Nob Hill bistro Mason Pacific just reopened last week after a four-month closure following an unfortunate fire in March, and now the kitchen is being run by James Beard Award-nominated Max Mackinnon, who was so honored for his work at Pistou in Burlington, Vermont back in 2012. Mackinnon, who's originally from California, is bringing plenty of fine dining touches and innovative flavor combinations from recent stints at Rose's Luxury in DC, and Restaurant Ralae in Copenhagen, which are evident in dishes on the new menu like a dish of chilled and cured mussels with carrots and curry purée, and the pretty scallop crudo with nasturtium and herbs pictured below.

But the standout dish on a recent visit for me was a surprisingly rich and tender preparation of braised lamb that's formed into a steak of sorts and re-roasted to get a bit of crispness on the outside. As Mackinnon tells SFist, "The lamb is sourced from Schmitz Ranch [based in San Leandro]. It was braised traditionally in a little bit of red wine and chicken stock with vegetables and aromatics, then picked off the bone and put into a mold and pressed under a weight overnight. It's then portioned, roasted in a pan and glazed in a lamb jus."

The flavors in the meat were deep, almost chocolatey sweet without a hint of gaminess, but the texture was probably the most special part — fall-apart tender with none of the chewiness of over-braising, and yet with the satisfaction of bits of steak-like char on the edges.

The lamb is served with tender, almost sweet flowering broccoli found at the Ferry Building farmers' market, and a citrus-y, onion soubise made with chicken stock that complements the meat without distracting from it.

The new menu shows serious promise for this small spot, and the existing wine program, curated by Somm star Dustin Wilson and RN74's Eric Railsback does a lot to complement it.


Mason Pacific - 1358 Mason Street at Pacific Avenue - Open Tuesday to Sunday for dinner - Reserve here

For budgetary reasons, SFist editors and contributors occasionally accept complimentary meals from restaurants and their publicists. More often, we pay out of pocket for our meals. While we refrain from writing formal reviews, we make every effort when giving opinions about restaurants to be objective, and to focus more on food and ambiance than service in order to make up for any possible bias.

Scallop crudo with nasturtium, avocado, and herb pistou. Photo: Jay Barmann/SFist