First Look: Melissa Perello's Octavia Opens

The new sister restaurant to beloved Frances
April 24, 2015
by Virginia Miller

Intimate Frances has been a favorite of restaurant-goers and the national press since it opened in 2009. Now chef Melissa Perello and crew have opened a long-anticipated second restaurant, Octavia, in a space that housed a long line of restaurant greats from the Meetinghouse, to the original Quince and most recently Baker & Banker. Michael Baushke of Apparatus Architecture transformed the space, making it rustic-chic, spare, inviting and more open than it was before. And there is a 10-person communal table for walk-ins. Perello and her team continue to turn out food that is soulful and heartwarming while simultaneously light, fresh and current. Walk with us through a number of notables on the first week menu.

Hours: 5-10:30 PM.

1701 Octavia St.; 415-408-7507

Yes, there is toast ($5). The toppings will change but the base is none other than Josey Baker levain so you already know it's excellent. Spread with warm ricotta and charred spring onion purée and accented by fresh watercress leaves, it almost dissolves in the mouth, leaving you wanting more.

Chilled squid ink noodles ($6) are a work of art — and the delicate noodles taste as lovely as they look. Cortez bottarga (salted, cured fish roe) imparts umami richness, while the noodles are brightly laced with lemon oil and green garlic. Note Sarah Kersten's custom pottery designed just for Octavia.

The beverage director is Paul Einbund (formerly of Coi) so you can journey from California to France via the thoughtful wine list, grouped in cheeky categories like "White Wine: Crisp Clean Mouth-Cleansing Delight!" or "Red Wine: Big Smooth & Anything But Whimpy." There's Matthiasson's (from Napa) vibrant orange wine, gorgeous on the rocks as an a apéritif (pre-dinner drink) and a winning list of vermouths with helpful tasting notes offered straight, on the rocks with bitters and a sliver of orange (pictured) or with tonic, bitters and orange.

Grilled beef tongue and charred broccoli ($8) is tender goodness, packed with flavor and sheer comfort in a bone marrow broth. Save that serving spoon because you'll want to scoop up every last drop of broth.

The pasta dish continues the modern ethos-meets-comfort mode that Octavia (and Frances) already excel in. In opening week, the paccheri pasta is with baccala (salt cod) and aleppo chile, given textured crunch from a fennel pollen pangrattato (aka breadcrumb mix) on top ($13).

Cut into the silky “deviled egg” ($4) and watch the yolk run into a Fresno chile relish and Turkish marash pepper.

Perello's little gem salad ($11) feels anything but boring even though it reads "basic" on the menu. Crumbles of Pt. Reyes blue cheese, ramps and buttermilk add texture and bursts of flavor, making the salad feel as gratifying as heftier dishes.

Oysters with fennel mignonette ($3.50 each) are an idyllic start to dinner, accompanied by a glass of Nigl Austrian Gruner Veltliner or house collaboration wines like a Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay Cuvee blend in collaboration with Paul Hobbs Winery or a  Mourvedre/Counoise Cuvee blend in collaboration with Skinner Vineyards.

You want meat? There's plenty of it. Four larger plate offerings cover meat and seafood. A first week standout is a hearty but nuanced platter of spring lamb ($27) over green farro, garnished with purslane leaves, layered with toasted almond, yogurt and olives.

Frances pastry chef Sarah Bonar's desserts are worth saving room for. It might be a luxurious almond milk panna cotta ($8) covered in Sacramento Delta blueberries. We couldn't help but clean the plate when we tried wildflower honey crumb pudding ($8), covered in tart rhubarb and marked by honey toffee in a light pool of crème fraîche.

new openings
melissa perello