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The Gist: At the Ferry Building, Hog Island Oyster Co.'s recent expansion meant that Ferry Plaza Seafood's Ferry Plaza Building space got the boot. Thankfully, Ferry Plaza Seafood continues the tradition it started in 2003 in a new space just off Washington Square Park in North Beach. The menu is still heavy on shellfish but now there are new things to eat, too. Chef Joey Ng, who worked for years at the original location, cooks "with love" and one can taste it in the seafood-dominant dishes.
The Vibe: The airy space feels both modern and casual, with plenty of light from floor-to-ceiling windows and an inspiring view of Washington Square Park, St. Peters & Paul Church and the hills across the Bay. Warm wood lines the bar and a salmon mural, painted by local artist Letty Samonte, perks up the wall.
Green papaya prawn salad [Photo Source: Virginia Miller]
Eat This: Start with a rousing shooter ($7) of quail egg, uni (sea urchin) and ponzu granita, as well as bracingly fresh oysters from both East and West coasts ($2-3.50 each). Green papaya prawn salad ($14, pictured above) is a large portion and ever-so-subtly spicy with chiles. It's a gorgeous riff on the Thai/Laotian classic, loaded with shredded papaya and red cabbage, fried shallots, peanuts and cilantro in sweet vinaigrette. Lager steamed mussels ($17) also come in a hefty portion. They're tender and doused in thyme, roasted garlic and a touch of cream, best accompanied by a side of pomme frites ($4).
The Sandwich: Chef Ng's soft shell crab BLT goes on our list of Bay Area favorites. The crab legs extend beyond the toasted Acme French bread, lathered in lemon Dijon aioli, with the necessary bacon, lettuce and tomato. At $27, it's pricey but generous.
The Dessert: Two straightforward offerings are expertly executed: a tart/sour buttermilk panna cotta ($8) in huckleberry syrup and a lush dark chocolate pot de creme ($9) with a sprinkle of lava sea salt.
Drink This: Order an aromatic glass of 2012 Chateau La Tarciere Muscadet from Maine, France ($11) or crisp, fruity 2012 Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare rosé blend ($12) from Monterey, CA. Both are lovely with seafood. Fort Point's hoppy wheat beer ($6) is excellent with mussels, while Fort Point's nutty Manzanita beer ($5) is surprisingly good with the chocolate pot de creme. Note that both are brewed in the Presidio.
The mural at Ferry Plaza's sunny-chic new North Beach space [Photo Source: Virginia Miller]
The Damage: Shared plates are often generously sized and run $12-27. New England or Manhattan chowder — or better yet, a combo of the two (chef's recommendation) — runs $6.50 a cup or $11 a bowl.
The Verdict: As Washington Square Park glows in the early evening light while you down crisp white wines and oysters, Ferry Plaza Seafood feels as if it has been in the neighborhood forever.
653 Union St.; 415-274-2561
Mussels and frites [Photo Source: Virginia Miller]
Prior Cheat Sheet coverage on Zagat San Francisco: