Shiso Beautiful

Further investigation has more or less confirmed that the Herb used for the Herb Grilling, was indeed Shiso. In an article called, “An inviting herbal accent” the LA Times describes, “It’s a captivating herb that’s sort of cinnamon-y, sort of basil-ish, kind of anise-like. You might catch a note of cumin or curry leaf, along with a hint of citrus.”

Sounds about right.

The wikipedia article on Perilla, or Shiso, also notes that the varieties used in different countries have varying characteristics and potencies. I kind of suspect mine was more the type grown in Vietnam or Korea, as it seemed quite potent, and the leaf edges weren’t as frilly as those I remember seeing in Japanese groceries.

I haven’t seen Shiso used too much in drinks. I know Scott Beatty of Cyrus in Healdsburg uses it in his “Beau Regards” vodka drink and I think I remember seeing it in one or another cocktail in “Food & Wine Cocktails 2008″.

BOTW–Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery

The remodeling of the Magnolia Pub & Brewery into the Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery has not been without controversy.

Some feel the new look of the brew pub disconnects it from the funky Upper Haight neighborhood it is located in. They are disappointed that the murals featuring psychedelic landscapes and Jerry Garcia are gone.

To check out the damage and/or improvements, Mrs. Underhill and I stopped by for an early dinner yesterday evening.

The new look is cleaner and more bare bones. As owner David McLean points out on his blog, Haight & Masonic, “There are a lot of period details (tile floor, woodwork, exterior tile) from the 1920’s, when the space went from grocery store to pharmacy.” The space does feature these details much more effectively than the it previously had.

If you’re familiar with Magnolia’s sister pub up Alembic, up the street, the new look really won’t be much of a surprise. Dark wood, tile, bare light bulbs and vintage fixtures. It’s of a piece. The booths have finally been upholstered, which, in my opinion, is a huge improvement over the previous uncomfortable bare wood.

The organization of the space has not been changed much. The bar, booths, and tables are still in the same place, albeit now stained instead of painted. The only big change was the addition of a big shared table for communal eating and drinking in the bar area. I guess this is now de rigueur for modern restaurants.

To me, the new menu has sort of split the difference between the old magnolia and the, “comically small and comically expensive,” (as one friend described it,) dishes at Alembic. We had a very nice salad of arugula and sliced radishes served with toast spread with herbed goat cheese. The calamari was a bit less successful. I’m not sure whose idea coloring the aoli with squid ink was, but trendy as the idea might be, blue-black aoli is just not appealing. Maybe at Halloween. For mains, we tried a pork sausage with two sides and the pork ribs. The sausage was delicious as were the greens and roasted beets which accompanied it. The pork ribs were good, but not quite to the fork tender delicious stage they should have been at, nor was the sauce which covered them particularly notable. Single notedly sweet. The rancho gordo white beans which accompanied them, were also a little on the underdone side. Tasty, though. We did not, however, find portion sizes anywhere near, “comically small.” If anything, the pork rib portion wass comically large. The several rib pieces were so large, there was no way I was going to be able to finish them. Anyway, as Magnolia is only on their third day open with this new menu, I’m sure these glitches will be corrected as they continue to “truck” on.

Prices aren’t ridiculous. I think, at $18, the pork dish is one of the more expensive on the menu. Most entrees fall in the $10-15 range. Not cheap, but not as expensive as many places seem to be these days.

The beer is the same wonderful beer Magnolia has ever had. When folks ask me about Magnolia Beer, I always describe it as, “really good home brew.” We sampled the New Speedway Bitter on cask and Blue Bell Bitter along with the Saison. Both the Blue Bell and New Speedway were quite delicious. The spice was a bit heavy in the Saison, at least to our tastes.

If you’re in the Upper Haight, and enjoy beer, I certainly recommend stopping by and making up your own mind about Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery’s new look and menu.