With a friend in town, five of us ladies got together for brunch at Skool in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco.
I’ve been here quite a few times for dinner and enjoy the food here a lot. They have a really great bar at the back end of the restaurant, and the menu is always nice in terms of options and flavor.
In 2011, my friends threw me a birthday dinner here and they were so accommodating. I took a slew of photos that evening, but it’s part of the 2011 photo folder that I lost in changing computers. (I’m still distraught that I lost all of those photos from the year I was writing my book. I tried 90+ restaurants over the course of a few months, each with photos, and all of those photos are gone!)
In 2012, I threw a friend’s birthday party here and all was just as flawless. As usual, the risotto at Skool was fantastic.
Their black cod redefines what fish should taste like, with a spectacular ponzu-like sauce and a lot of umami flavors while maintaining all the attributes of cod. Chilean sea bass has nothing on the cod that Chef Nagano prepares.
And then there’s the uni flan….the elusive uni flan, as in 3 of my last four visits, I haven’t been able to get any. I’m not sure why it’s so often unavailable but when it is, GET IT and get one per person because after one bite, you’ll eye the jar and the people you’re with, hoping someone says they don’t like it.
Except they won’t.
So I was excited to return to Skool to try their brunch. A good Bloody Mary with some brunch options always sounds good to me, day or night, but I had yet to visit Skool during the daylight hours. As expected, the Bloody Mary was a fine example. It came with a nicely pickled green bean and pepper, and it had the right amount of kick to it. I almost wished I was hungover. Much of the spiciness came from black pepper, and it was mild enough for most to handle. I prefer my Bloody Mary with lime, but this was sour enough on its own.
While we waited for the last in our party to arrive, we kicked it off with an appetizer of shishito peppers. Two of us loved spicy food, but two were intolerant of spicy foods. It was more than enough for two girls to share with plentiful bonito flakes, and it came out piping hot. The peppers were slightly underdone compared to some other places, which gave it a better bite than other shishito peppers in the city. I love that! I’d say it was a tad spicy for those who can’t handle any spice at all, but otherwise, it was perfectly manageable except for one piece that shocked me awake.
I love waffles. I love chicken. But I never did understand why these two had to go together, but over the years, I’ve gotten used to it. Thankfully, one of us at the table ordered it. The waffles were thick and nicely toasted with powdered sugar on top, and a really delicious maple syrup was served with it. The fried chicken was actually Skool’s take on jerk chicken using Caribbean spices — I only took one bite of it — it was a tad soft on the outside for fried chicken where real “chicken and waffle” folks may be flipping out, but I thought the seasoning and texture was spot on.
Another friend ordered the Nicoise salad. Normally, this is not something I order, but I’m glad she did because it was so pretty. The portion size was actually impressive, with five thick chunks of nicely done ahi tuna. I tasted the salad, and it was refreshing and I loved the array of vegetables used. But the reason I don’t order this is normally because all in all, I don’t find that ahi tuna does much for me in terms of taste. It’s always the leanest cuts of the tuna that is used, and short of using toro, I’m just not that intrigued. That said, for those of you who are into salads as your meal, it’s a sound choice at Skool. On the menu, it reads, “Seared Spiced Pole-n-Line Caught Ahi Tuna, Mixed Greens, Green Beans, Kalamata Olives, Red Bell Pepper, Capers, Wheat Berries, Poached Egg Finished with Cucumber and Anchovy Vinaigrette”.
Another friend was saving herself for dinner and only ordered a soup. It was the daily soup with popped brown rice, ginger oil — and honestly, I had one quick taste and it was rather bland without any appeal. As the light meal she was wanting, it worked out fine and she enjoyed it — but it didn’t really compare to the rest of the caliber of food at Skool.
My friend and I were both debating whether to order the rock shrimp omelette, which sounded divine with spinach and goat cheese. Once she made up her mind, I opted for the squid ink spaghettina so that we could share.
The $17 omelette was a bit pricier than the norm but with shrimp included, it wasn’t surprising. Once it arrived at the table and we took a taste of each, we really ended up silently switching orders more than sharing as she preferred my order and I preferred hers. That said, the taste of shrimp was really masked by goat cheese and I don’t even recall getting more than a bite or two of shrimp. The Yukari Marble potatoes were wonderfully done — seasoned well and lightly roasted. The egg was fluffy and overall, it was just a beautiful omelette, despite the slightly MIA shrimp.
And finally – -my order of the squid ink spaghettina. The squid ink was obviously in the pasta itself, instead of used as a sauce — which is what I prefer. However, the pasta was flavorful and cooked perfectly. Where this dish went wrong for me was that it tasted like a really…busy…cioppino. Now I’m all for a seafood cioppino, but it wasn’t what I was in the mood for at brunch — but thankfully, my friend loved it so it worked out well. The portion was nicely sized and would have been quite filling for one person.
Single Restaurant Reservation
The taste of the soup was a wild mix of flavors, between seafood, curry, tomatoes, lemongrass, shiso and even buttery goodness. It was hard to tell if this was more Asian or Italian — and it was quite rich. Given that Skool’s take on food is very fusion-esque, it was quite representative of their cooking. I’d recommend it if you love cioppino and if you’re wanting a noodle soup. For brunch, I much preferred the other items we ordered.
All in all, I’d say I prefer Skool for dinner more than brunch. They have a gorgeous patio outside that really makes it a wonderful brunch choice, but San Francisco also has a lot of brunch restaurants. A LOT.
In the city, though, Skool stands out as a real Asian-fusion restaurant. We have quite a few fusions restaurants, too, but off the top of my head, I can’t think of many that compare to the creativity and flavors that Skool presents on a nightly basis. For folks who are into seafood, Skool is one outstanding choice.
You can visit their website here for hours and current menus. If you have a large party, they can easily accommodate large groups with reservations, so it’s a nice option to keep in mind. Be sure to follow them on Twitter!
If you want to head to Skool soon, look for a reservation in the Opentable box to the right. And don’t forget to order their risotto and one uni flan for yourself!
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.