Fall from Grace: Range Restaurant
For a few years now, I have been known to state “Range” as one of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco. It was my foremost reason to go spend the night in the Mission area of San Francisco — and if anyone suggested Range as a venue, you could count on me showing up that evening.
So, for Valentine’s Day, when Mr. K made reservations at a place he knew to be one of my favorites, and it was also where we had shared our first dinner ever — I was thrilled! His first time at Range had also been extremely memorable — so he was also excited to return, partially for the food, and partially for sentimental reasons.
To make what could be a very long story short, Range disappointed on all levels.
For Valentine’s Day, they offered a prix fixe menu only — which was fine, considering most of their usual stuff that I would have ordered appeared to be on the menu. The regular menu was not being offered at all, and it was $75 per person for the evening, for three courses. The food that Range previously offered would be worth double this amount to me; the food that Range offered that night was hardly worth half this price tag.
A croquette of sorts was offered as the amuse bouche for this evening, which arrived soon after our bottle of wine was uncorked.
It wasn’t that hot, as deep-fried items should be, and it was wholly unimaginative. The taste of the croquette itself was decent, but the accompanying sauce and mandarins did nothing to enhance it. It had been fried properly to achieve a nice crispy texture on the outside but the middle was lukewarm, at best. But let’s put that aside and call it a freebie, and not complain anymore.
It’s a bit misleading to call something a caviar anything when you offer this tiny amount of caviar — but let’s put that aside too, as even the appearance of the egg makes me happy! A poached EGG, with caviar, with blini? I’m all over that — except check out how they cooked this egg!!
Totally overcooked, with nothing oozing or providing any moisture to this dish. It was like I was at a bad brunch spot, but frankly, even bad brunch spots know how to poach an egg properly for this dish.
The Kusshi oysters offered as a started on this night’s menu were absolutely fabulous; the irony that the one dish they didn’t cook was fantastic isn’t lost on me. They were small and plump, and were exactly what I hope for when I order Kusshi oysters; I could have had 50 of these without a problem, and Mr. K, a novice to oysters, also loved them!
Then the entrees arrives. This was also unimpressive.
When I order halibut at a restaurant, I expect a cut of halibut that is juicy and absolutely fresh! What I do not expect, however, is a chunk of halibut that I, too, can find at Costco, and I, too, can cook up the way Range did. There was no fat on this fish, and no delicious fish oils you can expect from a nice cut of halibut. Sure, it’s no mackerel when it comes to fat and oils, but I’ve had some good halibut that can make you think, albeit for a second, that steak is overrated.
Not so much here.
The combination on the plate with the prawn, arugula, artichoke and halibut was rather nice — but all of it tasting pretty bland with the prawn so overcooked I could barely pull the tiny amount of meat out – this dish was an epic fail, so to speak.
How does one go wrong with a dish called “Pork Three Ways”? Pork chop, pork belly, and pork ribs?
Answer: you can’t go wrong; but it doesn’t mean it’s a homerun either.
The pork belly was good, but in the world of pork bellies, this was the least impressive pork belly I’ve had in recent years. The only reason it got an “okay” was because short of burning it to a carcinogenic state, I’m not sure how you cook pork belly wrong!
The pork chop was decent, too — and if I had to pick, I enjoyed this the most of all — but while I hated NOPA as a restaurant due to that one broccoli dish, I believe their pork chop would kick this one’s butt all over the planet and back with one hock tied behind its back!
The pork rib that was served as so heavily doused in BBQ-like sauce, I have no idea what the actual meat tasted like.
See what I mean? Underwhelmed on all counts!
If you can’t impress me with taste, you could at least impress with portioning, but even that, especially for the $75 price tag, fell below expectations.
But there’s always dessert, right?
It’s a nice touch that they added one more palate cleanser before the dessert.
It’s just unfortunate that it had to be this one — as neither of us finished ours. The yogurt was boring as can be, and the raspberry sorbet was — well, it was raspberry sorbet.
I’d put the correct caption on that photo if I could recall what that was! It was a crisp of some kind with a scoop of gelato — what genius decided this would be a delectable “one-dessert-only” choice on a prix fixe menu? Dessert, much like everything else, was unimaginative, and even less tasty than the rest. I’d have much rather they give me back my “stuck at brunch” caviar dish, and I needed it, as I was still hungry.
Just to prove this was going to be the expedition of food that would not end — our server brought this dish out. Now I am a freak about caramel; I love, love caramel — and I still didn’t like this caramel! It was bitter and sticky without being chewy. If there is one thing I like more than caramel (as far as sweets go), it would be truffles. These were about the least impressive truffles I have ever had in my life. I don’t know what the other two things were, but I didn’t much care either after I took a nibble out of them.
And then our server brought out one MORE thing: a goodie bag. I decided not to even open this until later, if at all. A person can handle only so much disappointment in a night, and while neither Mr. K nor I expressed our letdown during the dinner itself, and the time we spent together was nice despite the food — we almost simultaneously discussed the food upon hitting the street outside.
Over the course of the last couple weeks as this dining experience settled in my mind, I realized even more fervently that Range was disappointing on all counts. I have had the best duck of my life here; I have had some of the best salads here; I have had some wholly outstanding beef here — and for a very special Valentine’s Day, I ended up eating not one thing worth eating.
Add to that the mediocre service from our server (when all four of my past visits here have been exemplary service), and hostesses who never once said “Happy Valentine’s Day” to the customers — and you have an altogether horrid dining experience. I’d feel this way even if it were free; imagine how I feel knowing that Mr. K paid good money for this experience — all because I raved about Range!
There’s a lot to rage about at Range, but really — nothin’ at all to rave about!
I’m over it. (Incidentally, the brittle they served up at the end were pretty tasty, but that hardly saves the experience!)
Addictive Factor: 2/10
Overall Rating: 5/10