No sooner had I sang the praises of Aaron London's first solo restaurant AL's Place in the Mission, Bon Appétit's Andrew Knowlton has just bestowed the big honor of naming it the best new restaurant in the country the same honor that guaranteed State Bird Provisions' lines out the door that began in August 2012. The six-month-old spot at 26th and Valencia tops the mag's Hot 10 list, which dropped today, and Knowlton raves about the "genius" pickled french fries and the green pea curry with black-lime cod, writing, "What deal with the culinary devil had chef Aaron London made in exchange for being able to produce such off-the-charts, flavor-rich creations?" and declaring, "It’s a restaurant so personal and passionate and satisfying that it was easy to name AL’s Place this year’s best new restaurant in America."
Also, Knowlton confirms London's great talent with showcasing the flavors of vegetables "in non-obvious ways," saying, "It was almost as though I’d been eating vegetables in black and white my whole life, and then suddenly everything was in Technicolor." (See the entire piece about AL's Place here.)
SFist reached London this morning to see if he and the restaurant are prepared for State-Bird-style lines out the door, and he said, "Yeah, I think so. It's gonna be a challenge but one we're looking forward too." And, he adds, "We need to hire more staff with a quickness!"
Every year Knowlton crisscrosses the country dining at hundreds of new restaurants to come up with a Top 50, and finally the Hot 10 that he considers the most promising new spots out of the gate. Last week he declared (at long last) that San Francisco is the best food city in the U.S. right now, hinting that he'd be naming two SF spots to his top 10 incidentally, there are two Los Angeles spots on the list as well, but one of them is a bakery/sandwich shop.
The second SF restaurant on the list is Sylvan Brackett's Rintaro, the Japanese izakaya he opened in the former Chez Spencer space, with a thoughtfully and carefully crafted interior that Knowlton describes as "Shinto shrine meets tree house." He also adores the yakitori (chicken skewers) grilled over two kinds of charcoal, and Brackett's "almost maniacal dedication to California produce." See the full review here.
I'm frankly surprised that Liholiho Yacht Club wasn't the shoe-in on this list that I expected it to be, given Knowlton's earlier praise of it, or even The Progress for that matter, or Mourad, or Octavia, but having six SF restaurants on this top 10 might seem unfair I guess.
Below, the complete list, and the video Bon Appétit made with London at AL's Place.
1. AL's Place, San Francisco
2. Gjusta, Los Angeles
3. Petit Trois, Los Angeles
4. Semilla, Brooklyn
5. Parachute, Chicago
6. Dai Due, Austin
7. Kindred, Davidson, NC
8. Rintaro, San Francisco
9. Manolin, Seattle
10. Milktooth, Indianapolis