Damn those lemon ricotta pancakes with Vermont maple syrup.
I know I should have ordered them when I recently visited Plow, a totally buzzing San Francisco breakfast-and-lunch spot. But everything on chef/owner Maxine Siu’s farm-fresh menu sounded so impossibly appealing — freshly-baked apple cinnamon coffee cake, from-scratch biscuits and gravy, eggs Benedict with homemade hollandaise and Fra’ Mani ham — that our group shooed our waitress away no less than three times before making our final selections.
We quickly learned that Siu’s food not only sounds amazing — it is amazing. (Lest you think I’m exaggerating, San Francisco Magazine just declared the Potrero Hill eatery “the city’s best new brunch place.”)
Despite such praises, Siu, who honed her culinary skills at Oakland’s famed Oliveto, is rather low-key about her cooking style and menu.
“It’s pretty traditional, and then we put a little twist on things,” says Siu, who runs the farm-to-table restaurant with her husband, Joel Bleskacek. “I try to keep it simple and let the ingredients speak for themselves.”
Like many a Northern California chef (and a growing number of chefs elsewhere), Siu is all about what’s seasonal, local, fresh and organic, and she proudly names her purveyors on the menu. Several of Plow’s suppliers, such as Acme Bread and Cowgirl Creamery, are revered by San Francisco foodies.
“I don’t list everything on the menu that’s organic; it would be redundant,” says Siu, whose menu is about 75 percent organic. “People just know in the taste and the quality. It does come through.”
And boy, does it.
After much waffling, my friend Colleen and I decided to split and share French toast ($9.75) and a fried egg sandwich ($11). Despite my none-too-subtle hints to order the lemon ricotta pancakes ($9.25), The Husband went with the scramble ($11.50).
The fluffy French toast proved an excellent choice. Served with mascarpone cheese, just-ripe bruléed bananas and a side of real Vermont maple syrup, the dish — which had major sugar buzz potential — was delicately sweetened. That’s because Siu only sugars the bananas; her egg dip is a simple mixture that includes fresh milk, cream, cinnamon and vanilla, she says.
Our fried egg sandwich was a wonderful savory complement to the French toast. Served on a pillowy-soft bun, yolky eggs were paired with tangy melted cheddar, crunchy arugula and aioli. Colleen and I also added thick-cut Nueske bacon ($2) to the mix.
Siu’s “crispy potatoes” accompanied the sandwich. Normally, I banish breakfast potatoes to the side of my plate. Plow’s spuds — which Siu parboils, smashes, deep-fries in rice bran oil, and tosses with onions and herbs — were simply too delicious to cast aside.
“I had a lot of sleepless nights thinking about the potatoes and how they would be a little different and crisp,” says Siu, who shares my disdain for soggy, undercooked breakfast potatoes.
Crispy potatoes also came with The Husband’s scramble. The scramble is one of several dishes the chef changes regularly as she revises her menu from week to week. During our visit, creamy eggs were cooked with a mix of fava greens, spring garlic, mushrooms and goat cheese.
Although I was disappointed that The Husband didn’t order the lemon ricotta pancakes, he was not. He declared the simple but delicious scramble the best dish he consumed during our West Coast jaunt.
Despite her urge to tinker, Siu says she will keep her popular pancakes on Plow’s menu for a while to come. I hope she can hold out until I return.
1299 18th Street
San Francisco, California 94107