Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Review: The Front Porch

First, my apologies for the lack of updates lately. Between travelling to Europe for work (two trips in the past four weeks) and getting sick, I haven't had a lot of energy to post. Now, that I'm feeling a bit better, I'll start to catch on my backlog and tell you about my visit to The Front Porch (65A 29th Street; 415-695-7800), which just opened for business in the Mission around the middle of last month to a fair amount of local buzz. The Front Porch, which has been labeled as a "gastropub", features an eclectic assortment of dishes including Southern soul food, such as fried chicken and grits, along with a few tastes of the Caribbean and some standard pub grub. The Caribbean influence comes courtesy of the chef, Sarah Kirnon, a Barbados native who previously was the chef at Emmy's Spaghetti Shack, just around the corner from The Front Porch.

My girlfriend and I paid a visit to The Front Porch on its opening night. We arrived during a lull in the action and managed to get seated right away in a booth next to the kitchen. The seats in the booths are recycled from old automobile bench seats. I found it somewhat amusing that the seat belts were still in place, just in case we needed to buckle up for the meal. We started out our dinner with a couple of appetizers, the fried chicken livers with onion gravy and the tuna tartare. Served on a large toasted brioche, the very generously sized portion of chicken livers were smothered with caramelized onions and gravy. It was a very interesting interpretation of the traditional liver and onions plate and will certainly delight the offal lover in you. The tuna tartare took a while to come from the kitchen, but it was worth the wait. Served with perfectly fried plaintain chips and scallions, the tartare was a delightful treat. While the tartare itself was very tasty, the plantain chips were just fantastic- I could have spent the rest of the meal just eating those chips. We attributed to delay in receiving our second appetizer to the expected opening night jitters. Sitting close to the kitchen, we noted the occasional miscommunication between the kitchen and the servers and the confusion amongst the servers themselves. Our server told us that they had a made a couple of dry runs on the days preceding opening night and were hitting on all cylinders the night before, but it seemed that the real deal was a bit different from their practice runs.

For our entrees, we decided to stay in the Fried Food section of the nutritional pyramid and went with the fish and chips and the fried chicken. The fish was moist and coated with a nice crunchy batter, but the chips were below average, too thinly cut and not browned enough, which made for a very ordinary dish. On the other hand, the fried chicken was fabulous, the highlight of their menu. When they opened the restaurant, they intended to make the best fried chicken in town using a recipe originally belonging to Kirnon's grandmother. According to my girlfriend, they have succeeded in that mission. The chicken was perfectly cooked, both tender and juicy. The crust on the chicken was light, crunchy, and well-seasoned, making for a very flavorful and delightful dish. In case you are ordering for a crowd or just especially hungry, you can also order the fried chicken by the bucketful.

Despite the occasional hiccups here and there (it took the server four tries to get my bill calculated correctly), the service was pretty good, and the food, for the most part, was very tasty. Once they work out the kinks and start running on all cylinders, I suspect that The Front Porch will be packing the house nightly.