May 15, 2011

An Evening with Lazy Bear

Beth and I enjoyed what I consider to be the greatest of dining experiences this past Friday the 13th. It was one of the most "San Francisco" things I've ever done, a fantastic culinary experience, and an absolutely delightful venture outside our typical social comfort zone.

It is hard not to gaze at a beautiful church like Grace Cathedral here in San Francisco and not consider that the star of the church. But, anyone who belongs to the church will tell you that a church is not comprised of brick and mortar, but of its members and the sense of fellowship they bring. In some ways it's not even about God.

Similarly, Lazy Bear is not anchored to any physical space (not yet, at least). Its proprietor, Chef David, purchases the majority of the food from the Embarcadero Farmer's market and spends hours prepping in his living room while watching movies. The space in which we dined was a rented building of sorts in the mission with a kitchen and two long tables set for 10 people apiece. If you're wondering where I'm going with my church metaphor, here it is:

Lazy Bear is not about its location (or lack thereof), but about the passion of its chef, the delightful flavors of his food, and the fellowship of 20 unfamiliar diners at a time. In this sense, I am a part of Lazy Bear. That's a connection I haven't made with any of my other favorite restaurants.

There's a fairly simple story behind this unorthodox path to restauranteering. Chef David was once a lawyer. He isn't a lawyer now. He began cooking for small groups of people with the help of his wife and friends. He's trying to obtain a space to open a full, neighborhood restaurant, but for now, every so often, he cooks a fantastic, at least 6 course meal for 20 people lucky enough to get on the list. Much like Top Chef judges entering the site of the week's challenge, diners enter his simple, yet beautifully setup dining room. It's BYOB! Of course, you sit next to someone you've never met.

You never know how the conversation will proceed in situations like this. Often, people are quiet and reserved and boring and our section thankfully had none of that. Eva, a daughter of Greek immigrants, entertained us with stories of how her mother mis-taught her common phrases. Things like "glove handles" (instead of love handles) and "we're way out in the boombox" (instead of boondocks).

We briefly segued into (and just as quickly out of) the topic of Asparagus and how it makes your urine smell worse than normal. I blame the fact that Asparagus covered in chicken gravy and mixed with fried chicken skin was on the menu.

We argued about the proper spelling of Wookiee, which naturally led to the revelation that Wookiee Porn does indeed exist on the internet. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised at this point in the world's existence. Naturally, the mere mention of the primary species of Kashyyyk lends the conversation, nay, demands, the best wookiee impression from one of the table's inhabitants. In this case, it was me.

We spent a while discussing wookiee porn. At one point, I asked Theo across the table "So do they have human like...bits...hanging out?" To this, he replied "No. They were hung like wookiees." In hindsight, this point should have been perfectly obvious.

Wookiees segued perfectly into donkeys, with which Eva is apparently obsessed. She told us about the time she was visiting her family in Greece. She saw a lone donkey tied to a fence and immediately ran to untie it. Naturally, this led to its Greek owners running out of their home to yell at her. "The donkey needed to be free!" she explained.

In the midst of these high, low, and subterraneanly-browed conversation topics we were invited by the chef into the kitchen to watch as he sous-vide the lamb or plated the chilled buttermilk custard. At any point we could enter the kitchen, watch and ask questions, just as long as we didn't touch anything.

He introduced every dish and insisted we eat as quickly as the food was placed in front of us. "Don't wait for your neighbors," he said. "We work incredibly hard to get the food as hot or as cold as it should be to you." It was a good rule that I heartily endorsed.

I didn't take any photos because an iPhone doesn't work well in low light, plus I was too busy enjoying myself. But, I do want to share the menu with you in its entirety.

The Menu

Bacon fat crackers with an egg custard

Pork rind with a chicken wing (covered in homemade, aged-six months buffalo sauce!)

Chilled Buttermilk Custard: Peas, Pea shoots, pea shell consommé, fried shallot, garlic chive flowers

Cured Hamachi: Cashew, "SF Summer" squash, coriander, cucumber, meyer lemon BBQ sauce

Asparagus: Chicken gravy, fried chicken skin, ramps

Bacon on Bacon on Bacon: Bacon-wrapped pork belly, map and bacon vinaigrette, lovage

Fir-Smoked Lamb Loin: Douglas fir tips, brioche, Manchego grilled cheese

Roasted Banana: Red Curry Affogato, peanut, chocolate, chicory, coconut

Chocolate and gummy candies

The highlights for me were the lamb and chilled buttermilk custard. Both were things I'd never be able to make, but more importantly, they were delicious. I have never liked lamb, ever, and I was this close to heading into the kitchen to find more of Chef David's. By force, if necessary.


  • Follow Lazy Bear on Twitter
  • Check out the website, which contains pics from previous dinners and will surely have pics of the dinner I attended
  • Yelp!
  • 20 People, $75 per person

Incredible food, incredible people, and an incredible evening. We live our lives for evenings like the one I experienced this past Friday the 13th. The only scary part of the evening was that I must now wait for Lazy Bear to find a restaurant space before I can enjoy his food again.

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