What to Order at Causwells, New in the Marina
The Gist: The funky little bistro known as Causwells is just days old on Chestnut Street in the Marina. Owners Alvin Garcia (Lolinda, Delarosa, Don Pisto's) and Tom Patella (California Wine Merchant) have recruited chef Adam Rosenblum (Flour + Water, Herbsaint) to create a menu of casual, comforting shared plates. The menu reads like a laundry list of the top trendy dishes of recent years: grilled octopus, deviled eggs, beef tartare, kale Caesar, burger and so on. Still, Rosenblum's heart and personal style come through in his dishes.
The Vibe: In the former Bechelli's diner, the 66-seat restaurant was designed by the Bon Vivants' with a bit of an Art Deco sweep to the bar, lamps made from Bechellis' old bar stools and exposed concrete walls. It's definitely a Marina crowd and the volume rises quickly making it necessary to raise your voice to be heard by the person across from you. But the staff and owners are gracious and welcoming, bringing out wine, beer and shared plates in a steady flow.
Dirty rice with brown butter-roasted trout [Photo Source: Virginia Miller]
Eat This: House ricotta ($9.75) drizzled in rosemary honey and served with lavash crisps, plays more like a cream cheese: thick and rich. It's quite filling as a starter and we'd actually like it for dessert, but its a standout nonetheless. Another highlight is a snack of popcorn ($3.50) laced with vadouvan spices and cooked in clarified butter for French-Indian flair — it's lovely with a glass of wine. The roasted trout ($20.50) entree is cooked expertly in brown butter with lemon and herbs. The fish, thin and flaky with crispy skin, makes an ideal match for its bowl of New Orleans-inspired dirty rice. Smoked brisket ($14.75) was the dish standout, though Rosenblum is working to ensure an even more tender cut. The flavor of this more Jewish deli/NY-style of brisket is just right, however, accented by spicy mustard seeds, rye crumble and a sweet onion jam. Another showstopper is a plate full of dreamy Parker House rolls ($4.50 for four with cultured butter). Though we've also seen this on a number of menus of late, these are different from, say, the also wonderful version at The Square. Here, they are lightly crusted in rye seeds with crisp tops and a fluffy center. For dessert, it's all about the cinnamon-laced donut bread pudding made with day-old donuts from neighboring AllStar Donuts.
Drink This: Patella's wine list focuses on value (bottles mostly run in the $30s-50s), and some of the best by-the-glass options are the most affordable, like 2012 Haut-Marin Colombard/Ugni Blanc from France ($8/32) with its bright passion fruit nose and dry finish. On the red front, we love the smoky cherry notes of 2011 Lincort Pinot Noir from California's Santa Rita Hills. Bartender Erin Vogel has assembled a nice by-the-bottle beer list, including four beers on draft, with Garcia, including a splurge for fans of geuze/lambic Belgian beers: Oud Beersel ($28 bottle).
House smoked brisket [Photo Source: Virginia Miller]
Skip This: While we did not have a bad dish, the grilled octopus ($15.75), appropriately tender, partnered with garbanzo beans, fennel and chili, is just a tad bland compared to many other versions in town, like the gorgeous version at Dirty Habit.
For Fans Of: The Square in North Beach
The Damage: Small plates and snacks run from $3.50-15.75, while 5 larger plates run an affordable $14-21.50.
The Verdict: Housed directly next door to the Presidio Theater, it's an ideal pre- or post-movie stop or (soon-to-be) all day lunch and brunch spot when in the Marina.
2346 Chestnut St., 415-447-6081