Life mimics nature’s seasons. Maybe not in the same rhythm, but still. Your personal winter may last eight calendar years, maybe more. You might idle for a decade in the joys of summer—life’s most intense harvest season—when all the hopes and dreams and things you planted in spring have come to fruition. My favorite season, the one I hope to end my life with, is autumn. How great would it be to sail out on the cool breeze of fall, bedecked in the warm glow of a life well lived? But who am I to say when I’ll sail out?
My life is currently popping with spring color. For the first time, the warmth of the sun is shining on my neck, my favorite flowers have lured me to lean in and breathe deeply, and I am certain that the frost is behind me (it has been a long winter). I have SO stopped to smell the roses. I’m smelling the shit out of those roses, and smiling. A lot.
Spring things are best enjoyed in spring. So, when I began restaurant hunting for a place to enjoy while staying in San Francisco, I wanted something appropriately seasonal. It is definitely spring at AQ Restaurant.
We started with “Artichokes in the Garden” and Spring Lamb Tartare. The artichokes were marinated via vacuum pressure (think sous-vide without the hot water), were served with crispy strips of shaved artichoke that turned sweet when fried, and little marinated green peppercorns that I (drunkenly) mistook for tiny capers until I bit into them and found peppery tartness instead of that slightly sweet, mustardy, earthy bite particular to capers.
I had to convince my dining companion that the lamb tartare was a good idea. And it was. It SO was! The lamb was tender and absolutely un-gamey, topped with smoked feta and a watercress gelee. The tartare was accompanied by what, at first glance, I thought was a little avocado palate cleanser (again, I was drunk), but turned out to be a finely pureed guacamole that was beautifully complimentary to the tartare.
For entrees, we ordered halibut with sorrel and creme fraiche, and soft shell crab with coastal seaweed and ramp. And because I’m a member of the gluten-free party, I forewent the cacio e pepe (a cheese and pepper pasta). Instead, I had a little cheese and pepper fondue at the base of my rice-flour-fried soft shell bowl of deliciousness.
Spring at AQ snuck up on me the same way my life’s spring season has: surprises at every turn. I spent my meal going, “Okay, I see cucumber on this plate. What the hell? What did they do that made this cucumber taste like that?” Honestly, some of the plate presentation was not my favorite, but sometimes life is like that—it may not look exactly the way we think it should. But the components, when they come together in that perfect way, are so, so good.
AQ and spring, you and me, we’re good together.