo oil, and parsley. Where could you go wrong?
… with sweetbreads, broccoli, broccoli purée, orange, and oregano. Another well imagined dish, with tender, falling-apart, sous-vide veal.
These miniature panna cottas were topped with huckleberries, and served with a maple-y candy cap mushroom caramel, and crunchy brown-butter hazelnuts.
… with amaro caramel, Asian pear, and salted toffee.
A Meal at AQ, Illustrated