Since opening in November 2013, Stones Throw has really come into its own. The brand new summer menu from chef Jason Halverson, a former chef de cuisine at Michael Mina, shows that he's really hit his stride. Just after the restaurant opened on Russion Hill, we found dishes to be a bit uneven. But as the restaurant settles into its first year, it is not only difficult to choose a favorite dish but we found not one but four standouts on the new menu — a high number for any restaurant. And that's not to say we didn't enjoy all 12 dishes we tried.
Beverage director Jason Kirmse, also of Fat Angel, curates a strong beer, wine and cider drink list, grouped in cheeky categories like "I'm Not Drinking Freaking Merlot" and "Sour Patch." And their new lead bartender Tyler Groom, also from Michael Mina, creates a total package that is fast becoming one of the city's great destination neighborhood restaurants. Here are the four dishes you shouldn't miss on the current menu:
1. Sweet Corn Soup ($12)
Usually soup doesn't take the spotlight. But when it does, you remember it. Chef Jason Halverson's sweet-corn soup not only shines with the bounty of summer, fresh off the cob, it balances that sweetness with a stream of bright red piquillo pepper sauce and cool cream, with grounds of smoky chorizo and scallions adding more flavor and texture. As if this weren't enough, a doughy corn croquette is like a floating treasure on this lively sea.
Five Peas in a Pod [Photo Source: Virginia Miller]
2. Five Peas in a Pod ($13)
We've been enjoying crisp summer pea dishes all over the Bay Area this season, but "five peas in a pod" is truly a unique one. Take a brioche crisp — almost like a cookie — set it atop fresh greens, fluffy ricotta and preserved Meyer lemon and top the brioche with almond-mint pesto. But this isn't just garden-fresh mint and peas. It's a vibrant spearmint that cleans the mouth and pops almost like the minty-est, most natural tasting mint ice cream. It's a surprise at first bite and only gets better with each subsequent bite.
3. Grilled Octopus and Okonomiyaki ($16)
We love octopus and we love okonomyiaki, that umami-rich Japanese "pancake." Certainly the two pair well together, but especially under Halverson's skilled hand. The octopus is so tender and meaty, even non-octopus eaters will be converted. It's not a traditional okonomiyaki, laden with Japanese mayo and bonito flakes, but this version carries all the same flavor notes without the piling of sauce on top. Umami and smoky notes come from bacon dashi and mushrooms, while spicy turnips add a whisper of heat. It's a fantastic dish.
Duck breast [Photo Source: Virginia Miller]
4. Duck Breast and Rillettes ($28)
Crispy 38 North duck breast and rillettes are everything you want a duck dish to be: tender, subtly fatty and expertly cooked. But also nuanced, textured and with a number of elements that make the rich meat feel almost like savory dessert. A brilliant mini-rillette taquito and endive marmalade co-exist with pistachio quinoa crumble, a lush pistachio butter and tart sour cherry jam.
Drink Pairings: Stones Throw's craft beer and cider menu is extensive and strong. They also now offer low-proof cocktails, like a light, refreshing Spring Cup ($8) made of a house Pimms liqueur mixed with rosy hibiscus, basil and ginger beer. Bitter spirits lovers should try The Trade ($9), a drink of saffron-infused dry vermouth served up, stirred with Cocchi Torino and bitter-sweet Kina L'Avion.
On the wine front, a mineral 2012 Chenin Blanc S. Brunet 'Arpent' Vouvray from the Loire Valley, France, was a beauty with lighter dishes and the octopus, while we were surprised at the balance from a 2011 Preston Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma. Berry and rich cherry notes shine but it's no fruit bomb. There's enough structure and acidity to make it work with rich dishes, particularly the duck.
1896 Hyde St., 415-796-2901