Birdsong (SF)

Live fire cooking has gained over the last several years more and more attraction in restaurants. Birdsong, recently awarded with a second Michelin star, by Chef Christopher Bleidorn was one of the earlier adapters in his restaurant which focuses on the cuisine of the Pacific Northwest and also using every part of the animal. All this taken together really attracted us to visit the restaurant and weren’t disappointed. Very creative but also playful dishes, executed at a very high level with a strong focus on seafood. The live fire aspect was obviously one of the overarching themes of the night which really were apparent in nearly all dishes and sets the restaurant apart. Coupled with great, yet relaxed, not rushing service makes Birdsong one of our favorite tasting menus in SF.

The Chefs Counter is really the best place in the restaurant - close to the action throughout the night

root broth, braised wakame, smoked mussels, shrimp - very flavorful broth with a strong smokey component from the mussels. The braised wakame adding a slightly sweet background taste

shigoku oyster, chicken fat, cauliflower - flavorful cauliflower foam from the iSi whipper covered a great mixture of oysters and different small cut vegetables. Chicken fat (and fat was a component which the restaurant used successfully throughout the night in different dishes) helped to add this lip-coating feeling of great dishes.

trout roe, apple cider sabayon, chestnut, spaghetti squash - good interplay of the salty roe and slightly fruity sabayon. Chestnut and squash added earthiness and texture

trout tail end prepared like lox, puffed skin, fresh cheese - classic combination of “cracker”, lox, cream cheese elevated to another level

trout loin cured in cedar, shiso, pine needle condiment - marriage of the forrest and sea with the trout permeated, but not overpowered, by the cedar. This was served in a vinegar which you drink afterwards that captured those flavors.

dungeness crab, smoked pine nuts, yoghurt, cucumber - nice presentation of the dish with crab shell covering the bowl. Sweet crab meat paired well with yoghurt, rice and cucumbers and small bursts of smokiness from the pine nuts

sea urchin cream puff, fermented shiitake, savory butterscotch - what a great single bite - flavors of the sea from the uni upfront, followed by a burst of umami from the shittake filling of the cream puff and rounded out by the slightly sweet, yet unami/savory butterscotch. One of the highlights of the night and we could have eaten ten of those

cornbread & caviar - prepared at the table by the sommelier. Cornbread made from heirloom grains had a good mix of earthiness and sweetness and was covered by a mixture of whipped cream and plenty of clarified butter and topped with plenty of caviar. A rustic yet so refined dish and another highlight.

quail, lacquered & smoked, grilled parker house rolls - Nice example of their creative, playful approaches to dishes. The quail breast are used with parker rolls, apricot butter and condiments to create your own sandwiches and dip it into quail jus. The quail legs are elevated finger food to gnaw on.

wild antelope, grilled endive - 40 days aged antelope was very well executed with the grilled endive. But as with many meat courses in tasting menus it often feels included in the progression as it is expected by many customers but it often doesn’t have the same creativity/spark. Good course but a bit “boring” compared to all the other courses

chamomile sorbet, citrus, mint, honey - very refreshing sorbet which worked nicely with the yoghurt base which included citrus and mint notes. The drizzled honey added some gentle sweetness

Freshly brewed coffee before the last dessert included an excellent, warm, freshly baked chocolate chip cookie

mt. tam cheesecake, shinko pears, buttermilk - Nice cheesecake with an earthy flavor from the mt. tam cheese but balanced by the tangy buttermilk ice cream and slightly sweet thin pieces of shinko pears


That looks and sounds absolutely incredible!

this was so good we ordered seconds for dessert


That’s funny. A few years ago we had our best dinner ever at a place in Budapest. (Hungary is the second largest producer of foie gras behind France.) We had seared foie as a course and it was so wonderful we asked for it for dessert. The chef was tickled and pleased and did little ‘dots’ of pureed fruits to go with it. (Can’t find the photo - that damn CH!)


Recently it was time for another visit at Birdsong and it continues to be one of our favorite restaurants and tasting menus in San Francisco. This time it was also nice to talk to owner and executive chef Christopher Bleidorn and get some of his thoughts around sustainability and the beef they serve at Birdsong - he isn’t interested in serving wagyu (or some of the other “easy to please the customer” beef sources) but only serves it when they get from time to time some older milk cows which have a much more natural/real beef flavor. That night was one of the few nights where one of the nights when beef was part of the tasting menu - 100 days dry aged 12 year old milk cow which turned out to be one of the highlights of the night - very tender with a beautiful, intense beef flavor.

Chef Bleidorn at work

Shigoku oysters, chicken fat, cauliflower

Root broth, braised wakame, smoked mussels, shrimp

Creek-raised trout, roe, chestnut, pomegranate , fish bone sabayon

Creek-raised trout tail end prepared like lox, puffed skin, fresh cheese

Creek-raised trout, loin cured in cedar, nasturtium, pine needle, condiment

Sea urchin cream luff, fermented shiitake, savory butterscotch - still one of the best ways to have sea urchin

Cornbread, caviar & walnuts

Squab, lacquered & smoked, grilled parker house rolls

Bbq carrot, preserved tops & huckleberries

Old beef, mustard greens, mt. tam

Palate cleanser I

Palate cleanser II

Douglas fir, yoghurt, mandarin, olive oil

Rose milk & meringue

Meyer lemon ice cream

Floral milk taffy


Nonsense. Mesquite grilling dates way back in San Francisco, e.g. Tadich and Original Joe’s. The wood oven and grills were a defining characteristic of Chez Panisse and at many of the places started by its alumni, including Zuni, Fourth Street Grill, Oliveto, Cafe Rouge, and Camino.

Nonsense. Live fire cooking dates way back in San Francisco, e.g. homo erectus and other homonids. The controlled burn was a defining characteristic of the biological and social evolution of humans…

I think @honkman was referring to the relatively recent surge in the use of hearth cooking in fine dining to instill added flavors/techniques (angler, harbor house, charter oak, singlethread if we are sticking to bay area specific). What they say is accurate, regardless of when live-fire was first popularized or utilized as the main method of cooking. You must be really fun at parties.





I also want to make the comment that neither of us could eat even half of that much food. And I see so many places that, like this one, are absolutely drool worthy but just too much food. If we could have four or five…

Birdsong is now starting a smaller type of tasting menu

I’m glad to see that starting. We’re hoping for a trip to The City this summer. And maybe Seattle will take a cue. Thanks,h

If you want smaller tasting menu/prix fixe try Marlena

You are my hero!

Nothing recent about that. Cooking over coals has been a defining characteristic of Saison since it started on Folsom St. in 2009. The French Laundry had one I don’t know how far back but before its kitchen makeover.

I know “recent” is relative, but I also should have included Saison in the list, as it is one of the reasons Angler (and others) is the way it is. I would categorize 2009 as recent, compared to the timeline that Chez Panisse and others are being referenced, in my opinion.

Also, I don’t think TFL would fit in the same box as these other restaurants that have the hearth as an attraction point. Debatable I guess…

My favorite detail about these restaurants is the fact that you already start to smell the experience once you get out of your car. It’s such a pleasure trigger for my brain. Amazing how these restaurants are able to curate that kind of detail and weave it into their ambiance.

Birdsong isn’t in the best location, but the restaurant transports you the minute you walk in, with its warm tones, wood furnishings, and open kitchen. Beautiful experience, although I find the service a bit cooler.

Since Chez Panisse installed its wood oven and grill in 1978 it has constantly been that case that some of the top restaurants in the area cook with fire.

It’s great that Birdsong is doing that, but I’m sure the chef would agree that it’s ridiculous to credit him as an innovator on that score.

I wonder if he got the grill from TBD, which used to be next door and was a spinoff of AQ, which originally built out the Birdsong space?