The 13-year-old Hayes Valley brasserie rides high on classic touches and contemporary quality, without the usual coldness
Speaking of worthy: a skirt steak ($24) that was actually tender as well as tasty. The meat was served with black-garlic mashed potatoes (black garlic being fermented and slightly sweet), which were not in fact black, more of a caramel color, but still dramatic. Less dramatic but important in supporting roles were a green-peppercorn jus and braised artichokes.
No sweet confection has ever disappointed me more than German chocolate cake. Despite Germany's formidable reputation in chocolate, German chocolate has long seemed unpersuasive, and it isn't even the right color. Absinthe's version ($9) did have the fearsome hepatic pallor, but it was layered with crushed almonds, capped with dollops of coconut-like foam (like little meringues), festooned with candied walnuts, and altogether had a complex, not-too-sweet chocolatiness even a skeptic could love.
Tues.–Fri., 11:30 a.m.-midnight;
Sat., 11.a.m.–midnight; Sun., 11 a.m.–10 p.m.
398 Hayes, SF
Well-managed noise, but not quiet