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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. I had all but a review on the place, only because I hadn’t taken adequate shots on previous visits.

Range 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 , incidentally— I was thrilled! Our first dinner in 2010 at Range had been extremely memorable — so he was also excited to return, partially for the food, and partially for sentimental reasons.

Range | San Francisco Food Restaurant Review
Nice ambiance inside Range, though never light enough for non-flash photography

To make what could be a very long story short, Range disappointed on all levels.

Valentine’s Day 2010

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.

Range | San Francisco Food Restaurant Review
Amuse Bouche of the Evening: Croquette

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.

Range | San Francisco Food Restaurant Review
Caviar Appetizer

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!!

Range | San Francisco Food Restaurant Review
That’s not poached in anybody’s kitchen.

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. Unimpressed.

Range | San Francisco Food Restaurant Review
Kusshi Oysters. Can’t mess that up.

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!

Range | San Francisco Food Restaurant Review
Halibut & Prawn Entree

Then the entrees arrives.

This was also underwhelming.

Keep in mind, in my previous 7-8 visits, Range did not serve food like this. 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 by keeping it on heat for around 8-10 minutes too long. 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.

Range | San Francisco Food Restaurant Review
Pork Three Ways, this dish is called. How can that be bad?

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 home run 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 would 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! At this point, it’s hard to believe I ever loved this place. At this point, it’s hard to believe Michelin ever gave it a star. Under the same ownership, I have never seen such a drastic change, like someone was sabotaging them in the kitchen.

Range | San Francisco Food Restaurant Review
Looks much better than it actually was.

Be it taste or portion, this meal was disastrous at this point. Thoughts of grabbing McDonald’s on the way home enter my mind. But there’s always dessert, right?

Range | San Francisco Food Restaurant Review
Dessert Amuse Bouche: sorbet and yogurt

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.

Range | San Francisco Food Restaurant Review
Valentine’s Day Dessert of the Evening.

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. Now I am relatively certain I am going to McDonald’s.

Range | San Francisco Food Restaurant Review
Extra: quartet of goodies….that weren’t so good.

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 — but I have finally found a caramel I don’t like. 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. 

The macaron…oh, good heavens. Forget it.

And then our server brought out one MORE thing: a goodie bag of peanut brittle. 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. I don’t understand what could’ve happened. Even with a change of chef, the folks in the kitchen can taste the food, no? Anyone in that kitchen can spot an overdone poached egg, no? Anyone in a kitchen that’s been open for this long can spot an overcooked prawn, no? 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 when I tasted them the next morning, but that hardly saves the experience!)

I should send them the receipt for my Quarter Pounder, which we actually did grab on the way home.


Grace Keh

Managing Editor

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.


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San Francisco Food® has been providing trusted restaurant reviews and recipes since 2009, led by food author Grace Keh & read by food lovers worldwide.


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