Marlowe Restaurant Review
One of the major challenges of writing restaurant reviews is the inevitable slide towards getting metaphysical about food. One the one hand, it’s food. It’s something you put in your cakehole, it’s good or it’s not, and attaching more meaning to this universal human act is just sort of dopey.
On the other hand, there are some immensely talented chefs in San Francisco. It’s known around the world as a restaurant town, and there’s a reason for that. When you visit a restaurant here, it’s often way more than simply about the food. It’s about an expression of someone’s vision, and a manifestation of their personality and their values, demonstrated by the environment they choose to create.
Marlowe Restaurant has this quality that can’t be ignored, but which, unfortunately, is metaphysical indeed. It’s generous. Yes, the food is wonderful. But it’s also luxurious, rich, abundant food – lots of flavors, lots of food, and a deep appreciation for food that is just plain good.
Monday- Friday: 11:30 AM- 2:30 PM
Monday- Friday: 2:30 PM- 5:30 PM
Saturday- Sunday: 2:00 PM- 5:30 PM
Sunday- Wednesday: 5:30 PM- 10:00 PM
Thursday- Saturday: 5:30 PM- 11:00 PM
Saturday- Sunday: 10:00 AM- 2:00 PM
Marlowe Restaurant is in the South of Market neighborhood, where it kind of starts getting industrial and gritty. It’s a decidedly unromantic location, not far from the I-80 onramp. There isn’t a BART station nearby (although the Caltrain station isn’t far) so your best is to either take a cab or hunt around a little for parking, which can be found in the evenings. Or be prepared to, you know, walk.
Address: 500 Brannan Street, San Francisco, California 94107
Phone: (415) 777-1413
Very white, and sort of hipsterishly old-fashioned. My server had, for example, an absolutely awe-inspiring neckbeard. It looks a little like an old-school butcher shop. White tile floor, beaded white wood paneling and a dropped old-fashioned tin ceiling. The room is accented with nice fun touches like a stuffed buffalo head, but with enough restraint that it’s not cartoonish or odd.
That being said, because of all the hard surfaces this place is really loud. When it’s full, conversation is a real challenge. Plus, the tables are plain wood, with minimum, slightly Ikea-ish place settings. Nice enough, but a little uninspired.
Really friendly, professional, and organized. .
Medium, for San Francisco. Around $91 for two drinks, two appetizers, dinner, dessert and coffee
The first appetizer I ordered was duck liver mousse. There have been some protests and political fingerpainting lately in San Francisco about the morality of foie gras, so I took the opportunity to order mousse, in solidarity with foie gras lovers everywhere. I was not prepared for what happened.
First of all, I had been anticipating a smallish slice of mousse. What arrived instead was a big bowl of the stuff. To make matters even more challenging, it was topped with marmalade – homemade kumquat orange, accented with chives and basil, served with perfectly grilled bread. This was an unimaginably rich, sensuous and just plan good dish – sweet and savory combined, and a lot of it. What is typically a little treat was actually a complete dish, with about a zillion calories and a sense of abundance that was absolutely luxurious.
Oh, and by the way, as an amuse bouche the chef sent out a deviled egg appetizer as well – impossibly rich, topped with provolone, pickled jalapeno and bacon. See what I meant about generous? This is rich, good food which, it turns out, is what, behind the austerity of the design, is what Marlowe Restaurant is really about. It was a wonderful surprise.
Because I’m nuts, I ordered a second appetizer. As part of writing a lot of restaurant reviews, I tend to order the most unusual/creative/bizarre thing on the menu, particularly from among the appetizers. I pretty much know what I’m going to get with, say, oysters as an appetizer, or warm olives. However, Marlowe’s menu was also full of really interesting, creative stuff: chicken-fried okra. Warm pea pancakes. Dungeness crab cakes. And, most interesting of all to me, roasted bone marrow.
This was served very simply – beef bones were split down the middle, seasoned and roasted, and served along with more grilled bread and a caper-based salsa. It was fantastic. You literally scoop the marrow out of the interior of the bone using the bread as a spoon. A six-inch beef bone does not actually yield that much marrow, so it wasn’t the overpowering feast the mousse was, but it was flavorful, intense and kind of gamy, of course.
For the entrée I played it safe. I had thought of ordering the polenta, but after consulting with my daughter Amelia, who is often my partner in these projects, she airily (the way only sixteen year-olds can) dismissed polenta as “prison food.” In a Facebook post, message had these two specific observations: “like polenta is prison food basically” and polenta is literally ground up corn meal mush it’s a mess what a disgrace cancel ur reservation” Okay. No polenta, sweetie.
She was, of course, kidding. Anyway, I ordered the poulet vert – chicken served with chicken-fried okra, brown butter Brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes and mushroom jus. This was another demonstration of abundance – three absolutely flawlessly grilled chicken pieces – juicy, crispy, perfect – on a bed of mashed potatoes, with okra and Brussels sprouts as an earthy, bitter counterpoint. All combined with an absolutely perfect mushroom sauce. This was a lot of really, really good food.
Finally, dessert. We were nearing the finish line, and it was more of the same. I ended up ordering the banana walnut cake, which arrived with a big scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. It was exactly what you’d expect from Marlowe – a big slab of perfect cake, a lot of ice cream (really good ice cream, by the way) and a really generous coating of walnuts, anchored in caramel. It was simultaneously sort of rustic and simple, and really … decadent. It’s the kind of thing your mom might have served at a birthday party if your mom was a baker trained at the French Laundry. This came with a nice up of coffee.
All in all, what you wind up with Marlowe Restaurant is really large servings of wonderful food, with an emphasis on making sure that there is something deeply satisfying about the dish. This is paired with a surprisingly austere, semi-industrial space that prepares you for the exact opposite. It’s a nice contrast, and a nice surprise.
Location of Marlowe Restaurant
Website : http://marlowesf.com/
Phone : +1 415-777-1413
Published On: Sunday, February 26th, 2017