Call it the “Hello, Dolly!” of restaurants.
Yes, the beloved 510 is back where she belongs. And she’s lookin’ swell. The new 510 Lounge has gracefully settled into the city’s once-sovereign cocktail spot, the former La Belle Vie lounge, where Beautiful People primed their palates before supping in the dining room.
A soft makeover favors the white-and-pewter landscape of its former glory days, retaining the fabled bar and populating the space with cushy seating at cocktail tables. Beyond them, a small dinner-service setup serves the Scott-and-Zelda trade (including wannabes such as yours truly).
The menu, orchestrated by Don Saunders of The Kenwood, is of a different (okay: snazzier, more cosmo) stripe than at his nearby neighborhood digs. To suit a flute of bubbly or something in a stem, half of his limited menu is curated, rather than cooked.
Thus, oysters. Five choices of caviar ($25–$90). A range of select cheeses and another of charcuterie. Olives, too. All well worth exploring. But you know me: I came for dinner.
As starter, I succumbed to those two words that set my heart to beating faster: foie gras. A torchon ($8) the size of a coaster proved as supple as all get-out, its mild flavor abetted by a lick of truffle honey. Rich toasts of brioche wait in attendance (but not for long).
My companions chose wisely, too — one, a pristine still life-as-salad, celebrating supple butter lettuce, radishes and tomatoes in a light Parmesan vinaigrette (tasty, and just like it reads); the other, a lively tartine of sweet, moist and lightly smoked blush-pink trout piled on a bread slice, then jeweled with radishes and golden caviar — simple and well done. Next time: the hamachi crudo, the tempura shrimp, maybe the mussels ($6–$17).
On to entrees, modestly portioned (and that’s fine) for $18–$24 (and that $24 buys you a strip loin of primo Wagyu beef along with eggplant salad).
I ordered the pig’s head, just because somebody had to (right?) and inhaled it with lust masked as “research.” Picture a patty of pulled-pork cheek meat, crumbed and pan-fried, then plated with a generous toss of woodsy chanterelles and lima-sized white beans in broth. Comfort food, you bet.
Actually, so was the salmon — a thick, juicy cut dressed in a soy-orange glaze, then set upon a ginger beurre blanc along with veggies du nuit — an homage to the original 510’s kitchen masterpiece, and a give-away at $18. The third fine choice — ruddy leaves of duck ham, sweet and gently smoked — came with fennel slaw and addictive pickled cherries.
Desserts ($9–$10) showcase creativity at its prime, every one a never-before endeavor (and that’s not easy these days) — not unique for unique’s sake, but actually as tasty as they are inspired.
Take my sunflower financier pastry, for example, attended by sunflower sorbet, mild and creamy, with more of those lovely cherries and a wake-up fennel granite, whose tiny ice crystals tasted just like frozen licorice whips.
Or the chocolate cremeux, topped with a thin sliver of ripe watermelon, under which hovered a cache of gooseberries in a compelling green sauce, which turned out to be basil. Good match.
Finally, a terrine layered with dark chocolate ganache, almond and a slim ribbon of rhubarb.
Service is warm and professional. And here’s another plus: Many of the wines in the BTG list may also be ordered in half-glass portions (including the sparklers), making course-by-course pairing easy.
So, another chorus: “It’s so nice to have you back where you belong” with a menu that salutes our changing times.
510 Groveland Ave.