At 11:00AM on a Sunday, the atmosphere at Red Hill Station is idyllic; it’s quiet, save for the crackling grill and muted sounds of kitchen work; the floor to ceiling windows bathe the open, airy, space in natural light; the heavy door curtains flutter ever so slightly if there is a breeze; the servers are relaxed, and attentive; all sensory queues that are best accompanied by crisp, cold, bubbly and a dozen briny oysters.
I’ve become a little, how do you say, enamored, with the seafood centric fare at RHS; the menu is seasonal, clean, and prepared with minimal interference, letting the quality of the ingredients speak for themselves. My only complaint would be the pricey wine list, wherein the cheapest bottle rings in at a wallet busting $55; the most economical choice, in fact, is a $40 Prosecco, which I get every time because I refuse to be strong armed into a $55 bottle of wine, whether or not said bottle is worth the asking price. A white and a red in the $30-$40 is most definitely in order.
My visits have all occurred during late winter and early spring, when the “starter” section typically offered an artichoke and a sandwich stuffed with shrimp or crab salad, a crudo, fried seafood (smelt, calamari, anchovy, etc), or a caesar salad with the supplemental option of grilled calamari, bay shrimp, or gulf prawns.
Our first trip started simply, with an oyster each, kicking off what ended up being a gluttonous feast that would make Joey Chestnut blush.
I don’t recall the variety, but they were the best of what oysters can be; ice cold and oceanic, accompanied by mignonette, though if you require cocktail sauce and/or horseradish (cough cough, dad) I’m sure RHS would be at the ready.
On a different trip we had the crudo, which was, in a word, phenomenal
A rich and luscious mound of cubed red meat trout surrounded by brightly dressed, delicate lettuces, fennel, and, an early spring favorite of mine, fava beans.
There is a grilled salad section, which is where I could really see myself getting in to trouble. Like I may have to wrestle with my car (Sid, if you want to be on a first name basis) to stop him from taking me there for a weekday lunch, as though some demon inside of me (or Sid) will take over and I will wake from a fugue state, greens and fish in mouth, dressing on face. It’s everything for which I am a stooge; fresh, crisp, bright, greens, and a lean protein from the sea; calamari, tombo tuna or grilled white gulf prawns; (though sometimes when I am stalking them on Facebook I see hangar steak as well). We ordered ours with a grilled calamari so soft and juicy, positively lousy with smokey grill flavor.
I sprinkled some of their large flake salt on top, which for me, was the gunpowder to their dynamite. I think about that damn calamari…too much. We’ll just leave it at that.
They usually have three to four linguine’s from which to choose, carbonara, pesto, and vongole being the usual suspects in the daytime rotation. I’ve devoured two of the aforementioned three, both of which were magnificent.The carbonara was an intensely decadent version, not classically made with a simple egg coating, but loaded with cream and flecked with enormous, salty, satisfying hunks of bacon, the entire mess topped with nutty bread crumbs and a pile of pungent cheese.
The pesto was AMAZE. Pesto sucks so often that I rarely order it, wincing with displeasure when it shows up all oily, loose, and weak flavored. This pesto was tight, vibrant, and heady with rich, crunchy, almonds as opposed to the traditional, more lightly flavored pine nut. It was served with juicy, perfectly seasoned, grilled gulf prawns.
The bottom half of the menu tends to be a mix of casual fare such as sandwiches, tacos, fish and chips, etc., followed by stews, fish/meat entrees, and bowls of steamed goodies. Again, not in keeping with my norm, we ordered fish and chips, another dish that can be the most giant of buzz kills
RHS delivered yet again, with a moist, flavorful fish, snuggled happily within an airy, fluffy, crisp batter. The fries were a bit sogged but at least hand cut, thankfully (and naturally) served with a little bottle of malt vinegar.
We had their cioppino during brunch number one, which was utterly sublime.
Firstly, it was the most beautiful bowl of fish, shellfish and bright red broth I’ve ever laid eyes on, served in a big metal bowl, garnished with a bright slice of lemon and colorful herbs. Second, the broth was rich, complex and comforting; full of succulent, hearty chunks of tomato. I’m no cioppino expert, and I’m not comparing it to much, but for me, that sexy brew makes RHS the kind of place an out-of-towner should experience.
Red Hill Station http://www.redhillstation.com/
803 Cortland Ave
San Francisco, CA 94110
OPEN DAILY 11am-10pm | brunch saturdays and sundays