Outerlands, an Oasis for the Palate in Foggy Bottoms
“Outerlands is a gathering place for sea goers who seek warmth, shelter, food, and fellowship. It is a retreat from the saltwater chill, or a place to hang your hat after a long day’s frolic in the sun. This is a space built by the community of sea dwellers on the sandy fringes of San Francisco: a haven nestled amidst the vast landscape of Ocean Beach.”
Sounds like a perfect refuge from the fog, built by local sea gypsies and artists: Lana Porcello and David Muller.
Foggy Bottoms has a shortage of great restaurants. We’re blessed by a handful of stellar contributors to our somewhat barren landscape. My first visit to Outerlands was a pleasant surprise. The menu is short and sweet; it can’t begin to prepare you for the creativity that spills out of this well-healed open kitchen. You must try the hot ginger lemon apple cider, it was a perfect beverage to warm you up from the cool climate. Lunch began with a heartwarming Roasted Butternut Squash soup topped with a balsamic reduction and pepitas accompanied by a humble house made piece of whole-wheat levain that will leave you begging for more.
Next up was a Whole Roasted Sliced Turkey Sandwich on more of that delectable levain slathered with dried apricot mustard. This sandwich isn’t stacked high with turkey and greens. In fact, at first glance it could be perceived as diminutive, be not deceived. This sandwich is pure perfection. Service was gracious and so knowledgeable.
I couldn’t wait to visit Outerlands for dinner. I’ll warn you, Outerlands isn’t the easiest place to score a table. Amazing reviews abound and Colorado native Chef Brett Cooper was named San Francisco Bay Area Rising Star Chef in 2013 by San Francisco Magazine. Cooper honed his skills at the storied Rubicon as well as the Michelin starred Coi and Saison. Outerlands only recently added reservations via OpenTable for dinner, lunch and Sunday Brunch remains first come first serve. Seating includes tables inside the cozy driftwood covered dining room as well as a few protected tables outside under the awning with heat-lamps that warm the climes of foggy bottoms. A basket inside the front door contains lovingly crocheted blankets in case you need an extra layer of insulation.
We tested our luck one Wednesday evening with no reservation at 5:30PM and landed an inside table for two and gladly accepted and promised to be done by 7PM. We toasted the dining gods with a libation: a promise of summer was whispered in a Bourbon, Stone-Fruit, Lemon and Rosemary elixir. We then shared a Turnip and Smoked Onion Soup with Crispy Pork Shank, Grilled Scallion and Garden Herbs. The flavors of the turnips and smoked onions were so satisfying and then at the bottom of the cup was an ample nest of crispy pork heaven and a slice of that heavenly toasted levain. We then shared an Olive Oil Poached Spanish Octopus atop a bed of Spicy White Bean Puree and a mélange of thinly Sliced Cucumber, Charred Cherries and a Confetti of Fresh Coriander Blossoms and Seeds. The octopus was perfectly cooked and so tender, it’s flavor fully realized against the cool cucumbers and cherries with the sweet floral coriander and it’s jewel like seeds. Last but by no means least, came the Slow Cooked Lamb Shoulder surrounded by clouds of Gnocchi and Crispy Potatoes, Spring Ramps and caramelized Rhubarb. The lamb was so tender it fell apart at a glance. This was a perfectly seasoned and braised lamb shoulder. I still have daydreams about its comforting flavors.
After such an exciting array of flavors and innovative techniques we had to try a dessert prepared by Pastry Chef Brooke Mosley. We opted for the Black Sesame Financier; a miniature baked black sesame cake broken into bite-sized pieces adorned with Roasted Strawberries, Kalamata Olive Syrup and Sorrel Flowers. This was a perfect balance of sweet and savory, the black sesame seed financier’s earthiness laced with a slightly saline kalamata olive syrup.
Outerlands is a wondrous culinary journey that excites the palate and soothes your senses. The service has always been gracious and unobtrusive with the wait-staff fully schooled on the magic performed at this down to earth restaurant in the outer sunset district.
4001 Judah Street @ 45th Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94122