Thursday, October 04, 2007


803 Cortland Ave (& Ellsworth)
(415) 285-TBOX

Experimental American in Bernal Heights (or, "An Ode To Blair")
L: a peek into the kitchen, R: fresh popcorn, with lemon grass and butter and a bunch of other stuff :)

L: kampachi crudo, R: rabbit hot pocket

L: saffron infused lasagnanette, R: black cod, coated with cliantro paste, caviar dressing

L: grilled and candied tri-tip, R: pork love

L: basil panna cotta, R: raspberry-beet beignets

Molten chocolate cake baked with a blue cheese center

sorry for the late upload of pics :) GG

The food at Tinderbox is described as “experimental” and the ambience, “green.” So basically a fusion restaurant with tacky d├ęcor, how very SF. The dining experience was somewhat of a roller coaster ride, starting with just trying to get to the damn place (Bernal Heights = who knew it existed) all the way to the end of the meal, when you can’t believe it’s over.

Tinderbox opened a few months ago and is co-owned by the Head Chef, Blair Warsham. With a long list of credentials spanning all over the United States, including a few James Beard nominations, it is no surprise why his creations, while strange, are intelligently put together. This does not mean that everything tasted great, but it certainly made the diner really think about each course and what the chef was trying to say about the flavors.

We had a few starters including a rabbit hot pocket, saffron infused lasagnanette (one with fried zucchini and another with fried calamari) and a kampachi crudo with melon and crisp prosciutto. Although a combination of two things I despise (Hot Pockets and rabbit), the Rabbit Hot Pocket turned out to be a fave among the group. The pastry shell was crisp and buttery, definitely not a product of heating with an aluminum/paper sleeve in the microwave. The other few dishes were either under seasoned or over seasoned. Salt can be your friend or your foe, in the case of the lasagnanette and kampachi, the kitchen clearly had issues (maybe a bad break-up where one wants to be friends but the other still wants to hook-up).

My favorite among the main courses was the Pork Love- pork loin and shoulder with blueberry mole, a great combination of flavors and was a creative twist on a classic dish. The most boring item on the menu was the grilled and candied tri-tip served with marrow butter, fennel gratin and creamy corn. Well prepared but unoriginal.

The dessert items hit some high points. A fragrant and creamy basil panna cotta was the perfect way to end a heavy meal. Although an interesting idea, raspberry-beet beignets were a miss, with little flavor and texture contrast. However, I could see where the chef was trying to go with this one--beets being sweet and raspberries being tangy, it would have been awesome with a little more tweaking.

Best thing on the menu? Molten chocolate cake baked with a blue cheese center. If every dish on the menu could match the innovation with this dessert, the restaurant is sure to succeed. The sweet blue cheese, while somewhat potent really did complement the bitter chocolate flavor. The whole dish became heightened, every bite had a multitude of flavor experiences all happening one right after another. Served on the side was a pistachio gelato with pine nuts, a great way to bring out the nuttiness (those crazy thangs) of the cheese.

The food makes you think, which makes the dining experience very different than say, a steak at Outback. I guess that’s what I liked about the restaurant, the menu is intelligently put together and dares to be different. Tinderbox is worth a try, but definitely for the adventurous. Oh and just as a side note, Chef Warsham is a hottie and if the name of the restaurant is any testament to his personality, this Aries girl is all in! Tinderbox: a person or thing that is highly excitable, explosive, inflammable, etc. I love a man that lives on the edge.


kathy said...

NICE. I think being in love makes your restaurant reviews nicer haha jk

You forgot to mention the cod! I liked that the best - fried squash blossom filled with cod mousse = yummmmyyyy

And the sparking wine drinks were ok. They could've used more flavor, but whatever. They were free =P

JustGigi said...

hehe sorry for the late upload of pictures. Nice descriptions Alice. I dont know if you were biased by the "casual conversation" you had with the chef, but I agree, the food was better than I expected.

Overall, my favorites were the crudo, the cod, and the panna cotta. The tri-tip was flavorful but a little bit overcooked. If it was medium rare like we ordered, it might be better.