Sunday, December 12, 2004

Firefly - 24th Street - Noe Valley - San Francisco

Visit the charming Firefly website here
4288 24th Street - Noe Valley - San Francisco - CA 415-821-7652

Re-visited early December 2004, with two girlfriends

Almost exactly a year ago and with the same two girlfriends, I visited Firefly, which I had heard so many good things about. On that occasion, I wasn't impressed. This is what I wrote about that experience at the time: My tuna tartare was bland, flavourless and lacked any kind of punch from the 5 spices that were allegedly part of its preparation process. The choices of main courses were unappealing and didn't taste any better than they sounded. Dessert lacked any finesse, the waitress didn't smile once and the wooden tables are completely styleless. This restaurant wasn't bad but no where worthy of its accolades.

Because of my less than stellar memory of the place, I wasn't convinced when MB suggested we give Firefly another try. But I pondered for a while, thought again of all the good things I'd heard about it, and decided to give it a second chance. The ugly, quite uncomfortable, wooden tables and chairs are still there, but this time our waitress was super smiley, friendly and gracious. Before we'd even made our choices from the menu, it already felt better than the previous visit.

Hannukah Potato Latkes with Sierra Beauty Applesauce and Sour Cream 6.75 was my appetizer choice. This was a nice thin pancake with a crispy (almost, but not quite, to the point of burnt) surface and a soft inside. The applesauce was mildly spiced, offering a hint of excitement to the otherwise plain flavours. I have no Jewish background whatsoever so I asked my friend, P, who has, to try it for an authentic opinion. She declared it to be spot on, just like her mother used to make. This was a comforting start to the meal, proving that a dish doesn't have to be fancy or exotic in order satisfy.

P's Yummy Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Reggiano Parmesan and White Truffle Oil 7.75 totally blew me away. It is a fact known worldwide that I detest brussel sprouts as strongly as their strong flavour. I knew that P would implore I try one and because, well, they looked and smelt really good, I did. Their menu description - yummy - was not inaccurate. These sprouts were great (truffle oil can do wonders for unappealing food, obviously). But I now have to concur with P, that when Brussels are lightly cooked in oil instead of being boiled to death and presented with no other garnish or thought (which is how we both grew up with them in England), sprouts actually don't taste so bad after all. My mum is hardly going to believe I elected to eat a sprout of my own free will.

MB's Roast Butternut Squash and Quince Soup with Crème Fraiche 5.75 was warming and comforting. I did try it but it didn't grab my attention like that provocative little plate of sprouts did.

MB's Holiday Braised Beef Brisket in Pot Roasty Gravy with Horseradish Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Broccoli 16.75 was equally as comforting as her soup. This wouldn't have been a dish I would have chosen from the description, but I loved what I tasted of it. Succulent, juicy slices of melt-in-your-mouth beef were given a saucy touch by the gravy with the freshly grated horseradish in the potatoes adding a welcome little oomph. MB, a Texan gal who knows her cows said she was surprised the meat was Niman's ranch because it tasted grain fed rather than grass. I haven't been on a Beef-tasting course just yet so I am not sure of the difference. *(See note about the beef in the comments section)* Either way it tasted pretty good. MB left her untouched broccoli on the edge of her plate. Naughty girl - don't you know you're supposed to eat your greens? I don't know why I am giving her grief, I would have made exactly the same move. That broccoli certainly looked boring.

P's Porcini Crusted Blue Nose Seabass with Braised Farro,
Dino Kale, Cippolini Onions and Sorrel Cream
18.50 was another comfort choice. The aroma of the funghi and a rich creamy sauce melded together with the wholesome little farro grains resulting a slightly heavy, but infuriatingly delicious plateful of food. (Infuriating, only, because I couldn't decide whether I preferred P's delicious fish or my own!)

I plumped for the dish of Grilled Mahimahi with Griddled Fennel Risotto Cake, Rock Shrimp Bouillabaisse and Roasted Chile Pesto 18.75. Pulling me out of the comfort zone my companions were basking in, this entree was fresh, sharp and bright. Tender white fish was perched on the little island of risotto floating in the sea of thin bouillabaisse, surrounded by a shoal of little shrimp. It was difficult to detect the flavour of fennel in the risotto but I loved the character griddling imparted, a crispy outside and the soft pillowy centre. The roasted chile pesto was not hot as I had expected it would be but it had a clear mildly sour flavour that heightened the freshness of the fish. This was a light, healthy main, not a deliriously decadent one. No worries there, I had been provided with the perfect excuse for ordering dessert.

My choice of sweet was stellar. A beautiful, perfectly-formed little Warm Apple Charlotte with Caramel Sauce and Crème Fraiche 7.00 was a delicate, delicious and perfect end to dinner.

P's Warm Flourless Chocolate Cake With Vanilla Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce 7.50 didn't fair so well with her. She declared it to be dull and dry. After no more than two spoonfuls she announced that it was unsatisfactory and laid down her spoon to rest. Sitting happily with my tangy little apple treat, I didn't feel even the slightest temptation to try her reject.

Because it was part of the Prix Fixe I decided (in an unusual move for me) to end my dinner with a decaf Caffe Latte 3.50. I shouldn't have bothered. It tasted peculiarly watery and unappetizing.

My faith has been restored in Firefly. It's one of those places like The Slow Club and The Public where the food turns out to be much better than its description on the menu would have me believe. I don't think I am going to be able to persuade Fred to visit anytime soon, though. This vegetable heavy, eclectic, and without fries kind of menu really isn't his cup of tea. No worries, I'm going to keep it as an oasis for those special nights out with the girls!

Prix Fix Menu Sun.- Thurs.;
Any Appetizer, Entrée and Dessert Plus House Coffee or Hot Tea
$29 Per Person
(Remember To Tell Your Server When Ordering)

Firefly - 24th Street - Noe Valley - San Francisco


  • At 14/12/04 17:27, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    One of my "secret" favorites in San Francisco. You did it great justice. The wine list is eclectic and reasonable and the food is really fantastic.

  • At 14/12/04 18:00, Blogger Sam said…

    Ooh - thank you - (but sorry to be publishing a secret on my blog). Maybe not many people will read this post, I am sure they prefer the reviews with pictures! And you've reminded me I forgot to mention the wine. We had a Bottle of the Green & Red 2001 as I recall. I am having a minor craze on it since my friend MB introuduced it to me at The Slow Club a few weeks ago.

  • At 15/12/04 08:51, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    great post. by the way, niman ranch does not sell grass fed beef. that's why the beef tasted grain fed! :) their big thing is no antibiotics/all natural. but they do feed grain to the cows, and definitely finish them with a grain diet.

    life begins @ thirty.

  • At 15/12/04 09:42, Blogger Sam said…

    Thanks for the tip Jen, I'll tell my friend who definitely detected it was grain fed, but I think she thought Nieman were grass fed. Glad you enjoyed the post, am I right in thinking Firefly is one of your favourites? I seem to remember you recommending it on Chowhound.

  • At 15/12/04 09:52, Blogger Sam said…

    Here are the Niman Beef feeding stats from their website:

    Great Feed
    We never use growth-promoting antibiotics or hormones. We never feed our cattle meat or meat by-products such as chicken feather, chicken litter or fish meal. Our cattle graze on pasture for 14 to 18 months. When they weigh approximately 900 pounds, we begin to feed them a diet of barley, corn, wheat, soy, molasses and hay. This finishing helps round out the flavor.

  • At 15/12/04 19:00, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Firefly is great, definitely a gem in the city. We went there a couple of years ago for J's birthday when I was dead broke and couldn't afford to take him out to a really $$ place. It was great for that experience.

    I have recommended it on CH sometimes, but there are other times when I see people recommending it when I don't think that it is situation-appropriate. I do have a worry that when one suggests it over some of the truly stellar restaurants in town, that a person will be disappointed by going there.

    They do a great job of using as much organic and local food as possible, it is a good place to take vegetarians, and is a shining example of a mid-ranged restaurant that is such a find in SF.

    The Brussels that you had sound superb - I am going to have to get over there soon.

    life begins @ thirty

  • At 13/5/07 01:06, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Have you thought of going again? the fried chicken with biscuits is utterly divine, and I recommend the romano beans as a starter. Dining at the bar is quite fun...and I'm usually a staunch table person...but the bar seems to be the best spot here.


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