California's state bird has been flying around Bay Area menus lately as top chefs harness the teeny tiny bird's big flavor for rich, fall dishes. Sure, quail may be a pricey menu underdog, but it delivers a delicate gamey flavor long lost from domesticated chickens, and San Francisco chefs are putting it on their menus fried, grilled, glazed and stuffed. This flock of new quail dishes showcases the versatility of the Golden State bird.
Sessions at the Presidio's Fried Quail
The delicate bird (pictured above) gets the pub treatment at the new Sessions, showcasing the beer-focused restaurant's playful blend of fine-dining ingredients and accessible technique. Here it's fried to crispy perfection in buttermilk, showcasing the diminutive bird's natural, juicy flavor. Though delicious on its own, with hints of lemon, dill and honey, the housemade hot sauce adds to the flavor explosion for those who like an extra kick.
RN74's Grilled Quail Crepinette
Michael Mina's RN74 in SoMa recently appointed Michael Lee Rafidi as the new executive chef, and with him comes a whole slew of inspired dishes that showcases Rafidi's modern take on French classics. Though he's still tinkering with it, Rafidi let us in on one of the stars of the fall menu, which launched last week. In this rendition, Rafidi stuffs and wraps the grilled quail in caul fat and pairs it with braised trotter, pumpkin aigre-doux, pomegranate and lollipop kale. Meanwhile huckleberry bacon jus adds a seasonal pop of color to the plate.
While some quail dinners may leave you with plenty of room for dessert (or hungry for a second bird), Sausalito's Poggio Trattoria delivers a hearty dish that chef Benjamin Balesteri sources from Northern California's Wolfe Ranch. Quails from this provider, which supplies an exclusive group of restaurants including The French Laundry and Chez Panisse, grow to be twice the size of usual quails thanks to a high-protein diet and the selective breeding practices of the boutique rancher. Here, the meaty bird comes butterflied atop fagioli all' uccelletto (a traditional Tuscan dish made of beans in a tomato sauce) and Padrón peppers.
Stones Throw's Sausage-Stuffed Grilled Quail
Diners are going crazy for this new seasonal dish at the Russian Hill standout Stones Throw. Here the bird comes stuffed with sausage, topped with a Fresno chile glaze, and accompanied with fresh melons, fennel and Moresque spice. Can't get enough quail? Its sister restaurant, Trestle, located on the Chinatown side of the hill, has also been rotating a quail dish through the prix fixe menu, further cementing it as one of the best fixed-menu deals in town.