Park Slopers had much to be excited about last year, when it was announced that veterans from San Francisco’s renowned modern Vietnamese restaurant The Slanted Door, Edward and Lien Lin, would be opening a restaurant of their own on the neighborhood’s Fifth Avenue, in the heart of a thriving Restaurant Row. And in the months since its opening, Bricolage has quietly staked a claim as one of the neighborhood’s most exciting restaurants. We had the opportunity to dine there recently at the invitation of the restaurant, and can’t wait to return.
The restaurant’s décor is fun and just the right amount of funky, with static-playing old televisions in the restrooms and old knick-knacks lining the exposed brick and wood-paneled walls. Service was warm and friendly, and placing our meal in the chef’s hands was a great decision (wine pairings by sommelier — and Del Posto vet — Kyle Eberle were generous and spot-on, too).
The meal started with a green papaya salad that was bright and refreshing, with a sour kick from lime and a hit of umami from fish sauce. It’s a dish that can easily be thrown off-balance, but they nailed it. Next up were fresh summer rolls with shrimp, pork belly, rice vermicelli, mint, and cucumber, served with a sweet and spicy peanut dipping sauce. Two dishes so far, and two near-flawless interpretations of classic Vietnamese fare. Next was an ban xeo crepe, made with rice and tapioca flours, coconut milk, turmeric, and gluten free beer and filled with Carolina white shrimp, pork, onion, and bean sprouts that while also tasty (especially with the addition of a tangy fish sauce-based sauce on the side), could have used less sprouts and more shrimp and pork belly. A small bowl of housemade chicken pho with rice noodles and herbs served in-between courses was intensely chicken-y and a certifiable flavor bomb, in a very good way.
For the main course, we were served a perfectly cooked lemongrass grilled Niman Ranch pork chop, which had deep grill marks and was full of flavor, alongside a salad made with fennel, apple, and arugula. A whole grilled branzino topped with crispy shallots and gremolata made with mint, Thai basil, cilantro, and fish sauce was also a home run. The fish was flaky and tender, and I’ve been trying to replicate that sauce ever since because I want to douse everything I eat from now on in it. A side of roasted cauliflower with preserved lemon, garlic, and oyster sauce was nutty and addictive. For dessert, a standard molten chocolate cake was kicked up by the surprising addition of Mycella blue cheese, which completely transformed and elevated the dish.
For some restaurants, one visit is all you need to get a sense of the place. Even if a meal there is good you don’t feel like you ever need to return. Bricolage is on the complete other end of the spectrum, however; I won’t feel like I’ve fully experienced it until I’ve tried every dish on the menu, including “Unshaking beef,” roasted Bo Bo chicken, and tea smoked duck breast salad, which I totally plan on doing. And they just started serving brunch, too!