Heaven’s Dog, San Francisco

by Billy Guest on June 4, 2009

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new San Francisco Federal building

new San Francisco Federal building

Heaven’s Dog is a new, upscale Chinese restaurant in the South of Market District. Their focus is on Northern Chinese cuisine. Located in the brand new SOMA Grand just next door from the critically acclaimed New Federal Building, it’s owned by Charles Phan, who also owns The Slanted Door restaurant. We at weirdcombos have been great admirers of The Slanted Door for years. Last summer two of us held our wedding reception in their private room. So we were really thrilled to try out this latest venture.

Heaven’s Dog, or “the Dog” which is how I’ll refer to it from now on, is supposedly known for its unusual cocktails. The restaurant’s only been open for about five months. It has an open kitchen in the front facing Mission Street. Strangely you cannot see it from any point within the restaurant. The bar area is large with high ceilings and lots of strange but interesting paintings of dogs and cows. There’s a modern looking sitting area by the entrance as well as outdoor seating. The dining area itself is in the back and did not have any windows or views at all. One of us noted, “It smells like Chinese food in here.”

Remember the Main and Pisco Apricot Tropical

Remember the Main and Pisco Apricot Tropical

There were about nine of us in our party. Since we came separately, we congregated at the bar. The Dog does indeed offer some unusual drinks. We tried their Pisco Apricot Tropical, a modernized Pisco Sour; the Cap Haitian Rum and Honey; and the “Remember the Main” which was essentially a Manhattan with absinthe added. Most of us liked the drinks, except for the ”Remember the Main.” That one tasted a bit like cough syrup to more than one of the crew. The bar service was slow, even though we knew one of the bartenders personally. It took more than ten minutes before we were even offered drinks then almost that long again for them to be prepared. They were not really that busy at the time, making us think that perhaps these drinks were too complex to make. Hegui wanted a Ketel One martini but they didn’t carry that brand. The bartender made a gin martini for him “on the house” saying some nonsense like “vodka is basically filtered gin.” Hegui didn’t like this drink and gave it away.

The food is served family style. We ordered a bunch of appetizers and sides with a few main dishes. We tried the braised pork belly in clam shell bun and the vegetarian “pork belly;” scallion pancake; salt and pepper local squid and spicy clams. These were fairly simple dishes; several were fried. They were all good but none exceptional. We had both seafood offerings: Alaskan halibut and Louisiana shrimp and glass noodle claypot. The fish was very good: grilled then served with a spicy sauce. For sides we had the kung pao tofu; spicy organic cauliflower; organic spicy green beans; organic kale and dan dan mien, a tofu noodle dish with peanuts. There were a few meat dishes that some of the others ate.

stylish entrance to the Dog

stylish entrance to the Dog

We ordered both white and red wines. The wine list is unusual for its obscure choices, like Arbois Poulsard, a wine from the Jura in France. Most of the wines were not that expensive. We enjoyed a red from Spain, 2007 Tajinaste Valle de la Orotava, Tenerife. This wine had a cherry color with medium body and a good mouthfeel. We tried an Italian white, 2007 Erbaluce di Coluso Favoro “Le Chiusure,” Piemonte, which was sharp on its own but matched well with the meal.

We tried all the dessert offerings. I especially enjoyed the salted caramel ice cream. This was popular here as our server recommended that we order two portions. It was a large scoop of caramel ice cream sprinkled with salt flakes. It was decadent!

Overall the food was fine but not that memorable. I’d tried almost all of these dishes at other places. The atmosphere was very good; the service, somewhat uneven. This might be a cool after-work place for drinks and snacks. Our party was incredibly fun but as one of us concluded as we were filing out, “I thought it would be a little more glamorous than this I must say.”

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Rita Tower June 4, 2009 at 3:43 pm

The organic dishes sound good, and the drinks sound wild!

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