San Francisco’s New Michelin Tasting Menu for Under $100 | by Virginia Miller | December 2023

Former Marlena chefs David and Serena Chow Fisher return in bright space at the Fillmore: 7 Adams.

7 Adams, ex-Marlena, beloved milk bread. Photo by Virginia Miller.

Love Michelin-quality tasting menus but can’t shell out the average $150 to $250 per person of the many Michelin restaurants around? Enter new 7 Adams.

Marlene was a special neighborhood restaurant that enchanted us with its affordable tasting menus and cozy atmosphere. Husband and wife chefs David Fisher and Serena Chow Fisher won a Michelin star for Marlena, which has unfortunately closed in June 2023 around landlord conflicts. Fortunately, the Fishers quickly returned with an all-new concept, premiering November 1, 2023: 7 Adams at the Fillmore. The Fishers opened the restaurant with Hi Neighbor Hospitality Group (Image: Instagram)The Madrigal, Easel, The Vault Steakhouse, The Vault Garden, Mom Oakland).

There are echoes of Marlena in 7 Adams’ reasonable $87 five-course menu, showcasing David’s savory dishes and pastas and Serena’s beloved milk bread and desserts. But the 52-seat space is a whole new bag. I immediately like it better than the previous space, although Marlena benefited from its picturesque location in Parque Precita. 7 Adams simply shines. It’s cozy, with an almost Scandinavian feel, mid-century touches, walnut wood paneling, soft neutral tones, and an intimate, vine-covered, heated garden. Key to the space’s warmth is recessed lighting shaped to resemble passing clouds and sconces that echo the billowing sails of boats, paying homage to San Francisco’s seaside spirit.

Left: Chef 7 Adams counter. Photo by Virginia Miller.

There were crowds outside on the chilly November night I dined, waiting for their reservations or looking for a seat at the small marble chef’s bar with custom butcher shop. The five courses start with seafood starter options, a vegetarian dish, three modern and creative pasta options, three main options with side dishes for the table and two dessert options. There were supplements in some courses to refresh with caviar or A5 wagyu beef. Serena’s warm, fluffy milk bread comes free with 72-hour cultured butter, leaving me quite satiated at the end of the meal, even though the dishes seem small to begin with.

Starting with kombu-cured kampachi crudo or Dungeness crab and caviar, we chose one of each, naturally. The kampachi fish was lean and silky, swimming in nutty sesame dashi, brightened with yuzu citrus, a hint of horseradish, and shiso Japanese mint oil. The crab is an umami bite over crab jelly, the shining moment is the lemon makrut. A $16 surcharge Baika Caviar it adds savory decadence, even if the slightly fishy note of that night’s crab clashed just a little with the caviar.

7 Adams crab and caviar. Photo by Virginia Miller.

Charred broccoli di ciccio with pickled kohlrabi root and mullet roe came next, in a classic French gribiche: boiled egg yolk, mustard, pickled cucumber, capers, parsley dressing. The earthy char of the broccoli with oceanic whispers of the roe and cheerful pickled notes made this a standout, despite it being “only” the vegetarian dish.

7 Adams di ciccio broccoli. Photo by Virginia Miller.

I appreciate three pasta options. As much as I love tagliatelle pasta, braised lamb ragu seemed simple enough. That’s why we opted for the most exclusive kabocha red pumpkin caramel dough in chanterelle mushroom confit, roasted sunflower seed pesto and smoked chives and basil oil. The other option was ricotta gnudi with chestnuts, parmesan and burgundy truffles, an $18 add-on. I’ve had fluffier, melt-in-your-mouth gnudi from SF to Italy, a perennial favorite. But this was still a comforting version, while the caramelle captured the season, an autumn-winter rusticity that suited the rainy night we dined on.

7 Adams ricotta gnudi in burgundy truffles. Photo by Virginia Miller.

While the A5 wagyu sirloin and beef tongue with green garlic miso and bone marrow sauce sounded extremely satisfying—and I always love the perfection of silky, marbled A5 beef—it’s a $40 add-on and I was more drawn to the black cod baked in mussel butter anyway. As with the two starter dishes and even the broccoli, the sea happily plays a prominent role. But it’s the lush addition of Brussels sprouts cream and the citrusy kick of lemon and lime caviar that give this cod dish a welcome contrast.

Although cod was my favorite starter, juicy, cage-free chicken breast stuffed with farce, or “minced meat stuffing,” under the skin is a good choice. Since stuffing equals Thanksgiving to me, it was a welcome addition with salsify, a root broth, all poached in chicken gravy. Chef David’s hometown of upstate New York is honored in a chicken wing with buffalo sauce that adds some spicy fun to the dish. Two sides come to the table. First, green farro and another favorite flavor of the night that made a silent appearance: glazed arrowhead cabbage topped with slices of bright Lucy Rose apples. The apple is so floral that it tastes like delicate rose petals, hence the name.

7 Adams Spiced Apple Crumb Cake. Photo by Virginia Miller.

As expected with Serena’s pastry chef skills, dessert is a highlight here and features some of her new, locally made dishes. Jack & Remi Ice Cream line, revised here. On the initial menu, we tried one of each. Hoijicha opera sponge cake is topped with coffee and chocolate butter cream with compressed pear, with a taste of winter. I especially loved their spiced apple crumb cake, also in season with those gorgeous bright Lucy Rose apples, citrusy satsuma snow, and Jack & Remi orange bay leaf herbaceous-citrus ice cream.

Hi Neighbor Hospitality Group beverage director Steve Izzo created the wine list, filled with wines from the Old World, France and Italy, alongside New World wines from California, Oregon, New Zealand and Argentina, and small, sustainable producers. Fortunately, 12 wines by the glass provide enough pairing options. I weaved everything from Chablis and Champagne, always the right choice, to dark chocolate from Te Mata Hawkes Bay Syrah 2021 of New Zealand.

7 Adams back bar. Photo by Virginia Miller.

The name of the 7 Adams restaurant pays homage to David’s childhood home in upstate New York, where he fell in love with cooking while growing up in the restaurant industry with his family’s still-going-strong restaurant, Fisher’s Family Restaurant. Although there were some flow issues with reservations happening as the night progressed, it was opening month. The relaxed presence of the staff and the homely feel of the welcoming space quickly make you feel cared for. And in terms of value, this could eventually be another Michelin spot in the neighborhood, costing less than half what a high-end tasting menu typically costs.

// 1963 Sutter Street, www.7adamsrestaurant.com

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