Paul K closed its doors and the owners have moved to Florida to set up a new restaurant, I’m told. You will be missed!
On Saturday evening, I revisited Paul K.
My last visit here was about a year ago, during San Francisco’s Dine-About-Town (DAT). It was one of the few times where the DAT menu consisted of items that I’d want to order, and the experience was phenomenal.
On this evening, I was to attend a friend’s birthday party at Sugar Lounge immediately after dinner, and Paul K was the closest restaurant. I was happy to revisit this restaurant w/ my favorite dining companion.
The last time I visited, I remember saying after dinner that if I were to open a restaurant, it would be extremely similar to Paul K. The menu changes weekly; the one thing that changes nightly is the soup choices — and Paul K’s soup is excellent. The restaurant uses the freshest ingredients, local when possible, and seasonal food is the theme.
“Fresh” is a word that comes to mind for all things Paul K serves.
In San Francisco, I often find that restaurants serve up fabulous appetizers and less-than-stellar entrees. What comes to mind is a restaurant like A16; you’d be hard-pressed to find better appetizers but their entrees bore you to tears. Not at Paul K. From soup to dessert, Paul K is simply delicious.
I tried their aioli on my first visit, and on this last visit, we ordered another appetizer with aioli: the deep-fried brussel sprouts w/ lemon aioli and smokes salt for $7 (second photo from the top). On both occasions, I was blown away by the taste of the aioli. The artichokes were excellent but the way these brussel sprouts were cooked — it gave potatoes new competition in my book. To say these were delicious is an understatement. They were perfectly cooked in light batter, seasoned perfectly to require just a dip into the aioli. I am now a huge fan of brussel sprouts.
Some other items on the menu this evening were as follows: wild arugula with toasted hazelnuts, dates, and feta; seared Cortez scallops with Meyer lemon and apple smoked bacon; and pomegranate braised lamb riblets with garlic yogurt.
Sounds delicious, doesn’t it?
But our second appetizer choice was the Grilled Octopus with white beans and charmoula. Charmoula is a Moroccan-type marinade usually used for seafood, consisting of oil, lemon, garlic, cumin and salt. The combination of this and the absolutely perfectly cooked octopus was simply fantastic. The portion was perfect for two people to share.
We also ordered two Mezzas — which is a sampler dish of sorts for Mediterranean cuisine. Given that we both like foods from this region, a tasting plate seemed like a good idea since we were really not all the hungry on this evening.
The meat mezza consisted of lamb riblets, beef kebabs, baba ganoush, cucumber salad, feta cheese, marinaded olives, and garlic yogurt for the fresh pita chips. The vegetarian mezza had gorgeous artichoke hearts, the freshest baby beets, picked baby carrots, and hummus. I liked all of these except for the pickled carrots, but I should mention that I am not a fan of the carrot in general. They taste like…perfume to me.
On the previous visit, I tried the Seafood Tagine and the Pork Shoulder. Again, Paul K proved to use the freshest of ingredients, but if I were to be completely honest about it — the Seafood Tagine was full of flavors but had small sized seafood; the pork shoulder was perfectly cooked with a fresh hunk of pork shoulder, but lacked awesome flavor.
On my first visit, I thought service was extremely friendly. We had a very dynamic and exuberant server who was funny and friendly, and to my recollection, the host was extremely cordial. On this visit, this is where Paul K lost a few points. The same host was less than welcoming, and while we opted to sit at the bar in lieu of waiting for our table — I couldn’t help but notice a general degradation in service. This is unfortunate, because good service truly makes a great dining experience into a perfect experience – and only a restaurant with excellent service can truly qualify as a top restaurant. On this last evening, nobody was rude; the problem was that nobody was stellar either.
With a seasonal and fresh menu, Paul K is an ideal location for a date. Located at 199 Gough Street in San Francisco, parking is relatively easy on most nights, and reservations are available on OpenTable. Despite the lack of impressive service on my last visit, I do have to recommend Paul K for a good dining experience. Due to a changing menu, what I have tried may not be available on your visit, but I am confident enough about their food that I’d suggest trying virtually anything.
With a great wine list, delectable cooking and a full bar, Paul K will not disappoint.
Addictive Factor: 8/10
Overall Rating: 8.2/10
Grace Keh is the author of "Food Lovers' Guide to San Francisco" and the critic, editor and photographer behind San Francisco Food. In her regular day job, she consults for corporate clients in marketing and event strategy. Once the sun sets, she's on the hunt for great food in what she considers to be one of the world's greatest cities, San Francisco.